Monday, February 11, 2008

Bali trip day 2

Today is the 5th day of Chinese new year (CNY). Three days of CNY posed to be a good one with family gathering and reunion on the last day of last year. Members of the family these days rarely see other often due to work and own commitments. Festive seasons then help to reunite us together.

Let me continue with my Bali trip...

Day 2:

Breakfast time! It's served in an area coolly named Bar Nanas (Pineapple Bar) behind the front desk and reception area. Foods are decent with different categories catering for major needs. There were cereals, grains and fruit based yogurts for seed eaters; hams and hotdogs for the meat eaters, plain porridge spiced with salted vegetables for stomach-qi lovers; omelets, bull eggs for egg eaters; pancakes with banana and chocolate cream; various soups with chicken, beef and so on. The distinctions among Halal, vegetarian food and others are not obvious. Die hard religious people may find it a little difficult to eat properly. But then that's the beauty of mixing things together, you have to know what food they are to choose your own needs. I have to say I enjoyed all of them very much (the non-meat categories).

I want to mention one more thing about the breakfast provided by the hotel. I miss it very much. Yesterday morning and this morning I woke up asking Louise if we were going to have breakfast like that here in our neighborhood. The answer was no. It's not that such breakfast isn't available here in Kuala Lumpur, It's just that the mood is not the same and at home we have to hurry to get to work in the morning. The vacation mood is no longer there. And the stress from commuting and work is back.

Vacation is vacation. And work is work. Can we blend them in? Ha!

The first tour on the 2nd day was to play with water activities including snorkeling, parasailing, banana boat, Jet Ski, and a visit to Turtle Island. Snorkeling is relatively new to Louise as she doesn't swim, and is scared to water. On the first day we swam a little and I taught her technique to breathe with mouth and how to balance the pressure of outer ears with sneezing and saliva swallowing. The fear of water must be eradicated to really enjoy the free support of water. She started a little clumsy but then was able to pick up fast. The snorkeling area chosen was not a good spot. The water quality is less than that of Kapas island, Redang island and Langkawi island. I think it's just the spot we swam in. I'm sure there are some other nicer spots to do diving and snorkeling in Bali.

An hour and a half passed by and Louise, doing her snorkeling the first time, went exhausted. And the time was almost up for this activity and we carried on to sailing to Turtle Island. Turtle Island, to the north of Tanjung Benoa, is a place (Government owned?) where activists are trying to conserve Greenback Turtles and the likes. Some wild life animals are bred there and it's open for public to learn more about them. We had simple lunch there before we moved on to another beach for water activities.

As exciting as they can be, water activities are always so much fun. First we did Jet Ski. My Jet Ski couch, who sat behind, was a real pro. He let me play a while with my pathetic slow speed and unadventurous turns. Toward the end of the sport, roughly about 10 minutes, he showed me what I felt like Formula 1 driving on the sea (Not that I've tried the real F1 car though)! It was fast and rough and making sharp U turns, creating vortex on the sea! Super high and cloud nine! Sometime a rough wave came and hit us I swear I was scared to death I'd be thrown out into the air and land flat of my tummy! And worse, be torn into a few pieces!! After we reached the shore, I asked him if he joined international Jet Ski competition. He said no. I told him he should have. What a shame talents go untapped.

There are in many of us good talents, what people need is a chance to prove.

Another fun sport is parasailing. I took so many pictures of Louise doing parasailing and the adrenalin was always running high. It may not be as free as parachuting; it's close to being like a bird as it gives us a nice bird eye view of the place. Sometimes with so much excitement and anticipation it's harder to learn anything: One of the helpers asked us to identify the flags on the ground; if he raises blue flag, we will then pull the right rope close to our body with our right hand, gloved with blue glove. And vice versa, if he raises red flag, we'll then pull the left rope with our left hand, gloved with red glove. This process is supposed to help us land properly and steadily, with the flags as guidance. At first, the two of us were puzzled. You know, when you're too excited you don't learn new tricks (No matter how simple the tricks are). Only after a while we reasoned that out and we all burst into laughter, embarrassed obviously by our stupidity and nervousness. Ha! But I wonder how the colorblind could work that out.

The view and the feeling was magnificent. I managed to take 3 shots in the air with the digital camera strapped to my right arm. Like all good things, soon the speed boat made a turn and set me back on course to landing. Looking down the blue flag was raised and thus I pulled the right rope as close as possible to my body. Suddenly I heard them say: "Lepas! Lepas!", which means to let go of the rope and thus I obeyed so without questions. And there I was a perfect landing.

Happy hours fly by just so fast. The banana boat was a comfortable ride as Louise wasn't so keen on 'fall-off' routine.

Oh, by the way, it was raining quite heavenly when we did all these activities, especially the Jet Ski part, where rain dropped on the face so painfully it hurt so much and eye vision marred. But what an experience! From November to February is the monsoon season and rain is expected to be on and off all day long.

Before I wrap up this water sport writing, another accident took place: Louise was stung by a bee on the beach on her left foot! It could have been a wasp or hornet! Accidents come in pair, the Chinese says. The first day there was food poisoning, the second day the bee stinging. And it was right before we rode on the Jet Ski. She felt a sharp in the flat of her left foot and saw this bee stuck there. Out of reflex she slapped the bee off. Upon checking, the sting was there on the flat and I had to work many times to remove the sting with my short nails. The itchy and swollen sensation actually stayed on for a few days… in which she complained all the time. I wonder what Louise had done to have offended the bee so much… And the bee had to give up her life to seek for revenge (Bees eventually die a few hours to a few days later after stinging others).

Guess we all have to learn to be peacemakers.

I also wish to mention our tour guide, a nice young lady by the name of Ni Made Rai, who have her tour guide service offered at Jalan Pratama 97, Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua, Bali. She was friendly and helpful, catering to our need of rest and lunch in between the tour. We also got to meet her father (bapa) who was also responsible to fetch us to Turtle Island in his boat, and her husband, who was the van driver, and her son (around 4 years old), whose left eye have gone swollen because of peeping girls taking shower! (A local traditional joke to make fun of people having swollen and inflammatory eyelid.)

When we got back to hotel in the afternoon, it's 3pm. And the trip to Uluwatu was at 4.30pm. We were eager for the trip as we were told the sunset on cliff view was superb. And there is this romantic dinner at Jimbaran beach too!

There we went: the second tour would be to the famous Uluwatu Temple on the west leg of Bali. What impressed us was more than the place itself: Our tour guide, a young man by the name of Leo (who has his service offered at Jalan Pramata 89c, Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua, Bali) was a very intelligent person. He speaks Japanese, Russian, some Mandarin and probably a dozen others. For each one he took courses for three months to ensure he got the right stuffs.

For this trip we were joined by a new friend from Russia, Uliya. The four of us took 30 minutes or so to get to Uluwatu. I must say I had this eerie feeling when I looked at the cliff and how close we could get to the edge of it. "What if I fell off?" was the thought I had, reminding myself how fearful we are to death. Upon arriving at the temple's entrance, we were given a yellowish golden rope to wear on the waist and ladies who worn shorter skirts or pants were given purple Sarongs to wear as long skirt. There were two routes to go. First we took the right one where plenty of monkeys followed us for some bananas. We were already warned to remove sunglasses and have our cameras strapped properly. Most monkeys were mild and polite; some were a little nasty. The law of universe applies to all species, right? The existence of monkeys poses not as a distraction, but rather a unique adventure for most tourists from the West. Many seized the opportunity to take pictures with them. Many of us commented who the monkey mother was and what the monkey fathers were doing and bla bla bla…

The path of the northern end took only about 10 minutes. Yet the view was more than incredible, offering a view to Indian Ocean with the sun gradually going down. It was a bit cloudy that day, nice sunset pictures was not an option. We took pictures with each other and commenting on the beautiful scenery and the serene feeling we had. It felt like the end of the world in the physical sense, even though we know by now it wasn't.

Long long time ago our ancestors had the courage to build ships to sail across the unseen and unknown places just to find out if it was the end of the world. These days human beings are repeating the same by exploring the universe with high power telescope, satellites and space ships. And equally many of us are training our minds inside to sharpen our focus to tune to the voice of God (the force of universe). All these, be they inside or outside, are more explorations to come, and one way to understand what position and role are we in this vast universe.

The path to the southern end took another 15 minutes. Upon arrival we saw many structures of temples. There we were at the famous Pura Luhur (Uluwatu) Temple, a temple built in the 10th century (or 8th, or 17th? Different parts of the temple could have been built at different times). I have always been fascinated by ancient architecture and marveled upon how these master craftsmen could engineer and build such incredible pieces of art work. The dedication and hard work and consistency amaze me. If I hadn't become a physician, I'd most probably be an artist. Anyway, diagnosing itself is already an art. Ha. Oh, I've drifted off again. Let's come back to the temple. We walked around the temple and I paid great deal of attention to the stone sculptures. It seemed to me that the square blocks used are made of corals. Some dead corals can be vividly seen in some broken pieces. Where else can be better for the sourcing of building materials if not the sea 250 feet below? Later on it's confirmed that the materials used was a form of black corals.

Like I said, it was a bit cloudy and therefore it's not especially easy to take pictures of sunset. We didn't opt for the Kecak dance 'cause we were too hungry for a quick dinner at Jimbaran.

Beach dinner at Jimbaran was indeed very unique. A stretch of 18 restaurants along the 2km or so beach is a sight to behold. And our guide Leo mentioned a few times how to spot airplanes coming in to Denpasar airport from the south-west, and those red dots far up north along the runway. The sea and sky were so dark sometimes the airplanes look much alien feel, however. The food was delicious and very affordable. I think it'd be particularly special to our new friend Uliya, as she told us the seafood in her hometown is very expensive for a funny reason: Because of state bureaucracy, applying for fishing permit is very difficult if not impossible. Local fishermen in her hometown then illegally fish and sell their catches to northern Japanese buyers before bringing just a little catch back home for self consumptions. Because of short local supply of seafood, the residents at her hometown have to buy seafood from Japanese businessmen, and what they are buying most probably are the catches of their own Russian fishermen. In a way, they themselves export the goods to another country and pay much more to buy them back, which turn out to be a legal way. In the end, local people suffer high cost of living expenses and a third party profit from it. And the local government sits on and watches the show going on and on.

Things like this make me sick.

There are always people value stupid procedures more than their catastrophic impacts. Moral education is the key. Family moral education to begin with.

Another drift. Sorry.

And there were musicians singing to their guests' home tunes. These musicians with bass, guitars and drums asked what country the guests were from and thus sang popular and traditional folk songs of that country. Very impressive I must say. It made us felt so welcome. Some countries can be too big, or too diverse, to have some all-so-popular folk songs – it took a while for Uliya to recognize the Russian song that they sang to her. :@)

The food we ordered were tiger prawns, fish, craps, Kangkong and a vegetable salad. They were cooked in traditional way and it's quite similar to Malaysian way. We all enjoyed the food very much. Nonetheless, Louise and I actually 'opened the rules’ (a polite and less guilty way to say 'broke the rules') a few times when it comes to being vegetarian for the trip.

To pay respect to the beings we're eating, once we order them, always make sure we eat them all in to become part of our bodies and share our deeds with them.

Life goes on, and pick up good lessons along the way. And share the good deeds with others, including those we've eaten, and that their deaths are dignified. It seems logical to think so.

All these exciting activities could have been too much for one short day that we had difficulty in falling asleep when we got back to our hotel room. A late night swim provided the remedy…

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