Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What Doesn't Kill You Only Makes You Stronger

As LuRue writes this, Montana is on her way to Seattle...assuming her flight took off on time. Via a text from home last night, she is heading into minus 50 degrees. Lucky girl!!!

Our “Return Day” was only 31.5 hours from waking to bedtime, quite an improvement over our “48-Hour Day” trip over. Nevertheless, we both fell into bed last night at Holiday Inn-Airport as jelly blobs, barely capable of rational thoughts or actions.

After checking out of the Alam Indah and gesturing our “namaste” pose to staff people as we left, a driver took us to the Denpasar airport. We went through one baggage security immediately as we entered the door, looking for the next logical stop...the EVA Airline ticket gates. Though there weren’t many signs, we got into the likeliest line and it turned out to be the right one. With boarding passes in hand, we went through the main security line wondering if we should have paid our 200,000 Indonesian rupiah departure tax before that, but no one said anything. On the other side, we found ourselves in more ribboned-off aisles with officials calling people “one-by-one” to check passports and boarding passes. Still they didn’t ask for the departure tax. It might have been included in our ticket somewhere, but we could never find note of it. So now LuRue already has some Indonesian rupiah for her next trip in March.

As we have come to expect, the airport looked more like a shopping mall, with high-end shops looking glitteringly out-of-place. There never seem to be many, if any, customers in any of them. It would be interesting to know the true marketing strategy behind them. Fronts for something else??

Since we had plenty of time, we went in search of something to eat so that we could say “No Thank You” to the airplane food. Though it was still illegible to LuRue, eagle-eyed Montana spotted a Haagen Daz. We completed our research on “frozen treats” in Bali.

Having eaten dessert first, we next found a Hard Rock Cafe, where we stuffed ourselves on burgers.

The return trip would follow the same basic route as going over...Bali-Taiwan, Taiwan-Los Angeles. Both planes again had movies, which helps the time pass more tolerably. A few of new releases watched by LuRue (Deep Water Horizon, Queen of Katwe, and Snowden) were good enough that she wants to watch them again via Netflix when they won’t be interrupted by announcements, carts in the aisle, offers of beverages, etc.

Montana is getting much better at turning “airplane sleep” into some real dozing off. LuRue nodded off a few times, but the head falling forward doesn’t lend itself to actually falling asleep. She apparently did use Montana’s shoulder for a minute or two one time. A stranger might not have been as forgiving.

The Taiwan-Los Angeles leg was almost four hours shorter this time, flying about half-way between Hawaii and the Aleutian Islands. LuRue will have to do some research to find out why the airlines fly the routes they do...air currents? She is still marveling at how much air travel has changed during her lifetime. She wonders what it will look like in the year 2080, when Montana will be Grandma LuRue’s age now.

You might think that the end of the long flight would have been almost “home free”, but it wasn’t. Montana and LuRue got shuffled from one line into another into yet another to get through immigration. Somehow we went from the middle of the pack to the end stragglers, though we’re not sure how that happened. It took about an hour and a half to make it to the baggage claim area. Even then, we had to wait quite awhile for our bags to appear. Montana went off searching the carousel & came back victorious with both bags.

The next hurdle was finding the hotel pickup area, then figuring out the shuttles. Turns out there are three different Holiday Inns, so you not only have to figure out which shuttle is yours, but be able to charge through the crowd to hail the right one as it stops for half a second, usually either a 100 feet to the right or 100 feet to the left of you. A “wrong one” Holiday Inn driver took pity on us and went out of his way to point out the right one as it pulled up. Grandma LuRue was beginning to look like she would topple over any second by that time, so he probably wanted to avoid an ambulance call.

After a night’s sleep, we were looking forward to a typical motel breakfast, but turns out our $200+ room didn’t include that, so we hopped the shuttle waiting outside full of airline personnel and a few others. Montana’s check-in went smoothly enough (via a machine), especially after a guy came over and helped with the baggage tag which had gotten “unpeeled” improperly. Everything is so automated these days! I suppose that all is routine for business travelers, but we have learned that if you don’t carry a cell phone, are not sure how to use the kiosks, etc, you are left in the dust.

Our plan had been to check in early enough so that we could have a nice breakfast together before saying goodbye. The guy at Alaska Airlines said that the only place not beyond security was a Starbucks on a lower level. So that’s where we headed for coffee & tea, then back up to the departure gates where security was right there. LuRue said her goodbyes to Montana and watched her disappear down a hall.

With more than six hours left, LuRue began the process of checking in for her flight to Tucson. LuRue found the helpful guy at Alaska Airlines who said that SkyWest is operated by American Airlines, which happened to be right next door. But, he added, SkyWest is connected with three airlines, actually. When nothing showed up on the American Airlines kiosk, the roaming assistant said that it was probably United, which was in Terminal 7 (we were in Terminal 6). So...out the door to the sidewalk to dodge people, carts, luggage, etc with about 15 pounds of carry-ons and a 45-pound duffel bag to haul. The legs were beginning to turn to jelly again, but Terminal 7 was finally reached. Here the kiosks were outside, and an attendant helpfully assisted. But all that came out of the machine was a note to see an agent inside. After standing in ‘Line 6-Assistance Needed’ for over an hour, it was finally LuRue’s turn. A woman came from down the hall, announcing that they were trying to get to everyone as quickly as possible. On the way back to her station, she mentioned that four people had called in “sick” that morning. Then it became obvious that the other agent (a man) next to her actually needed help with everything he was doing with another passenger. The woman couldn’t find any reservation at all. After trying several options without success, it occurred to LuRue that it might be the third airline, which the woman said is Delta, Terminal 5. So back out on the sidewalk, hauling everything, for about a half-mile walk to Delta. Imagine the relief when the kiosk spit out the boarding pass!

Still time for something to eat, but choices limited to Oriental, Fish Tacos, or Burgers. Burgers won out. Then to waiting area, where most of this blog was written. Struck up a conversation with a nearby woman, who was originally from Thailand, whose flight had been delayed. During the conversation, subject came up as to necessity of cell phones these days. LuRue mentioned she would have to use a pay phone to call the motel in Tucson; the woman immediately dug four quarters from her purse and insisted on taking them.

After arriving in Tucson and collecting the duffel bag, LuRue was grateful for the four quarters, as she needed them. All motel pages had been torn out of phone books, but a woman behind a tour desk provided the motel phone number. For the next trip, LuRue will bring a cell phone!!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Bittersweet Ending

Another day of culture and arts today! We had signed up for three more short classes in different types of art, but we had no idea as to what order they were going to be in. We headed over to the classes after breakfast and some workers were there to greet us. We had no welcome drink today. Maybe we had been there too many times.

One of the workers led us to another shaded area on the opposite side as yesterday. This was the music area it seemed. There were several gamelan gongs and other Balinese instruments strewn about. We were going to learn how to play the gamelan. The gamelan was like the Balinese version of a xylophone. There was a hammer-like tool that you used to play it. First the instructor just played all the different notes on the instrument and taught us how you have to use the other hand to silence the note so it doesn't intrude on the note you're playing next. He then taught us a tune, which both Montana and LuRue got down eventually, but it did take awhile. LuRue got taken to another easier instrument on the second tune he taught us. Montana eventually got both tunes down and able to play them back to back, over and over, while LuRue play background percussion with some other instrument like a soft gong.

Next up we were taken to the art place, where we had our classes from the other day. First up we had palm leaves making (Membuat Anyaman). We were first taught how to weave palm leaves through other palm leaves to create a design. I know that's a terrible description, but I'm not sure how to describe it without showing. There were already pre-made palm leave circles for us to practice on. We got that down pretty easily. It was time to start from scratch. First, we took a section of a bamboo leaf and created a circle. We had to use a few more so that it could create a thick enough circle. I'm not sure if any of this is making sense. We then used the bamboo weaving technique to hold the circle together. We did a few more layers like that and we ended up with a cup coaster. LuRue seemed to get that down much better than Montana. She had hers done by the time Montana was half way through.

Next we had wood carving. LuRue had expected this to be pretty easy. She expected to be taking a knife and chopping off little bits of to create a probably deformed figure. That was not the case. How the wood carving worked was there were pre-drawn images for us to choose from. We then took a hammer and metal piece and hammered the metal piece into the wood in such a way to have it take little grooves of the wood out. You were supposed to hold the wood between your feet in almost a butterfly yoga pose, but with LuRue's knees, she could not maintain that. LuRue's helper put her wood on a stand for her to use and he held it still for her. Montana tried to do the butterfly pose for a bit, but her feet fell asleep after a while. Montana's helper then put the wood in between he's feet. Neither Montana or LuRue got the whole following the line thing down, but our helpers helped us out a lot.

Earlier that day, we had been invited to the the 22nd anniversary of the Alam Hotels at Alam Shanti at 4:00. We decided we'd go if we had time, which we did. Having no idea what to expect, we headed off to the anniversary. We were greeted by a worker who led us down several several paths to a restaurant-like setting. He sat us down at a table. We still had no idea what was going on. After a few minutes, we heard weird cheering and eventually decided to check it out. There were workers there eating a buffet of Balinese food. We never did figure out what the chanting was for. On our way back to our table we saw some tourists from our hotel going through a buffet of more touristy food. There was a lot of food that we had already tried and knew that we like (or at least could stand).

We got back a hour or so before it was time to go to our shadow puppet performance. Several times, when we had gone to restaurants we had seen something on the dessert menu called black rice pudding. After trying to order it a few times, we finally figured out that you have to order it in advance. We don't know why. So yesterday we had ordered some black rice pudding for today at 7:00pm. We headed over to the restaurant to figure out what this black rice pudding was. LuRue ended up thinking it wasn't too bad. Montana on the other hand had to force herself to eat it.

It was time to go to shadow puppets. Montana had scheduled a shuttle to take us there at 7:30 the day before. No one was there. Eventually, Montana went to the desk and asked. The desk people either had miscommunication or just forgot, but either way we figured it out and we were off to go see shadow puppets.

The stage for the shadow puppets were just a few, about twenty, chairs in front of a white sheet of cloth which was back-lit by a large flame. This allowed the figures to show up in shadow form. Even though we were given a sheet that had the synopsis of the play, neither of us could follow it at all. We couldn't even figure out which characters were good and which were bad. There were a few lines in English, but most of it was is Balinese, which made it even harder to follow the story line. But a man explained that it was basically that good triumphs over evil. Either way it was fun to watch. Our last activity in Bali. We're sad to go, but trips don't last forever.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Day of Culture and New Appreciations

Our time in Ubud has been very different from our days in Candidasa. Just about every day there, we were transported by car or by a Balinese jukung (traditional fishing boat) to another location. Jenny from Reef & Rainforest has put us in a very good location here, as most of our activities have been within walking distance. Today we just went across the street and down a few doors to the Laka Leke Restaurant that also offers several activities.

As seems to be the custom, we were met with a welcome drink when we showed up at 11:00 for our first class...egg painting. As it turned out, all three planned activities (Balinese dance and offerings, the other two) were on the same platform which was covered by a roof--all open air and very pleasant.

Yesterday, the return driver from the batik class said his name was Ketut. Montana asked if that is a common name here, since our Candidasa driver was also Ketut. Then we got a lesson in Balinese names. Though there are a few variations, there are four basic names on Bali. They are given according to birth order and can be either male or female. Ignoring the variations for the moment, "Wayan" is the eldest child, Made the second, Nyoman the third, and Ketut the fourth-born. If there are more children, they are named the same, but with the Balinese word for "again" added on...essentially "Wayan again".

Our egg painting teacher was named Made (Mah-day), so we knew that he was the second-born and probably didn't live with his parents. We were right. He said he has a wife, who is a tailor, and a daughter who is 16, in school, and was one of the performers in the Children's Balinese dance we saw a couple of nights ago. He and his wife apparently had two babies that "came too soon" before their daughter was born. We asked if the women go to the hospital to have babies...they do.

Made had everything ready for us--several duck eggs with "coloring book designs" from which to choose. Montana and LuRue each chose flowers. He said that he learned the skill of painting eggs starting when he was seven years old, an art form passed down from his father, and his grandfather before him. He demonstrated how to use the tiny brushes, and occasionally showed the next little flourish that added interest to our "coloring book eggs." LuRue bought one of his professional eggs.

As we were finishing up, a woman came to the platform and began laying out some things. Though we didn't get her name (she speaks very little English), it turned out that she was our teacher for the next two activities. Since we had a choice, we asked to do the Balinese dance class first. After two hours of sitting on the floor, it felt good to stand up and move around. She placed sarongs around our waists, then launched into hand, arm, shoulder, hip, knee, feet, head, chin, and eye movements. After a couple of practice runs, she had a guy put on some music. Montana and LuRue jerked around, trying to keep up with the hand motions, the deep knee bends, balancing on one foot, the darting eyes, the shimmies and the shakes...much to the amusement of some Western tourists that Montana saw videoing us. Great! Our teacher encouraged us to stop a couple of times to drink water & eat some cake they had brought us.

Next, we were back on the floor to learn how to make Balinese offerings...the small baskets that are placed in front of doors every morning as part of the Hindu religion. She had many palm fronds and some sort of thin, stiff reeds to use as fasteners that could be snapped off after securing pieces together. Montana and LuRue both failed that part. The reeds kept snapping off in all the wrong places. The teacher would kindly take pity and help after several failed attempts. The activity also involved using very sharp knives pointed straight at your fingers (ready to chop them of with one little mistake), which freaked Montana out. In the end, we each made two small trays, each one with different decorative designs. The final touch was filling them with fresh flowers. After we returned to the hotel, Montana gave them to Reception, so they will be used.

Montana speculated that the women who make these every morning might be competing for who finishes first or who comes up with a new design. We both have new respect for the women who make the dozens we see being carried around each morning to be placed in front of each door.

We had sat down to figure out our final finances earlier in the day, so after classes were finished, we headed through the Monkey Forest via the motorbike trail toward the nearest ATM. Since it was located next to the Dirty Duck Restaurant, we decided on an early dinner. What better place to try Crispy Duck! We shared a meal, which was enough, but both of us did a double-take with the half-duck that made it to the table. After steaming, the duck is deep fried, which pretty much shrivels the meat off the bones and arrives at the table looking like a brown skeleton. We found enough meat for a meal, but it wasn't overkill. And it was very good!

The Dirty Duck Restaurant has an interesting story for how it got its name. The place started in the 1990s when the surrounding area was all rice fields. They had been trying to think of a catchy name for awhile and it was a few days before opening day. All of a sudden, a troop of ducks walked though the place leaving their dirty webbed footprints all over. And so that is what inspired the name.

Just before getting back on the motorbike trail back through the Monkey Forest, we had to try yet another gelato place. We are thinking of putting out a Bali Gelato Guide. Maybe we will get a discount.

Montana went for a swim in the hotel pool, but had to share it with four other guests. We got spoiled at the Watergarden, as it was pretty much our private pool.

LuRue's knees, hips, and feet were complaining, so she just went back to the room to give them a rest and to write today's blog.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Painstakingly Gorgeous Art of Batik Making

We knew we were going to do some batik making today, but we didn't know what intensity it was going to be. We both underestimated a bit (or should I say a lot).

We got picked up at 10am by a guy who drove us to the batik place. The man dropped us off and another man greeted us and took us to the work area, where several others were in the process of making batiks. The guy (we never got his name) explained and showed us the different stages of batik making.

1. Draw the picture you want on a paper
2. Trace the drawing in pencil onto fabric
3. Trace over the lines with hot wax
4. Use batik paints to color in your picture
5. Let dry
6. Dump in a fixer (a mix of different chemicals) to make the colors stick
7. Dump in hot water to get the wax off
8. Let dry

Samples showing the process

So, we started our process of making our own batik. There were several pre-drawn pictures that we could choose from or we could make our own. Of course, we decided to use the pre-drawn ones, since neither of us are good at drawing in the least bit. Montana chose a picture of a bird on a tree and LuRue chose a picture of some fish.

A worker had already set up some fabric for us to trace onto along with pencils and erasers. Both of us started off trying to get every little detail right, but then we eventually came to the conclusion that it didn't matter as much, since we'd be using wax over the painting. This process took quite a while since the pictures themselves were pretty detailed. LuRue got done before Montana, since Montana managed to choose probably the most complicated design there was, without thinking of all the time it would take. Eventually, Montana finished too.

Our next step was waxing. We were afraid that we were going to ruin our whole drawing, because neither of us knew how to trace lines with wax, but luckily we got a practice round. Someone had come over and sketched a very quick sketch of what our drawings basically were, while we were tracing. We didn't know it at the time, but those were our practice rounds for waxing. A worker taught us how to wax, but of course beautiful art doesn't come from just someone telling you what to do. It takes practice. Our first couple times waxing were pretty bad. The lines were super thick, we couldn't get the wax to follow the lines at all, the wax would also drip, ruining other parts of the drawing. After about a half hour of wax attempts, we started getting the hang of it. It still wasn't great, but it wasn't like it was gonna ruin our whole drawings.

It was time for the real thing. We were given our batik we had so nicely traced, fully ready to ruin it. Now we realized that the exactness in our drawing was very useless. A worker had noticed how complicated of a drawing Montana's was and decided to help her. By the time she was done with her practice round, the worker had finished tracing the bird with wax. He left the leaves, trees, and other details for Montana.

After about an hour of waxing, we were finally ready for the next step. We were given our practice picture to practice painting with. Batik painting was very hard, since when put on the fabric, it didn't look like the color it was actually going to turn out like. Blues looked like grey, greens looked like brown. We had to accept that we would have no idea how it was going to turn out. We could only try our hardest and hope for the best. The paints in batik were very liquidy, probably so the paints could spread throughout the cloth, until it hit the wax, which stopped it. The paintbrushes weren't typical either. There was a thick one, which were not quite sure what it was made out of, and a thin one, which was a stick of bamboo. In the middle of practice painting, a worker took us over one by one to choose our stamp and stamp our picture. The stamp was just for decorations around the edges. LuRue chose something that looked like waves and Montana chose some leaves. We stamped our project by dipping the stamp in wax and holding it onto the fabric for a bit.

After a little more practice painting, it was time for the real thing. LuRue had decided to not plan any color pattern and hope for the best. Montana was still trying to do some planning. We probably spent 2 hours coloring our batiks. Close to the end of it, the workers started helping us, because they wanted to close down on time and get home. LuRue's helper colored in the background and the edges for her, while she was still working on the fine details. It was obvious he just wanted to get home. Montana got lucky though. Her worker was honestly trying to make her work the best it could be. When Montana thought it was done, the worker kept coming back with paints and adding fine details, like shading to the wings, or textures to the background. Montana was very grateful for all the effort he put into it.

Our drawings were set out to dry and some who didn't have much time to dry were dried with a hair dryer. It was time for the real colors to come out. A worker dumped our batiks into the "fixer", a mix of different chemicals. As promised, the colors did change. He then put them into boiling water for the wax to come off. We were both satisfied with our batiks. LuRue said she thought hers looked like a kid drew it. Montana's would've been about as equal if it wasn't for the worker helping her. It was time to head back.

LuRue's Before Dipping
LuRue's After
Montana's Before
Montana's After

Now we have a new appreciation for batik artists.

Originally, the hotel had scheduled a Balinese dance class at 5, but both of us were too tired, so when we got back, we talked to the people and rescheduled it for tomorrow. We both glad they were willing to reschedule on such a short notice.

We rested up for a bit before heading to dinner. We decided to try out our hotel's restaurant. The menu was scarce, but the meals were pretty good and like usual we ended on a dessert, which was ice cream tonight.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Stairs, Sidewalks, Shops, and Simians

LuRue had thought (hoped) she had left stair-climbing behind in the Candidasa area, but no, she has found herself on a mountainside where everything is on a slope...often moss-covered in this humid, moist atmosphere. And often with no railing to hold onto. The process of getting from A to B is slow and not pretty to watch, but it gets the job done.

Our hotel is perched in a gorgeous area...on a mountainside.

From the parking lot to Reception

From Reception toward our room

Down to our room 

From our room to the swimming pool

After breakfast this morning, Montana and LuRue headed for the Monkey Forest. Since the hotel is adjacent, it wasn't far to go. It wasn't like bird-watching where you have to be peering up into the treetops to catch sight of elusive species. Monkeys everywhere...underfoot, on railings, on people. There are many stands where you can buy food to feed them. Montana, ever the moneysaver, found chunks of fruit lying on the ground, so enticed some in that way. After she was ignored several times, she decided that the monkeys didn't like bananas without peels. She eventually found the right combination.

Seems they like skirts, too!

Several families inhabit the forest and sometimes seem to be territorial. Montana captured a confrontation between two large monkeys.

After exploring all the trails in the Monkey Forest, Montana and LuRue headed to the market in central Ubud. With the sidewalk tiles cracked, sloped, and sometimes missing (as in a hole large enough to fall through), LuRue spent most of her time looking at her feet. Traffic was slightly better than in Candidasa as the street is one way for cars...motorbikes don't count, though.

We decided that Ubud is the city cousin compared to its country cousin of Candidasa. Quite a few upscale shops. LOTS of tourists...sometimes hard to spot any local people that aren't trying to get you to take their taxi, eat their food, or sell you a souvenir. We finally did find the local Ubud market in the city center. It is very colorful with everything imaginable to sell.  

We managed to work in scoops of gelato at the beginning and middle of the walk (we're guessing 1.5 to 2 miles). Just before getting back to the hotel, we were feeling dehydrated, so stopped at a boutique-type restaurant where LuRue ordered a bottle of coconut water and Montana had a "Kiss Me Ketut", a strawberry, watermelon, mint drink.

After a hot (sweat-drenching for LuRue) walk, we changed into bathing suits and headed for the pool.

Montana sharing the pool with some other guests.
While LuRue was writing the blog for today, Montana snuck through an open gate at the base of our reception stairs, plunging her into the Monkey Forest. She came back in time for dinner, but said that she had been attacked by a variety of insects. We decided that monkeys and insects probably go together. 

We decided on dinner at Laka Leke Restaurant, which is across the street and down a couple of doors. Turns out that there would be a Children's Dance Performance at 8:00. For dinner, the waitress suggested a set menu of which the entree was a sampling of about 8 main courses. At first, LuRue indicated 2 dinners, but fortunately Montana spoke up about sharing one dinner. Good thing, as one was more than enough!

The music & dancers began on time & we had front row seats. The girls were tiny...we were speculating their ages at about 10 (by averaging LuRue's and Montana's guesses). Their makeup made them look like adults. About midway through, a few raindrops turned into a real rain & the spectators scrambled for cover, leaving the dancers to finish their routine. As soon as the last note was played, the musicians jumped up with their instruments and also ran for cover. After 10 minutes or so, the rain stopped and the program resumed. The final dance was two older girls, who finished by bringing people to the stage. Montana breathed a sigh of relief when she wasn't chosen...that time. Turned out she was asked, but she declined. A couple of the women who went looked like they had had some training (unlike the two of us). We left as people were having their photos taken with the whole troupe. A very nice evening!!

Activities director Montana has some intriguing things planned for us for the next couple of days. We're looking forward to learning about some special Indonesian art forms.

Out of Candidasa, Into Ubud

Today was a sad day for us. It was our last day in Candidasa and our last day in the lovely cottages of Water Garden. We woke up to no alarm, got breakfast, then were off to pack up. It really didn't take very long since we didn't have any airplane rides to catch. We pretty much just stuffed everything in our duffles or backpacks in no organized fashion.

We met Ketut at 11:00 and after some hugs, handshakes and farewells with the workers, we were off. It took us about 1.5 hours to get to Ubud. A couple workers took our luggage and headed up the stairs. We followed them and were told to take a seat at one of the tables, where one of the workers brought us some welcome drinks, which were banana smoothies. We drank our smoothies and observed everyone, trying to take in the place.

A few minutes later, a few workers came up to us, told us to follow them and took our luggage to our room. Before getting unpacked, Montana opened the welcome book and started flipping through the pages. There were some possible activities suggestions that looked interesting to both of them. Arts and crafts seemed to be a big thing here, which is great since we both love arts and crafts. There was also some welcoming fruit that we wanted to try. We had seen a lot of it in the market, when we went to the market with Ketut a few days ago, but we had never tried it ourselves. One of the fruits in the basket was called Dragon Fruit. The others we don't know about. Both of us were very interested to try it. A few of the fruits stood out to us, especially the mango, but most of it was just okay.

We then started unpacking, or as much unpacking as we were going to do for staying for only 5 days. Montana got done pretty quickly, but as expected, LuRue took a bit longer, so Montana walked around and looked more at the activities book. It turns out, there's afternoon tea here from 3-6, so after unpacking, we decided to check that out. As promised, we were served a nice pot of tea and a little bit of Balinese cake (coconut wrapped in some sort of green dough). The tea was very bland and neither Montana or LuRue were too excited about it.

We walked up to the street and walked around a bit. We found some craft shops, restaurants, spas, but most importantly, we found a Gelato place. We decided to test the place out, so we each got a scoop of Gelato.

We headed back to the hotel to get changed into our swim suits. We decided a dive in the pool for a bit would be a nice treat. We both agreed that the pool was not as nice as the Watergarden one, but it was still nice to be in the water. The water was colder than Watergarden's pool, so we only stayed in for 45 minutes. This was a very odd pool, in that, when you looked at it from one point of view, it looked like it was 2 feet deep, but then when you looked at it from another point of view it looked much deep. It was almost an optical illusion. The pool sign read that it was 180cm (about 6 feet).

By this time it was dinner time, so we headed up to the street to go have dinner at the first restaurant we looked at. LuRue had some sort of pork and Montana had a Sate Ayam (sateed chicken). Both were very good. They then ended on an odd dessert of deep fried bananas with chocolate and cheese.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Raindrops Keep Falling on Our Heads

Our late mornings (8:15am) seem to be a good wake-up time for us...we beat the 8:30 alarm again this morning.

After breakfast, there was just time enough for us to get into our snorkel gear, pack up, and get to the reception area where Ketut was waiting for us, as always. He had told us yesterday that sometimes tourists (from other countries) keep him waiting as long as an hour or two. "Nine o'clock means 9:00! Ten o'clock means 10:00!" We are careful to be on time!

We saw that the staff had put out the usual ceremonial flowers to greet the day and to please the 33 million Hindu gods. We felt well sent off for our final day of snorkeling. This morning we would be making an extra stop as Putu was joining us. She lives about 30 minutes away toward Amed, our snorkeling beach, and was ready to jump in the car when we pulled up. She is very small & young-looking...hard to realize that she is the mother of four, ranging in age from 2 to 14 years old. Her husband got laid off when his company went bankrupt a year or so ago, so she is the sole breadwinner now. Besides normal living expenses, she has to buy 3 of her children school uniforms each year...about 4 different sets for each, for different days of the week. She drives a motorscooter back & forth to work, sometimes after she gets off at 11:00 at night.

As Ketut wound his way through traffic of cars, trucks, motorscooters, pedestrians, dogs, and the occasional chicken, we made note again of how painted lane lines and things like traffic lights seem to be just "suggestions". Frequent beeps of the horn (Ketut's and others) don't appear to signal anything in particular, as no one even indicates he/she has heard, but continue doing whatever. One trick we've learned is that on the divided highway near Denpasar, the right-turn lane at a traffic light is really the merge lane to get in front of the line of cars ahead of you. Montana, after considering the driving in other countries (like India and China), has decided she could handle this traffic.

On the way to the beach today, we met one Hindu procession taking up the oncoming lane. A ceremony to the sea, we were told. Montana and LuRue were glad that they were going in the opposite direction, not behind it.

Once at the beach, the routine was the same...10,000 rupiah to get in (parking, maybe?), then 50,000 rupiah for the use of two lounges. LuRue gave Putu her conventional mask & snorkel to use, but Putu indicated that she wasn't ready to come yet so Montana and LuRue went to the water's edge to put on their fins and take off for an hour and a half of exploring the underwater life of Bali. The beach wasn't nearly as crowded today so we spent most of the time cruising back and forth in front of the public beach area.

It rained off and on, though we barely noticed. Always a few new sightings to keep things interesting. The real excitement started after we got out. Just finishing up our beachside showers, we started to get rained on again, but it was light. However, by the time we had gotten our gear together, the skies opened up and Ketut asked if we minded waiting a bit. Of course, we didn't. We waited...and waited...and waited. For an hour we waited. Toward the end, we saw brown plumes of water jetting up from the surface of the lagoon, where a stream of water was flowing down from the mountains, We watched as the circle of brown water spread out, engulfing where we had been snorkeling a couple of hours before.

After the rain eased up enough to leave, Ketut led the way through a back route. When we reached the street, he could look down the road and see water gushing over it. All traffic was stopped. Ketut hailed a truck as the rest of us stood under a shelter and the truck was finally able to cross. Putu could see that a motorscooter was on its side and some big branches were being cleared away. In a short time, Ketut was back with the car. Always fearless, he tooted his way to the front and charged across the "brown river" and others followed. Putu said she would be too afraid to cross on her motorscooter. A mile or two down the road, we came across another traffic tie-up...another brown river, but Ketut plunged right through with no problem. Certainly very, very different from Arizona where you would likely find yourself in trouble!
Our attempt at screenshotting a video on the chrome

By the time we reached Putu's house, we were in dry territory with the sun out from time to time. For being here in the rainy season, this has been the only time we were put off schedule at all.

Montana and LuRue had both discussed another visit to the Orchid Spa & were contemplating it while spreading out our snorkel gear onto the drying rack. The spa is right next door to us, separated only by a row of tall reeds and a bamboo shade. Maybe my masseuse heard us because she has never looked around the shade before, but there she was. Within seconds we came to a decision and she told us that the best time to come was right then. Within 15 minutes of arriving "home", we were lying on tables...LuRue got a relaxing massage this time, while Montana got "waxed". Neither was totally pain-free, but no screams of pain, at least. Montana said that it felt like a million bandaids being ripped off at once. One masseuse was spreading wax on one leg while the other was ripping away. Actually a good experience for both in the end.

The Grand Finale for Candidasa was dinner that has been advertised on a large board in the restaurant. It needs to be ordered a day ahead. We got Bebek Betutu...a duck that has been steamed for 6 hours, then served with a special Balinese sauce, accompanied by rice and a vegetable dish. We say our goodbyes tomorrow.

A disappointing PS: For reasons unknown, Montana's computer has "gone dark". We have tried every technique mentioned on the Internet for restarting a dead computer, but nothing has worked. We are now dependent upon this contrary little Chromebook, which sometimes has a mind of its own.

Another disappointing PS: Now the Chromebook seems to have gone into a snit and refuses to open any photos. It may be downloading, or syncing, or just pouting, but at least we seem to have gotten the written word out. If we get the photos working at a later date, we'll send a special edition.

PPS: We somewhat fixed it.