Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Honeymoon in Bali - Part I

This post is a little late, but we've been busy with all kinds of things lately. This post will have less of us and more about our trip in general. I hope to post two others, one with pictures of local people and another with us together...actually we got very few photos with us together! Need to invest in a small tripod.

Wedding, drop Dad off in BKK and the airport the next day, then run to the airport ourselves a couple hours later for our honeymoon!! We began the process of both getting visas to India once we figured out that Pae could get some extra days off of work following our wedding. Her friends who had recently come back from India begged her not to go there for her honeymoon, citing it as not so romantic and super super hot! Hawaii wasn't an option as we don't have a visa for entry into the U.S. That took Hawaii off of the short list as well as many European places.We instead decided to go to Bali, Indonesia, a short 4 hour flight away and south of the equator. Now, for me, Bali had always struck me as one of those places I'd never be able to visit. Pae has spent her whole life in this region, so Bali probably doesn't even register as anything out of the ordinary for her or others here. I mean, Thailand has some of the most amazing beaches and little islands in the world, so it's hard to beat! Am I complaining about going to Bali on our honeymoon? NO WAY!! We could have spent a week in 7-11 as long as we were together and I would have been happy! I think we both enjoyed being honeymooners for a week!

Well, I'd always known Indonesia as a Muslim country, which is correct. Indonesia is more than 90% Muslim with the remaining ten percent split up between Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Catholics (as a taxi driver explained to us "two different kinds of Christians")Bali, on the other hand, is just the opposite, with over 90% Hindu. The tourist maps actually mark "Muslim areas" which I found interesting. I almost felt like the maps were marked as a sort of "warning", especially after the terrorist bombing of a night club area in Kuta that killed over 200 locals and tourists, back in 2002. Two of the terrorists blew themselves up, and several were eventually captured, prosecuted and killed by firing squad. While we were there, we felt no negative vibe from any of the people, be they Christian or Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist. People seemed generally nice, out to make a buck, but nice and mostly polite.We flew Thai Airways and stayed at the Laguna Resort and Spa Nusa Dua. Nusa Dua is one of three main areas we spent time at, a resort area, perfect for a relaxing honeymoon. Before leaving Thailand, we decided not to cut off the strings tied on our wrists during our wedding ceremony. We figured that we might be able to get an upgrade at the hotel by telling them that we were honeymooners.Figured that was more legit than complaining about every little thing in the room on arrival and hoping for an upgrade...common practice for frequent travelers, it works sometimes, but kinda cheesy for a honeymooning couple to start off by complaining So when we reserved online, we got the medium level room...and left a comment asking for a free upgrade for honeymooners. Being low season in most areas around South East Asia, we had a pretty good chance at getting an upgrade to a "Lagoon Access" room, with a personal entry to a small lagoon outside of the room.Checking in, the front desk dude asked if we were just married and explained that Hindus have a similar custom of tying strings around the wrists during the wedding ceremony. He congratulated us and gave us the upgrade, "for good luck" he said. Honestly, we were probably happiest that the room came with free breakfast daily! You know us, and food! Funny thing was, since they had originally booked us for and prepared for us a standard room, they were a little late preparing our upgraded room for a honeymooning couple. So, while we were unpacking and getting comfortable, two ladies from the hotel knocked and brought flowers for the bed, the shower and for the desk in the room. It was funny, they set them all up, then left...a little awkward but nice of them.We shopped and got supplies at the resort area shopping mall called Bali Collection. High priced everything from convenience stores to name brand clothing and handbags. Considering its location (well manicured resort area) and its target demographic (middle age rich people, honeymooners and frequent flyer business people types)the prices seemed right on. Food here was the basic Indonesian fare but at inflated prices for tourists.This was really the only thing, other than the nice beaches, that Nusa Dua offered. The beaches were probably the best on the island, with minimal surf and well maintained shorelines, white sand and a noticeable lack of surfers, jet skis and parasailers. It was a very relaxing area, perfect for a nap on a beach chair. I did walk about 500 meters up the beach and found a local beach only separated from the resort beaches by a small peninsula that jutted out between the two areas.There was a stark contrast between the local beach and the stretch of beach owned by the hotels and resorts. Cleanliness and the amount of hawkers being the main two differences. It was almost like they limited the amount of hawkers to come down the beach into the resort area, there was actually security regulating locals going down the beach. You could see a "staging area" for the hawkers, with their sunglasses, paintings, shell creations and other things all stacked and ready to take their turn down the resort beach. Interesting to see. Here in Thailand, most places, the on beach sales" seem unlimited, with somebody always in your face trying to sell you food, local merchandise, or a ride on a pony.Area number two that we visited with a rented taxi was the Ubud area. Ubud is the artsy area, the hippy area so to speak. You know, those who talk to the trees, gain inspiration from the water flowing down the stepped rice patties, and sit on their Apple laptops in coffee shops reading online literature. Ubud was this kind of place!
I loved the drive into Ubud from Nusa Dua. The roads were winding, narrow and green. From the edge of the road outward all you could see was "life". Not an industrialized area, not a cement and concrete city, but little houses, shacks, showrooms, fields, rice patties, temples, everything that you want to see when you travel was in Ubud, except for the beach as it is an inland city.There are several "Monkey Forests" and "Monkey Temples" in Bali, mostly for the tourists who pay a small admission. I really wanted to go to the Monkey Forest, not for the monkeys, but to be in the forest, to hear the water flowing through the small ravine, to smell the damp moss growing on the rocks. I love green, I love the forest, and I love listening and looking up into the canopy, a totally different world than down below on the forest floor.My camera threw fits in the shade, with little beams of sunlight randomly making their way through the thick ceiling of leaves that were woven together over head. Almost all of my photos were out of focus, and I don't take out of focus photos! Small disappointment, but I have the photos recorded in my memory! And my memory doesn't require rotating, resizing or backing up on my hard drive!!

The monkeys offered some entertainment though, as they were naughty little boys and girls. Anything not tied down, hidden or super glued to your person was fair game and would surely become monkey toys or lunch. The little buggers even knew how to open zippers! I had two literally "jump me" beneath a large rainforest tree. At first it was cute, two little furry monkeys on my waist and backpack messing around, until I heard Pae say, "They got the wet wipes!" Then, "Be careful, he's after the sunscreen!"Too late! Once the little punks got their muddy little hands on stuff with twisty tops and sticky tabs, they hopped off and ran off with their booty. I couldn't very well let the little primates leave the area with a full tube of sunscreen, so I attempted to trade the lotion for a handful of crushed banana that was also in one of the pockets of my backpack. He wasn't having it and jumped on a small cement pillar overlooking a Japanese Koi pond. He gnawed at the cap of the lotion, eventually prying it off. It dropped right on the edge of the pond and he started smelling the lotion and squeezing it. He was preoccupied with his lotion when I snagged it out of his little monkey boy hands, grabbed the cap and put it IN my backpack instead of in the side mesh pocket.

Later, on our way out of the forest, another little fella ran up my leg, straight to my shoulder and I messed with him for a few seconds. When I didn't allow him to grab my glasses, he grabbed my face! I let out an unexpected "eek!" walked a few yards then spun him around until he bit me and then hopped off and walked away. I'm sure they play like this daily.
The third area we went was Kuta. This is where you find the under 25 crowd, the surfers, the partiers, the high on weed folks, and the "You want marijuana" whisperers. Quite the atmosphere during day light with people shopping, eating, surfing and hanging at the beach. When the street lights go on, the roads fill with youngsters looking for the hippest bar, the best music and apparently the freshest pot. I couldn't walk more than 50 meters without some seedy looking dude whispering "Cannabis? Pot? Mari-hu-wana?", "Weed man?", "You smoke?"I wanted to reply, "No, but can you help me find a eighteen inch penis?" Haha, okay, you won't get that joke unless you've walked the streets, and even the shopping malls of Bali! Everywhere you go, there are wooden penises for sale. We have them here in Thailand too, some phallic religion, and they are often displayed in a case or on an altar in restaurants, in taxis and in people's homes. We showed dad a stack of them here in Bangkok when we were strolling the streets and I think he had to avert his eyes, such was his surprise or disgust (one of those). So I asked a taxi driver if they had any religious significance for Hindus and he was like, "No, they're just funny to look at. Make people laugh." It's true though, every corner I turned around...magnets, book ends, bottle openers, you name it, it came in "penis". I'd post some of the many dong photos I snapped but I don't want to risk getting our blog shut down...although they're just wood.We sat in an upstairs bar, listened to music, wet our whistles and watched the people below rush towards the center of the party street (Legian Street) looking for fun. This is also the location of the terrorist bombing in 2002. As you'd imagine to see a bunch of American college students on spring break in Jamaica or the Bahamas, the proximity of Bali to Australia makes for 50% or more of the tourists in Kuta (and Bali in general)being Aussie. Getting to Europe or America for them is a long haul! Bali, Borneo, Malaysia and Thailand are much shorter, cheaper and more manageable flights. The surf on the west side of the island and Kuta's western location probably also has something to do with that.

After several trips to the bathroom and as the concentration of people on the dark streets below increased, we made our way out and went and found a little wicker love seat with cushions in the We Ai Pe (VIP) club right down from the bombing memorial. Here we sat (lounged) and listened to a live rocker band. After they did a couple sets, Pae heard them sing a requested song...yeah, so she requested "Don't wanna miss a thing" that so fun to sing (translation: scream) song "for the honeymooners".

A couple songs later the band, lead man and woman, came down, found us congratulated us and the four of us danced as they sang. Half way through the song, right about where all of the screaming starts, he handed me the microphone. I did my screaming, we traded dance partners, me/him, Pae/her, then I gave him back the mic, to everyone's relief! So we got our honeymoon song, our dance, and then a sweaty same-sex dance with a couple leather clad rockers as well! Haha, good stuff!

We did actually make it to several popular cultural destinations as well. We had seen many places that looked interesting, but many of them required 6+ hours of one way travel to get to the temple or volcano, so we scrapped those ideas in the interest of relaxation. We did go to two places popular with tourists; Uluwatu and Tanah Lot Temple.Tanah Lot is located a little north of Kuta and is rocky with very little if no beach. Tanah Lot temple is out in the water, with a small land bridge making it accessible when the tide is low, making it an island during high tide. We got there as the tide was coming in, so weren't able to enter the temple grounds. We were able to take some pictures, even though the sun was sooooooo bright. I'm not a sweater, but my shirt was nice and damp after a half hour walking around the area. There were several religious ceremonies taking place in the temple area (on shore), with people dressed in their traditional or religious garb everywhere. Most people were dressed like this, so honestly I'm not 100% sure that this isn't just their daily dress.Next we headed down, past Nusa Dua to our east, through the hot seafood city or area of Jimbaran, and to Uluwatu. Here there is a temple on a cliff overlooking the ocean. We went around sunset time, got some good photos of the cliffs, the surf and the temple, then sat down for a show called the Kecak Dance, a cultural dance where the dancers chant and go into a trance and a story is danced. It was getting dark so we didn't read the story of the dance, but instead just watched and listened to the 60+ dancers doing their thing.Bali was both culturally interesting and very relaxing. The food was sub-par but I thing we're just too used to eating awesome Thai food. If it's your first time in S.E. Asia, I would recommend a visit to Bali, with a stopover in Thailand (of course) for a visit to Pae and Guy!!We loved our honeymoon and want to thank everybody for their love and best wishes. We're now entering a new stage in our lives and in our relationship and it's very exciting! Wish us luck and hope to make one of our next trips together back to the States for a visit and to meet everybody. Update on that later...stay tuned.

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