Resolutions Part 1 - Journey To The Other Side Of The World

January 08, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

I realize that in all of the holiday madness I haven't put out a new blog post in awhile. There are two reasons. One, holiday craziness. Good craziness - the busy, happy kind where I got to see a whole lot of family and friends in a short amount of time. The other reason...I have been working over a post from our trip to Bali in my head for weeks now, trying to figure out how to say the things I want to say without being overly preachy and obnoxious. I finally figured that it is January, the time of year when everyone is making some sort of resolution, hoping to be healthier and happier in the coming year. Is there a more symbolic time for life changes? I think not. 

I have also decided to put this bad boy out in installations. No one wants to read pages and pages when they click on a blog post. When I read a blog I want a short, sweet paragraph or two along with some pretty pictures. It will be more than a paragraph, but I'll do my best to make it as captivating as possible.

Here we go.

Part 1. Journey to the other side of the world.

On the evening of November 16 I found myself straining to see the polar ice through the inky darkness below. No luck. The little airplane icon on the seatback screen taunted me as it slowly moved across the very top of a global map. The extreme cold and polar regions of the world have occupied a fascination in the back of my mind since I was old enough to have read Never Cry Wolf and White Fang and it was torturous to know that the north pole loomed just below us, invisible in the darkness of the endless night.

I was nearly finished with the book I had toted along and we were only halfway through our 16 hour flight from JFK to Hong Kong. Mike and the rest of the plane slumbered as I wiggled impatiently, ready to land and connect on our final flight to Bali.

My husband Mike was headed to Bali to scout and put together a trip for high school age students this summer for National Geographic Student Travel. The objective was to find lodging, safe dive outfitters and interesting activities to occupy the group for the duration of their stay. His wonderful boss was allowing me to accompany him as a belated honeymoon of sorts.

For years I have heard about Bali, the most magical, spiritual, wonderful place on earth. I have always pictured lush, green jungle creeping up to pristine beaches and vibrant coral reef, fishermen up at dawn, casting their nets in the red glow of first light, children frolicking in the surf and women selling handcrafted fabrics and exotic produce at village markets. Those thoughts retreated the moment we stepped outside the airport and were assaulted by a cacophony of people, motorbikes, cars and trucks.

I was aware that Indonesian countries are famous for their scooter culture but this was beyond what I ever could have imagined. We saw entire families stacked on one moped. There were mothers and fathers with newborn babies just resting on their laps while they careened in and out of traffic. We saw people riding with chickens, televisions, speakers, and ladders tied to the back. We even saw one man driving while his friend dragged a wheelbarrow behind them. My greatest regret might be the fact that I didn't get a good scooter photo due to the fear of losing my camera had I been brave enough to stick it out the car window.

(Photos - Beautiful day in Kuta and my trip planning, traveling, dreamboat partner in crime of a husband Mike)

Our driver took us up the coast to Kuta, one of the coastal towns close to the airport. The beaches were gorgeous, the surf was perfect and the streets were crowded with tattoo parlors, convenience stores and cheesy boardwalk shops. It was as if we had flown for two days and landed smack in the middle of the Jersey Shore. One night was enough to see what there was to see so we packed up, met our driver and moved on. I had assumed that once we left the crowded coast life would slow down and I would catch a glimpse of the island I was so excited to see. We wound our way up the side of a mountain, behind scooters and trucks full of watermelon, cement and dozens of people. Produce stands lined the roadsides but the prospect of pulling over seemed impossible. We were like salmon fighting our way upstream. It was a tight squeeze on small roads and after 2 hours of winding, beeping, honking, we arrived at our first stop, the temple on the lake.

(Photo - In past years a larger temple has been constructed to accommodate the masses that come to visit and worship at the temple each year. The old temple still stands at the edge of the lake offering visitors a stunning glimpse of old Bali.)

(Photos - meticulously crafted bamboo and palm decorations prepared for an upcoming ceremony)

The location was stunning but the atmosphere was akin to that of disneyland. Vendors lined the entrance, hawking cheap plastic souvenirs, knockoff sunglasses and packaged snack foods. There were absurd statues of cartoonish animals placed oddly around the gardens; the paint peeling from thousands of children climbing atop at the request of camera clad parents. The temple itself was beautiful but surrounded at all times by tourists wielding "selfie sticks", reluctant to miss an opportunity to capture themselves in front of the gorgeous Indonesian architecture. From time to time I tried to step back and imagine what the temple looked like before the influx of tourism the island has received in the past 20 years. The intricate carvings and statues spoke to the immense talent of the island's craftsmen. The temple was an odd blend of the old and sacred and the new and lucrative.
 
As we pulled away from the temple I remained hopeful that the Bali of my dreams still lay on the other side of the misty mountain.
 
(Photos - Temple guardians at one of the outer, unused gates)

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