Random Impressions of Bali

After the first 10 of what we hope will be about 50 days in Bali, here are some random thoughts about being here:

The weather is always pretty much the same—high 80s during the day, 70s at night, humidity over 90 percent, some clouds but no rain. (That said, the locals are all saying that it should be cooler than this at this time of year—and was in fact cooler last month.) The sun rises around 6 in the morning and sets around 6 at night, all year round.

People like flying kites. Whenever there’s a bit of breeze, a few paper kites rise from yards and flutter high over the town. Sometimes they are attached to little wheels on rooftops and just left to spin themselves off to great heights.

Roosters are everywhere—in people’s yards, outside shops, at community centers (generally in preparation for a cock fight). Sometimes they’re in cages, but mostly they’re under portable bamboo covers. Crowing can be heard throughout much of the day and night.

Chickens (often fighting cocks) in this type of bamboo cage are a common sight in Balinese towns

Songbirds are popular too. Most people seem to keep a few in cages in their front courtyard.

Something here is causing both of us to be very congested most of the time. Maybe we’re allergic to some plant or the ubiquitous incense used in offerings, or maybe it’s a reaction to the dusty, exhaust-filled air we breath when walking down any street.

We’re adjusting to the rhythms of life here—awaking between 6 and 7, getting out for breakfast and sightseeing early, returning to our room after lunch for a shower and a long siesta (a good time for napping, writing web posts, or sorting photos), and reemerging around 5 or 6 for dinner, shopping, or a performance. We’re generally back by 9 and asleep by 10. We also take at least three showers a day—most of them cold—to wash off the sweat, sunscreen, bug spray, etc. They’re one of the best parts of the day.

You’d think that after 10 days we’d be tired of Balinese food–rice, vegetables (mainly green beans, cabbages, carrots, and cucumbers), various grilled meats or steamed fish, and fruit juice. But it never seems to get dull. So far, the expensive pasta, pizza, and so-called Mexican food available in Ubud aren’t calling to us.

Dinner from a streetside cart: freshly grilled pork satay in peanut sauce

People appreciate our attempts to speak a few words of Indonesian and generally respond in a friendly way. Having exhausted the 10 lessons of our Pimsler CD course before we came, we just bought a book called “Indonesian in 3 Weeks” to get better.

People seem to be amazingly friendly and open to strangers (though this relates to the previous point—we are treated differently than the people who don’t speak a single word of Indonesian). Guesthouse owners, taxi drivers, and just random people are happy to talk to us about Bali, their lives, and their families to the extent that their English and our (lousy) Indonesian allow. Strangers are welcome at temple ceremonies—not just tolerated but actively welcomed. Most people in shops and on the street have a ready smile and hello.

Relatives gather for the ceremony

We keep hearing things about other Indonesian islands that make us want to visit them too. Indonesia grants 30-day visas on arrival, which are expensive and troublesome to extend (though we’re doing it for Bali), so probably in the coming months we’ll keep coming back to Indonesia from other countries and visit an island or two at a time.

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