Monday, September 30, 2013

Sideman, Bali

The ferry ride from Gili Air to Amed was quick and relaxing. I arrived in port looking for my friend, Made. I did not see him. I decided to order a fresh banana pineapple smoothie and a vegetable sandwich. I just started to eat when Made arrived. When I finished eating, we left and started our drive towards Sideman.

Sideman is a beautiful, quiet village an hour and a half from Amed. I had been told it was what Ubud was 20 years ago. As we entered town I knew this would be a relaxing stay. Just what I needed. I was tired and ready to sleep and catch up on my blog. I was over a month behind on my travels. Ugh! I hate being behind. This is the only journal I am writing. I don't have a separate copy of my thoughts and experiences.   

I checked into Giri Cerik guesthouse and said my goodbyes to Made. He would pick me up in 2 days and take me to the airport for my flight to Malaysia. 

The view from my room was fantastic. It overlooked rice paddies and was shadowed by Mount Agung. I was happy to wake up and see this view from my bed!
I unpacked, sent some laundry to be done and settled into the lounge chair to start writing. At some point I fell asleep. I awoke and went for a walk in the rice fields then back to the hotel for dinner.

As I returned to my room, the frogs and geckos were all that I heard in the evening. It was relaxing but cold. I crawled into bed and slept soundly. 

I repeated this the next day. Sideman was peaceful and relaxing. I was asked if I wanted to hike the not really. I have hiked one and did not feel the need to do it again. Was I lazy? Yes! I found 6 months on the road had hit me and I was tired of sight seeing. I needed a brake and was just relaxing. I knew I was headed to Kuala Lumpur for a night and then on to Istanbul, Turkey! 

I accomplished getting all of my China trip updated. Now to do Bali and Gili Islands. It is so hard to get caught back up but I will. 

Made arrived to pick me up and transfer me to the airport. I laughed as we talked about life. Made asked me questions about life in the states. He asked about my time in Bali. I told him I had enjoyed it and the food. He laughed as he told me about a dinner he had with some clients. They had gone out to eat at a western restaurant and he ordered chicken. He explained that they brought him half the chicken. This was odd to him as it would be what his family of 4 eats in 2 days! I asked how long a whole chicken would last and he said he did not know...they never buy a whole chicken. In Bali, meat is used as flavor not the main course. I explained what food was like in America and we laughed at the differences.

I promised Made I would be back to Bali. I felt at home and at peace here. It is a special place and holds a warm place in my heart. I said my goodbyes to Made at the airport. I got a little teary-eyed. The last 3 weeks I had spent much time with him and he had become a wonderful friend. I was going to miss Made. I waved goodbye as I crossed the street. 

As I end my time in Indonesia, there is one word that describes the experience. Abundance. I fell in love with the island and the people. My heart is filled with joy. I have met many people that opened their lives and homes up to me. I experienced an abundance of love in Bali.

Gili Air, Indonesia


I arrived at Gili Air with one plan - snorkeling with sea turtles! I checked into Damai Homestay and Rosa took good care of me. I was scheduled for a snorkeling trip the next morning. Rosa offered me breakfast and had her staff make me a delicious citrus sesame pancake with fresh fruit and coffee. Mmmm! It hit the spot!
I spent the next couple hours relaxing in my hammock and then rented a bike to explore the island. It was small and I could not get lost. I stopped for dinner on my way back to Damai and went to bed early.
Snorkeling was fantastic. No photos. My underwater camera leaked and got completely fried. Stupid camera! I was lucky because the boat was small and our guide was fantastic. We saw 8 turtles at our first stop. Such amazing animals to watch. I got stung by more baby jelly fish and really wished I had worn a shirt. But the coolest experience was the next stop when our guide saw a huge turtle. There were only 3 of us swimming with him. He told us to go and swim with it. We floated along for 15 minutes with him 6 feet below water. We all kept our distance to not stress him out. He came up for air twice before diving to the bottom of the floor. The 3 of us floated for a while excited about the experience before we realized how far away the current had taken us. We started to swim back when the guide sent the boat to pick us up. I was relieved since it was difficult swimming against the current. At our last stop of the tour I was floating along and saw something move across the sea floor. Crap! I looked at the others and motioned to a sea snake. I am more calm when others are around. I floated and calmly watched it. I hate snakes but was proud that I did not freak out. When we got back on the boat, our the guide asked how many turtles I saw. I responded 9 and one sea snake! He told me I am very lucky to see that many turtles and a sea snake was extra luck! Really?  It was a good day and I was beat when I returned to the homestay. I went for a short walk at sunset and noticed a storm was rolling in. I sat on the bean bags on the beach and relaxed. Why don't we have bean bags on the beach? It is comfortable!
I fell asleep to the sound of rain on my rooftop.

The next day, I went snorkeling again. I was exhausted but I wanted to see more turtles. I was smart and wore a long sleeve shirt which helped with the jelly fish. This guide was not as good. We swam a long distance before we found our first turtle. Everyone had gotten back on board and the turtle surfaced next to the boat. We wanted to get in but the guide said no. I ended up seeing another 6 turtles and had a great day. 

With limited internet access, I relaxed and enjoyed some down time. I read in a hammock, walked the island and talked with other travelers. Gili Air is a small, quiet and relaxing island. Coconut groves with cows grazing.
Very few parties.  At dinner, I met an interesting young man, Agung. A Swedish woman had taken him into her home and made certain he finished school. He was one of 2 curly haired guys on the island. He told me the Swedish woman became a second mother to him and invited him to travel to Sweden to visit her family. I laughed as this young man that had never traveled further than the island of Lombok, Indonesia described his adventure in the western world. He told me how is hair went straight in the cold weather (September), his impressions of western commercialism and his trip to an amusement park. As I listened to Agung tell his experience, it reminded me of everything we have and take for granted. It must have been amazing for his Swedish family to watch his reactions to the western world. 
On my last morning, I went to the beach for sunrise. I was sitting and enjoying the serenity of the area when young boys brought their horses down for an early morning bath. The horses work hard on the Gili Islands. There is no motorized transportation. Only walking, bicycle or horse cart. The boys walked the horses into the ocean to cool them down. It was beautiful.
I returned to Damai guesthouse and ate breakfast and talked with Rosa while I waited for my horse cart to the ferry. Rosa told me she was trying to sell her lease. She has 6 rooms she rents and one where she lives. She wants to lease it to someone else for 10,000 euros/year. Hmmmm. Sounds great but I know I would get island fever after a month. But it was tempting! 

A quick horse cart ride to the ferry and I was back on my way to Amed. I arrived and saw my friend Made waiting for me. 

Amed, Bali


Made arrived at Marie's jungalow to drive me to Amed. By this time, Made was becoming a close friend. We laughed and talked on our drive and I learned more about Balinese life. As we drove, I told Made about the cremation service and asked him more questions. At the beginning of any religious discussion, he apologized for discussing religion. I always told him I was interested and wanted to understand the Hindu religion and hoped he did not mind that I asked so many questions. Time flew as we talked.
He stopped at Tirta Gannga Water Palace. I bought my entrance ticket and walked up the steps. On the other side I saw 2 huge pythons. Men were holding them and I was going to have to walk by them. I froze. Oh no! A Balinese woman saw me and came up, put her arm around me and guided me past the snakes. She was so nice. But in my mind I knew I was going to have to walk back out. I hate snakes.

The water palace was beautiful. I wandered the grounds and found a swimming pool at the back. I wish I had brought my swimsuit, it would have been a fantastic dip.
I wandered back to the entrance and the man with the snake waved for me to come over. I smiled and shook my head no. I took a deep breath and focused on the steps. I was headed out. I got to safety at the top of the steps and smiled. I turned back and took a quick photo for my friend Mark. He will never believe I got that close to a snake.
As I came down the steps, the lady that walked me in was waiting and gave me a hug. I felt obliged to buy something from her since she had helped me. I went to her stall to buy water and she insists I get some dried sweet potato chips and tapioca chips. I had a couple snacks for later.

The countryside was beautiful. As we came around a bend, I got my first glimpse of Mount Agung volcano and farmers in the rice fields.  

We arrived in Amed and stopped to get a ferry ticket to Gilli Air. I was planning to stay in Amed a few nights and then over to Gilli Air for 3 nights. Made dropped me off at my hotel, Villa Sky Dancer. It was beautiful! 
I said our goodbye to Made and arrange for him to pick me up at the harbor and take me to Sideman on September 8. I  settled into my villa. It was fantastic! I ordered lunch and relaxed by the pool. As the sun started to set, I took an evening walk along the rocky beach. Boys were playing soccer and men were getting ready to go fishing in the morning.

I awoke early the next morning for the sunrise over Lombok. It was magnificent. 

Then I went back to bed until breakfast was ready at 9 AM. I had rented a scooter for the day and went to Tulamben to go snorkeling at the USS Liberty. It sunk off the coast of Bali when it was hit by Japanese torpedoes during WWII. The American government decide to pull it ashore but when the volcano Agung erupted and caused an earthquake, the ship slid back into the ocean. It is now submersed between 30 and 100 ft underwater. Everyone said it was good to snorkel so I headed that direction. When I arrived and saw the size of the waves, I decided to hire a snorkel guide. Thank goodness I did! It made it easier and several snorkelers gave up and went back to shore. The boats bow was cool. But I got stung by baby jellyfish. Not fun! It felt like hundreds of mosquito bites. I realized why my guide was wearing a long sleeve rash guard! Wimp! 

I rode my scooter back to Amed and stopped to snorkel in Coral Bay. It was better and no jellyfish! I also stopped to get cash from the ATM only to find out it was out of money until tomorrow. Ugh! I knew cash was hard to get on Gilli Air so I needed to get some before I left. I guess  I will rent the scooter for a second day.

I returned to my hotel and relaxed by the pool until Wayan had dinner ready. She is an amazing cook. I ate all my dinners at the hotel. The Indonesian food was fantastic! 

The next morning, I had planned a day by the pool but needed to go get cash first. Unfortunately, that turned into a 3 hour trip! I found out I had to go 1 1/2 hours to the village that had an ATM that accepted the Visa logo. It was a nice drive but I was exhausted when I returned. I relaxed at the pool and took a nap before dinner.

I woke up early for one last sunrise. I was not disappointed.
In the morning, Wayan was teasing me that the ferry to Gili's was cancelled. I looked at her and said "ok, guess I am suppose to stay!" She laughed and begged me to stay but I really wanted to swim with sea turtles. I said my goodbyes and left on the ferry to Gili Air.






Friday, September 27, 2013

Final Days Ubud- Green School, Monkeys and River Walks

I had a few things I wanted to do to finish up my days in Ubud. I went to morning yoga classes and enjoyed the area. 

I was intrigued by the bamboo craftsmanship and was told that if I liked it then I needed to visit the Green School.   I looked it up online and signed up for the free tour. The Green School was started by John Hardy. He has a TED talk ( that explains why he started the school and the goal of the school. I looked up directions online and made the journey on my scooter. I am getting use to Bali and finding my way around quite easily. When I am lost or uncertain, I just stop and ask for directions. After a ride down a hill with a million potholes, I came to a small pedestrian bridge across the river. 
I asked directions by pointing and saying "Green School?" The locals nodded yes. I went across, up a hill and saw the parking lot at the top. 
I was amazed as I walked onto the school site. All of the buildings and desks are made of bamboo, the rooms have no walls and the school is set in nature with a river running along one side. There are gardens and animals the students are responsible for tending.

Mud wrestling pit
I was intrigued that PE class included mud wrestling! How fun! The schools goal is to educate students with an understanding of the environment. Class rooms were open and we were told some classes are conducted sitting on the bridge with a view of the river. 
As I toured the area, I found myself wanting to go to school here. Our tour guide explained that 90% of the students are expats children. The goal is to get 20% of the student body of local children through scholarships since the cost has been prohibitive. I felt strongly that local children needed this opportunity as much a the expat children and donated to the scholarship fund.

The school will be completely off the grid soon when the water vortex is running (next week). They also uses solar power to provide energy. All of the bathrooms are green. I decided to use one for the experience. As you open the door you  have a choice of 2 toilets. One for urine only and the other for pooping. You must not confuse these! If you poop, you add sawdust to the bucket afterwards. I was impressed with the system. It did not smell and worked fine. 

I met several parents that had children at the school. I was amazed that several of them had visited the Green School, were impressed and decided to move their families to Bali so their children could be educated here. Most of the parents explained that it was the same price as private school in the USA and they figured out a way to do their work over the Internet. Wow! Several also commented that their children were dyslexic or ADHD and they found their children had thrived at summer camp and decided to move here for the sake if their child's education. One student had even won his education by winning a science award. I will be interested to see how the students do in the years to come.  How will they integrate into colleges? What will they do in the future? Will they be responsible for making the world more environmentally conscious? Will they be leaders in the green movement? Only time will tell. 
My only concern is more children in Bali should have this opportunity. I wish local schools were built like this to educate children all over the world.

I returned to Ubud and enjoyed a juice and salad before going to bed. Mmmmmm!

The next morning, I awoke and decide to walk down to the river. I walked down the  moss covered steps, through the jungle and to the river. It was a beautiful oasis below Marie's jungalow. I found abandon homes .... one is my dream home. I seriously wanted to call squatters rights and take it as my own. 
It was a beautiful wood jungalow overlooking the rice fields and river. I would be happy living here the rest of my life.

I returned to a gazebo overlooking the river and did some stretching and writing my blog. 
It was peaceful. I wanted to stay but I also wanted to see Monkey Forest before I left Ubud.

I drove into town. I parked and entered the forest, ignoring the women selling bananas. I really did not want to be chased by the monkeys. I just wanted a quick peek. Monkeys were everywhere! Tourists were luring them to crawl up their bodies to their shoulders with bananas. I have had a monkey crawl up me before. It was not something I enjoyed. I stood back and watched. In the temple one crawled under my sarong and grabbed ahold of my leg. I nicely chased it away. Whew! 
I felled or the baby monkeys. Poor little guys got chased away each time a tourist brought out a banana. I laughed as a girl was trying to get a small monkey to climb up her. I saw a huge male come running towards her back. I told her a big monkey is about to jump in your back just as he made contact. She was shocked at the weight of the monkey as he scratched and crawled his way to the banana. He knocked her off balance, swiped the banana and ran away. Then another guy lured a monkey to his shoulder and the monkey peed on his shoulder as he ate his banana. Ha ha! That's why I skipped the bananas!

I returned home that night and packed for my morning trip to Amed. I was ready to relax at the beach for a few days! 

Cremation Ceremony

These Balinese boys welcomed us and enjoyed posing for photos throughout the day.

I wanted to see a Balinese Cremation ceremony during my visit. I happened to meet Gede at the Balinese Children's project and he told me his village was having a cremation ceremony on Friday. He invited me to attend the service of his father and 23 others. He wrote down the name of his village and then texted me additional information. Gede told me this was a mass cremation. Most of the people had died 3-5 years ago.

On Friday morning, Paula decided to join me for the ceremony and we headed off on my scooter. I had never driven with anyone on the back so this was a new experience. I was cautious, not wanting the service I attended to be my own cremation. We arrived in the village and asked where the cremation was located. We headed west and found a temple with many people. We stopped and asked a fellow about the cremation. Two men carrying a pig on post exited the temple. They had just sliced his neck and blood was squirting. We were told the cremation would be in a week. We left after being given directions to head back a mile and turn right at the curve. We eventually arrived and could see the tower and bulls lined up in the street. 

The entire town came together for the service. The women were dressed in beautiful sarongs and traditional lace shirts with a sash tied at the waist. The men were wearing sarongs and traditional hats. I saw a woman selling fried bananas and stopped for a snack before the procession began. I happened to meet one of the heads of the village. He welcomed me and told me it would be an hour before they would start, they were waiting for another village to arrive.
I found a step to sit and wait for the procession to the cemetery. I watched the people as they waited. Made had explained the strong sense of community to me. The Balinese live most of their lives in the village they were born. Unless they move to a city for work. However, they always return to their village for ceremonies. 
The procession started with young boys carrying flags and followed by women carrying offerings on their heads. And then families of the deceased carrying photos and offerings.
The bulls and dragons were next then the tower carrying the village priest.
A band followed the tower. Then, the second and third villages repeated with towers, bulls and bands. There was excitement as the procession began.

When everyone arrived at the cremation grounds, the families walked around the bulls and dragons with their offerings and sacrificed birds and suckling pigs. The offerings were laid out on a table and prepared for cremation. Priests from each village oversee the ceremony. We waited almost 2 hours for the arrival of purified water and all of the ceremonial steps to be completed. I walked the grounds watching what was going on. Although it was a religious ceremony, people were celebrating. Families brought lunches and had picnics. Others purchased food at the sandwich, satay an donut stands.
I decided to have a donut. I went to take a bite and a man walked up and grabbed it out of my hand. I stared shocked but could tell he was mentally handicapped. Oh well. He wanted a donut. I.did not need it. I later ran into him when he was pleasuring himself. Not something I expected to see at a cremation ceremony but realizing he was mentally challenged, I let it go. 

It was an odd experience. Balloons, ice cream and candy was for sell. 
Men were gambling in the temple and the band was relaxing and enjoying the sense of community.
Children were playing on the towers and running through the fields. 
As I talked to the local villagers, I learned this was a symbolic ceremony. There were no bones/bodies being burned today. After a short rain, everyone started to congregate near the bulls and dragons. 
They lit one on fire and burned the symbolic offerings. One by one each of the bulls and dragons went up in fire. I watched the flames and smoke engulf the area. Everything burned quickly.

We were overcome by the fumes and the smoke. Paula and I decided we had enough and left. It was an interesting experience and insight into the rituals of the Hindu  people. Typically, they would collect the ashes and take them to a river or sea to finalize the ceremony. It was an interesting celebration of life. I liked it and walked away with a smile on my face. The Balinese believe their loved ones will be reincarnated into the next generation and the cycle will continue.

We walked slowly back to our scooter after the cremation ceremony.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Medicine Man- Cokorda

Me at the entrance to Cokorda's temple. 
Marie and I went to yoga class in the morning. I smiled as I sat in the studio waiting for class to begin. I looked out over the palm trees and rice fields. A cool breeze was drifting into the studio. The birds were chirping and I was in Bali taking a yoga class! Ahhh! It felt good to stretch and have this time to get the kinks out from the road trip. I was tight but by the end of the 2 hour class, I felt fantastic. After class, Marie mentioned she had a medicine man and asked if I would like to visit him. Nothing serious was wrong with me. My asthma was a little bothersome after the air pollution in Beijing. But I would love to visit a real Balinese medicine man! Sign me up!

Marie explained that Cokorda was from the royal family and never planned to be a medicine man. He had cars, women and a royal lifestyle. But he had a vision and then a car accident and a second vision that he was suppose to become a medicine man. He finally listened to his visions and started to study the lontar, ancient palm leaf manuscripts of traditional medicine. The lontar books have been the source of wisdom and knowledge. The Balinese gain their philosophy of life, knowledge on astronomy, laws, rites, medicine and gods from the ancient lontar. They are the books of life.

Lontar on the left, under the white cloth.
Marie prepared me for my visit to Cokorda and I listened closely.  She told me it is a different experience then the hordes of tourists that go to see Ketut Leyir from Eat, Pray, Love. He does not tell every person the same story and predict a long and healthy life. Cokorda would use pressure points to identify pain or issues with your health. Marie said she would call him and arrange a visit, purchase the offerings and let me know what day we would visit.
 On the day of our visit, Marie took 3 of us to Cokorda's temple. It was a beautiful temple and Marie showed me around the grounds.
We walked to the back to meet Cokorda. We were introduced to him and gave our offerings of coffee, sweets and money. Cokorda said he was around 90 years old. I smiled and watched as he smoked a cigarette. I sat down on the mat to wait as the French woman, Nataile, went first. She had told us that she was in constant pain from her back. I was interested to see what happened. As Cokorda started touching points on her body she screamed out in pain. Oh my goodness! I looked at Paula with shock. He continued and the screams got louder and louder. I turned to Paula and said "I am not certain I want to do this." She wasn't certain either. The screams were awful. What had I signed up for? I remembered Made telling me on person he took screened obscenities it was so painful. I watched as Cokada had Natile lie down and started to poke her toes with a stick. He repeated the area of the body it was associated with. She screamed agin when he got to her back and nervous system. Cokorda had two apprentices that helped him by doing some movements over her body. After some time, they stopped and Cokorda got out the stick to poke her foot. No screams. Her pain appeared to be gone. No screaming. Wow!

Next it was my turn. I sat down and Cokorda started touching my pressure points on my head. I was waiting for pain. I did not have any.Whew! I relaxed and Cokorda contined and ten asked "hiw can I help you?" i told him I ha asthma and was coughing. Cokorda had me lie down. He got out the stick and poked me with it as recited the organs of my body. He got to lung and I did not scream. He said "Lungs good, no problem." Then he poked the top of lung and esophagus area. Owwwwww! That hurt and I jumped. Cokorda went in to explain that it was not my lungs but I was not drinking enough water. "Drink more water. You pee, drink water. Stop using inhaler." Ok. He also offered to give me some oil to rub on my chest. Then he said How can I help you. All ok. Be happy!" I smiled and thanked him. I had a medical checkup and all is good! Be happy! I will try drinking more water to see if it helps my cough. I will keep my inhalers just in case. I am not ready to ditch them yet. 
Visiting a Balinese medicine man was an interesting experience. I was happy I had done this. Most Balinese have a medicine man they visit before they see a doctor. There were several women waiting to be seen. They smiled at us foreigners and patiently waited their turn. The medicine men use a variety if herbs and plants to help a person. Sometimes they will tell you they can not help and you must see a medical doctor. 

As we were leaving our session, I asked Nataile how she felt. She said she felt good and was not in pain. The question was would it work? 

I am a believer in a mixture of eastern and western medicine. I prefer to use healthy living options (diet, accupuncture, excercise) over pharmaceuticals when possible. I don't want to mask problems. I want to live my life the healthiest way possible. Finding a balance in life is important and I have seen first hand how it changes your well-being. Since traveling, my stress and insomnia are gone. I dream again. I calm myself through meditation. It has been a good lesson in healthy living. The trick will be to continue to do so when I return to the workforce. 

Temples, Volcanos and Rice Terraces of Bali

A typical Balinese street view.
If you have been following my blog, you know I am not a fan of organized tours. I will do anything to avoid them. In Bali, I hired a driver, Made (, to take me to the volcano and to show me his country. I was excited because he loved to share the culture, religious beliefs and would answer the millions of questions I had for him. He was also very courteous and professional. When he came to pick me up, he asked what I had done the previous 2 days and I told him I have been to Tirta Empul and Gunung Kawi on my scooter. He was shocked and impressed that I did that on my own. He and Marie called me brave and fearless. Ha ha! I never consider solo travel that extraordinary. I guess it comes from being single for so many years and doing everything on my own. Mr. Made told me he had planned to stop at both these sights. I was excited and asked if we could keep Tirta Empul on the schedule. I could go in the waters! I ran to grab a change of clothes before we left.
I liked this carving,  jazz hands!
Our first stop was the Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) sanctuary. I put on my sarong and sash and entered the area. This is not a natural cave. It was a solid rock carved by believers years ago. The holy men would clean themselves in the holy fountains before entering the cave to meditate for enlightenment. This cave was built in honor of Goa Gajah, the God of wisdom, prosperity and good luck.

Goa Gajah cave entrance
I entered the cave through the mouth and took a quick look around. It was dark and smelly from rotting offerings. Not someplace I wanted to spend much time meditating! The surrounding gardens were lush and peaceful. I decided to hike the area and explore the gardens. There were carvings in the rocks as I continued along the paths. I walked until I came to a path where a man wanted money to walk down towards the river. I decided to return back to meet Made.

I met back with Made and we headed north to an organic farm. I had told Made I loved healthy eating and he asked if I would like to see one of the organic family farms on our trip. Of course! We stopped and walked through the gardens and then I was shown how they roast the coffee. Bali also has a special coffee, kopi luwak. The Asian palm civet lives on the farm (cage free) and selects only the best coffee beans to eat. The beans are then excreted and collected, cleaned and roasted to make the kopi luwak. It is believed the fermentation process that occurs in the civet's digestive system improves the flavor of the coffee bean. 

Kopi Luwak beans after cleaning and roasting.
Made asked if I would like a free sample of the farms coffee and teas. Sure, I was game and I really wanted to see if there was a difference in the taste of the coffee. Yep, I was trying that cevit poop coffee! They brought me a tray of samples and a plate of local fruits (including snakeskin fruit). Yummy!
I must admit, the kopi luwak coffee tasted better than the regular coffee. But my favorites were the ginger coffee and the lemongrass tea. I bought a small bag of each for my travels.
Our next stop was Tirta Empul, the holy spring. I had visited before so, I knew where I was going. I left my bag with Made and just took a change of clothes and my iphone for photos. I entered the temple and walked towards the changing room to rent a locker. I got a key and entered. I was a little surprised when I entered to see men and women all together in different stages of changing their clothes. Hmmmm....well, when in Rome do as the Romans. What else could I do? I changed into my swimsuit and wrapped a sarong around my waist. Then I tied a shawl over my shoulders. As I left the changing room an older lady grabbed my hand and smiled. She pulled me along to the entrance of the temple and the water baths. She was excited she had found a tourist to show the way. I passed the priests and gave an offering.
Then I continued to the pool. I asked a tourist if she would take a couple photos for me and gave her my iphone. As I entered the water, I noticed large coy fish swimming in the pool. I giggled as I thought of my sister who would have freaked out being in a pool of water with fish. The water was cool and the bottom was covered with worn stones. I waited my turn and followed in step with the Balinese. I bowed my head to pray Balinese-style: gave thanks to emptiness, the sun, creation, offer blessings to the world and then thanks to emptiness once again. I stepped towards the first of 12 fountains and murmur a gratitude blessing and dunk my head under the fountain three times. The woman smiled at me and grabs my hand to pull me along. Made had explained that each of the fountains has a different significance, providing things like protection from evil spirits, blessings for fertility (no tahnk you!), wealth and blessings for the dead. He told me to follow the locals but not to dip my head in the fountain for the dead. I was glad he told me this. He told me it would be the fountain the locals skipped and it would not have any offerings on it. The fountain of the dead is used to wash the bones of the deceased prior to cremation.
Tirta Empul

I quietly watched the locals and followed their lead. Although this is the most spiritual sight in Bali, I was amazed how the locals chatted and laughed as they went through the process. I whispered my blessing at each spout as I went along. I don't know whether the water will cleanse or uplift me. I only know that I felt alive in the moment and thankful. I returned to the locker room, changed my clothes and returned to Made.
We continued our drive up to the Mount Batur. The view of the active volcano was beautiful and impressive. I walked around the area and shot a few photos. Then we headed south to the rice terraces.

As we continued our drive, I notice all of the cars and scooters had offerings on them. I had not noticed this in previous days. Made explained it was Tumpek Landep, a day the Balinese celebrate all things mechanical. Offerings are placed on cars and scooters because the Balinese believe that everything they have comes from the gods. Offering are made to thank the gods for blessing them with the ability to make things that help them in their daily lives. We passed women with offerings on their way to the temple.

I am in awe of the gracefulness of the Balinese women. They walk with offerings and water jugs balanced on their heads. Talking and gossiping with their friends. I will never tire of this sight. Made told me the children learn to do this in their youth. He pointed out a woman riding on the back of a motorcycle with the offering balanced on her head. Amazing!
We arrived at the Tegallalang rice terraces. They were beautiful. I will never tire of the shades of green and the serenity of rice paddies.

Made joined me as we walked down to the bottom. He was telling me about the naming system in Bali. In his class, all children are named Wayan, Made, Nygoman and Ketut. In this order for a boy or a girl. On child 5, you start back at Wayan. It makes it easy to know the birth order but confusing when everyone's names are Wayan or Made. I asked him how that is handled in school. Made told me the have nick names also. I laughed as I told him my name would be Made also.

Made (left) and a farmer (Wayan) that we met while hiking.

At the end of the day we passed through the stone carving and wood carving areas. I asked if we could stop so I could look at a store. The wood carvings were beautiful. I loved several pieces but passed due to my budget. I had a wonderful day with Made and learned a great deal about Balinese life. I said my goodbyes to Made and arranged for him to pick me up in a few days to drive me to Amed. He smiled and waved goodbye.