Sunday, April 20, 2003

Hello from Bali!

Dear Ones:

Happy Easter! You probably didn't even finish reading my last update and I am already sending another. I am going to start breaking this up a little for you. Besides, this is my last day in Asia and it deserves its separate log.

I arrived in Ubud - a really a nice small artist village in Bali April 15th. It is very quaint and full of nice stores, restaurants and hotels. There is a very good structure for tourism everywhere but not so many tourists after the bomb last year. A lot of people are hurting in Bali, now so dependent on tourism.

I bought a new wallet at the Bangkok airport. After my wallet was stolen in Chiang Mai I needed a place to organize my money bills. My new wallet of elephant leather came in handy specially in Bali. I know, not the most ecological statement I am making here, but my choices were crocodile and sting rae fish-beautiful by the way!

The money in Bali is so mind boggling! The rate is 8,800 rupiahs to a dollar. There are so many zeros that it makes it very easy to confuse a 1,000 bill with a 10,000. There is hardly any coins available and when they come around they are very light and cheaply made.

My plan was to stay in Ubud for the six days I had in Bali (just a quick visit). However, after meeting Kamel and Leila – a french brother and sister travelling together, I decided to join them when they took off to Lovina in the north of the island. I needed company and they were happy to take me along. The day before we drove scooters around Ubud visiting rice fields, going to see a local dance and checking out the area around Ubud. The people in Bali are extra nice, especially in the smaller places; the rice fields are so green it hurts the eye.

It rained a couple of times when I was in Ubud and my hotel room was just next to a rice field. I woke up in the morning with the sounds of so many different birds, frogs and water animals I don't even know who they are. I've never heard such sounds before. They would be even louder after the rain. My second night there it rained from 4am to 6am. Such wonderful sounds and smells!

It is always a pleasure to hear the rain falling in these parts of the world. It produces a different sound, there are so many trees and open fields and maybe the humid atmosphere makes a difference too. It is a very heavy rain of short duration. I can't forget the day I was typing away at the internet cafe in Chiang Mai when a storm came down and the lights went out and the woman at the café started to laugh uncontrollable, clapping her hands and being wild. Had I not just lost two hours of typing I would join her in her private party. The roar and beauty of the rain was worth it, but I was in too bad a mood thinking of all the typing I would never get back. So, I missed everything, the typing and the excitement of the wild rain falling.

By the way, those kinds of storms are common at my mother's home in Brazil during summers too. I've never experienced a similar one in the US or Europe though. I think this is a tropical thing.

I just finished a javanese massage which included herbal exfoliation called Mandi Lulur. A paste of turmeric, sandalwood, nuts and rice was spread all over my body after the jasmin oil massage. When the paste dried, it was scrapped off and I soaked in a tub of water with roses to wash it all off. Very nice. It made my skin very soft and shining. The javanese massage is not as good as the Thai-my very favorite of all massages so far. But it is very nice too! The fruit here is also very fantastic! Some I have never seen before like the "mango stins" and "salak" – The first like individual jack fruit, and the second, a very delicious round fruit with white soft seeds that we chew on. And of course the Rambutan, also known as Lambuta in Thailand, spicky pinkish round fruit with a white round fruit inside very similar to lychee (not sure how to spell.) I ate one kilo (2 pounds) in one sitting today by myself – I just couldn't stop!

The food here has a strong chinese influence I would say. Nasi Goreng is fried rice, Mi Goreng is fried noodle and Gado Gado is mixed vegetables with peanut sauce. The menus sometimes are very funny, like the "american fried rice" I often saw in India and this one I saw in Lovina is too funny, "Creep a la Bali" followed by the explanation: "creep with banana inside and coppered with grated coconut and palm sugar or honey."

People in Bali practice hinduism as a religion and Java is muslin. It is very interesting to see the balinese version of hinduism. It is hinduism with a tribal, island touch. I can tell they love the ritualistic part of it. It is nice to watch the balinese women in their colorful sarongs caring baskets with fruit offerings and incense to the temple. The men also dress up in sarongs and a head cloth arranged in a special way. Of course there are lots of celebrations all the time, just like in India. As I arrived on the full moon, I could see already in my first day here lots of celebrations.

I had my second mishap happen just a couple of weeks from the first one. This one had a happier ending though. I left my bag with digital video camera, copies of electronic tickets in Australia and a lot of miscellaneous things in the taxi that took us to Lovina. We happened to have the driver's transport company number and after many phone calls I arranged for him to drop my bag on the way to Kuta. The driver was so nice, everything worked out. It is very easy to communicate with those who speak English here. Their English is excellent and by the way it is very easy to learn Balinese, as the language appears to be very simple. I could probably be fluent in six months!

The beach in Lovina (north of Bali) was not too impressive. Very similar to Ko Samui in Thailand, but with black sand. No waves and the water, the Bali Ocean not the cleanest at least by the shore. Kuta, near Denpasar in the south of the island is different though. A surfers destination, there are plenty of waves and the sand is very white, the Indian Ocean open and very clean. I stayed in the water a long time today enjoying the delicious waves breaking at shore forming lots of foams.

It is very overbuilt in Kuta though. It almost feels like Cote D'Azur and it is actually said to be the Cote D'Azur of Indonesia. The streets are lined up with all kinds of name brand stores-Pollo, Armani, etc. McDonalds everywhere, pizza everywhere, ATMs and internet cafes every corner. There is not much of a balinese feeling here. In fact it feels very much like Nice, Cannes or downtown San Francisco or Fisherman's Warf for that matter, except for the weather.

I am not sure I like it, but it is close to the airport and the hotel I am staying has a swimming pool. As long as I can swim everyday I am happy and in Asia I can afford those kinds of hotels.

The way I have been spaced out with my things shows that I am loosing heart to travel-just a little. Maybe I have been thinking too much of things at home, maybe it is starting to feel too lonely. Although I hook up often with people who seem nice and are willing to adopt me as their travel companions, I am starting to feel I want to be among real friends.

Speaking of which, it just happens that although I already left India almost a month ago, the tales keep happening on their own. I received an email from Sathya at the western office in Amritapuri when I was in Thailand asking what to do with a package that was sent to me at ashram. He was keeping the package for me but the ferocious Indian ants were attacking it and he had to open it. It happened to be a package of food and after some digging I found out that Karen and Ray, my long time co-workers and friends sent me a christmas package in December with food from the Bay Area to cheer me up at Amritapuri. Now you know I am not joking about the indian post office, ants, and also not joking about the wonderful friends I have. I feel I have many mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters all over the world the way you all take care of me. I hope I can be worth of you someday.

Tomorrow I fly to Sydney at 1:00pm via Singapure (so close to India!). I will be in Sydney at 5:20am on the 22nd of April. I know I will miss the delicious fresh fruit here, the weather, the nice people and the cheaper prices, but I am really looking forward to move on. So, I am closer and closer to home.

A tout a l'heure everyone! A thousand kisses,



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