January 17, 2011

Little Bits 1.1

Two holiday notes and a nature corner...

First a store window from a local mall that had absolutely no relation to the store contents or name. 

And it's doubly funny if you know my skinny, practical guy.  Apparently he has a secret life...

Second, a shot of our NYE horns.  These were available everywhere in Jakarta on the roadside, for between $3 and $5 each.  They play a single note, and we love them!  We saved these and are getting more next year (notably a silver french horn and blue tuba), so come visit and you can have one too!

[note from the dog: "If you spot my feet and think they are 'cute', please note that I am 46 lbs. of lean mean coward, and I'll bark you from here to Singapore if you scare me enough."]

And finally, an Indonesian tree frog that stuck to our bedroom window one night.  

He looked so interesting from a distance, but then I got close enough to see he wasn't really all that exotic.  

This is my shot of him before he became a traumatized, abused tree frog. 

He foolishly jumped into the grass to evade me and my camera which caused me to accidentally flip him onto the porch umbrella from whence he splatted onto the deck before escaping, dazed, never to be seen again.   

Tree frog is kodok pohon (all the Os are long).  And now you know more Bahasa Indonesia.

January 6, 2011

Bali in December...

Before Christmas, we spent a week in Bali.  We have been holding Cooper's diving equipment hostage in Jakarta, so when he came home to a place he'd never been before, we figured the least we could do was give him a chance to use it.  

[reminder- clicking on pictures will enlarge most of them]

The Jakarta airport has, in addition to the interior signage, these lovely gate numbers outside...

and the terminal is on these grounds, which is such a nice change from the usual steel and asphalt.

That's our gate, under the red roof.  We walked down a long hallway to the right, with views on both sides of the grounds and plantings.

This was the first time we've gotten to use the domestic terminal, and it was such a happy surprise, I snapped photos to share.  :-)

Once we arrived in Bali we stayed at the Tandjung Sari hotel on the south side of the island, away from the crowds and madness further west. 

There is a tradition in Indonesia that guests are 'gonged' when they arrive.  One of our favorite restaurants here in Jakarta gongs us in, most nights.   

This is the gong at the Tandjung Sari, and we were shuffled over to it when we first got there to be properly gonged.

This is the hotel driveway, and from the open air front desk we were taken to our bungalow which contained this...   

...which was quickly dubbed "The Princess Bed" and was one of the most comfortable beds we've ever slept in. 

We also had a giant tub which we never used (Coop rinsed his diving gear in it), because we had an outdoor shower in a little courtyard off the back of our bungalow. 

This little carved door led from our outdoor shower to the yard outside the bungalow,

which contained this outdoor relaxing thingie...

...that we were glad to use for relaxing.  (that's my scale model showing you how to use it)

The hotel beachfront contained not only a bar-

but also a dining room, decorative gate, beach chairs and umbrellas, and a larger outdoor relaxing thingie in which we sat all afternoon one rainy day and read books while seated on giant padded furniture as the rain pattered on palm leaves and people with big umbrellas brought drinks with little umbrellas from the bar. 

One of our favorite things...

...the hotel gate (the whole property was open to the beach twenty feet to the right, but the gate was such a nice touch, we used it sometimes anyway). 

The hotel from the beach looking back:

The flowers that were everywhere you went in the hotel...

and my scale model, demonstrating proper use of beach equipment while auditioning for a Corona commercial...

On our last night there, it was clearing after a mostly rainy day and the nearby volcano on an island just off shore popped out of the mist...

and then the small islands to the right were silhouetted by the dying light... (this was the area we were snorkeling when Coop saw the manta rays).

It was just as cool as it looks. 

BUT, since we had never been to Bali before we felt obligated to pry our butts off the hotel's many comfy chairs and do a little exploring.  So while Coop went off to dive without us we headed into the center of the island in search of new and interesting things. 

This particular day was a holiday on Bali, and we got to see lots of people in their best clothes headed to family celebrations or off to the temples to give special offerings. 

In Ubud, there were lots of traditional coco palm "lanterns" on the streets...

and detail of one...

Plus, from the vantage point of our really good rooftop terrace restaurant, we were able to see a family's backyard shrine...

all dressed up for the holiday.

We also spent time snorkeling while Coop dove.  On one of the days, we rode to the east side of the island where there is a WWII ship sunk in shallow waters just off the coast so it can be snorkeled and scuba-ed.  This is the view from the ocean back at the shore- black sand beaches and lots of volcanic rock smoothed by time.

Nearby in this area we saw some of the ubiquitous offerings...

We learned during our stay in Bali that the offerings left on the sidewalks or ground are for the demons and it's okay if they get kicked accidentally- the offering is considered complete as soon as it is placed, so dogs eating the crackers they contain, or clumsy tourists tripping over them doesn't change the effect.  Whatever that effect might be. 

Offerings for the good spirits are placed higher, on shrines and things, and remain undisturbed usually.  There were fresh ones every day in the places we passed.

In a different place, on another day, Cooper dove an underwater wall while we snorkeled above, and I got this shot of him before he disappeared into the depths...

and then we moved to an area called Manta Point where, if you are lucky, Manta Rays come to be cleaned by fish that apparently like to do that sort of thing, and snorkelers have a chance to glimpse them from above.

Unfortunately, the day was kind of stormy, and the sea at Manta Point was too choppy for snorkeling, so while Coop went under to the calm waters, we stayed with the boat and took pictures...

Not too shabby for scenery.  And Coop got to see two Manta Rays with six foot wingspans, so he was happy too. 

Different day, new dry land trip.

We wanted to see the famous rice paddies of interior Bali ("we" being Ted and I but we made Cooper come anyway), and we wanted to visit a temple ("we" being all three of us, so rice paddy grumbling was kept to a minimum), and we headed up the center of the island again, just west of Ubud to a place called Jatiluwih. 

It's not the normal growing season for rice, so there is very little planted right now, but the terraces are always there.

You get the idea.  

And here's a shot of one of the few planted paddies, just so you know what it looks like growing...

Meanwhile, it's easy to get a volcano in any picture on Bali, so of course we did...

...and that's a cloud, not steam.  Just so you don't worry.  

Our temple for the day was Pura Luhur Batukau just north and a little west of Jatiluwih, and WAY off the beaten path, so there were almost no other people there, and most of the other people were actually worshipers and not tourists, so yay us!

We had a guide, which was really good, because in addition to explaining the temple itself to us, he was also able to help us not be dimwitted tourists and do rude/forbidden things while exploring.  We all wore sarongs as skirts and I swore I took a picture of the guys because they looked hot, but alas- it's not on my camera.  :-( 

Anyway, the temple.  There were rules posted in the slightly off kilter translation that we've come to love in countries all over the world.  Here is today's:

Our language skills are not good enough yet to get help from our guide regarding number 3.  We can't believe that a woman is prohibited from entering if she has a child under age 5, but losing that first tooth stumps us.

And we thought maybe number 6 was just a harsh translation of a different sentiment, but the bahasa original on the Indonesian side of the sign said "6. Orang gila", which means 'crazy person', so I guess it's right on target.  Although crazy people aren't too good about self selecting, so they probably rely on family members to out them which opens a whole new can of worms.  At least it would in my family. 

This temple has a lake with a miniature replica of the temple on an island in the center.  There are stepping stones from the shore to the island (Priests only please!), so it looks like the person heading out to the island is walking on water which we thought was a nice touch.  But no one was headed out while we were there, so we all have to just imagine it.

This area is used to assemble offerings.

Tons of fish in this lake.  You can see one between the fourth and fifth stone.

Temples always have an odd number of roof tiers.

I don't know where this door leads.  But it was such a beautiful door, I wanted to share.  

And this is the bell tower.  At the very top, under the fringed canopy, is where the bell ringer stands.  The bell itself is wooden. 

And lest you think we were getting too much culture and refinement from all this I'll add a picture of our favorite statue on the grounds.  

How can you not love this chubby guy with an overbite?

We crammed a lot into our week in Bali, especially for us.  But we only scratched the surface of the island, so it's a good thing that it's less than two hours by astonishingly inexpensive plane so we can return a lot and explore while getting in some serious sloth...uh...meditation time.  

We were charmed by the many traditions and rituals of Balinese people.  It is really interesting to leave a predominately Muslim part of Indonesia for a predominately Hindu part of Indonesia and have the routines and culture stay mostly the same with an entirely different slant on life.  We heard the occasional Muezzin call as we traveled, but Bali is mostly Hindu, very quiet and peaceful, and completely without high rises or freeways.  

We look forward to lots of future deep thinking opportunities while prone on a beach with our eyes closed so we can concentrate. 

And to more statues.  

This one is from the hotel grounds.  We've given him a back story, but you'll have to make up your own.  

January 1, 2011

New Year's Fish!

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2011, and fair warning- if you have a hangover, you might want to save this blog for later...

Our family outing for the first part of New Year's Eve was to head out to our local Fish Spa Therapy center.

That's right- Fish Spa.

Tiny little fish from the Carp family lie in wait in pools of clear water until you stick your legs in the water and then they attack you from all sides and begin exfoliating your skin.  

Like this...

It tickles at first.  Then it starts to feel like you have your feet in a carbonated beverage that won't stop bubbling.  When you lift your feet out, they all just swim to new feet.  And you lift your feet out a lot, since it feels really strange and they won't stop swimming between your toes and it's hard to stop laughing.

Here's Ted, with his arm sticker telling how long we get to stay...

We got 20 minutes for about $17 for the three of us.

It was worth twice that.

First they washed our feet and calves, then we were given cushions to put on the bench in a private pool just for the three of us and fun began. 

This was the view from our poolside seats...

and it was everything the brochure promised.

"Natural exfoliation...micro masssage from the little masseurs...release stress and tension...perpetual laughter."

Then the guy came and asked us if we wanted the "bigger fish" and I was the only one who said yes!

So while my big strong men stayed with the little fish and giggled, I moved about four feet away and stuck my legs in the new pond full of Woman Eating Fish (technically true, although they only eat a micro dot at a time- theoretically I could have been gobbled up completely given enough time).

I was alone in the new pond and this is what happened...

Ignoring my renewed giggles of excrutiation, Coop relaxed with the original attack fish.

You can see how concerned he was for my safety.

We all agreed that Fish Spa Therapy is going to become a regular beauty routine.

Anything this funny that's good for you is a no brainer.

And now the best part- we might go for broke next New Year's.

They will give you a full body fish attack for under $30 bucks, and we have a full year to screw up our courage.