Subject: Bali Travelogue
Dear Fellow Travelers, We are happy to be home, but we had a good time in Bali, too. Bali is different, and seeing it was a great adventure. It is rainy season, but the weather cooperated for us: rain at night; tropical showers during the day. Bali, however, definitely a third world country. The family car, for most, is a motor scooter. 90% of the traffic on the narrow roads is as follows: Dad, frequently the only one with a helmet, mom, and baby or two held precariously between parents, on the family car, a motor scooter. Yikes! Rules of the road: he who has biggest car has the right of way. Yet they are surprisingly courteous, most of the time, and wave someone ahead if safe to pass. We were so very glad to have hired a driver/guide with his car, rather than renting a car and trying to drive under those conditions. Incidentally, they drive on the left side of the road, just like we are experiencing at the present time in Australia. Can't imagine the tourists we saw trying to drive Bali style on narrow, unmarked roads, with ditches running on both sides of the narrow, but paved roads. Hati hati, pronounced hot tea, hot tea, is the Balinese word for be careful. Must admit, hati hati came to mind frequently as we watched the motor scooters whiz by with unhelmeted babies, children, well, everyone without helmets, although helmets are required by law. Many of the drivers did have helmets, but passengers rarely did. We also were very nervous one afternoon as Wayan, our guide, sped off and down the mountain range we had crossed in an absolute deluge! It rained every day we were in Bali, but usually at night. Interesting note: all children's first names reveal their order of birth. For instance, Wayan is first born, Martei (sp?)is second born, etc. How did we learn this? Well, while introducing myself to a friendly guard at our hotel, I said my name was Marty. He said: that is my name, too. Turns out he was second born in his family. I then explained to him I was Wayan Marty. Ha ha. There is no central government on Bali. All people belong to a village, including the ex pats, where elders rule and pontificate. When we asked why everyone had to belong to a village, it was explained that it was for everyone in the village's (even the ex pats) own protection, and so that someone could protect, help them and look after them. As there is no central government, there is no organized garbage collection or dog catcher. There are wild dogs wandering around everywhere, and we mean *everywhere*, as well as lots of wild chickens. There are orange crate width and depth canals on both sides of almost all roads. They carry the flooding water from all the rain. You see people bathing in them, washing their clothes in them, washing dishes, etc.. We saw travelers (locals) doing their toilet in the bushes by the canals, and then washing their backsides with water from the canal! Yikes. They have the holes for toilets, similar to the Eiffel Tower toilets. The rice paddies are a marvel of sculptured terraces, like Japan, which utilizes its precious, little land mass as well. The terraces work as their irrigation system, since they have plenty of rain. As one paddy fills with water, it overflows to the next. Cows stand in the paddies as well as ducks and geese. The ducks are brought in to eat excess, floating rice. They are being raised for food, too, obviously. Don't know why the cows are in there, too (forgot to ask). Temples, temples everywhere. Each village has a temple; each home has a temple; each place of employment has a temple. We had to rent sarongs to be allowed inside the more famous temples. There are offerings everywhere, including on the dashboard on the inside of all cars. The Balinese people are predominantly Hindu, then Buddhist, and lastly Muslim. It appears as if the Balinese are not too fond of the militant, extremist Muslims or their Indonesian connection and would like to be independent. The bombing in October last year has devastated Bali's economy. Resorts, restaurants and normal tourist haunts are virtually empty. The street hawkers are desperate. The Balinese people, themselves, have the sweetest of smiles, and the gentlest of ways. We were told most of the very aggressive street hawkers are Javanese. Our worst experience was downtown Kuta, where you are touched and jostled by very insistent street vendors. So, we escaped into the mountains, where the volcanoes are and had a wonderful buffet lunch, traditional buffet. Shopping, shopping, shopping. That is what Marghe had fun doing in Ubud. Food was great. Traditional Balinese is much too hot for normal palates, but Marty has the constitution of a goat: he loves it hot and spicy! We even found a couple of Indian restaurants as well, but our try at Mexican food produced 'Bali Belly' for Marty who ate the lettuce. Each restaurant had an inner garden with a water feature and usually koi. The gardens were lush, green everywhere, and so welcome to our eyes after living in the drought condition found in Australia. We enjoyed one of the many traditional Balinese dances, including Legong, which is intricate, complex, and performed by young girls. The music was cacophonic to our inexperienced ears. It is called gamelan music and consists of xylophones, drums, cymbals, and a reed flute of some sort (very repetitive). We enjoyed hearing the gamelan music at the Legong performances we saw. Instruments for the Legong dances were unusual, including cymbals that sat inside of a make believe turtle. They have no stringed instruments that we saw at the dances we enjoyed. On our last day there, we asked our guide what we should see the last day before going to the airport. He had a wonderful suggestion, a traditional Bali dance performance: Kecak Sanghyang Dances. The first was called Ramayana, is the fable of beautiful Sita, wife of Prince Rama, being rescued from the wicked king Rahwana, the monkey army, and other lecherous figures. This was followed by two maidens performing the Dedari Dance, and finally came the genuine fire dance. The young boy, in a horse costume, must have been in a trance as he repeatedly ran through burning coconut husks and even sat in the hot coals. The Ramayana uses a male chorus, without musical instruments. As we were leaving and in the business class lounge, a ticket was given for a free massage for either a neck and shoulder massage or foot massage offered to passengers to help them relax on their flight. Massage is a way of life in Bali. Yahoo for that. The deluxe massage (which Marghe enjoyed twice) came with an hour massage, and an hour body scrub, and then a coating of yogurt on the body, a shower for washing it off, and then a soak in a warm bath with flowers floating in the water. They seem to be tenderizing the body like tandorri chicken. LOL. That was one of those experiences she said she was happy to do ONCE, but did it twice. We can recommend returning to Bali. We did feel safe. Well, with the exception of the immigration officer really getting in our faces about our war again Iraq. Not the warmest of welcomes to this otherwise friendly country (well State of a country).

Still considering a trip to New Zealand before our Around the World trip to the US in May, June and July to see family and friends. (We will ask for traveling trips as the time draws nearer). We go home every summer, when it is winter in Australia. Although it is never very cold where we live in Coral Cove, we prefer to eschew the coldest weather time where we currently live. This year we will also see central America, Greece, India and Singapore. Happy and safe traveling to all. Marghe and Marty, in Coral Cove again.