A Day Trip From Ubud – Shopping in Kuta

A Day Trip From Ubud – Shopping in Kuta

There are many reasons why I am living in Ubud.  A big one is that despite it being a small town, there are tons of amenities to keep a Western expat happy.  I can pretty much get anything I want here in town.  It might not be my favorite brand, but I can get a reasonable alternative.   There are some things, though, that I just can’t get here.  Besides dim sum, and Chinese food in general, I can’t buy underwear.  Ok, yeah, I can buy underwear at the local supermarket, and maybe it makes me a snob that I feel like I need to buy underwear some place else, but it is one thing I just can’t buy in town.  It is also hard for me to find yoga tops and bathing suit tops, for obvious waist up reasons.  Similarly, Eric has a hard time finding t-shirts large enough to fit him, other than the Bintang beer tank tops and tees.  And, once we moved into the new house there were just a few items we needed.  We used all of these expat “issues” as an excuse to get out of town for a day.  We hired a driver to bring us down south, to the big city of Kuta.   I am not a fan of Kuta. I generally refer to it as the arm pit of Bali, loaded with drunk Australian tourists and aggressive touts.  I avoid it at all costs.  But, there are occasional times where even the most adamantly anti-Kuta person, finds themselves shopping in Kuta.  Even if somewhat against their will. After grabbing...
The Boys of Nyepi in Bali – a Photo Essay

The Boys of Nyepi in Bali – a Photo Essay

I rarely take photos around town.  It is not like I am a tourist, snapping shots to commemorate a trip.  I often think about bringing my camera out with me, to drive around the villages for a day taking photos.  But, then, my regular schedule kicks in, and I just live my life as an expat, living in Bali. The day before Nyepi in Bali, however, I wanted to take advantage of living in Ubud during one of the most important holidays of the year. I wanted to be a tourist in my own village.  I took the requisite pictures of the ogoh ogohs, and posted them to Facebook, like many of my friends in Ubud. But for me, the most interesting photos were not of the ogoh ogoh themselves, but in the boys carrying them.   Nyepi is definitely a holiday for the boys of Bali.  They dress up like miniature versions of  their fathers, with their sarong and head covering, an udeng.   The girls do this as well for most Balinese holidays and ceremonies, wearing small sarongs and lace tops called kebaya.  For Nyepi in Bali, though, the girls take a back seat, and the boys are the stars.   They join together to make the neighborhood’s ogoh ogoh, and then they carry them together as a group through the village. They took pride in making the finishing touches on the ogoh ogoh. You could just see how excited some of the smaller boys were to participate in the ceremonial procession, some nervous with anticipation. I am sure the older men tired of it after so...
Nyepi – The Day of Silence in Bali

Nyepi – The Day of Silence in Bali

I was happy we experienced the ogoh ogoh procession in Kutuh Kaja the night before Nyepi, the day of silence in Bali.  I felt as though we were part of the community, and experiencing something special.  But, by the time we returned to the house, it was dark, as the lights around started to fade.  Although Nyepi does not technically begin until sunrise you could already notice a difference in the village. Quiet took over.  We started our Nyepi lock down with a night swim, Eric’s babi guling soup, some chocolate mouse cake, and a little TV.  It was an early night for us, and our friend Emerald who hunkered down with us.   Around 11pm the power went out.  I was worried.  During the silent period of Nyepi you are not supposed watch TV, play music, cook, or even turn on lights.  The goal is to allow the demons to pass over the island.  As Bule, we are given a little more leeway with these things, so long as we are not disruptive and stay within our homes, but for a moment there, I worried that they would turn off the power entirely.  I worried about all of the ice cream I bought.  I worried about sleeping in a room with no fan.   It must not have worried me too much, because I was asleep a few minutes later.  When I woke in the middle of the night, I heard the hum of the ceiling fan and I knew my ice cream was safe.   I woke early Nyepi morning, which for us seemed much like other...
Preparing for Nyepi – the Ogoh Ogoh of Bali

Preparing for Nyepi – the Ogoh Ogoh of Bali

It was not our first Nyepi spent in Bali, but this one was certainly different.   The first time we heard of Nyepi was back in 2010, when we spent the last month of our round the world trip in Bali.  We attempted to see a parade of ogoh ogoh, but failed as we had no idea what we were even looking for and what time things happened.  After, we were locked inside a hotel, with awful food, and a bunch of strangers.  For 24 hours.  We were barricaded, with the front entrance enclosed by plywood.  It was a strange holiday, and I knew we were missing something.   This Nyepi, we were living in Ubud.  In our own house.  In a village we love.  I knew it would be different than the last.  We had local friends who explained more about the traditions, and the rules, of how to experience Nyepi, and more importantly, the night before Nyepi.   Nyepi is the Balinese New Year, and one of the most important holidays of the year.  For weeks before, we saw the neighborhood boys creating their ogoh ogoh, large styrofoam monsters and demons which would be paraded through the village.  During the afternoons, younger boys were working on a blue monster with wild hair.  In the evenings, the older guys were at work on a large frog, with tiger stripes, and a blue monster sitting atop, while listening to music, and probably drinking a little Arak.  Each day as I drove by, the monsters took shape and looked more like the ogoh ogoh I have seen before.   As...
A Two Person Thomas Cook – RTW Problems

A Two Person Thomas Cook – RTW Problems

The more bloggers I follow, and the more I read, the more I realize we are not alone out there.  Long term slow travelers, perpetual nomads, round the world trippers.  Packing and unpacking, researching and booking travel.  Passport stamps, frequent flier miles, foreign transaction fees. Part of these logistical concerns involves accessing money all over the world, at least that’s how it seems.  We have a tendency of leaving a country and bringing some currency with us, particularly with for countries that we intend to return to, at some point in the future.   Yeah, it makes sense to carry some US dollar with us, in case of emergency.  Currently, we have a little excess left over from our trip to Myanmar last year, where we needed crisp and clean $100 bills to exchange into Burmese kyat.  Keeping some Euro also makes sense as we tend to be there from time to time. One of the benefits of keeping some of this currency lying around is to avoid having to race to an ATM when we return to a country.  But, it also is almost like a pride thing.  Eric has been carrying a small plastic Ziploc bag of random currencies around, for what seems like years.  When organizing our belongings a few months back in Kuala Lumpur, Eric took inventory of our currencies.  We were a little surprised to see exactly what we had: $167 is Thai Bhat $282 in Singapore Dollars $212 in Myanmar Kyat $113 in Vietnamese Dong $247 in Indonesian Rupiah $361 in Hong Kong Dollars $157 in Euro Plus something equivalent to about a...
Bintang and Babi Guling in Bali

Bintang and Babi Guling in Bali

Now that we have this gorgeous Bali house, even if fraught with problems, we started talking about a house warming.  We had enough room, the gorgeous view.  We even had friends to invite.  Eric came up with the idea around New Years of hosting a Balinese inspired party – with babi guling and Bintang beer.  Babi Guling Being a Hindu island surrounded by Muslim islands, the Balinese tend to embrace their love of pork.  Babi Guling is a roasted pig, with crispy skin, stuffed with Balinese seasonings.  It is possible to find local babi guling stands, and there is the famous Ibu Oka in Ubud.  Babi guling in Bali is one of the main specialities of the island! The pork is served with some rice, slices of skin, perhaps some vegetables, often mixed with pork, a sausage or two, and other pork related delectables.  For a special occasion, like a wedding or important Balinese ceremony, an entire babi guling can be ordered and delivered to your house.  Of course, this was what Eric wanted to do. So, about a week before the big day, we had a consultation with “the babi guling guy.”  He came to our house to talk about how many people we had coming and what services he provided.  On the day of, at the perfectly appointed time, the babi guling guy showed up with a warm and toasty roasted pig about 20 kilograms, fully in tact, from snout to tail.  He was glowing a gorgeous red color, and smelled so fantastic.  Eric was in hog heaven, literally.  Shortly after delivery, Eric sliced off the skin,...