It is lovely in Bali - opposite of dry Melbourne. Very very green. Ireland Green. Green like St. Patrick's Day green. Green like a jungle. It is hot, muggy and I am sweating with reckless abandon.
Our hotel looks like something out of a Travel and Leisure magazine and I am grateful that KP picked it out. I tend to make trips harder than they are...see too much...travel to too many places...stay in cheap hotels to cut costs. This is luxury and it's good to be along on someone else's style vacation. I always need a rest when I come home from my trips - this one I'll actually get to lay by the pool and sip drinks with umbrellas and such.
Our resort has this gorgeous open air restaurant where we enjoy breakfast every morning. The monkeys swing from the trees nearby and the sounds of the water in the canyon below us echo up as we enjoy fresh fruit, pancakes, yogurt, and tea and coffee. We are in Shangri-La.
According to KP, it's Shangri-La only if the monkeys go away. They have a mutual dislike going on. I think it's because she is blond and her head looks like a big banana to them. This causes no end to their frustration. We ended up at something called the Monkey Jungle and people were sitting with the monkeys. However, Kathy walked in and a whole tribe of vicious, teeth barring monkeys took off after her. She screamed and threw bananas at the beasts as she ran in terror through the park. All we brown haired people in the park thought it was hilarious.
Since that time, the monkeys have her number. They are on our porch at night...they run around our roof in the morning...and they chase her through the fields at our hotel. She lives in constant fear of these limber tree dwellers.
The town that we stayed in is called Ubud. It is in the mountains of Bali and absolutely beautiful. I did take a day trip to some of the beaches in the south and they were not nice. I hear the area to the north and east of us is quite gorgeous but the southern area is like a big Australian party zone and if this is the only place I ever went in Bali, I think I would hate it. There are people there tying to lure you into their shops, poverty is everywhere and you get the general feeling that things are a bit unsafe. As soon as I arrived, I wanted to leave.
Ubud is the artists area of Bali and famous for its textiles, jewelry, woodcarving and dance theaters. The people are smiley and happy and very willing to help. Yes, they still want the best price for things and everyone says that they can get you a deal, etc. etc. But generally we have found happiness in Ubud and love the people and the surroundings. We are enjoying good food, exploring the temples and palaces, purchasing beautiful sarongs and actually wearing them, and walking the rice fields and countryside.
Wanting to reach out a bit from Ubud, Kathy and I hired a driver for the day and went on a countryside tour. The natural surroundings are stunningly beautiful but it's most amazing to see how the people live. The houses are actually compounds. They have a wall and then several huts and temples within the grounds. It looks like they all live in the Minneapolis sculpture garden. There is a cooking hut, a sleeping hut, a prayer hut, etc. We saw some of those magical terraced rice fields and followed one of the many temple celebrations through the streets for a couple miles. We felt like we were in the parade. We stopped in a couple of towns and wandered about with some local guides and our driver just waited for us. Actually, he did some shopping of his own because we somehow ended up with a caged rooster in the back of our van. The thing flapped around like mad. Feathers were flying, and at one point, the rooster began to crow. Eventually KP clucked it to rest. Fearful monkey girl is actually a chicken whisperer.
It is hot hot hot here and muggy beyond belief. We intended to go on a hike at one point today, but bailed out when it was too warm and we were without any sort of food or water. It was about hour 6 into our day trip. We were overheated, sick of being in the car and ready to get back to the hotel pool. KP got the giggles and kept repeating "nacho mama" to the point where I told her to shut up. Then she started repeating the annoyingAustralian "YEEEEAHHH" and I told her to go back tosaying "nacho mama." Our van driver got into the nacho mamapart as well and suddenly we were a car of crazed people repeating "nacho mama" over and over for no known reason. Road trip madness.
Just in the nick of time, we stopped at an outdoor market where we bought some fruit I had never seen in my life. One type was bitter but had the texture of an apple. I didn't like it. The other one was fleshy and when we cracked it open it looked like a white clementine. It was slimy but tart and I liked it. I was famished and consumed about three of them before I had the fear that I may be severely allergic and not know it. One hour later there was no swollen throat.
Very strange to eat new and exotic fruit - I wonder how many others there are in the world that I haven't yet tried.
However, as we waited for our individual massages, it became clear to us that they were putting us in the same room. Apparently, it was a 'couples' massage. For the next two days, every time KP would ask me what my favorite part of Bali was, I would gaze at her lovingly and reply "the couple's massage". We had a total of 4 treatments at our hotel and even though we asked for separate rooms, they always put us together. By the end of the week, we were to have enjoyed couples massage, couples reflexology, couples pedicure, and couples facials.
It turns out massage was to be a big part of this holiday. It's such a luxury and in Bali, it is wonderful and VERY inexpensive. One day, after exploring the markets and having a filling curry lunch for about 3 dollars, we saw some relaxed people coming out of a nearby courtyard. There was a spa located just behind the gates and the people were happy to tell us about how great it was. They were all Europeans and began to tell us about the 90 minute treatments that we could have for 14 US dollars. We checked it out, there were appointment times available, and we signed up. The list included all sorts of treatment and I signed up for something with a soak massage and some sort of yogurt treatment
Now, as I write this, part of me can't believe I'm going to put in up on the blog. No doubt, when you are finished reading it you will think exactly what I thought - that KP and I just paid someone 14 dollars to molest us. We preferred to think of it as "Attack of the massage therapists."
For the first time, I was lead into a "private" room. That's where the "private" part ended. At our nice hotel, the massage therapists do a very American style massage where they keep all areas covered unless they are being treated. Such was not the case with the very authentic Balinese massage.
The private room was surrounded by brick and thatched walls, it contained a tub filled with local flowers, a tile floor, a fountain (which, by the way is torture to the bladder of a pregnant woman) a small shower, and a single bed in a raised area of the room. The bed was very wide and had just a plastic mat with a sheet over it. There was also a coat rack in the room. My massage therapist was a 4 foot 8 Balinese woman who pointed to the coat rack and told me to undress. She just stood there in front of me. About 2 feet in front of me. I gave her a look and then thought, "Oh well,” and proceeded to get naked. She had me get up on the bed which now felt like it was mounted in the sky. There was no sheet to cover me. As I began to wonder how this tiny woman would massage me as I lay somewhere close to the thatched rooftop, my answer became quite clear. Suddenly this woman was on top of me and straddling me as she rubbed my back and arms. Now, I must admit that the massage was pretty great, but my own insecurities took over and I was tense for the majority of the rub down. I began to think that the people leaving the place had deceived us but I quickly came to the realization that they were European and probably don't have my American Anti-Naked sentiments.
Just as I began to relax, the woman told me to flip over on my back. I wanted to die. I kept my eyes firmly shut and started my mantra of "find your happy place...find your happy place..." The woman began to rub almost all of me. As I lay there feeling more naked and more exposed than I ever have in my life, I wondered if this was some sort of glorious joke. Was I the only one having this sort of treatment? Was KP going through the same thing in her room? Was there a camera in the room and later I would come across this on youtube? If it were to be on youtube, how many stars would this get?
My thoughts were interrupted by the sudden food application. The "yogurt" treatment that I had signed on for, involved a series of edible things. I was given a coconut and papaya scrub, then salt was applied, and finally coconut milk and yogurt were applied to my body. I was tingling and itchy and I began to wonder if baby living inside me was aware that we were now becoming a dessert. At long last, I was helped to the shower where my massage therapist ladled water over me and threw more yogurt at me. At this point she paid close attention to my belly and rubbed yogurt all over it and talked to the baby in Balinese. What did she say?
When all the foods were finally rinsed off me, I stepped into the flower filled tub. Now, it looks nice to have a bath filled with flowers, but what they don't tell you is that the petals float and the stems have a tendency to go toward the bottom of the tub. 'Enough said bout that.
After 90 long minutes, I was dressed and exiting my private room. I paid for our massages and waited for KP. When she came out of the room, she didn't look at me. In fact, the next 30 minutes were spent in subdued silence. Finally, she uttered the phrase, "So...were you wondering if it that massage was going to have a happy ending?"