Orangutans!!!!

Photos do not do justice to the beauty we were surrounded by for the last 3 days.  Flying into Borneo we were beyond excited for a trip we have been looking forward to for months - traveling by boat (and living on said boat!) to see the jungles of Borneo and see the Orangutans.  We took too many photos to count (and unfortunately our zoom function doesn't do these amazing animals justice) but here's the best of what we have. 

I divided into sections.  So, first and foremost, pictures of the Orangutans.  We saw most of these at the various feeding platforms that are set throughout the park but our last day while eating lunch we also saw some wild ones eating at the river. 

Orangutans are vegetarians that weigh around 90kg and have the strength of 8 men!  The don't live in familial groups, and instead live in certain geographic areas with one male who is the alpha male and then the females.  The alpha male has wider cheek pads that grow to reflect his role.  He also can produce the long call to communicate across his territory with a large "turkey neck" (for lack of a better word).  The women nurse their young for 7 years and in the first few years of the baby's life, the baby never touches the ground. They also have 4 hands and 4 feet, as each of these function as both hands and feet.  It's how they are able to climb anything and distribute their weight so well when swinging from tree to tree.

We did everything on our boat, called a klotok.  What a fun home for 3 days!  We had 360 degree views with a staff of 5 to take care of everything, including guiding us, preparing amazing meals, and navigating the boat.  At night they'd set up our bed and mosquito net and we'd be surrounded by nature on all sides.  My favorite was waking up to the proboscis monkeys that would make the most fun sounds - wow woooooow.  I always wondered what was exciting them at such an early hour!

Two highlights stand out from our time on the boat, the first night we got to eat a candle lit dinner surrounded by fireflies and the second night we slept on a black river.  Such unique experiences that we so special to share together. 

As beautiful and fun as this experience was, the facts are depressing about what humans are doing to their habitat.  Orangutans used to be all over SE Asia but now are only found on Boreno and Sumatra, and even those numbers are drastically smaller than years prior.  Palm oil exports and illegal logging are quickly destroying fertile jungle that is the 3rd most biologically diverse in the world.  Indonesia's forests have 10% of the world's plants, 12% of mammal, and 17% of reptile and amphibian, and 17% of bird species.  A really amazing sanctuary for all these animals and an astounding amount of plant life that needs protection.  We were glad to do our part with eco tourism but will be looking at what other things we can do to help this really special area. 

We were lucky to have a great guide, Arif, who was intelligent and deeply caring about the habitat that he works in.  He shared so many facts with us and it was fun to learn more from him about not only orangutans, but all primates in the area, vegetation, and his life and customs. I would highly recommend him for your tour, contact him directly at: borneoprimate@gmail.com.  He was the best!  You can also find him (and his gorgeous photos!) on facebook at BorneoPrimate Tour. 

Wonosobo

Finally off the beach I have found myself trying to like Java again.  We are in a smaller town, 900m above sea level and the temperatures are cool enough that we finally need a long sleeve shirt for the first time in 6 weeks!  What a delightful feeling!

Yesterday we rented another scooter and explored the surrounding beautiful countryside.  The temperatures here mean that they can plant 3 crops a year on terraced plots that cover the land as far as one can see.  Too many crops for us to even identify as most seem to be different than what is in the United States.  

A huge rainstorm started as we were on our way back to Wonosobo.  We joined the rest of the motor bikers at an abandoned house and waited an hour for the storm to subside.  

Bintang + Wine??  Sure!  Never try, never know.

When we arrived back to our Homestay I was planning on doing a workout in our room and then watching a movie.  However, we arrived to the owner of the Homestay and several of his friends insisting that we share an aperitif with them, served right out of an old water bottle.  This was our second time coming across hard alcohol in Indonesia – it’s much more common to only find beer – so we gladly accepted a taste of the homemade concoction.  Next they offered us wine.  It’s been a long 6 weeks for me without wine and I threw my plans for a workout out the window and accepted.  The friend of the owner dashed off to get a bottle and came back with some “wine” and beer.  They asked us to trust them as they combined the two.  The wine itself was very sweet and it actually mixed well with the beer (oh how our standards have fallen!!!!). 

Shots are king here and the same glass was passed around the circle multiple times as three bottles of wine and countless beers were consumed.  One of the friends of the owner even gave us massages, no clue why but we gladly accepted!  Finally it was decided to go get dinner and one of the guys aggressively drove us to a roadside shack serving delicious lamb stew.  They said it was the best and the city and worth the 10 minute drive.  We were honored that they treated us to dinner.  

What a night!  We love staying in Homestays and AirBnB’s for the unique experiences that would never arise from staying in a hotel.  We woke up for more exploring today with slight headaches to remind us of the fun that was had the night before.  

Our impressions of Islam on Java

First, some interesting facts/observations about Islam and Indonesia:

  • Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world
  • Java is the most populous island in the world and one of the most densely populated places in the world with 143 million people
  • We have been able to hear the call to prayer, 5 times a day, from every place we have stayed on Java (the first beginning around 4:30a)
  • We have seen few people praying during the call to prayer or in the Mosques
  • The men and youth we met and watched smoked incessantly
  • Ramadan is starting on June 28th, from dawn to sunset Muslims cannot eat or drink, no smoking, sex, or swearing is allowed.  The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities.

Being on a beach in a Muslim area:

Truth be told, being on a Muslim beach was an adjustment that we could never fully adapt.

We came to Batukaras off the advice of Lonely Planet that it was a laid back town perfect for beginners to learn to surf. After the congestion and overwhelmingly large city of Yogyakarta this sounded like the perfect next destination. However there is a vastly different approach to beach etiquette between us and the Javanese tourists that are in Bautkaras.  I don't mean this to be an "us" versus "them" post but wanted to organize the ideas I've been explaining to family in friends to show what we have observed in the differences. 

Clothing:
Our approach to the beach was to wear functional clothes for learning how to surf: swim suits with a tank top to prevent board rash. The Muslim approach is to go swimming in exactly what they wear all day, which includes the women wearing their hajib into the water. Everyone is fully clothed and literally soaking wet head to toe when leaving the beach after the end of a long day.

Conduct:
As the water is too cold in the Pacific Northwest for us to do much swimming our beach activities usually involve boating and sunbathing. Well the water is pretty close to 80 degrees where we were on Java so everyone, and I mean everyone, is in the water. There are more people in the water than on the beach (making it a bit dangerous for this to be a huge beginner surfing beach!). The beach wasn't big enough for everyone and all the different activities.  Another interesting observation was the lack of alcohol, there is none to be found on the beach (quite the opposite from our time in Brazil!).  Alcohol has also been much harder to come across on all of Java, and only beer can be found.  

Skin color considerations:
Being tan is still king where we are from. Hence the practice of wearing a bikini to get the fullest tan possible even though swimming isn't necessarily on the agenda. The Javanese we met want to have the lightest skin possible and dislike their dark skin color. Hence perhaps another reason behind staying fully clothed at the beach.

Overall:
These differences made it incredibly awkward for us to be at the beach and we ultimately ended up leaving early. The men all openly stared at me. Boys and men would follow me as I was leading my board out into the surf, sometimes even holding my leash. While all the guys in the town were looking at me, Eric was ignored. The guys would greet me and talk only to me, something he increasingly felt was creepy. Every time we set foot on the beach we had pictures taken of us and people saying "hello missssses, photo?". When we stopped for breaks it was like we were the backdrop for a popup photo booth becoming part of family photos on the beach.

I understand that we were dressed in a way that openly goes against their beliefs so was provoking a reaction of sorts. However this reaction was so severe that it took away from the whole experience. We loved learning to surf but also learned a big lesson that for us, it's too uncomfortable to be on a Muslim beach again. While other travelers said they'd go back to Batukaras again, I couldn't agree.

We are so lucky to be seeing different parts of the world and part of our travels are learning more about the people, locations, and religions that we come across. 

Surf's Up!

We have finally found a place that makes us smile on Java! 

Our first two nights were a bit rough in an AirBnB that was super cool looking but not so functional as the huge rain, lightning, and thunder storms had us seriously planning for what would happen if the roof of our place blew off.  Oh, and we lost power, and all of our stuff got soaked as rain came through the sides of the walls and the roof!  Quite the adventure.

After two sleepless nights of this nonsense we moved closer to the small "town" of Batukaras, really just closer to the one lane road that has the beach on one side and small restaurants on the other.  We are now a minute walk from the beginner surfers beach and a quick walk to all the food, fresh coconuts, and popsicles one could wish for. 

I took a lesson and can proudly say I got up on my first try.  Eric has coached me through wave management and I'm handling the water much better.  Here are some pics of the beach and area but slow internet means more pictures to come....  3 days in and we are more sore than we should admit but but happy to have finally worked our bodies to exhaustion and to finally have earned some massages!

Borobudur

Today we woke up at 4:30a to visit the largest Buddhist temple in SE Asia, located about an hour from Yogyakarta.  We arrived to a mostly empty site and were able to take in the breathtaking splendor (and all 504 Buddah statues!) before the entire site was filled with more kids asking for photos.  (See the photos below as more kids flood the site!)

Borobudur was built in the 9th century and abandoned in the 14th century when much of Java converted to Muslim.  In 1814 it was found again by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, overgrown with plants and badly neglected.  It has taken several rounds of restorations to get it where it is today.  There are 3 levels and to properly visit the site you must walk around each level clockwise.  We were one of the few to do this, so spent 3 sides with few tourists and then would meet the rest of the group making their way up the main stairway. 

A stunning site that was worth the early wake up!

Click on any of the images to enlarge:

The kindness in Yogyakarta

It's been a rough last week of traveling, as detailed in this post and also just felt between Eric and I.  The 95+ degree days don't help when we have to scooter all over to please Immigration officials to show up for appointments to pay for visa extensions or with the traffic.  However, the friendliness we have met in Yogyakarta has been what has made this city stand out to us. 

Our amazing AirBnB host has been fantastic.  We have had a typical Indonesian breakfast every morning - fried rice, gaduk (jack fruit soaked in coconut milk), vegetables with fried chicken, and at every meal: rice.  They love watching our reactions as we try the food.  Luckily most of it has been fantastic and we are lucky to try it here!  Runi, our host, also invited us to celebrate her brother's graduation from his Masters Program.  We happily agreed and took our scooter out to her parent's house, set among beautiful rice paddies that we desperately miss from Ubud.  We were greeted there by the nicest people, all wanting to know where we are from, what we are doing here, what we have seen, and what we think of the food.  It was such a fun evening that we felt lucky to be included.  I also got to see Runi's wedding albums, her wedding had over 2,000 people!  Seeing the photos and learning about their traditions was so fun to compare to ours. 

The next morning we were invited to a cooking class by the woman who owns our favorite restaurant, Warung Heru.  We have eaten there almost daily, loving the low prices (we can eat a full meal for under $5!) and big servings.  She invited us to learn how to make some of our favorite meals, soto ayam (chicken soup), gado-gado (vegetables with peanut sauce - my daily staple dish), and nasi goring (fried noodles - Eric's favorite). 

Unfortunately our worst fears were recognized when she added MSG to all 3 of the dishes!  Also, Eric saw how much butter and oil go into nasi goring and I learned the peanuts in the peanut sauce are FRIED before the sauce is made!  Why does everything need to be fried!?  We realized why the food is so good and promptly agreed we must book places from now on with kitchens so we can prepare our own food!

However, being in the kitchen with Mrs. Wayuni was a blast.  She preps everything before hand so things just need to be combined with the correct sauce and boiled before being served.  The cleanliness wasn't up to Susan Potts standards but it also wasn't too bad.

We rested up the rest of the day, getting ready for the ShaggyDog concert we were invited to by the lead singer, Heru.  (The Warung we did the cooking class at is named after him, and run by his mom.)  We had met him at the warung and he invited us to come here them play.  When we met up with him at 9:30 (admittedly, when we are usually going to sleep!) he told us they didn't start playing until 1a!  We were glad for our naps earlier in the day!

We got to go see the band's studio.  They have grown really popular, playing in Europe and all over Indonesia.   Heru explained they are letting others use their studios and starting a record label to help others get into the business.  They literally started with nothing and are trying to give back.

Well, we were in for a crazy cultural experience!  To say the venue was smoky does not explain how much smoke was generated by the hundreds of people furiously smoking their cigarettes like life depended on it.  We coughed and our eyes watered with all the second hand smoke that was unavoidable.  The amount of smoke luckily didn't take away from how great the band was.  Heru was an awesome lead singer and the band rocked away behind him.  Crowd surfing is a huge thing to do here so we avoided being right in front and instead hung out in the VIP area, enjoying free Jack and cokes (a huge treat here!). 

We finally grabbed a cab back to our AirBnB at 3a, smiling from such a fun night, still amazed by the level of smoke in the bar!

The kindness we have met here has really made this a special place for us. While we are getting excited to move on to a smaller city, Yogya has been a great place to explore for a few days and now that our Visas are approved we can do more sightseeing instead of scootering back and forth with documents and money required to stay a little longer.  More to come from our next few days here!

Batik - new careers?

We have finally met some Americans!  Not that we have anything against all the Australians we met on Bali, but it's been nice to meet some fellow Americans.  Coincidentally we all ended up doing the same batik class at the Kelik Batik shop.  It was a really well organized day, from 9a - 5p we worked on our designs. 

Our final results were more similar to what a 5 year old could produce, but we learned a lot and have a lot more respect for all the batik that we see around Yogya! 

Prambanan Temple

Today we tried to shake our travel blues and traveled up to Prambanan to see the Hindu temples.  It's one of the largest Hindu temples in SE Asia, dedicated to Shiva (the destroyer), Brahma (the Creator), and Vishnu (the Preserver).  A huge earthquake destroyed much of the temples in 2006 and they are working to restore some 200 temples that used to stand here, one used for each priest. 

The sites were spectacular but what was hilarious were all the school children who have never seen white people before. Eric's height made him the most popular target!  Kids chased us down and took every opportunity for a photo with us, shouting "photo meeester???" and "oooo photo misses!!!!".  We couldn't turn them down and enjoyed being so popular. 

Feeling Defeated

Maybe my beach posts were too pretty and the travel gods decided we'd had it too good for a while. Or maybe we weren't meant to leave Bali.  But ever since we arrived to Java we haven't found our pace.

We arrived in Surabaya (NE Java) to a windowless hotel room. Ok, fine for the night. The next day we enjoyed a bus driver that honked what seemed like every minute for our 4 hour journey to Malang. Ear plugs kept us from strangling him!

Malang was confusing. All of a sudden everything was booked...  But rooms we had called about in the morning were taken. While I waited at a counter after being told there were no rooms a man walked in and got a room. They finally relented and gave me the worst room in the hotel.

After feeling like the town had it in for us we boarded the train early the next morning for an 8 hour train ride to Yogyakarta (Central Java). We arrived to our AirBnB that had glowing reviews online but looked like it had seen better days. I can say the bathroom was the grossest we have paid for and the room had no air flow or AC so after a long day of travel we were just downtrodden and beyond hot. I took a sleeping pill to go to sleep and we planned to wake up and hit the streets to find a new spot in the morning.

Off we went the next morning, going to every hotel in a 2 block radius. Between hearing all the affordable rooms were already booked we were followed by eager men who wanted to drive us on a town tour and wouldn't take no for an answer. Hot and sweaty we then hit the streets on our scooter to try and find some AirBnBs I had seen online. The street names change every block so mastering the map was just has hard as trying to weave through the traffic that has no rules. Finally 4 hours later we found an AirBnB that has windows, AC, and a clean bathroom. Who knew our standards were so hard to meet?!

Deciding to like Java today, we woke up and went to a yoga class at a popular spot. The class was the worst I've been to but we met a nice woman from Holland so that seemingly made up for it. Next we headed around town getting photocopies of everything needed for our visa extension to stay longer in Indonesia. We arrived after a 30 minute scooter ride in intense heat to be told they closed a minute beforehand. Literally a minute. We arrived at 1:59 and missed the 2p closing time. And we were told to come back tomorrow wearing proper pants, which we no longer own.

Now the quest for alcohol began as a drink surely could make up for the last few days of trials. We found a huge supermarket and I was thinking it would be a jackpot of wine and beer. Well, Indonesia having the largest Muslim population in the world changes what the stores will carry and alcohol is not one of the approved items, no matter how large the store is. Strike out.

So here we are. A tough few days of travel and trying to rally each other to continue on. For now we are enjoying our AC and looking forward to tomorrow and hoping it will be a bit better than today.

Gili Meno... aka Paradise

Our two friends that we met in Nicaragua, Liz & Steve, recommended Gili Meno as soon as they knew we'd be coming to SE Asia.  With their enthusiasm, and knowing they have excellent travel taste after being together for 2 weeks, we knew we had to follow their recommendation. 

We arrived to paradise.  White sanded beaches.  Crystal clear water.  No motorized transportation.  Delicious seafood for all meals - we are in heaven!  We spent yesterday snorkeling all over the island, my favorite sight was a turtle!!!  Turtles are very endangered on the islands and there's groups set up on each island to help raise young turtles to be adults in captivity to then be released when they are adults and have less predators. 

Today we move on to Gili Air, the next Island over for a few more days of paradise before continuing on to Java. 

Our time in Ubud

Our pace of life has been quite nice while in Ubud.  We spend the morning adventuring on our scooter, have lunch, and then retreat to our villa and hang out in the pool or read when the temperatures rise in the afternoons.  Here are some of the things we have seen while in Ubud.  It's hard to believe our two and a half weeks is already coming to an end.  We could easily stay here... forever.

NEKA ART MUSEUM

This art museum surprised us.  Not only did it feature beautiful artwork from the private collector, Suteja Neka, it also included very descriptive descriptions of Balinese paintings, lifestyles, rituals, and festivals.  We spent hours reading the descriptions and looking at the artwork.  Here were a few of my favorite pieces. 

KECAK DANCE

This is one of the most well known dances in Bali.  There's a choir of men and boys that sit in a circle, go into a trance, and chant and sing throughout a love story.  The setting was magical, up the street from our villa, and featured a member of each family member that lives in our village, Janjangun.  

WOOD CARVING & BALINESE DANCE

Both wood carving and Balinese dance are an important part of the culture.  Wood carvers are congregated in different districts of Ubud, displaying an array of beautiful creations.  We have seen 15 foot statues of horses fighting, intricate beds, statues of all kinds, lavish doors, and kitchy tourist items.  If you can't find what you are looking for, they will make it for you.  If only we could figure out how to get a bed and table home...
Eric took a wood making class at Ubud's public library.  During his three hour class he made an adorable little turtle that is now joining us on our travels.  Here are some photos showing the progress of little Esme.  

Balinese dance is also an important part of the culture.  There's a different dance every night of the week for tourists.  I had no idea how hard it would be to keep my arms perpendicular the whole time or how hard eye movements could be!  Thankfully there are no photos showing how silly I looked, but I really enjoyed it.

FRUIT CARVING

Mr. Bee has been our go-to guy while in Ubud.  He's the translator between the owner of the villa and us, and he is the one we call with all questions.  He also has been teaching us some Balinese and about the customs on Bali.  When he offered to come over one afternoon to teach us food carving we jumped at the chance.  I think it's indicative of the Balinese people to make such beautiful things from the discarded fruit rinds.  They make such beauty from the smallest things, one of the things that enchants us so.  

Bali Food

Oh have we eaten well!  I think in our two and a half weeks on Bali that we have had more vegetables than all of our 8 months in Central and South America.  The food here has been so fresh, vibrant, and delicious. 

We have gotten a little stuck in our ways, at first trying out a lot of recommended restaurants but then getting caught only wanting lunch from Lokal Warung and dinner from the organic warung down the street, Bintang Bail Warung. 

Bribing the Police and drinking Lawak coffee (not your typical blend)

This fine day started with a plan to see the quintessential "rice terrace" of Bali. We hopped on Scoopy (our scooter) and headed north from our house. We made it to the rice terrace in no time. The terraces are a beautiful sight without a doubt. Unfortunately, there is a small town set up for touristy goods and restaurants overlooking the rice fields, which takes away from the experience. We learned from our resident guide Mr. Bee that the farmer who is actually doing all of the work on the fields, doesn't see any of the money from the tourist huts. We were advised to say "Suksemon" (thank you) if we get harassed to buy things. Needless to say, we wrapped up our visit with a couple of pics and got back on the scooter headed to a viewpoint of the volcano Batur.


As we were cruising through the beautiful countryside, we came across two police officers standing in the middle of the road signaling us to pull over. We had been warned that this is a common scam to get tourists for not having their "international drivers license" to operate the rental scooters. The conversation went a little like this.

Officer: Hello, so sorry. Do you have an international drivers license?

Eric: Unfortunately, I don't, but I have my Washington license with me with a motorcycle endorsement (that expired 5 years ago).

Officer: Oh so sorry, I will need to write you a ticket for 550,000rp ($50) and you will need to work it out at the government building downtown. This is very time consuming and problematic.

Eric: Oh, that sounds pretty bad. Is there any way that we can pay the fine here and avoid the entire process.

Officer: Oh so sorry, that won't be possible. You will need to pay the fine and go to the court.

Eric: Oh, that sounds pretty bad. Is there any way that we can pay the fine here and avoid the entire process?

Officer: Ok..ok... I make special deal for you, but only today. You pay me the 550,000 here and I won't write a ticket.

Eric: That seems like a lot of money. Are you sure you can't lower the fine? I have 100,000 ($10) on me.

Officer: No..no.. That is not enough. You pay 150,0000rp ($15)

Eric: I'm sorry, I only have 100,000. Pulling it out and handing it to him.

Officer: Ok that sounds good. I will remember you so that you won't get pulled over on your way back.

Eric: Ok great. Thanks for your understanding.... and off we went. All within 5 minutes.

**not actual police car in question**

**not actual police car in question**

Later that evening, we were told by Mr. Bee that this type of scam is very frustrating to the people of Bali as they only pocket the money and don't put it towards true police work. We also learned that they officers are paid less than the rice field workers, so one can't blame them for needing to put food on the table.


Just after the police incident, a man pulled up alongside us on a scooter going 40mph. He told us about his coffee farm, which makes and sells the local specialty Lawak coffee. We read a bit about this before, but thought it would be fun to see on the way back from the volcano.

A little about Lawak coffee: This may disgust some of you, but I assure you it was delicious. There is an animal called the Luwak (looks like cat/raccoon) that dines on ripe coffee cherries in the jungle. They eat the cherries, bean and all. While the bean is in it's stomach, it undergoes chemical treatments and fermentation. The bean finishes its journey through the digestive system, and exits. The still-intact beans are collected from the forest floor, and are cleaned, then roasted and ground just like any other coffee.

This coffee is regarded as one of the most expensive in the world at $400 per pound. Needless to say, we opted for one cup at $5.


The rice fields around Ubud

We have felt so lucky to be living about 15 minutes north of Ubud in a small town called JunJunGan.  It's a beautiful landscape with rice paddies to admire, interspersed with villas.  The only problem as we have come to read and talk to others about is the alarming rate at which the villas are overtaking the rice paddies.  Mr. Bee, the contact for our villa, was telling us this morning that he thinks there is more than enough accommodations for everyone in Ubud but that people keep building and building.  They do it to earn more than they can with the rice paddies, in order to outdo their neighbor, and because it's less work for them.  It's a hard problem that is not ours to solve, but we do worry that with so much land turning into resort hotels and villas that the allure of Ubud could be lost.  Here are some photos of our time walking and scootering along the rice paddies. 

Scooter adventure

A few days ago we set off to see Bali on our trusty Scooter, Scoopy. 

We filled her up down the street:

With the aid of GPS we wove our way through the streets.  Street signs were not too helpful.

The views were all this gorgeous.

We drove along a ridge looking at lakes on one side and clouds that filled the void where the ocean was supposed to be on the other.  We got lost again and a nice guy came up to help us.  He even called and made a reservation for a place for us to have lunch!  We arrived to this beautiful restaurant for lunch.

We enjoyed yet another delicious meal

And then scootered our way back to Ubud, enjoying the views going the opposite direction.

Arriving home we were greeted with another offering. 

IMG_6946.JPG

We love adventures when the journey is as important than the destination. 

Galungan 2014

We were really fortunate to be here for Galungan - the Holy Days that Hindu Balinese remember their ancestors.  Since we have arrived we've been watching as families decorate the bamboo pole that will be posted in front of their house and used as a beacon for their ancestors to find them. 

Yesterday was the peak event with all the bamboo poles out for their ancestors to find them, filled with offerings.  We spent the day scootering around the island (this will be another post!) while they spent the day praying for guidance to virtue.  We saw many people on scooters going to visit temples or family members around the island.  It was really special to get to see all of this and a thoughtful way to remember those who have passed.

We saw many women making offerings yesterday, something I didn't get nearly enough photos of.  It seemed a bit too invasive during a private moment to snap a photo.  I did however get some photos of the little houses at the bottom of each bamboo pole that were filled with offerings - fruit, satay, rice, flowers, and any other favorites of the ancestors. 

The Holy Days continue until the end of June and the poles and all the ritual items are burned.  They then take the ashes and place them into coconuts and bury them into the yard.  We won't be here for this part of the traditions but enjoyed getting to see how another culture honors those who have passed from this earth. 

The Blanco Museum

While scootering around today we happened on to the Blanco Museum, a museum showing the works of Don Antonio Blanco, often called "The Dali of Bali".  The space was just as impressive as the artwork and we really enjoyed our time there!  We could also explore the family temple.  All houses in Ubud seem to have these temples and it was fun to be able to walk and explore one with our entrance fee.  Also included in the $9 entrance fee was drinks, which we enjoyed in the beautiful restaurant overlooking the hills of Ubud. 

Bali!

We have arrived in Bali!  It's hard to believe we have been here almost 5 days - time has flown by on this island paradise.  We arrived to this large group of people at the airport and were glad to have a driver from our AirBnB there to pick us up!

Our arrival to Bali - lots of drivers here to pick up tourists!

We stayed our first 2 night in another great AirBnB.  The space was amazing but we were looking for a spot a bit more tranquil to relax for a few weeks, so set off on our new scooter to explore on our own.  We saw some recommendations from friends but finally happened on the place we both fell in love with.  It's a wonderful 2 bedroom villa, complete with 3 bathrooms, a pool, outdoor living area and kitchen.  It's heaven.  We have lounge chairs set up, a big umbrella to protect from the intense sun, a fridge filled with fruits, but the only thing missing is friends and family in the second room!  (Any takers?  We are here for 2 weeks!)

So far we have been enjoying our time trying restaurants, scootering around to see the countryside, and relaxing in our paradise.  There's an organic warung (cafe) down the street and we have found amazing spa, offering 1 hour massages for $12.  What more to life is there? 

The Hindu Balinese are also preparing for Gulang Day, a celebration that involves decorating bamboo poles for their ancestor spirits to return to say hello and offer support to their families.  These Penjors, the 30 foot bamboo poles, are being decorated and erected all over town.  When complete they stand in the front of each house and will stay up for 6 weeks.  The ceremonies start tonight or tomorrow and we will be taking part in whatever we can!

This festival takes place every 210 days, which is twice a year for the Balinese, whose calendar has 420 days per year.   We are so lucky to be here for it and I can't wait to share more photos!