Journey through Bali

We landed in Bali in the rainy season which is the “slow” season. we haven’t really planned anything, it just fit our schedule. On most days in the afternoon or during the night there were thunderstorms and pouring rain. We didn’t mind, We loved the lushness and the cloud formations over the volcanoes.

Bali is a small island and desperate for tourists, especially during the slow season. People are friendly and warm but there’s an intensity I recognize from Israel, to sell you on the place. Most of the people have never left the island, not even to neighboring islands. They are steep in their unique Dharma Hinduism and traditions, they are a minority in Indonesia, and they are poor. They constantly want you to appreciate their place, be happy, leave your money, and come back again with your family and friends.

I have to admit that as much as I loved the place, it became tiresome, especially with the hawkers who beg and beg of you to buy their merchandise at the entrance to all of the attractions. And you are expected to bargain and slice the price, and you are always in the dark as to what is the real price. It happened more than once that I saw the same thing I bought way cheaper one stall or one town away.

The surprising fact is that even in established stores you can bargain.

Saraswati the goddess of knowledge, science, and the, arts

Sita and Ram, statuses like this are everywhere. They are the foundation myth, figures from the Ramayana storyline.

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A fascinating place! The Balinese people are wonderful! Incredibly warm and welcoming. Always curious to find out where do we come from. Most of them have never been out of Bali or even out of their own region of Bali. And they are content. There was only one taxi driver who told us that he dreams of flying in an air plane and go to NY and Paris, and he added: “But this will never happen.”

Bali is mostly Hindu 80% and the rest are Buddhists, Muslims and Christians. They never even heard of Israel or Judaism. Their official languages are Balinese and Indonesean, but most of them speak English quite well, unlike in Thailand. Their AlphaBet is in Latin letters which makes life easier for us when reading names of places and menus.

They are loving and open and very devoted to their spiritual/ritual way of life. Their life is steeped in their own version of Hinduism which is mixed up with Balinese gods and their own (I dare to say, animistic) traditions. Lots of little ceremonies are completely interwoven with people’s lives. For example, we arranged a driver to pick us up from our Grand Inna hotel in Sanur (outside of Denpasar). A lovely young man showed up and said: “My name is G’de, Katut couldn’t come today because he is participating in a ceremony.” This happened almost every time we scheduled a private driver. This way we got to meet, G’de, Loti, Wayam… you get the idea. We never met the original Katut (which means the youngest son in a family – a common name here.)

Praying in the temple grounds. Each family is doing their own thing with the Holy Man giving them their mantra to pray with. During morning offerings or temple visits for ceremonies they wear traditional clothes which are usually very colorful both for men and women.

Daily offerings at the entrances to homes and business
You can see that this is offered on the black lava pavement: fresh cut lowers, rice, incense. During big ceremonies they offer baskets full of food and roast a piglet for the community to share.
Almost all temples and status are black and not necessarily beautiful as we got used to in Thailand.
The Temple of Holy Water
The Holy Man in a separate booth. He chants, rings a bell and sprinkles holy water.
All men and women need to cover their legs when visiting the temple. This was the result one rainy afternoon!

Sailing Happy Eva – Fourth Day

We are into the seventh week of our trip. It actually took me a few minutes to figure this out. We are so deep into this adventure that time has lost its urgency and perspective has been shifting. We haven’t tuned into the news even once!This is our fourth day sailing. We sailed from Kho Yao Yai (Kho means island, Yai means South) to Kho Puk through the Straits of Malacca (famous for fierce Naval battles during WWII), in the Andaman Sea which is part of the Indian Ocean. Very quiet sea during the day, starting in the afternoon the ocean gets choppy until almost midnight. We stayed over night in Koh Puk.

What I find strange is that unlike sailing the Caribbeans or the North East there are no gulls or pelicans, no dolphins or sea turtles, not even sea lions or sea otters in the marinas. The only thing we saw is huge jelly fish floating on the surface.

Here are some pictures

Ori in the galley figuring out where to put everything

Sunrise over Kho Puk taken from the boat
We took the dingy to shore in the background you see a typical local long boat
Our frieds welcome us on every beach
Our dinghy and our boat in the distance. As you can see not too many people on this not too shabby beach

From Kho Puk we had a short day of sailing to west Koh Lanta which is on the east side of the Gulf of Thailand. We stayed there for night number three. A bit more populated mostly with Muslims – no little shrines or temples to be found here. It is a famous touristy destination but more of the hippy kind. We had lunch on the beach in a restaurant called Friendly then we took the dinghy around the corner to the near by village. What we thought would be a short excursion turned out to be a vigorous adventure. Low tide is a BIG deal here. We ended up trying to cross a two kilometers of mud flat of low tide. We left the dinghy “anchored” and walked the last 500 meters to town that greeted us on silts. Very funky place with funky looking tourists. We managed to buy sunscreen and aloe vera and hurried back to the dinghy which we had to wheel a hundred meters across the sand. Then Oz had to push me sitting inside, another a couple of hundred meters barely floating the dinghy. I think that since the building of the pyramids no one worked so hard. Pharoh was chuckling! and, the wind picked up to 14 knots on our long dinghy ride back. We arrived at our Happy Eva soaking wet and not so happy.

On the dinghy ride to the funky village, still oblivious of what’s awaiting us.

Happy Eva-our home for the next week.

Today, on our fourth day, we are sailing west to the famous Kho Phi Phi islands. It’s us and the sea. Only one or two passing sailing boats or fishing boast. It’s a wide and open ocean and if we, by any chance, miss the islands we will get to India! Sailing at once makes you feel young and also reminds you of your age limitations. Moving around the boat really exercises our flexibility and balance. Raising the main sail is hard and requires muscles. This is when Oz is short-handed. It keeps you alert because often it happens that you have to move from zero to a hundred. For example, this morning when we started our sailing, while I was on the front deck doing yoga, Oz heard an unusual noise and it turned out that one of the dinghy oars fell into the water. We had to turn the boat around, Oz jumped into the water and recovered it. This was an easy alert case.

Yoga on the deck, the best part of the day!

A Sewing Task

Ori bought a cute girly backpack/purse with elephants. The first one self-destructed under the use of a mature outdoors-woman. So, she exchanged it — under criticism “not so heavy”.

The husband was asked to step in an fortify the girly backpack. This resulted in a sewing task. The travel kit supplied the big needle and the very heavy waxed string for thread.

One of the most important aspects of this little story, is that the paper spool with the waxed thread and heavy needle was made by my father, Michael DiGennaro, sometime in the previous millennium. I can tell by the way the spool is taped. Oh my, this is sooo wonderful for me.

Khao Sak redux – jungle trek

We booked a full-day trek in the Khao Sak National Park “seven waterfalls” (more or less).  (And “waterfall” means rapids in the rainy season.  We’re in the dry season, so “waterfall” means “pool” in the river.) And these are beautiful pools – we swam twice.

Oud was our guide and told us all about the flora and fauna. He grew up in the area, and in the rainy season, he works in agriculture: palm oil, bananas, and more.  A hardworking guy with a wife and two young children.  He kept encouraging us to come back next year.  Fun.

We saw: monkeys, lizards, birds,spiders; lots and lots of plants.  This is a tropical rain forest, with many bamboo, rubber trees, banyan and more.

For me the height of the day was seeing the elephant trail leading from the road, up a very steep slope.  Big footprints.  Big.

Or the height was seeing long-tailed Macaque monkeys and Dusky Langur. Always a male-female pair, mostly with a bunch of young.  In the wild, we spot them by listening, listening for the sounds of the monkeys leaping from tree to tree. “Crash crash”.  Then look, carefully.  The male always leading the move through the trees.  Eating leaves constantly.

Swimming was wonderful and relaxing, The water just a bit cool, sharing with water spiders and fish.

We did see an eagle. Soaring high, hunting.

Many large an vari-colored spiders.  Our guide would pick them up for us to examine, “This one not toxic.”

We reached pool number six, swam and began the long hard walk back.  I was pushed pretty hard.  Ori too.  But we had expected that when we booked the full-day trip.

Near the end, we saw a troop of Dusky Lemurs, clearly used to begging food from the human animals.  Lots of young tussling together in the leaves by the side of the road.

The crew at the end — just a bit of sweat saturating our clothes.

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Around town with driver and child.

Elephants and Sea Turtles in Khao Lak

What a day! The usual round of hotel pickups — who knows what nationalities got onto the van this time around. One Danish couple with a baby.

Lots of interesting talk about elephants in Thailand. There are now about 4,000 elephants in Thailand’s jungles, and about a 1,000 of them in the wild. It used to be 40,000. They are all now being tracked and cared for. They are very much revered in the culture. Everywhere you go there are reminders of elephants. Did you know that an elephant has a tremendous memory? I fed my female elephant named Sam Bang with a whole basket of bananas, and she will probably remember me in five years from now when I visit her again. They store all of this memory their huge heads like a big library.

At the entrance of the reservation there was a big statue of Ganesh sleeping. This explains it all – what business it has sleeping instead of protecting them?


Pakinnaka Cooking School in Khao Lak

Do you want lunc? Mistake? That’s what I thought. It took me a couple of days to figure out that lunc is lunch and branc is branch. You got the idea – no ‘ch’ in Thai language.

One morning in our Airbnb in Bang Sak we decided on Thai cooking school. A brief search in Trip Advisor recommended a school in a town about 30 minutes south of us, and  it was about to begin in 30 minutes in the local market.

South we went zooming on our scooter, searched and searched and never found the group or the market. A bit disappointed we proceeded to find the school itself. Here a lovely surprise awaited us. We were welcomed warmly with a cold bottle of water and were asked to wait in the scene of the crime itself for the group to arrive from the market. Oh well, we missed the shopping part but the rest of the day exceeded our expectations!

We were a group of about ten people, mostly Germans, and each of us chose the dishes we wanted to cook. The table was set for our specific orders and Vandy, the chef and main teacher, instructed us according to the order of the dishes. First we learned how to make egg rolls, then Tom Kha soup. Some of us cooked Pad Thai and some Pad Sew Wee.

For dessert we learned about dishes I never heard of before.

The ingredients were top quality and the taste divine. We each got to eat our own dishes and taste what everyone else cooked.

The atmosphere was fun, inquisitive and friendly. We especially befriended Anne-Fleur Schoch, a young singer from Hamburg who turned out to be a sweet music wedding singer and a punk rock screamer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wuzJO0K_eY.

We shared Thailand experiences and travel plans. This seems to be the way here each time we meet other travelers. Friends for a brief moment in time.

 

 

 

Hanging Around Bang Sak – West Coast

 

It’s official. We like it here. We can picture ourselves living here. We stayed in an Airbnb in Bang Sak (a village between Kapua Pa on the north and Khao Lak on the south).  Third floor up, over a charity training school for Thai people.  Two bedrooms, limited kitchen, street noise and comfortable bed with lots of “air-con”.  Nice jungle view from the porch and a yoga mat.

On the way to here we bought food in the supermarket to cook, and did indeed cook one dinner.  Shopping is a whole different kind of experience because two thirds of wht’s on the shelves is a complete mystery. Everything is only in Thai, and go figure what is Gluten Free. Ori made smoothies (watermelon, pineapple, mango, banana, etc.) and ‘Die-sa’ for breakfast–we did manage to find Australian quick oats.  Lots of hot water for showers, reliable internet (although a bit slow – and we’re uploading a Lot of Pictures).

It was our base of operations for those challenging five-minute walks to the beach, to go to cooking school and to wash elephants.  We rented a scooter and zoomed around the neighborhood, dodging the “Scandinavians” who are intent on getting the best sunburn possible.

The beaches are vast, clean and free. The Indian Ocean is the calmest we have ever seen. According to Ori’s creed we have to go down every evening to swim and watch the sunset. The ocean then feels like an endless warm-water pool that stretches from one end of the world to the other.

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