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INDONESIA QNE – BALI…

We love escaping     the overwrought holidays 
 with their traditional obligations
[usually involving some gleeful threat of snow…]
Whenever we can free ourselves.
Thank you, my Sweetman, 
for your irritating wisdom 
about planning!
After our last trip four years ago, 
we hungered for a more tropical solstice.
We flew to visit our friends Joel & Nirgrantha. 
They host guests at Villa Vagra
in the village of Sebali, near Ubud, 
an artistic center on Bali, 
only one of the many islands collected as
the country of Indonesia 
in the the south seas.

After nearly 30 hours of door-to-door travel we arrived in Bali just before the solstice… Mostly escaping the frenetic holiday energy, although Christmas is a commercial event with decor widely seen even in Buddhist & Muslim countries.

A 13 hour flight from Seattle, left for Taipei just after midnight Saturday/Sunday, crossed the International Date Line to arrive early Monday. We flew EVA Elite so we enjoyed slightly more spacious seats plus, quite nice service & good food.

Meals on the flight to Taipei consisted by our choice of multiple bowls of mostly Chinese foods, avoid the western load of gluten: pasta & bread]. I especially enjoyed breakfast of “congee”… as written on the menu, but verbalized as “porridge”… a soft rice, more liquid than not, with additions including a packet of fluffy flavoring powder delightfully, aptly called “fish floss”. I want more!

I remembered being introduced decades ago, to a similar breakfast a friend from Singapore called “jook”. I realized too late that the pickled salad was intended to be added, as Tinnee had taught me in those Sedona days. I prefer savory breakfasts.

Memory…

Another 5 hour flight brought us to Denpasar, Bali where our friend Joel met & drove us… while rain threatened… an hour more to their Villa Vajra near Ubud…  putting us, for this visit, in the larger guest villa, which is usually rented out, but tourist times are tough on Bali and much of Indonesia, due in part to overbuilding.

Joel had arranged to have a masseur ready to welcome us with wonderful body-work before a simple dinner. What a delightful treat to have the wrinkles of traveling deliciously ironed out! During my massage there came as well the welcome of a first delightful thunderstorm!

This was the view from the massage table on our bedroom’s covered deck looking down into the living/dining pavilion… two stories of open space with drop-down weather shades.

We had indeed leapt ahead of time by flying over the International Date Line… so we went directly to bed, quite ready to sleep into our jet-lag.

I began a journal on the plane which continued to evolve fulsomely throughout this entire travel. I have a rather checkered history with such travel journals, which often find themselves neglected in all the movement. This one informs this text.

Remember that I am rather a hermit meditating in a fast lane. I’ve become comfortable choosing to miss some excursions to enjoy instead rare qualities hovering ’round the solitude essential to savor  dancing so lively in time & place. Travel has many complexions…

Waking from deep sleep accompanied by intense frog-song, we joined Joel &  their sweetly aging dogs, Abelard & Heloise for their regular walk along the nearby ridge familiar from our last visit four years ago…

The grass growing along the ancient stones is what becomes the traditional material for thatched roofs, which are becoming more rare due to their shorter life span than iron-wood shingles, which, while more expensive last years longer.

A treat was to see a small, low growing, version of Passion Flower…
At the trail head is this demon’s mouth doorway, 
carved from the wood of a tree root system…

Back home for a gorgeous breakfast with Nirgrantha in their delightfully efficient villa. A lovely plate of fruit: banana, kiwi & the incredible, richly flavored mango & papaya which are in high season.

A lovely wild native orchid blooms in front of their sofa:

On the wall of their courtyard garden is a zig-zagging black pepper vine, which I identified in answer to Nirgrantha’s quiz, having seen them in India.

But the rich exuberance of plant life in the tropics is exemplified by simple moss on a lovely pot…

I might wish to attend the sale of his textile collection which Nirgrantha intends, such as this jacket on their bedroom wall.

Or… this sarong patterned guaranteed to make any movement an undulation… I doubt I could afford such treasures as he has collected in his years here.

Joel suggested lunch at a vegetarian/vegan restaurant he’d recently discovered, accessible only along a rough road followed by a bit of a walk, which made it impossible for Nirgrantha to join us.

He is confined to the interior their walled villa’s two roofed sections… living & sleeping… with a garden & pool between. Such architectural incorporation of the tropical bio-system becomes lovely logic.

Moksa is another open pavilion set well above & overlooking its garden planted in the river-bed’s fertility. I was entranced by the graceful swirls creating beds shaped with puzzle-nobs of paths interlocking soil. All bordered with a staccato of coconut husks, sensibly allowing the middle of them to be easily accessed… delighting this gardener!

The plates were deliciously inventive… served in / on pottery made by the partner of the owner who runs the front-end. I got to meet the other partner, who is the chef, to compliment him on the raw squash “spaghetti” I had so enjoyed sauced with a turmeric dressing… which I finished with a spoon!

We ought to have visited the potter’s studio/store, but we had too little time… Joel wanting to get back to check on Nirgrantha. We did stop to change money, each rather instantly becoming millionaires several times over, in the local Rupia, for a $200.00 investment!

Both of us napped more deeply than intended… waking in the jungle twilight just before dinner. Grilled Mahi-Mahi & poppingly-delicious small potatoes roasted with rosemary… plus the Brussels sprouts which we’d brought from home at their request, being impossible to get in the tropics. A holiday feast!

Another deep sleep, with curious dreams, brought me to waking just before dawn, to watch the fireflies blinking like morning stars above the mosquito netting of our bed. I got-up to enjoy the coming of the light on this solstice morning.

Solstice still is important here, almost at the equator… just enough below to make some noticeable difference, according to Joel, as the longest day of the year.

Leaves from their Bodi tree… genetically a true scion of the Buddha’s… hold deep truth.

We decided not to follow our original plan to go into Ubud for lunch & to shop. It seemed it would be too crowded. Instead Joel suggested lunch at a new eco/farm restaurant higher up the road where he’d celebrated his recent birthday. The half-hour drive took us through an area frequented by tourists, so there were numerous open shopping places for all sorts of schlock around a once picturesque rice terraces… now looking too shoddy for that traffic to even want to photograph… illustrating what he explained as the rapid deterioration of local culture.

At Basanta we were met as we parked by a guy with walkie-talkie bringing a young woman who turned out to be our guide [& later our server]  through the rather newly developing gardens, showing us the two strains of coffee [Arabica & Robusta] which they sell as “Luwac”… which I will explain later to those not too faint for adventure. We ate in one of several typically open thatched pavilions overlooking a lush valley.

Joel & I had interesting avocado smoothies laced with chocolate, pretty, but I might prefer a spicier addition rather than such heavy sweetness. They were too much like dessert! Stephen’s drink was made with beets… a lovely color. We were put-off by the plastic straws, after having a more beautifully organic version made from stems of papaya… a clue to how clueless we ultimately found much of this operation.

One starter was deep fried spinach… a variety with large densely textured leaves. I’m curious what was the batter’s binder, making an equally sturdy crispness… eggs, perhaps. The other was a timbal made of fruit & veggies enclosed with long thin petals of sliced cucumbers, another technique I wish to try at home. Main courses were a fruit & vegetable “pate” contained in a collar of banana leaf stitched with a pick of bamboo, a similarly wrapped bundle of batter fried potatoes, perched horizontally atop, floating in an orange sauce. We shared a second preparation of red rice served with a basket of various sauces, small salads & bits of flavorful preparations & sambals, all contained in a tight composition of more stitched banana leaf vessels.

While all was fine in its elaboration, the meal did not seem so well tended as the lunch the day before. The entire experience seemed contrived toward the notion of the curious coffee, which involves collecting the beans after being processed through the digestive systems of civets [a weasel like animal] which supposedly works some wonder worthy of exorbitant price. We did not like the idea, seeing the rather cruelly caged animals & samples of the the end of the process. Such curious excess of obvious & overt-marketing seemed another example of what “eco” & “organic” are not really about. The gammon music was boringly repetitive & the rackety walkie-talkies the entire staff carried at full volume were distracting & disturbingly insensitive.

We would not recommend it over Moksa… or indeed at all!
No matter, 
by the time we arrived home all was again refreshed 
Ganesha…

INDONESIA TWO – JAVA – PRAMBANAN

One important part of this travel to SE Asia was to visit two ancient archaeologic temple sites near Jogjakarta,…on the island just west of Bali… we flew to Java on Christmas Day. Java is predominantly Muslim, while Bali is mix of Hindu & Animist.

Borobudur is Buddhist. Prambanan is Hindu. Both were built in the 9th century. Each is unique to the style of religious, philosophic or artistic  manner… particularly in silhouette… yet with notable resonances in detail suggesting notions toward friendly co-existence at that time, in this place…

Our cab driver from the airport offered us a two day package including both sites… plus, as it turned-out, several more adventure-not-predicament stories!

We accepted… he delivered us shortly at Prambanan.
Remember, this was Christmas Day [look at the left side of this photograph]…
… at a Hindu Temple complex…
 …in a Muslim country…
 We were antique or at least aging moderns in free-fall…

In the orientation pavilion there was this handsomely stylized model of the 
basic architectural form…
 Another model shows the scope of the entire site, a series of terraced courtyards enclosing the three main towers, 
Devoted to Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu.
In all there were some 200 smaller temple structures surrounding the central towers, presently still seen as piles of unsorted stones awaiting restoration.
This ninth century Hindu temple complex is a Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site which has been only partially restored after several huge long ago earthquakes tumbled its un-mortared stone towers. 
Particularly on a day dancing under lively lovely clouds these make a sharply jagged silhouette with the tallest being some 47 meters 
[approximately 140 feet] in height. 

All the surfaces are elaborately carved with borders & decoration. 
An impressively huge effort, both in the original building & in the reconstructions during the last century by a series of international archaeologic efforts.
 Steep high steps lead up through several levels of narrow terraces 
around which one can circumambulate to view the distant landscape between sculptural elements or 
look down 
to  carved stone panels
 telling stories from the Ramayana… 
an ancient Hindu holy history.
 Near the top were deep dark chambers housing large sculpted images
 We took our turns at the crowded doorways to allow others to enjoy their arrival inside the heart of these structures. My eyes needed time to adjust, coming in from the bright sunlight, also I enjoyed sharing some intimate moments.

Because of the universal end-of-year holidays the sites we have come to visit are quite crowded… mostly local tourists, rather than western ones… many families & student groups… assuredly almost none celebrating the holiday we were there to avoid, yet all knowing the nearly universal aspects of the commercial Christmas Mythology.

Universality…

We, being the rare westerners, attracted attention… numerous shy smiles from young students… encouraged & emboldened by our own easily responsive smiles… demonstrated they were eager to practice their English.

They inevitably began by asking where we are from.Upon hearing “USA” they got even more excited & wanted to have us pose with them for selfies… or… grouping around us, one trading places in turn with another, to join the merriment of spontaneously friendly photographic moments.

We must accept we are millionaire stars of some variety…

I think of the old notion that photographs could “steal” souls… which might then suggest that part of our souls are captured in faraway albums doing this kind of cross-cultural work!

Nearly everyone, older as well as young, has a cell phone & were making frequent shots just as I was doing with my Nikon.

While we all were collecting soul from the ancient art, we were collected as well in the present opportunity enjoying how humans naturally communicate.

Happily we were also captured by a group of young men to pose in their shots… Stephen handing his phone to the one shooting saved that moment’s soul-energy for ourselves!

Some groups were wearing identifying tee shirts or hats, but also many dressed beautifully in lovely, fashionable color-coordinated head scarves, Stephen caught some of them in a candid moment…

Echoing the interesting contrast of graceful curves gentling the very steep steps.
Some details were happily almost whimsical!
I found these illustrations of the several restorations quite interesting, showing various modes of reconstruction techniques:

The site is quite impressive, complex in it’s original construction & even more so in its reconstruction & restoration. It will long remain to be a huge puzzle!

Our driver asked if we were interested to stop at a batik shop, which indeed we were… wanting more shirts in this complicated craft of wax-resist dying for which Indonesia is famous. It turned out to be the same place Joel & Nirgrantha had suggested we visit!

We spent a happy hour with two helpful women wearing matching headscarves… the uniform of the store… finding gorgeous additions to our own wardrobes of shirts… these being very well made of high quality work in both the lovely dying & fine tailoring… we also bought a few for gifts. It is easy to spend our millions!
 
At last, after hours from our early start, long drive to the short flight, tour of the temple, we arrived our hotel, where we were happily gifted our room earlier than usual… we were ready for a nap!

INDONESIA – THREE – JAVA TWO: THE PHOENIX & BOROBADUR

At last, after many hours from our early start with the long drive to the short flight, tour of the temple & a shopping excursion for batik shirts, we arrived at our hotel, where we were happily gifted our room early.
The Hotel Phoenix was built in 1918 as the home of a spice trader & is now a registered historic building. It was purchased in 1930s by a Dutch gentleman who urned it into a pensioner’s hotel named The Splendid. After the Japanese occupation [1943-45] it became the Chinese Consulate. It was, by hearsay, supposed to have become the  residence of the first president of the Republic Of Indonesia, Sukarno. 
In 1993 it was remodeled & added onto in handsomely matching manner to become 144 rooms, all with cast-iron railings on their sweet balconies. Ours overlooked the original courtyard where we enjoyed the elaborate breakfast buffet, 
 
We relished the restored antiquity of the Phoenix, with delightful stained-glass clearstory windows & a graceful glass doors etched with ginkgo leaves in Art Nouveau style. 

The first morning we got up to meet our driver at 4:00 in order to be at the Borobudur temple site in time for sunrise at its pinnacle… each with our “breakfast-in-a-box” offered by the hotel. I’d requested mine to be gluten-free, of course. I discovered only later it must have been packed by the janitor! A tiny tough, sour apple with a matching orange, a better banana & three dried-out slices of rice bread… no butter, nor any of the nice cream cheese which Stephen got with his pastry… & no napkin nor even a plastic knife to cut the fruit into pieces my dentures could handle… nothing to punch into the peel-proof safety-seal on the bottle of juice… “Gluten-free” seemed to imply I’m a monkey!
But… for the two following mornings, the breakfast buffet below our balcony more than made-up for that lapse. European offerings of pastries, cheese boards, smoothies & omelettes… or the Asian offerings including a traditional Javanese breakfast, presented by a woman s, seated on a low dais to serve spicy rice dishes & exotic juices… or fine rich chicken soup ladled over rice porridge, made even more savory with choices of garnishes like dry fried onions, toasted soy nuts & sweet soy sauce. Javanese food is generally sweeter than my usual taste, but delightfully spicy as well. Always there were wonderful selections of tropical fruit!

A handsome young waiter kept us well “kopied”… this is a land known for its coffee [kopi], including the familiar Java & Sumatra.

A European fountain, original to the house, spouted water from the mouths of four curly-horned Pan heads, held up by a bevy of naiads, into a sweet small pool where the original swimming pool had been, now making space for small dining tables on the surrounding terrace. All is a well tended throw-back to a colonial century ago. Just fine for us!
Because we have been so busy moving about, much slowed by the extremely heavy holiday traffic, we enjoyed lovely late afternoon naps, waking to take refreshing showers & have a cocktail in the quiet bar &  before our dinner outings. We’ve mostly enjoyed simple local food as our choice. The city has numerous universities & colleges, so is full of student energy.

BOROBUDUR…

We agreed to be picked-up early by our driver for our intention to watch the sunrise from the second site we planned to visit… the Buddhist temple complex called Borobudur.

It has become well advertised as a place to watch sunrise on a special ticket, so we became part of another crowd of tourists, this time more international, Being given a flashlight to facilitate the trek to the top of its broad pyramid in the dark we joined the pilgrimage to the base of the looming low pyramid… a very different silhouette or profile than the steep angles of Prambanan.

I have long nurtured a reputation for being lazy in the morning…
However, I have rather often been caught getting up in the “middle of the night” on this trip,
either because of jet-lag or for these adventures.
I’m happy for them!
This actually was the main attraction to us for this excursion to Java… I had studied it in college art history classes, remembering it’s distinctive bell-shaped stupas, 
but having little notion of it’s enormity. 
Equally ancient as Pramanan, the site we visited yesterday, Borbudur has also been involved with the same vicissitudes of earthquake disruption & volcanic intrusion over centuries. Long forgotten under cover of volcanic ash grown over with jungle until the 17th century Dutch discovered remnants of carved stone under what looked like just another hill.

Several centuries of various excavations revealed much more… numerous Buddha heads being broken-off & sold as souvenirs in Europe. Eventually it too became a World Heritage site & has been much restored by the efforts of UNESCO. It may be the largest Buddhist temple in the world.

Winded a bit by the hasty climb we joined more than 100 others from all over, Indonesians, Japanese, Australian, European & North Americans. We share the same planet circling the star we had come to watch bringing a new day… may it be peaceful! 
The sound-track in this expectant moment was dominated by the clicking of camera shutters over the voices murmuring in many languages… taking photos seems to have become the dominant universal language. Actually, here it was nearly impossible to take a shot without including someone else making their own photo! The ubiquitous selfie sticks would unexpectedly pop up into the composition I had framed for its momentary illusion of a lack of humanity… “ruining” my hope for something more pristine. 
As I studied in the increasing light, it became obvious this was a giant antique form of lego blocks: nearly identically carved stones locked together by tenons fitting into sockets so well that they could be re-assembled. Stones having varying patinas from the numerous places they had fallen-out of the original exposure, Variously oxidized or sun-bleached yet becoming a new version of that original in a patchwork of subtly differing colors. After a bit of initial disappointment, being slightly annoyed that there was no pristine coloration, 
I gradually became impressed by an ancient technical design skill 
I had not expected.

Thus the all-ness forever practices being perfectly unstable. They might once again & yet again become tossed & reconstructed in future seismic events.
A new appreciation for me!
Each stupa sheltered a meditating Buddha facing facing every direction…
Unfortunately many of those sculptures, particularly their heads, 
were long ago carted-off as souvenirs. 
Some stupas now contain headless Buddhas, others, nothing at all! 
Fitting, perhaps, to the formlessness 
which that practice seeks.
Nonetheless quite sad artistically & archaeologically,
Still… here is spirit.
Several have been left open to demonstrate.
This one faces the still regularly destructive volcano.
 Now it is very popular prize for photographers… increased, perhaps, by a group of Japanese folk.
 Devotion of some seemed obviously staged for the camera’s lens…
 
My Coup d’Grace was making a photo
of Stephen, making a photo of a woman, making yet another photo… 
of the Japanese woman we’d been noticing 
posing in various prayerful attitudes for quite some time… 
in deep devotion to ego it might seem.

 I love the story… catching my version of their versions
in a triptych of photography.

I became fascinated by the grotesques at the tops of stair rails… 
never quite knowing whether their tongues were lapping us in welcome. 
Or spitting us out as intruders…
It became a lovely experience enjoying holiness of people in place… 
 We enjoyed, as well, our own moments
 playing poseurs!
At ground level, in daylight, we could better realize 
what supported our experiences above in dawn’s light.
Even at short distance, one can realistically imagine how 
a couple of earthquakes,  
plus a heathy volcano spewing ash 
could create a jungled hill 
hiding history for centuries
 I first heard “No Scratching” in the exercised voice of a woman 
climbing up the those steep steps onto the level where I stood puzzled
scratching my bald head…
until I began to notice the numerous signs admonishing against graffiti!
Of course, it became a gentle joke 
 
 The lower terraces present wide corridors with reliefs telling stories…
interestingly similar to the Hindu site.
 We enjoyed our own moment of playing poseurs as well!
I still puzzle the bell shapes called stupas, accepting them as probably not actually referencing bells so much as airy enclosures in which the Buddha sculptures meditate in some perpetually stony resonance… still, my bell maker can imagine an eternal resonance impossible in any physical other than some sense of holiness. I am happy to ponder all that in the eternal moment which this place brings as a gift from deep past…

I still puzzle the bell shapes called stupas, accepting them as probably not actually referencing bells so much as airy enclosures in which the Buddha sculptures meditate in some perpetually stony resonance… still, my bell maker can imagine an eternal resonance impossible in any physical other than some sense of holiness. I am happy to ponder all that in the eternal moment which this place brings as a gift from deep past…

Looking down we celebrated having seen this before the crowds arrived.
As the gates opened to the throngs without early tickets,
we began to move down, exploring side terraces with friezes telling stories resonating with those at Prambanan. 
It is suggested that these two religions existed in some kind of easy communication during time in this place. 

 In daylight we could see what supported our experience in dawn’s light above.
At short distance one can see how a couple of earthquakes, 
plus a heathy volcano spewing ash, could easily construct a jungled hill
Continuing down the wide walkway to the exit we met arriving groups of school girls, who, emboldened by our returning their smiles of curiosity… would chorus almost in unison “Hello, mister!”… once adding “we love you”!

So was the feeling of admiration & respect for our answering their “where do you come from?” questions with “USA”… “Ahhh… Ooo-S-A… very big country!” then often mentioning the presidential personalities… loving Obama, of course, yet often mentioning the “new president” with several attitudes… sometimes questing our opinion of him. Usually we would all agree to a wait & see attitude. They study about us, yet we know so little about them…

Returning our flashlights got us a coffee & snack before meeting our driver to eat those boxed breakfasts the hotel had packed for us…

INDONESIA FOUR – VULCAN…

ANTS ON A SLIGHT SLOPE…


I had not gotten more than some vague notion that his program included an excursion to the “Vulcan”  [the volcano, Merkaba by name] which involved another long drive through the snarling traffic of which I was becoming weary. I continued to be less & less interested, but Stephen seemed excited enough I made my peace. We got to the place where we were to take a jeep, at another expense, finding all the places fully booked. I was momentarily relieved as we started back down, but the driver’s determination invented one final attempt with success.
Soon enough we found ourselves perched in an old, open US army vehicle with a sticker on the dashboard right in front of me stating “No road, No problem!” with a young slight driver who stated he had almost no English & seemed a bit cocky rocking & rolling on what once might have been a road, but was now only a jagged slough of boulders & dust between the occasional short broken patch of maybe half a lane of pavement. They had given us dusk masks for good reason! 
He proved to be a good enough driver & cute enough under his skull printed scarf pulled rakishly over his face for me to find some attraction dangereuse as I watched his almost dainty feet in soft canvas shoes dance on the clutch & brake pedals, but that was hardly enough to make up for what promised & delivered bone jarring whacks on the broken down seat cushion & sharpish, un-cushioned hand-holds.
Stephen was in back on a bench seat with only the roll-bars to hang onto… having a great time, he said. I had to believe him because I gave him ample opportunities to renege on the affair…
Ours was one of a seeming thousand such, although most were better vehicles filled with families, many of the women in blowing headscarves or burkas… all seemly enjoying their rides. I can be tough, I can pretend… 
We stopped at the “museum” which was simply the remains of a house which had mostly survived the last big eruption, during which many people were killed. Parts were quite open, all was filled with dusty ash & on display were the half melted carcasses of a television & computer… with a collection of CDs fused in their case. Two sewing machines looked in slightly better shape but that ash would clog any mechanism. Many household objects were lined up in various states of melt & char… some, perhaps stored in drawers, were in surprisingly recognizable shape. Nothing of much interest beyond the imagined memories of an unimaginable event. Several macabre horse skeletons hung from the porch, along with what seemed to be a wooden gong… perhaps it was to be used as a warning device… I wonder the story it might tell of such hell..
Back in our stalwart chariot of Hades we lurched upward… often being passed by spiffier rigs… to a site with a huge boulder 10-12 feet tall telling another story of natural force, plus a viewpoint looking over into an open pit being mined with heavy equipment & big trucks going down & climbing out onto the same road. One of those was mired, tires screaming into smoke, barely making it off the rad which would have blocked us, for how long?!? Stephen observed that by then it had a flat tire [if any tire at all?!?]… whew !!!
The next destination, was a bunker, labeled as such with big  steel letters, with a lively souvenir market & food stands to entice the hundreds of passengers from the near hundred jeeps parking within some curious system of rotation known only to the drivers. I’d been observing parts of that system as we had been stopped at numerous”toll” points by guys giving him a paper ticket while in the same gesture he passed off a small note of currency… all as graceful as his dancing feet.  
We went down the steps into a chamber perhaps 20X40 feet in size, with a big pile of rocks filling most of the curiously tiled floor for some reason. Numerous other folk found photographic moments for posing in groups, but I remained puzzled until I learned later from our car driver that it was built as an emergency shelter for those who lived or worked on the volcano. However, he explained, it had instead actually baked some of those people in the inferno…
My notion of this operation was that we thousands of humans in hundreds of jeeps were like ants on an anthill… a very unimpressive version of hell…
We [thankfully!] never got anywhere close to the “top” as was advertised & I was pleased that only a short ride brought us happily down to our beginning… leaving me with the sense that we’d been taken on a circuitously local “joy ride”, The return trip to the Hotel Phoenix was still a version of the original ride through heavy holiday traffic. We headed straight to the bar for a drink! 
One night we went, at Joel’s recommendation, for dinner at ViaVia, which turned out to be a for student venue with much better simple & inexpensive food than the slightly ragged & worn demeanor would suggest… this is the everyday Asia which one comes to love once one lets-go of American  expectations for antiseptic tidiness. To love… or not… often one is brought to contemplate larger realities than the views through the hole of a television screen. 
There are so many humans crowded into very active street-life: pop-up markets on evening sidewalks, for example; many casual shops with rolling metal doors up for business, or down for closure; “construction sites” with stacks of brick & collections  of litter; all interspersed with much classier glass fronted shops: restaurant entrances leading back or up into varying degrees of finish & finesse… it is all so fascinatingly varied! Anyone with a sense of adventure is thus rarely bored with the predictability of mall parking lots. Yet, there are the occasional Circle K’s, Micky D’s & Starbucks…
After dinner we shopped in an attached store to find the knock-off Teva like sandals Joel mentioned for about ten dollars. Walking toward another market street Stephen wanted to visit he impulsively engaged one of the bike rickshaw-like carriages, not realizing it was human powered rather than motorized as are most. Adventure! not predicament! But, within a few minutes of our driver’s slow but stalwart efforts on the pedals [including enough conversation to know he had grand-children!] it began to rain. 
Stopping, he folded up the baby-carriage type roof & secured a plastic sheet in front of our exposed legs so we stayed mostly dry in spite that this became no light Seattle rain. Getting out at the night-market we huddled with the crowds under make-shift awnings, watching the vendors securing their wares away in tubs & bins… shopping mood soggy… quite drowned. We worriedly wondered how to get back to the hotel.
At a next flooded street corner a young man with a big umbrella rescued us, hailing & helping us into a taxi… but having only too-large banknotes & thus nothing to offer as thanks… he gave us a genuinely generous smile on top of his kindness! to strangers! We’ve discovered such blessings are not 

HOLIDAY GREETINGS FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD…

Our time here in Bali is lovely, especially after recuperating from the actual travel. A deeply relaxing time with our friends Joel & Nirgrantha. Luscious meals & conversation; numerous deep naps; several massages plus an intensely charged thunderstorm to clear our energies. Nothing like the usual holiday time in the States, which is why we are here.

I hope & trust you are enjoying your own versions! We wish you JOY in your own climes! We celebrate with you.

As usual, I am keeping a journal, rather more long & detailed than you might think my sharing to be a gift… ‘making far too many photos as well. I’ve not had much time to edit either, but I’ll add a bit of color here & you can catch more on my blog later.

Joel caught our tropical spirit in holiday colors as smoothies at lunch several days ago. Note the Papaya stem straws!

It was something like 30 hours of travel from our Island to this one… a 13 hour flight from Seattle to Taipei with a 4 hour layover before the 5 hour flight to Denpasar, Bali, where Joel met us to make the hour+ drive to the VillasVajra, their home.

The left of the front two villas is where they live, two small pavilions inside a courtyard with a pool. The right is where we stayed on our last visit.

See my blog from then: 
http://grbarnett.blogspot.co.id/search/label/Bali%20%2F%20Singapore

Across the rice paddy is the larger villa which is usually rented, but this time we are being hosted there, using only one of the several suites.

A wooden walk-way makes a happy crossing…

Inside the gate is a water garden with stepping stones over its shallows planted with water lilies, cannas… papyrus. Fish dart beneath floating fallen blossoms from vines on trellises above.

The water then flows between the stepping stones to our room’s door over a waterfall into the lovely swimming pool below. The two story thatch-roofed open living/dining area & the kitchen are nearby.

Our bathroom is an open space in a private walled garden…

We love the bed with mosquito canopy, allowing us to leave the sliding doors open to the night air & the raucous frog song. One of which bellows in Morse code! Fireflies collect on its top mimicking stars!

A dalliance of ducks live close to our room, useful to reduce pests in the paddies for the farmers. We hear them chuggleling when getting up in the night… there is a temple next over. Bali practices an animistic Hinduism. We often hear drums & gamelan music along with the quacking.

One sweet custom is to make offering baskets with flowers & bits of fruit or rice which are placed in special niches daily at the doorways…

On sidewalks outside businesses or even in driveways!

The rainy season has begun a bit early this year… a thunder storm accompanied our massages to electric effect… delightful! But the next day we raced deep-darkening clouds home.  Just as we were hurrying across the wooden walkway between the rice paddies from the first villa to ours the drops began to splash the paddy waters, drenching the last few steps lit brilliantly by very close lightning. Safely inside, we listened to the most literally stunning storm I’ve ever experienced. Each bolt was followed by raging, crashing rolls of sound like being inside a pipe organ gone berserk! The gushing of rain matched the incredible intensity, giving no break in the drama as we waited the promise of still more madness with each slash of visual brilliance. I have always loved thunderstorms & have missed them, being a rarity in the Northwest’s renowned but quietly soggy version of rain. This was a stupendously satisfying dose!

Of course the tropics gift my eyes with exotic plants in shapes & colors to inspire notions I might use in the studio. This bamboo shoot is just at the entrance from where the car is parked.

While there is a poinsettia in their courtyard it is not blooming yet, so I send this as a substitute for the holiday…

& this bell-shaped stupa, which is deep in Nirgrantha’s ravine garden, can function to ring from us to your celebrations…

Blessings to you all!
Gordon & Stephen

HALLOWED WEBS…

While swiping at webs along garden paths, I come again to appreciation for this creepy season.

Mourning the shortening light of these days… while marveling that one species gathers crop in this brevity of late autumn… building substantial dreams held in elastically ephemeral architecture.

Such caught the mist in my camera’s eye recently:

Even as I must walk though numerous others built over garden pathways, our THIS IS IT deck seems perfect in aspect for these web structures, One one recent foggy morning I was gifted these shots…

 This capture surprises me still…

 Again… in higher resolution for those who join me in love of the macro…

My wish for our constructive ride through these instructive webs is to celebrate being captured.. reminded…

WHICH HEAVEN MIGHT BE NEXT?