Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Temples Part 1

Bali is known as the island of a thousand temples. In truth there are many more than that, every family has a temple in their “home compound” as well as their town or neighborhood.

Andy and I decided to skip the tour this time and rent our own motorbike to go on the adventure. The man who rented us the motorbike for the day also provided us with a map. He marked relatively easy to find temples along a main highway stretch. We set off and found the first one within 20 minutes of our journey. After donning some pretty awesome SARONGS we were off to see the temple. 

Goa Gajah actually means elephant cave and was built in the 9th century as a sanctuary. The entrance to the cave supposedly looks like an elephant but I think it looks more like an evil monkey man.

Once inside the cave you can pray to the three main Hindu deities: Brahma: the creator, Vishnu- the preserver or protector and to Shiva: the destroyer or judge.

Outside the cave was a holy bathing area made to ward off evil spirits, and tourists are allowed to wash their hands and face in the water.

There were also many large Buddhist statues that stood in ruins after an earthquake in the early 1900’s. The ruins now are covered with moss and are surrounded by water from a nearby waterfall. 

Many large trees are considered sacred here (you know this by seeing the checkered sarong wrapped around the base of the tree) and Andy and I were able to take an awkward family photo by one of them :) 


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Monkey Forest!

 Smoking is bad for you monkey!

This is how close you could get to the monkeys! 

Just a 10 minute walk from our hotel was the Sacred Monkey Forest
The immense forest had no gates or enclosures for the monkeys and they were able to go wherever they wanted. The unbounded monkeys could come up and take food right out of your hands, or even your sunglasses off your head if you were not careful.

Cute Family. 
However, I noticed that the monkeys with babies were extra protective and would bare their teeth at you if you were too close. I am so use to seeing monkeys confined, having that perimeter between us always made me feel safe and comfortable. However having them so close to me I felt a little nervous that they would bite me.

Luckily we were not molested by any monkeys on our trip :) 

Love from the monkeys, Andy, and Lauren!


Eat. Pray. Love. Ubud

Elisabeth Gilbert did more than transform her life in her book.....she transformed Ubud, Bali. Maybe even tourism for single women as well. Her wildly acclaimed book drew women from all over the world to the three places she visited in her book (Italy, India, and Bali) but from what I could see- they seemed to linger here.

I was instantly drawn to this place. Lush green moss covered the hundreds of temples we passed. Every door was exquisitely carved and so ornate I couldn't help but to say "oh my god I love that door" every five minutes. Quiet streets were lined with boutiques selling organic soaps, crystals and yoga get up. Coffee shops were bustling with people who were either grabbing their soy lattes to go or sitting for hours on plush cushions using their Mac computers. Andy was a little disgusted, but I was in love. There was a Starbucks.

The drive was about an hour from Kuta to Ubud. We took a "bus" but by bus they shoved 6 of us with all of our luggage into a 5 seater van. It was uncomfortable to say the least. Once we arrived a really nice Balinese man helped us with our luggage and escorted us to his guesthouse. Bellow is the view from our room:

Isn't this a beautiful rooster? Yes it is, until 2am rolls around and THEY ARE STILL CROWING!??? Ubud was filled with roosters and ALL of them insist on crowing ALL night long. It was difficult to get a good nights sleep- once one rooster would go they all would start to pitch in, then the dogs would howl and it was just a bunch of pathetic sounding commotion outside our window at all hours.

Funerals are a huge thing here. They involve a parade and a public cremation of the body! We saw a few different parades but were never around at the right moment to see the cremation. The traditional wear for men is a long white button up shirt and white cap with a checkered sarong. The women wear the most beautiful outfits- they do a lot of hand made lace here and their outfits feature the fabric on top with a long skirt on the bottom.

More Ubud Posts to come!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bali! A few days in Kuta

After a restless night of sleep at the poster hotel in Jakarta, we jumped on a three hour flight to Bali. We landed in Denpsar and took a cab to the nearby beach of- KUTA!

We found a hotel that had a pool, hot water, free breakfast and AIR CONDITIONING (luxurious I know) for $18 dollars a night. The only downside was a weird mold formation on one of our walls- but we were practically never in the room so we settled on these accommodations.

Kuta is a wonderful place, but it was a little overwhelming. Surfers, tourists and locals crowd the streets that are lined with stores and open air markets. They were selling everything from cheap tie dye dresses to knock of sunglasses to bracelets and BINTANG Towels (the countries export beer logo). Most of the Balinese people spoke English very well, were friendly and happy to give directions or exchange a smile with even if you were not going to buy anything from them.

Our day at the beach unfortunately was over cast. So I made the best of it by supporting the economy and local business. I was the most popular lady at the beach, while getting a massage I was also getting a henna tattoo and buying bracelets. At one point a woman came up and tried to give me a pedicure (this was day 2 of our trip, so I had obviously just gotten a pedicure two days before) I had to literally pry her hands off my feet to turn her down. :( Poor lady.

Andy chose a shark for his tat- and I a SICK dragon in light of the new year ahead. GO 2012!


Bali Bound! Overnight in a Jakarta Hotel


We flew Air Asia to Jakarta on Thursday, January 19th 2012. Being a budget airline- of course we expected to have some extra charges, BUT the things they ended up charging for were ridiculous!

Oh you have a bag to check? Yes, that will be $20 dollars.
Oh you're going to Indonesia? Yes, you have to pay an additional tax fee.
During the flight- Oh you are thirsty and would like a water? No, we do not accept Vietnamese currency on the flight ma'am. I am sorry, you will just have to ask this man sitting next to you to spot you the change for a water........on a 3 hour flight.
REALLY????!!!?!?!??!?!?! Come on Air Asia- at least let me have a glass of water for free.

We arrived at 11pm and had booked a hotel for the night that marketed itself to be an "airport hotel" that included a airport shuttle. Upon arrival we quickly learned that you have to book the shuttle in advance, and it is not included in the price of the room. Great, and we learned that the hotel was also not next to the airport, but almost 40 minutes away. Cool...

However we did receive a free breakfast and the hotel was decorated with these awesome pictures all around the halls. . . .

Andy and some cute kittens. 

Myself and a classy lassie.

Not featured: A poster of ninja turtles.

Maybe this hotel needs a new interior decorator, although the posters were funny and uplifting :)

Tomorrow- Off to BAli!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pre Tet in Vietnam!

As I said in an earlier blog post, Andy and I were only allowed a day and a half off from work for Christmas- so needless to say we were super excited to have two whole weeks off for the Chinese New Year Tet. Prior to our big trip to Indonesia Andy and I made sure to do some fun things around Vietnam.

Right after New Years we had a couple of days off so we took a fast boat to the beach at Vung Tau. The boat ride was only an hour long and before we knew it we were at one of the most popular beach vacation destinations for the local Vietnamese people. Weekends are supposedly packed- but we were there on a Tuesday night and it seemed that we were the only tourists in town. It was nice to get out of the city and it was SO close- but I am not too sure how much Andy and I want to go back to visit the beach at Vung Tau. The ABOVE picture is a statue over looking the ocean atop a huge hill.

One Friday night we both MIRACULOUSLY had the night off- so we decided to go see the Water Puppet Show! It had great reviews on trip adviser and we need to do more crazy things around the city so this was a good opportunity. It was magical! The above picture is of Andy posing with a large statue of a puppet after the show.

Anyone who comes to visit us needs to go to the show. Water puppets dance above the water (we still do not know how they were controlled by the puppeteers) while a band plays traditional Vietnamese songs and speaks for the puppets.

Traditional Vietnamese food made in preparation for Tet!

My Teachers Assistant Sue (she graciously lets me call her by her English name because her Vietnamese name starts with NG. This is one of the hardest things to pronounce without sounding like I am mentally challenged)  came over to teach me how to cook a traditional meal. And by teach me how to cook- I REALLY MEAN she did all the prep work at home and came over to cook it at our house. I was given the task of stirring. :)

This dish was made with chives, corn, dried squid, and some kind of meat.

Andy loved it until he found out that one of the ingredients was dried squid... you couldn't even taste it! I really liked it- the corn made it sweet.

This dish is a sticky rice that Sue told me takes over night to make! She says its a tradition for family members to stay up all night and trade off who watches the rice. It is then wrapped in banana leaves and must be eaten once you unwrap it. It then can be fried (the main piece in the picture) or can be eaten cold (the smaller piece on the right)

Yummay. But I don't know how much I could disturb my beauty sleep in order to make a dish. I thought a turkey on Thanksgiving was bad!

Thanks Sue!

Next post- BALI!!!!!!!