Before getting into our adventures in Bali, I have to ask our loyal reader- what in the name of Maple Syrup is going on in Canada?? We only get sporadic exposure to English news programs and, not too surprisingly, it's Asia-centric and Canada, if ever, rarely rates a mention....until recently. It started off with a bizarre story about a Miss Canada competition which seemed to imply that Canada's best looking woman was actually a man (even DH, who spits at the mere suggestion of a beauty contest, was looking to start an 'anyone-but-the-guy' write-in campaign in support of Canadian womanhood). This story only seemed to die when it was determined that Canada's best looking woman was from Iran?? Hard on the heels of that was a story that had the Chinese Government warning it's citizens against travel to Canada after the body parts of a Chinese citizen were mailed to political parties in Ottawa- this continued as the lead story on the news programs we watched for quite some time. Throw in a couple of filler pieces about a shooting rampage in a Toronto shopping mall and the LA Kings winning the top prize for Canada's national game, and all of Asia is now convinced that our home country is in a state of slow implosion. The only excuse I can offer to the locals is global warming- the impact on the population of a cold weather country is probably severe.
Bali was an opportunity for us to catch our breath and charge up our excessive collection of electronic devices (every time we have to pack and move, we drift back to our early travel days when the only batteries we has were for the one point-and-shoot film camera we had). Speaking of cameras, I'm also looking to get mine looked at- after abusive treatment in all climates, it is starting to make death throe noises, and DH wants to get her iPad looked at- after developing an addictive reaction to the little bell that indicated inbound email, it now seems that only hotels.com, Chapters, and Best Buy are maintaining regular correspondence. DH thinks it must be an iPad circuitry issue that is blocking all of the personal emails, and turning her bell into the sound of crickets.
On a previous trip we had explored Bali along with the Indonesian islands of Java, Flores, Komdo, Ricci, and Balikpapan (Borneo) so this time around we were looking to use Bali as a base to jump to Sulawesi (done), Sumatra, Papua, and East Timor (now an independent country). West Papua has never been particularly safe, and through our read of the surprisingly open Indonesian newspapers, foreigners are now the targets of violence, so we might hold off on any visits there for the time being. And East Timor is really dependent on a doctors exam of the non-diving ears of DH since there isn't a heck of a lot else to do in this tiny country.
Since we had stayed in Ubud during our last stay (and really enjoyed it), we wanted to see why everyone was warning us against the famed beach resort of Kuta. I suspect we would have been expelled if we hadn't left after just two nights- we weren't Australian, we weren't incredibly intoxicated (by the finish of breakfast), we didn't make loud Orangutan noises well into the night, and we weren't covered head-to-toe in wobbly tattoo's (that looked to have been mutually applied after the breakfast booze-up). I hope these aren't Carol C's neighbours because we hadn't met any Aussies like this in our travels through Queensland and NT. And apparently the labour laws in the booming construction industry of Kuta are a little suspect as these dudes would be working into the wee hours of the morning so any break between the blasting music sets of ABBA and Jimmy Buffet would be filled by hammers and saws. We moved over to Sanur (apparently nicknamed Sa-nore by the frat boy types) for a little more of the R and R session we were looking for (although loud renditions of Dancing Queen by ABBA were part the open-air bar scene here as well).
In addition to beach access and a nice pool, our hotel in Sanur (we went upmarket preparing for the arrival of Christine and Kim who apparently got lost on the way to the Toronto airport) offered a free 'couples Balinese massage'. After trying to convert this into two free massages for DH which was not allowed for reasons only the local Hindu gods would understand, I agreed to give this another try (previous massage experiences with Abdul and Sven had ended in tears). I had always believed that hockey players didn't do spa treatments but apparently Jeff M schedules in-house massages once a month (although to be fair, he does seem firmly in touch with his feminine side). It didn't start well- unbeknownst to me, you are supposed to wear a flimsy pair of panties that look to be the outer cover of adult diapers- that wasn't happening and my masseuse would just have to work around my shorts. No nightmare-ish repeat of the Turkish Bath episode with Abdul but I still don't get the spa addiction of she-who-must-be-obeyed.
Between beach walks, meals, and naps we did manage to take it some traditional Balinese dance performances as well as a number of Balinese bands playing very non-traditional Spanish, Country, and even Irish music?? We also attended one of the stranger festivals we've ever seen. Once a year the small village of Tenganan hosts a 'reenactment' of an unnamed battle. Tenganan is an Aga village (the Aga are deemed to be the original people of Bali) and has a bit of a stuck-in-time feel to it. The village had strict rules and regulations and, as a result, only about 300 live in the village. Until recently, the customary village law forbade anybody to marry outside the village. Because of these strict rules there was a population growth of 0, which has led to a new interpretation of the rules so it’s now OK to marry somebody from outside the village (for a small annual fee). The individual from outside the village had to undergo a fake cremation ceremony in order to return to the village as a new Tenganan inhabitant. From this bit of weirdness you start to notice caged roosters dyed every color of the rainbow waiting for their next c*** fight, as well as more traditional rice barns, shrines and the many pavilions where people come together to chit-chat and make decisions about the village. And then the battle reenactment starts- it's less a 'battle' and more of a turnstile operation rapidly spitting out two new combatants every few minutes who than, armed with a rattan shield and a cluster of pandan leaves with edges of tiny sharp thorns, proceed to rake each other with the thorns which results in deep scratches and blood. The fights were broken up quickly but it still appeared to be a painful exercise (those Nerf clubs that kids use might be an ideal substitute for the thorns but may not satisfy the somewhat bloodthirsty crowd).
And temple tramping is almost a requirement for any visit to Bali- pretty much every home has a small temple, and each family and community has a temple, and there are the more well known pilgrimage temples. The most interesting one we saw on this trip was Pura Goa Lawah (the Bat Cave Temple). The temple itself is located directly in front of a cave that is inhabited by thousands of flying bats that hang from the rocky ceiling by the day and depart on food hunts in an explosion of black wings every evening. These large fruit bats are believed to be the temple’s guardians and are considered sacred- as is the large python that lives in the neighboring rocks.
We didn't go back to visit Ubud (we had heard that it was now another Kuta and DH didn't want to ruin the great memories we had from our first visit to the island) but DH still thinks that Bali is the nicest smelling country we've traveled to (most of the time) and if we had a garden (or home for that matter) she'd be looking at a Balinese theme. If our visa wasn't running out we might have settled in for a longer stay.
And for the concerned, we did visit a local doctor who could find nothing between DH's ears....that would explain her difficulties with equalizing while diving (other than some strangely wobbly lobes). She did provide a couple of tips that might help but given the potential consequences, I think DH's diving career should join her policing career in happy retirement. Perhaps convinced that I might meet another hot body in a tight wet suit at 40 metres under, she is already talking about her next dive- strange for someone who never enjoyed diving but logic is not always persuasive.