“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” ~ Lin Yutang
14 February 2009
Harmony and I don't necessarily do anything to celebrate Valentine's Day (well ... we do try to find the cheesiest e-card to send each other ... then maybe order in and pop in the cheesiest of romantic comedies ... thats as far as we'll go) ... but it seems the people of Shanghai are increasingly so. The holiday is on a Saturday this year, so there were a lot of couples getting hitched today ... the older Shanghainese will tell you they have no intention to celebrate the holiday, but the younger of them are much more in-tune with holiday traditions abroad. Restaurants around town are wooing young lovers with candle-lit tables while the city's flower sellers are taking to the streets and staking out key sidewalk space ... you can feel the love in Shanghai today!
12 February 2009
11 February 2009
Needed: New Member for Poker Group
Though the current financial crisis began in the West, its impact is becoming increasingly global. With companies struggling to survive in their home markets and demand for Chinese goods dropping around the world, it is no surprise that things are changing here in Shanghai ... nothing drives that home for me more than the increasing number of foreign expats being 'recalled' earlier than expected ... the calendar is quickly filling up with going-away parties ... emails coming in offering up 220 volt appliances that will not function in a 110 volt future.
over the past four years living abroad, we have gotten used to the comings and goings of colleagues and neighbors ... it is just part of the transient nature of expat life ... though its never fun to say good-bye to the friends you have made along the way
05 February 2009
04 February 2009
Arrived at 4am after a long flight from Seoul ... got up early to watch sun rise over Ubud's rice fields ... back to sleep til 9. Can already tell that Bali is a special place ... can't wait to expore it! I sat outside our room while Harmony slept a while longer ... could sit here watching the stream pass by the rice fields all day and be happy. Hot & hazy today ... must be 30-something already
out in the afternoon to explore town ... in and out of shops ... had lunch overlooking a rice paddy ... and the the rain came. its been a while since i have seen such hard rain ... amazing! put on our rain coats after it died down and walked home through the Monkey Forest ... home to a large population of grey-haired macaques ... were fun to watch
At night, when the rain stopped, we took in a show by local dancers ... this one was considered 'kecak' and involved a 'choir' of men imitating a troupe of monkeys, fire, a kidnapped princess and a white monkey god ... a fitting end to our first day in Ubud!
In a word Bali can be described as 'lush'. If it is possible for something to grow somwhere here, you cann be sure that something is. if it is not possible, you can be sure that something is trying. everywhere you look ... green. we hired a car today and headed to the east coast. explored the amazing terraced rice paddies around Sideman before taking a narrow, broken 'road' down to the coast. I tested the driver by giving him the name of a tiny beach to find ... he asked around and finally found it! it was called Pasir Putih or 'Land White'. it was a beautiful crescent of white sand backed by coconut trees ... a cliff on one end and a row of boldly colored fishing boats on the other. a few 'warung' or small thatch-roofed cafes dotted the beach. enjoyed a great afternoon of swimming and walking the beach ... fish for lunch was delicious!
the road back to town took us past villages that specialized in silver & batik. in the evening, while harmony washed up, i had a balinese coffee at the hotel 'office' and spoke with one of the young guys that works here ... told me about growing up here in Ubud and playing in the rice fields where the hotel now stands ... talked about the changes to the area over time ... both good & bad. went in to town for dinner ... ate at a place next to the Ubud Water Temple ... beautifully lit at night ... more great fish (and a Balinese micro brew!) while watching a performance at the temple ... an all-female percussion orchestra and some beautiful dancing. we fell asleep early listening to the rain tonight
Up before sunrise this morning as i had intended on going for a hike before breakfast ... the rain changed my plans ... watched the sun rise behind the morning clouds as the farmer across the way came to let the ducks out of their pen. i don't understand duck behaviour all that well, so i find it interesting how they are 'herded' by their owners here ... farmer leads them out of the pen, puts up a flag, the ducks feed in a flooded rice paddy all day and then gather back at the flag at sunset to be led back to their pen ... fascinating!
Views of Gunung Agung, Bali's highest mountain, this morning ... can easily see the top missing from the 1963 eruption!
Visited a well-known silversmith's workshop today ... beautiful bamboo architecture ... lazy afternoon at the hotel ... went for a swim and read while watching the rain fall. ate at a place on the north side of town tonight ... served many dishes from Bali ... really good ... homemade rice wine to top it off!
While Ubud is made up of artisans, cafes, art & temples, Kuta and the resort towns to the south are full of 24-hour McDonald's drive-thrus, big-box hotels ... and famous surf breaks. We hired a car again today to head down in that direction ... spent some time relaxing at 'Dreamland' where we expected to see some surfing, but there was nothing! Apparently the rainy season isn't peak time for surfing these breaks. A big storm hit and everyone headed for cover ...
... time for lunch at a beach-side warung ... sun came back out afterwards. the beach ws pretty, but after a few hours of old women approaching us and asking "you want massage?" it was time to move on. Further down the Bukit Peninsula, we stopped at Pedang Pedang Beach ... another famous surf break ... you climb down a narrow set of stairs carved into a rock face to get to the beach ... was nice, but once again no surfing to be found at low tide. bummer. the south side of Bali isn't all about tubes & tans ... there are points of cultural interest, as well ... we stopped at Ulu Watu temple to catch the sunset and found bus-loads of tour groups had the same idea. the temple is dramatically perched on top of a cliff overlooking the sea and is overrun by monkeys ... one of which grabbed Harmony's hair tie right off her head! no sunset tonite, but we stayed to watch the Kecak dance ... was a good performance, with the stage backed by views of the temple and sea ... highlight of the show came when they went to light the white monkey god on fire and the wind blew the flaming grass into the audience ... nearly caused a stampede of people trying to escape the flames!
nobody was hurt, so its ok to laugh ;) it was about an hour drive back to Ubud ... stopped in town to get something to eat at Three Monkeys cafe (again) ... was a good day, but both of us agree that we don't need to go back to the south coast again any time soon
last day of relaxation on our trip ... slept in today while it rained outside ... rain cleared by mid morning so we decided we would spend some time at the pool ... perfect morning of swimming and reading ... finished a book about Theodore Roosevelt's exploration of Brazil's River of Doubt ... fascinating. Waited to go into town until late afternoon when the heat had broken a little ... explored some of the shops around Ubud ... Harmony bought some batik ... rain started to fall again when we walked past Three Monkeys cafe ... it was meant to be! enjoyed a relaxing night back home listening to sounds of nature outside ... couldn't imagine a more relaxing place.
it has taken us a week, but we finally found the Bali that we had imagined! up early today for our last adventure on the island ... hired a car so we could explore the north central highlands. from Ubud we first cut over to the southwest to stop at Pura Taman Ayun temple before heading north ... the road narrowed and climbed up to Jitulwih ... an area of centuries old rice fields terraced in the hillsides ... vibrant green as far as our eyes could see ... just amazing.
headed further north to the 'three lakes' area and the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple ... striking temple set in the lake surrounded by mist covered mountains. the road turned west from here and climbed into the mountains ... views of Bali's north coast on the right and lakes on the left. stopped before reaching munduk to have lunch and see how coffee is grown and processed ... the cafe had its own coffee trees and was happy to show us how the beans are harvested, roasted and ground ... then we enjoyed the final product!
after lunch, we took a walk into the jungle to explore a waterfall just outside of Munduk ... passed coffee, cocao and jack fruit trees along the way ... the falls were impressive and worth the walk down. took a small, rough road back toward Ubud that passed more rice fields, villages and markets ... stopped at a fruit market in Candikungin where Harmony bought local vanilla. back in Ubud in time to back our bags and head into town one last time for dinner before our flight.
Bali is truly a unique spot in this world ... geographically and culturally ... we are so fortunate to have the chance to see places like this. time to head back to the city ... duty calls