Getting Ripped Off In Bali

Getting Ripped Off In Bali

I am no novice to traveling in Asia, and I feel like I have put my time into giving Bali a chance, but there are days where I wonder, why the heck do I live in Bali?  These days are generally the ones were I get ripped off, or spend my day avoiding getting ripped off in Bali. There is no way of avoiding it, I am, in fact, a Bule.  Bule originally translated to albino, and was the word that the Balinese used when first seeing the Dutch settling in Indonesia.  Now, it refers to any foreigner, particularly of the white-skinned variety.  That includes me. There are benefits and burdens to being a Bule in Bali.  The biggest benefit relates to the cost of living here, and is the reason why an increasing number of expats, retirees, and digital nomads are calling Bali home.  When you earn your money online, or from other Western sources, and are living in Bali (or most of Southeast Asia), it is a steal. One of the burdens of being a Bule, in Bali and elsewhere in the region, is that we are often seen as giant ATM machines.  Now, I understand that there are a lot of things that I pay more for in Bali, solely because I am a Bule.  And, most of the time I am okay with it, because I know I earn more money than the average Balinese.  But, today, things went too far.  They went far enough that I want to scream that I am sick of getting ripped off in Bali. Our Babi Guling Place There...

Young Boy Celebrates Nyepi in Bali – Photo Essay

In the weeks leading up to Nyepi in Bali, the boys of Bali start preparing for the ogoh ogoh processions, building elaborate monsters to scare away the demons. There was one boy in particular who I became a little infatuated with.  He lives in our village, although I am not sure whose he is.  I just found him adorable. I first noticed him in his red shirt and white udeng hanging around the smallest of the ogoh ogohs, just trying to take in what was going on around him. Then, I noticed him climbing inside the bamboo holding platform that is used to carry the ogoh ogoh in the procession. He was about half the size of the rest of the boys who were scheduled to carry the ogoh ogoh that night, but he didn’t care.  He desperately wanted to be there.  Helping.  Participating.   Several times, the older boys practiced lifting and carrying the ogoh ogoh, and this little boy was right in the middle of it.  Several times the ogoh ogoh was lifted, and they lifted the little boy right off his feet, leaving him dangling a few inches above the ground.   Finally, his mother pulled him out and away from potential danger.  I gave him a lot of credit though.  Cute little kid....

Scarecrows of Bali

One of my favorite things about living in Bali is watching the cycle of rice growing.  Yeah, the gorgeous, bright green, terraced rice fields make for postcard perfect tourist photos, but watching what goes into growing rice is simply stunning.  It has caused me to be more appreciative of every grain of rice.  We have seen several cycles so far, from preparing the fields, to planting the rice, to tending the crop, and into harvesting.  All of it complicated, and still something I do not truly understand. As the rice nears its final stages, though, it becomes attractive to the birds.  And, much like the image I have of farms in the US, probably inspired a bit from the Wizard of Oz, the rice farmers here in Bali use scarecrows to frighten the birds.  I believe the scarecrows of Bali, though, are unique, and unlike any I have seen before. Our gardener, Pak Mejo, tends the rice outside of our villa.  We see he and his wife working daily, even during Nyepi, to ensure a good crop.  They arrive early in the morning and spend the day working from one of the wooden shacks, which holds their tools and allows them a place to escape the hot afternoon sun. Pak Mejo and his wife created four new scarecrows just outside of our villa.  They each are dressed in local Balinese clothing, and were so detailed, I had to explore the fields, with camera in tow, to capture the detail of the scarecrows in Bali. This scarecrow, in full action, holding a flag to make the birds think she is...
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...