Monday, December 21, 2009

Last Night in Bali

We successfully negotiated a bead deal with Carlston owner of “Coffee & Silver,” a restaurant on Monkey Forest Road that serves coffee and sells silver. How apropos!

The negotiations took place over a 3-hour period because the workmen were also present negotiating the removal of the old roof and taking it away. We were a bit concerned that no one was discussing what was replacing the roof! I believe that discussion would follow next week. I’m still not sure if I paid for the roof removal or the beads!

Carlston is Danish and serves Carlsberg. (It’s all fitting together now.) His establishment is so close to the Monkey Forest that on occasion a bold monkey will enter and order a Carlsberg…so the story goes. Nobody cards you in Bali!

It was our last night in Bali and I still hadn’t connected with my friend Meghan so we pulled ourselves away from Coffee & Silver and prepared to walk UP Monkey Forest Road. (Those of you who have been there can understand this feat!)

We met Meghan at Cinta, a fabulous restaurant owned and operated by a gal named Sally. Sally owns 5 restaurants in Ubud.  One is named Siam Sally and serves Thai food. Needless to say, I am jealous of her great name choice!

Several ginger mojitos later we found ourselves following Meghan to the top of Monkey Forest Road (seemed easier now) and on our way to her restaurant, Kafe.  If you ever get to Ubud you must go to Kafe.  A great place to hang out, eat amazing organic food and do a little shopping on the side.

I will give you one piece of advice: Do not try to drink out of the spoon that comes in your juice.  It may look like a straw but rest assured, it is not!

Monkey Forest

While spending a relaxing day with Lou Zeldis we lost track of time and missed our opportunity to bear witness to a cremation ceremony. We were treated to pictures and commentary from the man who’s uncle passed and who also makes the sarcophagus on our last night so it feels like we witnessed part of it!

The cremation ceremonies proceed throughout the entire town and end up in the Monkey Forest. Since I had yet to experience the monkey forest we woke up early one morning to act as tourists. And as some of you have seen from my facebook pictures – I loved the monkey forest!

You pay $1.50 to enter the forest and 3x that if you want bananas to feed the monkeys. We opted no on the bananas and just enjoyed wandering through the forest.

It was an incredible site to see the monkeys playing, eating, sleeping and fighting right in front of you. I bent down next to one monkey and he climbed right up onto my back! I wanted to take him home but Salai wouldn’t let me!

The temples throughout the forest, and throughout Bali, are incredible. The detail in the stonework and the massiveness of the structures are just amazing to see. I am glad we played tourist for the morning! I miss my monkeys!

Lou Zeldis and the Black Beach

Many of you are familiar with designer Lou Zeldis who splits his time between Indonesia and Santa Monica.  I was lucky enough to meet Lou at the Tucson show four years ago.  Today we got lucky again with a visit to his home and showroom in the center of Ubud.

His creations of jewelry, furniture and clothing are unique to what one sees everyday in Bali. He has established himself as an expat in Ubud, managing over the past 20 years to tap into the local talents of carvers, silver smiths and weavers.

Lou’s imagination and the artist’s talents make quite a team producing unique products not seen anywhere else. Walking into Lou’s home is more on the lines of the back room of a museum. There is so much to look at and dig through. Sensory overload short-circuits any budget you have proposed for yourself! 

Many hours later we took a break for lunch and went to an Italian restaurant called the Black Beach.  You must climb up 3 flights of stairs to get to this rooftop gem which overlooks the entire center of Ubud.  The bar on the second floor has a black sand floor.  Lou mentioned you could always tell when the bar has a good night as the black sand gets tracked up and down the streets!

And because I didn’t have any fish with me – I had to order off the menu. (maybe next time……)

The Beach

Although Ubud is not near the coast, it is not far away either. On Sunday we took a break from beads and went to the beach with Wayan and her family. They drove Amy and I to a very secluded portion of the coast called the “White Beach.” Most of the beaches on Bali have black sand - it being a volcanic island.

One had to know what dirt road to turn off from what village to arrive at this destination. Amy may be able to tell you but I do not know the way because I fell asleep. The secret will always be safe with me.

The beach was small, perhaps 300 meters, flanked at each end with cliffs. Small and hidden, the seclusion part was already wearing off. Industrious entrepreneurs had constructed grass shacks that were offering grilled fresh fish and cold ones as well as lounge chairs and massages.

The water was as blue as the sky and it was a pleasure to swim in the Java Sea. We bobbed up and down, contemplating life, and managing not to get smashed up against the rocks or stung by jellyfish. Another successful adventure!

When it was time to depart, Putu took off down the beach to negotiate dinner. He seemed to be gone a long time and it was dusk as we headed back up the dirt road. Wayan did not seem pleased as she was mumbling about the time wasted. I wasn’t paying much attention to the details because I wasn’t in charge that day. I didn’t know if Putu was successful or not hunting down the next meal.

Amy and I were always nervous about when we would have our next meal so we hinted that we should have dinner sooner then later. The hint was heard and we stopped in the next seaside town for dinner. As it turns out Puto had a successful fishing expedition.

Out comes 4 fresh fish caught not one hour before. We enter an outdoor but fancy restaurant. (Any establishment that has cloth napkins is fancy in my book!) Puto has the chef cook our fish as opposed to his.

Can you imagine walking into a restaurant state side and say “Hey, I brought my own dinner…prepare this please!” To top it all off they only charged $3.50 to grill them. Not each but for all 4! We did our best to appease the chef by ordering appetizers, salads and 2 bottles of wine.

Money Changers

The Indonesian Currency is the IR or Indonesia Rupiah. There are many zeros on the bills. Example 10,000 IR equals about $1.00. The 100,000 IR equals about $10.00.

It is very easy to become confused. Once you memorize the colors and sizes. Not all bills are green or the same proportions - the more valuable the bill the larger it is. This tends to make wallet designers crazy! Also drives tourist crazy, “How much is that? “Well that costs 2 small blue ones and 1 large pink one.”

One can change US dollars anywhere on the streets at “Money Changers.” These can be in an official carnival looking booth or inside a normal retail store. In Thailand changing money is a very official process with the changers behind glass and receipts being signed. Bali is not so official.

I had an unpleasant experience 6 years ago when I was short changed for about $50.00. This is when I realized that some of the moneychangers sidelined as magicians. They can make rupiah disappear before your eyes! More or less like 3-card Monte. If you are cruising the streets and comparing exchange rates and one changer has a better rate that is too good to be true, well that is just the case.

I had warned Amy to be watchful of moneychangers but we were sucked in to a better then average rate late one afternoon. You have to keep in mind that it is very, very, VERY hot in Bali and often hard to think straight. I’m sure we were hungry too!

This particular money-changer was offering 10,000 as opposed to 94500. It wasn’t too much higher so Amy decided she wanted to try. She placed her $100 on the counter and 45 seconds later the one million rupiah was counted, recounted arranged and rearranged as well as any street magician we’d ever seen. Amy even got to count it several times herself. But as the transaction was coming to a close Amy counted one last time and realized 300,000 was missing. The changer proclaimed his innocence stating that he was only taking his commission.

Thankfully Amy’s $100 was still sitting on the counter throughout the whole transaction. She grabbed her money back, I gave them a piece of Gladys and we went on our way. Even the ATM’s don’t ask for that steep a commission!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Broken Shower

I broke the shower…Ut oh

It is not uncommon to see older Balinese women bathing along the road in the evenings at local wells topless. Well utilized breasts, now in retirement, for the world to see.

I would like to think I am not yet in that category and was attempting to be modest by standing behind the column in my pleasantly designed stone outdoor shower. The style is a hand held with a holder for standing underneath the spray. I was adjusting the angle because there were worker bees on the roof of my uncompleted villa next door.

We obviously had a view of one another. Hello Wayan,  hello Made,  hello Nyoman and  hello Ketut. The next I knew water was shooting up like old faithful. Only Made fell off the roof. Maybe I am older then I think!

In Bali, the general rule of thumb no matter what, if you break it you pay for it. Especially with car accidents. If you run into someone from behind it’s your fault even if they pull out in front of you. No eye contact is ever made therefore one can always say, "I didn’t see them."  I’m guessing I may have had an expensive shower. Won’t be the first bath I’ve taken!

Another charming tradition here is the names of children: if you are born first your name is Wayan, second Made, third Nyoman and fourth Ketut…fifth…you start over with Wayan. It can be a tad confusing if there is a large family.

I am Ketut Salai  (prounced like King Tut) and Amy is Nyoman Amy (pronounced like the Seinfeld character Newman)

Amy is still sleeping. I guess her Mosquito net is sound proof. A huge palm leaf came crashing down just missing her bed. Paradise can be dangerous.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


We made it to yoga bright and early at 7am.  We ventured out of our Sanctuary at 6:20am for the brisk 20 minute walk to the Yoga Barn.  We were told when we arrived not to walk at night and in the early morning you get to see why. There is not sidewalk for the first 7-10 minutes and you are switching between the street and the open sewer.  Always remember to look down!

Yoga was very relaxing - taught by a charming Balinese women no bigger then a sprite and very flexible. We sat in the back as to not draw attention to our downward dog that was not quite down!

After yoga we enjoyed a lovely organic meal at the Yoga Kafe. Salia had a Blood Cleanser drink while I opted for the Energy one. I think my blood is clean enough at the moment!

We had declined a ride home from the kind British man that was in our class to have our breakfast and enjoy the adventure of the walk home. It was a wise decision. We managed to find more baskets to buy and Salai was scared by a rooster hopping out of the sewer.  He just wanted to say hi I think. Just like the dogs that bark and bark and bark and bark and bark letting everyone know they see you!

Now we had to Wayan's to spend more time on beaded beads and bangles.

Desa Sanctuary

We have settled into the “Desa Sanctuary,  The Village” in Ubud, Indonesia. It is a small property outside the main town. A couple from L.A. has managed to create an open air living situation with 4 villas of varying sizes. Ours is the largest. We were lucky to get upgraded to the BIG one because our medium one was still under construction. The small ones are for single visitors, or people really in love.

It is charming: the downstairs has a Balinese day bed with mosquito net and lounging area, small kitchen and dining table, the upstairs is air-con with King size bed includes one gecko and balcony over looking seductive pool. There are two outdoor bathrooms for continuous freshness and wireless internet through out the property. Who could ask for more?

Ok the 15 foot wall with broken bottles embedded with plaster into the top conflicts with the Sanctuary part but beside that, I feel closer to Buddha than ever before or is it Shiva?

Putu, Wayan’s husband and father of  Rama, is an excellent driver. He picks up us when we call to him on our handy rented cell phone. #087860600933.

I mention his driving skills because if any of you have ever had the opportunity to sit up front while cruising the roads of Indonesia or Thailand or any where in Asia, one knows the lines that are painted on the roads are just a suggestion.

To begin with they drive on the opposite side of the road. I’m cool with this until I approach a rotary, it’s counter clockwise and that makes me dizzy. Most of the other moving objects are motor bikes and women walking with 20 gallon barrels balanced on their heads. Throw in some sleeping dogs, agitated roosters, broken down mini vans, straw mats loaded with rice kernels (yes all in the road) no sidewalks but ditches on either side you have a great video game. The object being ”stay alive!”

We had a productive day at Wayan’s designing new colors for our bead projects…tomorrow Yoga Barn 7:00AM.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Moving to Bali

Can’t believe 3 days have gone by…what did we do? Well we traveled from Chiang Mai to Bangkok on Sunday evening landing at the elegant Airport Hotel at midnight, only to  “Rise and Shine” at 3:00 AM to catch a flight to Bali…who planned this trip anyway?

Upon checking in with Air Asia for our flight, we were told we weighed too much…at first I was offended then I realized it was our luggage not the effects of eating banana Rotis for 7 days straight.  Regardless it cost me an extra $100.00 guess I should have mailed the heavy beads home from CM.  Also got nabbed at Customs in Denpasar with beads in suitcase…. Make a note for next time: ship don’t carry beads.
Our friend Jerry met us at the airport and took us to a guest villa down a dirt road out of town that didn’t serve food or have a cold beer…. perhaps he isn’t our friend. We politely declined the accommodations and settled into a place near the shopping ghetto street.
At least at  “The Bali Rich Luxury Villa Hotel” we had our own dipping pool…so darn hot and humid in South Bali with all the traffic and congestion and pavement, we were reluctant to leave our little paradise villa…. I took one for the team and scouted for a circle K, carried cold ones back as Amy napped.
The following morning, ok Afternoon…. we walked Legion and found some cool stuff to add to the collection of current cool stuff.

Wayan picked us up yesterday from Kuta area and drove us to her beautiful compound: home & work…surrounded by rice paddies. She employees 25 workers…all making finished jewelry, beaded beads and beaded bangles.
We celebrated her son’s birthday yesterday…6 years old… A feast was served: our favorite treat was a kelley green rice flour concoction (the color coming from a leaf.) infused with liquid palm sugar rolled in shredded coconut. Big YUM.

The last time I was in Bali Wayan birthed Rama. I was actually playing golf with Brian in the highlands and wasn’t available to be the mid-wife. Can’t believe six years have gone by. Can’t believe we have 8 Beadniks. Can’t believe I have a daughter…busy 6 years.