Today was one of those rare but amazing fulfilling days on our trip. We started out with breakfast delivered to the porch of our private bungalow room. Soon after, we set out for the adventure of the day. A 6 km hike through the neighboring rice fields. It took us some time to find the hidden trail head but friendly locals helped us get on our way. Within minutes, we were walking through beautiful rice paddies on a palm tree rimmed trail. Water used for the fields (running in small canals next to the trail) was our constant companion throughout the entire hike. We saw farmers working the fields and just as often ducks (that farmers use to keep unused fields’ soil soft and free of weeds) working just as hard. About 2 km into the trail we ran into a young rice farmer named Renta. He was having a break and invited us to his fields off the trail for a little chat. He was very friendly and excited about the opportunity to practice his English (which is usually not easy on the fields). He told us many details about rice farming, his family and his dreams. Rice farmers in Bali have a tough life with hard work and little money to reward. For example some of the heart moving details of his life include: visiting a bar once or twice a year (last was New Years) and affording only 2 visits a month to the internet café to check his email (an activity we consider to be extremely cheap.) Eye opening facts of life in Bali! However, the most amazing thing about this young gentleman was his overwhelming love of life and positive attitude. Renta and his farther had just harvested a few coconuts that morning and he offered us a fresh young coconut that he cut open in front of us. So there we sat, under the palm trees, next to the rice fields (that Renta expected to plant in the next 3 days) and talked about life in Bali. Before we continued with our walk he ran of to his little hut and came back with a little piece of paper sharing his email address and asking for ours. He is looking for pen pals to help improve his English. So if you have 2 minutes just send him an email at email@example.com. I am sure he would love to hear a few words from you. As we walked on Alex and I talked a lot about how much the people in Bali cherish education and work hard and creatively to get it. Something many westerners’ do not think about anymore. Here in Bali education is the means to a better life.
We continued through the rice paddies for another hour, got lost for a while, found our path again and ended up in Ubud after a very fulfilling and amazing hike. The rest of the day was filled with a little shopping, the obligatory foot massage and some rest at our hotel. In the evening we had tickets to a Kecak show in a temple in Ubud. You might have heard about Kecak. It is the fire dance where up to 100 men make rhythmic sounds while sitting in a circle and moving their hands to the rhythm. It was the most incredible performance we have seen in Bali. Just stunning to how these men, using only their voices, were able to create harmony within their rhythm. They were accompanied by traditional dancers who where reenacting a story from Bali Hindu mysticism: really wonderful and not to be missed when coming to Bali. This dance was followed by a trance dance where a man in trance walked through burning coconut coals without burning himself. The show was over and we went back to town only to see something very typically Balinese: The actor playing the main character of the Hindu story passed us, sitting on the back of a scooter still in his full theater dress (which was very detailed and ornate). As we walked home we saw the people of the town all dressed up very nicely, going to some place in town. Some inquiries to the locals helped us learn that they where all going to several temples in town to present offerings to their gods. We learned that today was a big day of ceremony which happens only once a year. This day was voted by all participants the nicest day on Bali.
Back to the beach in Seminjak
Curios to indulge in the quieter side of the Kuta area, we made reservations at a beautiful hotel in the area called Seminyak. For those you know Mexico, perhaps the difference between Cancun and the Playa del Carmen of 5 years ago. It is bittersweet to watch the infrastructures that tourism bring to a place, but somehow the Balinese remain unscathed: their genuine smiles and kindness are reflected in every interaction.
Patrick spent a few hours refining his surfing skills while I explored the remaining market stalls and stores. In my opinion, the actual beach is not the most beautiful of places to spend time, so instead I battled the humidity and the “best price lady, how much you want to pay, I give you good price”. The duration of this trip has squelched my shopping needs a bit – the idea of carrying extra weight or dealing with the postal service does that. Though my desires in Bali ran high – so many beautiful things, everywhere.
We indulged in our final Balinese massage before heading to Mama’s German restaurant- an institution that spans two stories and even pumps out Fetenhits. After a Schorle or two (apple juice with sparkling water), Patrick’s Schnitzel and my Bratwurst with red cabbage and mashed potatoes were a divine hit! We had not had our fill of the traditional Nasi Goreng (fried rice with vegetables) or Satay (chicken skewers with peanut sauce), just a sweet desire for something familiar.
We arrived back late to our “beautiful” hotel – in which we really only got to savor the comfy bed and bath tub. Our early departure the next morning meant we would have to leave a dip in the pool for our next visit.