Monday, May 20, 2013

wrapping it up

us at Borobudur
Without a doubt, this was our best trip together -- which is a separate thing from the trip with the most memorable moments. I think that would have to be the Vietnam trip where we floated through the Mekong Delta. But this trip was just so lovely, so sweet, and we enjoyed our time together so much. I'll always remember this trip with so much love and affection, both for Marc and me together and for the Javanese people and everything about Bali. The trip is also our most unusual trip in that we completely changed the itinerary, bailing on Sulawesi and going instead to Bali. And then there was the unexpected aspect of loving Bali so very, very much. We both fantasized about moving there -- just as everyone does, I suppose, who visits Bali. I think the expat community is pretty extensive there.

Here are some concluding thoughts and summaries, and a couple of things that just didn't fit anywhere else:
  • On nearly every flight, there was a pre-recorded announcement about drugs -- as in, do not use them because it is a crime punishable BY DEATH. They don't monkey around.
  • Could we tell you exactly what "Indonesian food" is? Nope. Although much of the food in SE Asia is similar, there are distinguishing features between the countries. Vietnamese food seems most distinct, as does Thai. Lao food has more lemongrass than most. Meat in Myanmar is served in small dishes floating in oil. Cambodian food and Indonesian food, well, they're generally just SE Asia. It was good, just not distinctive. I often got Nasi Campur, which is a kind of smorgasbord plate of Indonesian specialties. There was always a bit of satay, some green beans, some fried tofu and often tempeh, a bit of chicken, some crisps, and a pile of rice. A small dish of sambal and various other small bowls of spicy condiments, though none very spicy to us (well, none at all spicy to us but we have burned out our spicy tastebuds on too many habanero peppers).
  • Although I left Java feeling very confused, we had some beautiful experiences there, at Borobudur and in the batik village in Solo. Other beautiful experiences were with the people, who were uniformly kind and warm and generous. My memory of the Javanese people will make me smile, although I never could get a handle on the place. This puzzled me the whole trip; when we got to Bali, something clicked into place and I understood it immediately, which was a treat after being so confused by Jogja and Solo. I wanted to understand it, but I couldn't figure out how to see it. One issue may have been the vast coverage by graffiti (which I loved, it was beautiful in places) -- but it kind of made every place look the same. And at least when we were walking around, so many places were closed. There would be storefronts and homes and empty spaces and industrial spaces mixed in together, and no sidewalks to speak of. I still don't know what I didn't understand, I just know that I didn't understand it. And that made me so sad. It's a country with a serious sweet tooth, which makes me love them all. At the Jakarta airport, the food court looks like this: donut place / donut place / something else, donut place / donut place / something else. Repeat. If Java wasn't made for me and my sweet tooth, I wouldn't know a better place. Here are all the Java pictures, which includes Borobudur, Yogyakarta, and Solo (including the great batik factory):
  • There were lots of dogs hanging around Bali, and lots of cats hanging around Gili Trawangan. Don't know why.
  • Because we left Ubud for a few days to go to Gili T, we missed the big funeral for a member of the royal family. We saw men constructing a huge tower, and we learned that 100 men would carry it through the streets of Ubud to the cemetery. We really wanted to be there for it, but our trip didn't work out to make that possible. And then when we were going to dinner one night, we saw the village streets lined with people, most of whom were dressed up. The driver told us that someone in the village had died and the body would soon be carried to the cemetery. I loved this. I don't know if it always goes like this when someone dies, but if so that's pretty great. Here are all the Bali pictures:
  • Although most of the islands in Indonesia are Muslim, Bali is Hindu. (Well, the people in those places, obviously.) In Ubud, there were small offering trays everywhere. Some trays were large and filled with rice and flower petals and all kinds of things -- even once, a cigarette. And some were a simple square of banana leaf with a few grains of rice. Some had incense. We also saw people with a few grains of rice on their foreheads, something like a bindi. The small offerings are called canang sari and preparing and placing the offerings is a very important part of daily life for the Balinese (read about it here). The rice is placed when prayers are made in specific temples; you can read about it here.
  • During our very short few-hour visit to Narita, I finally decided to give up my deep grudge against Japan, which I've held on behalf of my dear, sweet former father-in-law Kiki, who fought in the Pacific theater in WWII. He told me that when he was a pilot, he would hang out in the clouds because he just wanted to go home, but it turned out that the clouds were such a dangerous place to be because everyone was hanging out there. He didn't want any of his kids to drive Japanese cars -- vehemently, he felt that way -- and he spoke with such pain about the war (though not often) that I felt a deep grudge against Japan, for him. Because of that I never wanted to go to Japan, but there we were. And I realized it was time to let that go. Kiki has been dead a long time now, and I am so sad and sorry that he and all those other people had to suffer through that terrible war, but it is time for me to let go of that grudge. The temple we visited was just beautiful, and when we went into a restaurant for lunch, it made me laugh the way the women spoke very fast at us and didn't even allow the possibility that we had not a single clue what they were saying. I found that dear in some way. And slowly, slowly, I felt that old grudge loosening its grip. Here are the Narita pictures:
  • It's a shame we didn't get to go snorkeling -- our sole reason for taking the days out to go to the Gili Islands -- but it was a nice time anyway. Here are the photos from that part of the trip:

If you're steadfast -- or just very bored -- here's the whole set, all together, including a few that didn't fit into any of the smaller sets above.

It was truly a wonderful trip. I'd go back to Bali tomorrow if I could. We cherished all the days we had in those beautiful places, and think so fondly of the sweet man at Alam Jiwa, in Ubud, and that beautiful place. Terima kasih, Java and Bali.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

morning broke

one of our happiest trips EVER
Yesterday was a wash -- a literal wash, as storms blew in and it rained, and rained, and rained, and rained. We'd asked ourselves how it stayed so lush and green, because we never experienced any rain, and yesterday we found the answer to our question. Boy, did it rain. And the sand 'streets' on Gili T became pale brown rivers. We ate an OK dinner at our hotel and watched the downpour.

and the rains came pouring down
but a nice sunset after it ended -- Marc said it was much more intense than this
This morning, as these things go, a beautiful day presented itself. And the air was fresh and clean, not at all muggy. Another benefit of the storm. After breakfast, Marc did a bit of snorkeling off our beach and I watched from a beach chair. He said there were very different fish than we've ever seen, including one with a  big horn; not a menacing fish, just a fish with a horn. You know.

a beautiful morning, so clean and fresh
A horse cart picked us up at 10am for the extraordinarily bumpy ride to the other side of the island, with me wincing the whole way from my poor little bruised rib pain. The ride back to Bali was spectacular; at one point the sea became glassy smooth and the clouds reflected like a mirror. A pod of dolphins appeared out our window, to a chorus of cheers from people inside and on top of the boat. 

some rode on the sunny top of the boat
but I sat inside, and saw this

When we landed back on Bali, there was way too much hubbub and confusion about the transportation back to Ubud, but we finally ended up in a van with a beautiful young couple from Montreal and a couple of young women (one from Belgium one from France). The hour-long trip was a sardine-like experience, but we finally arrived at our lovely little hotel, Alam Indah. It's not as wonderful as Alam Jiwah, but it's so nice to be back here in Ubud, which is certainly one of the special places on earth.

so so happy
We have a full day tomorrow, and then a half day before we begin the long trek home. Selamat malam, y'all.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gili T

Our last night in Ubud we found our way to a tiny little restaurant in an apparently remote part of Ubud. We were dropped off at the bottom of a long flight of stairs and the driver pointed -- "go up there." We climbed and climbed, and got to the top and turned right then walked and walked, and finally came upon the little restaurant. We were a bit wary because the food was billed as especially healthy :) but it was also said to be fresh and delicious. It was steamy and still, and they weren't serving a menu, just a buffet. We ordered two coconuts and fixed our plates, and the food was just fine. Not the most delicious we had in Ubud, but just fine.

a tasty melange
We left Alam Jiwah so early the next morning that I didn't get to have coffee and missed my slow lovely morning routine, so I never really got with the program. Boarding the boat was a scene, and not the kind I like. We were crowded onto a pier, and people were shouting and directing us and we didn't understand what was going on, weren't sure if we were in the right place or on the right boat, but we were ushered in. While the boat was still sitting at the pier, a young woman started vomiting into a bag. I was not thrilled. The boat ride was indeed fast, but still an hour so I snoozed a bit and Marc went up top and reported that it was amazingly fast.

beautiful scenery
sunny and splashy

Lombok is a large island to the east of Bali, part of Nusa Tenggara. Off the coast of Lombok are three very small islands collectively called the Gili Islands -- Gili Trawangan (Gili T), Gili Meno, and Gili Air. All the action happens on Gili T, which means Gili Air and Gili Meno are really the places to be. We had no interest in being part of the "big loud diving dudes" scene, or the "young people who get drunk and get dreadlocks" scene, which was our idea of Gili T (and we were mostly right). But the beautiful hotel we stayed at in Ubud has a property on Gili T, and since we loved the place in Ubud -- Alam Jiwah -- we decided to book with Alam Gili, even though it's on Gili T.

We took a horsecart to Alam Gili, because no motorized vehicles are allowed on the island. I kept feeling like I was going to be thrown out of the cart, it was such a rough ride, and I bruised my right rib in Ubud so it was painful, too, but we finally arrived at Alam Gili. From the road, it looked like the other property -- lush landscaping, the same kind of decorated stonework on the sidewalks. But as we were checking in, it became apparent that it wasn't quite the same, it wasn't as friendly, it wasn't as nice a place. Marc asked if a smaller room was available (when we made the reservation from Ubud, we were told they only had the biggest room available) and the manager said no, there were no other rooms. The room we had was a giant two-story house, dark as can be inside (seriously gloomy) and with very poor air conditioning. And on the bed was a giant hairy spider. It was sweltering inside the dark house, and with so much space the small air conditioner was never going to be able to cool down the place. Marc walked a short way down the beach and found a different hotel and we decided we'd stay one night at Alam Gili and then move to the new place. The moment he informed the Alam Gili staff, they became extremely cold and rude. In fact, the next morning as he stepped out the front door, Marc smiled and greeted one of the staff and he glared at Marc and turned away without even acknowledging him. When Marc was telling the manager we'd be checking out the next morning, he asked Marc why and Marc said we just wanted a smaller room (partly true but we also really didn't like the hotel). So the manager said "well, what if I could get you a smaller room?" And in that moment I didn't care because they had clearly lied to us about the availability of a smaller room just to make more money off of us.

beautiful -- and see those mountains on the other island in the distance?
windblown trees hung with coral bones
horse cart ride BLURRY and bouncy!
choppy water -- no snorkeling for us :(
The side of the island we're staying on is very quiet and low-key; all the diving-dude party-kid atmosphere is on the other side of the island. And that's where the restaurants are too, so for dinner we walked around the island to find the night market, where we'd planned to get dinner. I was so boiling hot, we stopped to get something to drink at a place with a big upstairs pavilion, and from there we could see the market. We identified the busiest-looking stall and then headed there for dinner. I'd lost my appetite from being so hot, but Marc got a grilled red snapper and a couple of chicken satay kabobs, and I got three satay kabobs too. The food was really great; we were worried that they were overcooking the fish, because it was on the grill for a very long time, but Marc said it was outstanding, maybe the best fish he'd had. As we sat at the long tables, people started carrying out tray after tray after tray of luscious-looking desserts and my eye spied trays of donuts with chocolate frosting and chopped peanuts. They looked wonderful, but I wasn't expecting them to be as good as they looked. And then they were better than I ever dreamed. The best yeast donut I've ever had, even better than donuts at the Donut Plant in NYC. The Platonic ideal donut. An amazing, brilliant, perfectly wonderful donut that I will surely dream about for months or even years to come, and I am not even kidding.

that's our stall -- grill on the left crowds all around
grilled fish, satay, and rice
amazing sweets. donuts 2nd from the bottom. AMAZING.
So we passed a hot and miserable night in our dark sweltering room, then checked out after breakfast and walked to our new hotel, which is everything Alam Gili isn't: bright, friendly, welcoming, significantly cheaper, great air conditioning, a beautiful pool, sweet staff who want to make sure that our time here is special because it's our holiday, and free bikes (Alam Gili charged for them). We checked into our cool, bright room and then wandered around to find a snorkeling outfit -- even though the wind was high and the water was rough and choppy. Dom, the extremely sweet guy at our hotel, said that ordinarily the water is like glass, so we thought we'd find a place that would take us out on a boat the following day, and just spend the day relaxing around the hotel. We lay by the pool, we swam, we napped, we walked on the beach, Marc rode a bike to the other side of the island to do a little shopping, and we swam some more. We walked back to the night market for dinner, to go to the same stall (I'm not kidding anyone: I wanted those donuts again, you know that), and the sky was getting heavier and gloomier as we walked. Our little stall had set up a tent over their tables -- the only stall to do so -- so we took a seat near the edge and ordered our fish. Just as we finished eating, it started raining and everyone from the surrounding tables ran for ours, and we were SO glad we'd finished eating so we could get the hell out of there. But not before getting four donuts. :)

i LOVE this photo. everything about it. period.
beautiful sunset
happy birthday xo
our final sweet room here on Gili T

This is Marc's 63rd birthday today, and I'd planned a little surprise for him, something I do every year with little notes. I'd schlepped Post-It Notes with me from Austin, moved them into my backpack for the trek to Gili, and had it all planned in my mind that I'd get up in the middle of the night and put them around the bathroom so he saw them when he got up. But we're so lost in time, we have no idea what day it is, and after breakfast we were walking on the beach when I suddenly realized that today is his birthday. I ran back to our room and hung all my little notes for him, and after he saw them we went out for a walk. When we came back, the cleaning staff had just finished our room and as they left, they wished him a happy birthday which was so sweet and surprising. The three men smiled at him and shook his hand and it was adorable. So we changed into our bathing suits and lay by the pool for a while, and then took the laptop into the lobby (the only place there is wifi) and apparently the cleaning staff told everyone it is Marc's birthday, because the next thing we knew, there they all were, standing around us with a big cake, a candle on a plate, and Dom playing guitar. They sang happy birthday to him a couple of times and we all clapped, and then one by one they shook his hand (and mine too), and wished him again a happy birthday, and all the best. It nearly made me cry, even though Marc really hates that kind of attention. In fact, when I saw them coming I hurriedly said "I didn't do this" because I know he doesn't like it. But they were just so sweet and kind, and warm, and it was a seeming genuine expression of happiness. I loved it and Marc smiled and didn't seem too embarrassed.

But we never did get to snorkel, which is a shame because it's why we came to Gili T. And I was especially hoping that today, on his birthday, we'd get to go out. It started raining and now it's a tremendous downpour, a monsooney kind of rain, so we watch it from our cheery room, through the walls of windows, and tomorrow we return to beautiful Ubud.

Happy birthday, dear Marc.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

monkeying around

If you consider the stonework in this area, you'd think frogs would be the big deal. But Ubud surrounds a sacred monkey forest sanctuary, filled with naughty macaques. Macaques that WILL jump up and grab your orange bag while baring their teeth. Ask me how I know.

But to go backwards a little bit, last night we ate dinner in Ubud at a place called Fair Warung Bale, which is part of the fair future foundation. Apparently the man who owns the restaurant runs it to give young people with few opportunities a chance to learn the business, and profits go to securing equipment and supplies for a health clinic that occupies the lower floor. We'd read on Trip Advisor that the food was great, and since we've had good luck here, trusting the reviews, we set out for an early dinner. It was kind of a humid, warm evening, so we got a low table in a corner, jutting out over the street. And the food was really wonderful -- especially the salad Marc got with grilled tuna and feta and fresh tomatoes, dressed in olive oil and vinegar. The tuna was seasoned very well and grilled perfectly, and the whole thing was just so delicious. Makes my mouth water just remembering it. His red curry with chicken wasn't as good as the salad, or as good as my Thai chicken basil (really good), but that salad was so great the rest didn't matter.

not a great photo -- the place was dark -- but YUMMMMMM.
For breakfast this morning we ordered an Indonesian breakfast, black rice pudding. (I forgot to take a picture until I'd had a few bites...) It wasn't all that sweet, and it had fresh banana slices and a bit of milk on top. I really enjoyed it, but Marc wasn't as crazy about it. But it was accompanied by wonderful fruit, bread, and a pitcher of black Balinese coffee, and we had it on our little terrace. Life can be mighty sweet.

beautiful fruit under the yogurt and muesli (L) and Indonesian black rice pudding w bananas (R)
After breakfast we packed our bags (we had to move to a different room here at Alam Jiwa) and took out walking to see the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. I have to say, it was one of my more unusual Mother's Day experiences, spending it in the monkey forest. In Ubud. In Bali.

that's a headstone for a deceased monkey, and two other monkeys grooming nearby
adorable little baby monkeys
monkey chase! 
circle of life, man. baby grooming and waiting graves.
monkey mother's day too!
this is the entrance to the sanctuary
and these guys were trying to steal some food. i think the one on the right was the lookout.
I've had days like that. Splat, flat down on the floor.
When we made it through the forest (after a couple of instances of being chased -- Marc was chased once, and a monkey jumped up on my orange bag once, with bared teeth), we wandered into Ubud to spend some time and try to finish up the shopping. I found some cloth, finally, and we stopped for another of those delicious lemonana drinks: crushed ice, lots of mint and lemon juice and coconut cream and simple syrup, blended to a frothy fresh sweet wonder. I'm going to try to make it when I get home, the combo is just so great. We wandered back through town, back through the monkey forest (another surprise attack on the orange bag which -- not for nothing, you crazy monkeys -- had NO food in it). By the time we reached our hotel we were hot and sweaty, so we changed into our bathing suits to swim and resume the getting-Lori-a-tan-for-once-in-her-life regimen. 

When our new room was ready, we were astounded to see it's a giant house. In an enclosed garden. With a huge bathroom. Seriously, it's crazy big and luxurious. I'm going to take a video of it later, it's unbelievable.

Early in the morning we'll take small bags and the breakfast our hotel provides off to our next adventure. We'll be driven to the coast, put on a speed boat of some kind, dropped off on Lombok, directed to another boat, dropped off on Gili Trawangan, and then driven in a horse-drawn cart to our next hotel where we'll stay a couple of days. Snorkel. Swim. Eat. Our same beautiful routine.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

dinner, dancing, and shopping

Last night we ate dinner at Laka-Leke (the name means 'hideaway' partly because it's tucked in the Monkey Forest). One of the main reasons you have dinner there is the evening dance performance at 8pm. The restaurant is owned by the same people who own our beautiful hotel, Alam Jiwa. We had 7pm reservations so we could eat dinner before the dance started -- Marc had an Ubud specialty, crispy duck, and I had nasi campur, which was a plate-smorgasbord of Balinese specialties. Both were really good.

crispy duck with some very spicy condiments
nasi campur -- chicken, green beans, tempe, tofu, chicken satay

The meal was great, and then there was the dancing. The movements are so incredibly stylized, and I kept trying to make my fingers bend backwards and then move quickly, like the women were able to do. The costumes were gorgeous and the music was live, and the story was an ancient one from the Mahabharata, probably. There are several styles of dance; the one we watched was Sendratari Ramayana Classical dance.

The sky was black and filled with stars, and I sat there in a chair, a few yards away from this beautiful Balinese dance being performed for us, next to Marc, and felt such awe. Watching Balinese dancers, in Ubud, in the Monkey Forest, under a Balinese night sky. Simply amazing, in every way. At no point in my life would I ever have thought something like this was waiting for me, could happen for me.

This morning after breakfast on our terrace -- again, banana crepes with lemon and honey and cinnamon -- we ventured back into Ubud to do some shopping. We started at the big market, which is mostly touristy junk except for the produce market buried deep inside:

flower sellers, of course, for the offerings
and veg too, of course
offering packets underway
and more veg
exquisite little flower petals, fragile and beautiful pink
Our main purpose in the big market -- since it catered to tourists -- was to buy a pair of nail clippers. When that was accomplished, we set out into Ubud to do some shopping for souvenirs. I was looking for earrings for Katie and for me, and we were scouting for something special for Marc, which we found at a Tibetan Buddhist shop: a beautiful thangka of Tara. I wish I could post a photo, but the one we bought is tightly wound up in a packing tube. It's bordered by beautiful silk, and hand painted in the center, with gold leaf. Really beautiful. While we were waiting for our car, we sat with the owner of the shop who told us a story of a local man (we think) who suddenly sat down in the middle of the street, hunched over and not speaking. He went to get a friend of his, a visiting Swiss neurologist (we think), who came and poured cold water on the man who suddenly -- like magic -- came to. It was a lot of fun talking to the shop owner, who also had a lovely conversation with Marc about meditation.

A member of the local royal family has died and there will be a huge funeral on the 14th, which we'll sadly miss. Parts of the funeral are private, but then the body (we think) will be carried through town for burial in the cemetery, which is just outside of town (we think). We happened onto a giant tower being constructed, which is part of the procession:

local men constructing the tower -- note the head wrap
this giant tower will be carried through Ubud by 100 men

Too bad we'll miss it, it would be great to see; the shop owner told us that everyone in town will be out. We'll be on a little island nearby, snorkeling or swimming or shopping or eating or relaxing.

Marc is helping me try to get a tan, which I never can seem to do, so we have a systematic lying-by-the-pool daily routine. That's done for the day, so we'll go get something to drink and plan where we'll go for dinner. We keep saying how amazing and special this place is, and how much we want to come back. I keep fantasizing about living here, having a little shop, living in the rhythm of this very special place.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Hi, Bali. Hi.

We left our hotel very early to catch the 7:10 flight to Bali; like our other flights throughout SE Asia, it looked like it was surely going to be late, didn't seem like there was even a plane to board, but then all at once everyone was lined up and boarding and the plane took off exactly on time. It's so funny the way it works, a quick dash. While we were waiting at the airport, Marc went to get me some coffee and came back with a quick-improvised to-go cup. He said the person at the coffee shop didn't have such a thing, and when he explained it the guy smiled and put together something that would work: a plastic cup wrapped in a paper napkin, then slid inside another plastic cup. It worked, and it was so typical of the Javanese people we met: an easygoing willingness to help.

The flight from Java to Bali takes just about an hour, and the scenery is stunning. Western Bali is so mountainous and forested, and the clouds collect around the mountaintops. We saw puffs of smoke coming out of one -- clearly a volcano. As we started making our descent, we saw no land underneath us, and we were so close to the water for a second I thought we were making a water landing of some kind, and then all at once there was the runway. LaGuardia is like that too, but this was so dramatic.

isn't that gorgeous? western Bali
The drive from Denpasar (the capital of Bali) to Ubud takes about 45 minutes, though it took us much longer because of heavy traffic. The airport is under renovation; they are building a giant new terminal to handle all the tourists, I guess, and there were major new roads being constructed in Denpasar. Tourism in Bali is thriving. In fact, that's the reason we weren't too keen to come here. But what a mistake we would've made, to miss Bali. There certainly are places that are thick with tourists, and undoubtedly some of the big places on the southern coast are party central. But Bali is so special, there's just a different feeling in the air even at the airport. It's lush, it's kind of mysterious, it's living inside art. Stone carvings, wood carvings, ikat and batik, every surface embellished and decorated, even the decorations are decorated.

Our hotel, Alam Jiwa, is far and away the most amazing place we have ever stayed. Ever. Out of everywhere we have visited in the world, out of the wonderfully sweet places we've stayed, this beats them all. And our room is only $85/night, and it includes a giant breakfast, afternoon tea, and free taxi service anywhere we wish to go, any time we wish to go. The welcome drink was a delicious smoothie of fresh tropical fruit, easily the best we've ever had. And now, our room. We walk through a wonderful gate, down some stairs, past drooping flowers, over fish ponds, to our giant double doors. Inside, an enormous room, a giant bathroom and a beautiful veranda hanging over a rushing stream, and facing a rice field.

that's the gate we walk through to come down to our little place
These little arrangements of fresh flowers are everywhere -- three in our room
afternoon tea: ginger tea and chocolate cake
beautiful flowers EVERYWHERE

and beautiful vegetation
water is an important part of the landscape
bougainvillea everywhere
the pool

When we arrived, we had a reservation for two nights only. We'd decided to come here and then figure out the rest of our 9-day Bali stay, but after seeing the place we just wanted to stay here the whole time. The hotel owner has a few other properties, all just like this one, including one on a nearby island where the snorkeling is supposed to be good. So we went to the reception desk to see if we could extend our reservation here and book on the little nearby island. WELL.

The man we spoke to was older, in traditional dress with a head wrap and kamben (erroneously called a sarong), and when we explained what he wanted he pulled out a giant and complicated booking log and figured it all out for us. We'll be going to Gili Trawangen in a few days, then returning to Ubud. When we come back, we'll be staying at a different of their properties, and he got this little twinkle in his eye when we asked if it was just as good as this place. He said the people are not nice there, and we took a second to realize he was teasing -- the other place is the original property, and the rooms are smaller. But he said we can just sleep there, just leave our bodies there and keep our spirits and souls here. Come here to swim, to eat, to spend the day, and just sleep there. He was adorable, laughing easily but so smart and quick. When we were leaving for dinner, he was sitting on the steps playing a harmonica. He told Marc that people at a nearby property heard him playing Oh Susannah and ran over to him and gave him $100 to buy a new and better harmonica, because his was from China.

For dinner we got a reservation at the Melting Wok Warung -- apparently a difficult thing to score, especially after 6pm. The driver dropped us off at the steps of the restaurant, which belongs to a Lao man from Vientiane and his French wife. The food was incredible. I had a Thai chicken salad and Marc had prawns, basil and noodles, and our dishes were spicy and complex and some of the best food either of us has ever had. We got desserts too -- creme caramel with coconut sauce for me, and coconut cream crepe with brown sugar for Marc. Amazing. Then they called the hotel for us, and the car picked us up.

Marc's dinner
my dinner
Breakfast on our veranda this morning . . . how many more ways can I say amazing? Two men delivered breakfast to our room, carrying two giant trays of food. Banana crepes (mine with lemon and honey, Marc's with coconut and brown sugar), fresh fruit, dark Balinese coffee, croissants, the sound of the river below and a breeze drifting through the flowers and trees all around us. We have landed in paradise and never want to leave.

banana crepe with lemons and honey and cinnamon
banana crepe with coconut and cinnamon
Today we're exploring Ubud, though the sky is dark and heavy with big black clouds. We are so glad we accidentally came to Bali. And the best part, for me, is that I get it. I understand Bali.