Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas in Bedugul, Bali

View from Jeff and Yanti's house where we had an traditional English dinner—turkey and the works. Hard to believe but there was no rice. This is a view from the outdoor dining area across the lake.

Got up early Saturday morning to sketch the view before we took a hike. Everyone else was asleep.

Jeff and Yanti have beautiful gardens and Jeff is an "orchiholic". This is the rare Black Orchid of Kalimantan that just bloomed. Done in a cheap journal that didn't scan at all well.

Borneo Bob

First stop on Christmas Eve, the Kalimantan Restaurant, to have a glass of wine with our friend Bob. He is the proud owner of that Christmas tree from the previous post. Then it was off to the beach for grilled fish and phone calls to our families in the states.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays from Bali

A few quick sketches of Christmas in Bali.
A classic
There are many beautifully renovated Vespas here in Bali. We were tempted to buy one, but the clink and clank of the two stroke engine quickly changed our minds.

Now that's a tree!
There is always a Christmas tree at the entrance to the Kalimantan, a popular ex-pat open-air cafe and watering-hole. The owner, our friend Bob, an ex-pat from Colorado, got this year's living tree from his yard. It is haphazardly strung with strands of blinking multi-colored lights, hanging from the branches are little white cotton snowmen ornaments with red hats and the the whole thing is draped in colored tinsel garland. It's quite a sight.

Happy Holidays

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

For the birds

A couple of exotic birds we met in Ubud, named George and Nancy. At one point I had one standing on each arm. They were so beautiful, quite gentle, but very heavy—"quick take my picture"!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Legong dance

From a quick sketch I did at the Barong dance on our cultural tour. The two Legong dancers mimic each other in synchronized movements snapping their heads from side to side. They are quite beautiful and traditionally quite young. I told Jerry and Pak Astika it reminded me of voguing. They both gave me that "what" look. You know Madonna, guys.

Cast Away

I have no idea what these 2" long beetles are, but they usually fly through the outdoor living area, hit the wall, land on their backs where they lay until Maria or I sweep them up the next day. Usually when they are on their backs they are faking it. They are like giant cockroaches—hmmmm, maybe they are cockroaches. I have just never asked because in the evening we have bats, geckos, tokay and frogs wandering around.

Yesterday, I found this guy in the pool hanging on for dear life. He managed to grab hold and climb onto a floating Frangipani flower. He was like Tom Hanks in Cast Away only he wouldn't survive because Jerry was going swimming soon.

Grilled fish on the beach

We love the simple way they grill fish over coconut husks, so on Friday nights, we usually find ourselves sitting at the waters edge eating a pile of grilled fish. They know us there because Jerry, being in the seafood business, is always looking under the gills and smelling the fish for freshness. I usually find the sweet restaurant cat who is so close to being put in my totebag and taken to the vet for spaying and shots. Every night I go home fretting about her, however, she doesn't have such a bad life. Every morning on my walk I find her sound asleep in a chair at one of the restaurant tables. It's just that she will have kittens, again and again. The other night one of the waitresses, Lelek said to me "ambil?"—you take? Oh man...

Cumi cumi bakar (grilled squid or cuttlefish) my absolute favorite.


Durian—the fruit of kings—HA!

Our pembantu, Maria, asked me "durian in USA?". I gave her that "what the hell is durian look". So, off we went to the English/Indonesian dictionary. Well, the definition of durian is durian—no wonder. "It is good" she said "tomorrow I bring". Okay. So a durian arrived the next day. I said to Jerry "the durian is here" and he said "yes, I can smell it!". It has a very strong odor which I found quite startling. Some say it smells like bad cheese or stinky socks. Whatever, it is really bad. Maria asked if she should cut it up and put it in the fridge. Okaaaaaaaaaay....

The next morning, we needed to at least try it. Jerry took a bite and quietly placed is fork in the sink and walked away. I sniffed, licked and then said "I'm done". I tossed the rest of it over the wall into the jungle in the back of the villa. As I was flinging it over the 12 foot wall I didn't realize that my reading glasses were on my head and flew off. I spent all weekend looking for them. On Monday, I had to tell Maria that I didn't love the durian. Her husband Pakalis then found my glasses in the garden near the wall and handed them back to me. I thanked him and said "I wonder how those got there"...

They sell fruit everywhere in warungs and stands along the streets and the beaches. There are even people who have a big box on the back of their bikes with a sign that says "buah-buahan" selling portions of mangos, bananas, pineapple, coconuts, watermelon, papayas, mangostines and many other fruits I don't recognize and lots of that stinky durian.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Day 3—Tour of Bali with Pak Astika

Our final day started out with breakfast on the beach and Pak Astika explaining the day’s itinerary. First stop, the local temple for morning prayer before we go over the mountains again.

The local priest sprinkled holy water on our heads. The right hand is then cupped in the left and filled with holy water, three times for drinking then three times to wash the head and face. This is followed by pressing grains of rice to our foreheads and throat.

We were good to go!

On our way to Pura Luhur Batu Karu we drove through the large area of Tabanan, which has the most fertile land in Bali and known as the "rice basket". The landscape is green with rice terraces streaming down the mountains and as far as the eye can see. Pak Astika said Tabanan was famous for its red rice which is nutty and delicious. There were many people working the fields that day, so Astika took Jerry down to cut some rice with the locals using their sickles or handheld knives.

A quick sketch of the rice terraces looking back towards the mountains we just traveled over while sitting in the back seat of the car.

Pura Luhur Batukaru—Balinese temple ceremony

Pura Luhur Batukaru is one of the six temples sacred to all Hindu-Balinese. Built in the 11th century it is one of the most ancient sacred sites in Bali. It was here that we experienced our first Balinese ceremony. Pak Astika is a Pemankgku which is a type of priest so he preformed much of the 2 hour ceremony. It was necessary for us to wear the appropriate temple clothing so we were suited up over our clothes. Man, was it HOT!

Following Pak Astika’s wife through the dense jungle vegetation to the first temple. She easily carried prayer offerings and our "after praying snack" on her head.

Here I am following Pak Astika's wife wearing the traditional kebaya, sash and sarong (over my clothes!!!) not carrying offerings on my head—I tried though. We passed this shrine in the center of the lake honoring the goddess of Lake Tambligan and the god of Mount Batu Karu.

Praying at the second temple. Hands were always with thumbs at our brow line holding flowers in our fingers. After each prayer you toss a flower to the alter and put one in your hair.

We got sprinkled, drank and washed with holy water at each temple site along with pressing rice onto our foreheads. We prayed at four temples. By the end of the day, I had flowers stuck all over my hair, rice stuck everywhere and after trying to sit crossed legged in a sarong for two hours in the heat, I decided it was a lot of work to be Balinese.

It was truly an amazing experience.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Our route—a three day tour of Bali

Our journey started from our home away from home in Sanur, Bali in the southern end of the island.

I love illustrated maps, however I can’t say I really like my first attempt at one, but it does record our route around the island starting in Sanur. Bali is not a large island, but the roads are narrow and crowded with villages, cars, motorbikes, food carts, pedestrians and all sorts of animals, so it takes longer to travel distances.

The center of the island is made up of volcanoes, the tallest being Mt Agung which is close to 10,000 ft. We crossed over the mountains several times on our tour. At one point I was looking at the map to our next destination and thought “uh-oh this mountain roads look just like the large intestine". This was quite a ride with lots of hairpin turns, not many guardrails, lots of passing and the ubiquitous Balinese horn honking warning.

Here I am once again in the "sketchers crouch". Hot, sweaty and sketching furiously before we move on to our next destination.

Reportage: Tour day two of Bali


We got up and had breakfast with the ducks quacking at us and then walked across the street for an hour of snorkeling before we hit the road again. I am always amazed by the abundance of colorful fish as soon as I put my mask in the water.

Pisang rebus—boiled bananas

Pak Astika bought a bunch of these small brownish bananas from a woman on the side of the road. I was a little reluctant to try one not being a huge fan of bananas, but they are so delicious or “sangat enak” as we say here in Bali. Not so sweet, a bit lighter with a slight citrus flavor, I think...

Selling a little of everything on the side of the road.

Day 2 continued

After snorkeling we headed across the north coast, which at first is a very dry volcanic landscape until we got close to Singaraja where there are rich plantations of coffee, cloves and rice. They grow grapes here to produce the local Bali wine Hatten Aga white, red and rose which is not unlike the wine I drank when I was not old enough to drink.

First stop was a trek into the jungle to see the Gitgit Waterfall. On our way up we passed people bathing in the irrigation canal and up further they were washing the intestines of a pig. We passed very small simple houses belonging to people who grew fruits and vegetables in amongst the lush vegetation. We stopped to admire the beautiful Rambutan trees and bought some from the guy who grew them. We sat at a table in front of his house while he told us that his Rambutan was considered some of the best on the island and was sold to high-end hotels.

Rambutan means “hair fruit”. It is about the size of a lemon with bright red skin covered with soft green hair. His Rambutan was about the most beautiful I had seen. It is easily peeled exposing the sweet white fruit around a pit.

The Gitgit Waterfall

Cabe (chili peppers) in a small family garden on our way back down from the waterfall. They like their food hot here so peppers of all kinds are plentiful. I am not a big fan of hot food so I have to be quite careful of some of the condiments that accompany the food. The other night I tried something that looked quite harmless and thought I was going to die.

The road to Permuteran

A late lunch in Singaraja on a pier over the water where we stuffed ourselves with cumi cumi bakar (grilled squid) and of course nasi puti (rice). Then it was on the road again for another two hours to the western part of the island to a beautiful town called Pemuteran where we collapsed at the beach to watch the sunset after another long day.Then it was off to bed because tomorrow was ceremony day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Reportage: A three day cultural tour of Bali

Day 1—Barong dance in Batubulan

On Friday we set out on a tour with Pak Astika a Balinse priest from Tabanan, Bali. First stop was a Barong Dance in Batubulan. This dance is the eternal fight between good and evil. Barong a mythical animal who represents the good spirit and Randa a mythical monster who represents the evil one.

While I was trying to capture the dance in my sketchbook, Jerry was explaining the acts as they unfolded.

The Barong—the good guy

Servant of Dewi Kunta

Randa—the bad guy

After the dance, we headed up to Ubud to the Blanco Museum which was just amazing.

Pura Goa Lawah

A temple that has three meru (shrines) that stand at the entrance to a deep cave. Their tiered roofs of black palm fiber are stained with the droppings of thousands of harmless bats which dangle from the rocky overhang. No one knows how far the cave extends, it being taboo to venture too deep. They are regarded as the guardians of the temple, but are not the only creatures in Goa Lawah. The priests are happy to show the large rock pythons which coil luxuriously near the shrines and feed on fallen wounded bats.

Pak Astika praying at Goa Lawah

I sketched Astika quite bit on our trip. He is a fascinating person with deep knowledge of Bali and its culture. His ancestors came from Java centuries ago. He had such a natural way of meeting and talking with people along the way in our travels. We had some amazing experiences because of who he is, his most generous personality, his natural way with his people of Bali and his pride in this most beautiful and amazing island.

Day one continues


A “Bali Aga” village which one of the few original aboriginal villages left in Bali. Their way of life, rituals and customary laws still remain today in among layers of cultural influence from Java’s Hindu-Buddism which began around the 8th century. The villagers still practice the traditional arts of basketry, ikat weaving and lontor leaf itchings.

I Nyageh Kepet is an 82 year old traditional basket weaver who has been making these beautiful baskets most of his life. He spoke only Balinese so we relied on Astika to translate. Balinese is quite different from Bahasa Indonesian which is the language we have learned and is the official language of Indonesia. There are something like 700+ dialects in Indonesia.

The basket we bought from Nyageh.

Tirtha Gangga

We arrived at this water palace just as the sun was setting. We had to walk through a pond of 108 stepping stones to get to the holy water which is fed by a sacred spring. We had to splash the holy water 12 times in our eyes so we would really be able to see. Pak Astika claims this water comes from the Ganges River in India— wonder how they do that? After a day like this I was ready to believe anything...


11 hours later, on this amazing day, we finally made it to our hotel in Amed. We had dinner in the garden by the pool where a large orange and white cat meowed at us with his gravely voice and these two ducks quacked at our table. In the morning the ducks were swimming in the infinity pool and I was not!