Bali Ha’i may call you. Any night, any day. In your heart, you’ll hear it call you “come away, come away”…….

Bali was heat, tropical forests, lotus flowers and the most expensive coffee on earth.  It was eating Bebek Bengil, char-smoked satays and Mangosteens with skins coloured a  deep royal purple.  It was dive boat rides, every shade of green imaginable, volcanoes, muddy roads, offerings and gods.

There were days where my hair knotted and curled with salt because I didn’t leave the ocean from sun up to sun set.  On these days, I just let things go.  Things which can suffocate or fell your soul slowly begin their unfurling in the way they should when you give way to it.  Late afternoons were made for uncomplicated cocktails and watching thunderheads build then explode leaving rain puddles big enough to swim in.

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When out on my wanderings, I photographed temples and tiny street cats.  There are always cats to be photographed.  I visited markets, labyrinths of small shop spaces crammed into dark narrow lane-ways, all strangely quiet.  Most of the goods were out-dated and dust covered.  On one occasion, I came away with a kite and two beautiful hand-printed batik sarongs.  Another day, natural soaps scented with fragrant champaka.

I walked along the beaches of Nusa Dua, finding shells and tiny pieces of broken coral and watched local fishermen cast their nets.  All of these days were good and they were enough.  They were more than enough. They were everything………

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Not everything I experienced in Bali was of beauty.  Kuta for example, Bali’s most notorious hotspot, will eat you alive if you let it.  It is not a pretty place but it is by no means dull with its noise, grime and endless strips of cheap bars and nightclubs.  Kuta’s often congested streets are filled with a frenetic joyless tide of aggressive hawkers, touts and the ‘very ugly tourist’. Here it seems, the gentle Balinese culture barely hangs on by a thread.

We headed to Kuta one afternoon.  My husband had wanted to return to see how much change there was in the absence of 26 years.  He also likes Kuta where I do not but it is a fascinating place to ‘people watch’.  While there, a young backpacking Brit said to me ‘man, Kuta has the best beach ever‘ (huge emphasis on ever).  He was drunk or stoned or possibly both.  I fear he was living the last gasp of all that had been promised him by his travel agent for this is Kuta Surf Beach…….

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2020 and people still boast this is the best beach in Bali!  What despicable things as humans we have done to this planet!

We had beers at a bar on Legian Street.  Weary from the constant harassment of touts, I happily watched a fearless mouse expertly navigate his way around the bar before I took a walk across the road to the Bali Memorial.

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This deeply moving site, an intricately carved stone monument, is built on the site of the destroyed Paddy’s Pub and is across from the site where the once famous Sari Club sat.  In 2002, terrorists detonated three bombs in the heart of Kuta killing 202 people, including 88 Australians, with a further 209 people being seriously injured.

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This very graceful memorial site, with its huge marble plaque bearing the names and nationalities of those killed and its delicate water feature, is clean and well maintained.  Flood-lit at night, I found it to be a simple yet beautiful dedication.

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Kuta is what it is and that will never change.  It slowly recovered from the bombings not wiser but definitely a little stronger so I cannot help but wonder where it is headed.  No doubt it has a sense of belonging which is significant and necessary to the economy of Bali, suffering so badly in this pandemic, and it certainly would not be the place it is had it not lived the very big and colourful life it has……..

 

Blog title:  Lyrics from Bali Ha’i – South Pacific – by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

More Bali to come…….

Gratitude and The Sacred Monkey Forest…….

Before the world shut down, we travelled to Bali.  Time had flown quicker than a whisper, as we had not been back to Bali in just over 26 years!  Luckily, we spent eight days there and by grace of circumstance, we left a week or so before the pandemic took hold.

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Most of my time spent in Bali was in, on, under or near the ocean.  For the most part, it was a beautiful blue.  Blue in the way one hopes the sea will always be.

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please don’t hate me, we had a private beach……..

Almost every day was spent diving, swimming, snorkeling and beachcombing.  Being in places I could not have dreamt to be more perfect and eating the local food……. but more on that later.

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I suffer varying degrees of confidence – mostly lacking –  and find navigating some tasks more difficult than others but I have always found great certitude in the ability to go it alone.  Happy in quiet solitude, I took a few solo trips and wanderings during our time in Bali and one was to the Sacred Monkey Forest.

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We based ourselves at the southern end of the island of Bali.  At the quieter and more secluded Nusa Dua.  The Monkey Forest is located in Ubud, just over an hour and a half’s drive away.

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Ubud is a lovely destination.  Surrounded by lush green rice fields, temples, small farms and steep rocky ravines it is a place you can easily spend a day, a week or longer. Its streets and markets are gloriously colourful and it is not only home to the Monkey Forest, it is also the epicenter of arts and culture in Bali.

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Home to around 1,050 Balinese long-tailed Monkeys, this flourishing and secluded forest is protected and owned by the village of Padangtegal.

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monkey considers career as official taster……..nails it!

I am forever charmed by this dense, beautifully green space of natural forest and its endearing yet often obstreperous inhabitants.  Along with its huge moss covered statues, shrines and temples, soft foliaged plants, walking tracks and trails it is an enchanting way to while away a few hours.

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I have been to the Monkey Forest before.  The last time being 26 years ago and it was during that visit, I had an unnerving encounter with a large alpha male.   The memories of that experience remain but it certainly did not deter me from returning.

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monkey comfort food – sweet potato, bananas, corn, local tropical fruit, coconuts, leaves and flowers which are bought in by the local villagers

Although I prefer a life well lived I am, to a fault, a perfectionist.  And trust me.  I can torture myself with the fixation of that perfection and that can be especially true of photos I take.  I often want to capture a perfect moment but to the credit of these delightful rascals, so quick and lithe and cheekily charming, they do not much care for the prosaic.  They will scamper and climb and they will not sit still so although I had many blurred and fuzzy photos, I did not care a dot.  I was just happily grateful to be lost in their world.

The not so blurred…….

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Tips while you are there…….
  • Do not take any food or water bottles into the sanctuary and secure all other items
  • Respect their natural behavior – they are wild animals not pets
  • Do not attempt to feed the monkeys
  • Do not make eye contact
  • Do not attempt to touch the monkeys especially the babies – the monkeys are very protective and will attack
  • Allow yourself plenty of time
  • Wear respectful clothing
  • ENJOY!!
  • ENJOY!!!

I loved revisiting the sanctuary which is open daily from 8:30am till 6pm and costs 80,000 Rupiah (Indonesian), which is equivalent to a little over $8 Australian……best investment ever!

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Truly human in my imperfections and in spite of my many flaws, I am still ever grateful.  We are all living in a world which is currently hurting and although not able to stem the flow of that hurt or end the suffering for some, the very least any of us can do is not take what we have or have experienced for granted.

No doubt we have all had moments where we have come undone, taken a brutal fall or found ourselves just trying to hang on yet somehow, even as physical distancing prevails and we await the world to return to some semblance of normality, everything still feels strangely alright……..x