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BALI HOLIDAY… ARRIVAL !!!

After our brief stay in Singapore we made the final 6 hour flight on the day after Christmas to Denpasar, the capital city of Bali, a province of Indonesia. Joel was there to meet us & make the hour-plus drive returning to Ubud… just beyond which he & Nergrantha live, in the village of Sebali.

This stone marks our hard right turn…
 from the left lane… which is where they drive
except when it is invitingly required 
to join the often breathtaking traffic dance 
of a preponderance of motorcycles…
  more efficient to the scale of  ancient
foot paths called gangs
widened barely enough
the automobile threatening
to scrape its rock walls.
Right… into the narrow access lane [gang] leading between old family compounds with traditional gates… this one being at the second hard right turn...

… just before the one with playing youngsters giggling “Hi! Hi! Hi!” while waving shyly. On the other side is a pen out under the unkempt jungle overhang full of pigs… then arriving at the parking fore-court & simpler entrance to our temporary home. 

Vajra is a Hindu & Buddist ritual object that symbolizes the proprieties of both a diamond for indestructibility… and a thunderbolt for irresistible force. 

They have built this compound consisting of several stucco buildings & courtyards set into the landscape of rice paddies… which we woke to see immediately outside our room… buffered only by ponds filled with lotus & koi.

 Their gate, seen from inside the main courtyard… open to the rice fields, with our Villa Sati’s entrance just beyond a thatched  pavilion useful for waiting or sitting to gaze.

 

Directly opposite, along the smooth  stone terraced causeway suggesting a dam between the rice fields & the more formal pools is the entrance to their home, guarded by a serenely sculpted Buddha head & night-blooming moon flowers. Inside is another private courtyard with a small lap pool beside the glass pavilion of their living space, with Joel’s workroom above. Their bedroom is under the forward roof, from the eaves of which are hanging a strand of Joel’s Cloud Buddha prayer flags.  On the walls are Dollar plants, which grow clinging tight & flat as a painting to any supporting surface.

 Stephen often hung-out in the thatch’s shade… contemplating additions to the hand-written journal which he’d kept on his first month-long visit to Bali… 20 years ago!

Beyond the rice is the much larger villa, built first thus owning the original name of Vajra, which is rented to guests… common practice for the ex-pat community choosing to live here.

Here is the view back from there… the rice, volunteered from the last harvest, was awaiting clearing for the next planting.

The water was just beginning to be allowed to flow,
 demonstrated by this shot of a slough cut into the dike along that walk,
draining from one level to the next…

This photo shows how close the houses are built to the paddies…

A long wooden walkway through the paddies connected the two. The main kitchen is there, so the servers carried food to us along this path. There is a staff of10[!] including two cooks, two gardeners, the several house boy/servers & a manager. The large villa can host up to 8, so when it is full, plus having personal guests like us, these delightful folk can be very busy catering to all the various needs…

While we could hardly go “native”, given the luxe of our setting, 
we both took to wearing the occasional exotic blossom tucked behind an ear…

Stepping stones bridged the pond which continued on either side after the gate to our door …

Baskets made of leaves folded & stitched with thorns of some kind hold offerings of flowers & rice in the niches on either side… these are replaced afresh several times daily, yet they are found ubiquitously in front of all gates & doors, even on sidewalks in front of shops, easily crushed by foot traffic, but no doubt effective at warding-off malignant spirits… as do the traditional screens inside, blocking direct view… since it is said those entities have difficulty turning corners. We saw nary a one!

Our bed dominated a spacious two storied room… with yet space up into the rafters!
The view from bed was… ETHERIAL !

Humming ceiling fans were happily ever present… as was the ambient soundtrack of a subtle plashing, gurgling trill made by the entire back wall of… water… falling in rills over rippled surfaces into a sluice… beyond the carved wood stand supporting a large gong acting loosely as “head[BONG]board”…  although we were told the bed is more usually two couches.

A cantilevered stairway leads up to the roof garden over a utility area off the courtyard, with entrances used mostly by the staff into a small kitchen, just inside the hallway close to where Stephen is sitting. That also led to our bath…

That roof garden overlooked the neighboring temple
it more intimately offered my second encounter
with the gloriously improbable…
poke-in-the-eye…
blue jade vine
 with which I fell in love
last year in Hawai’i…
 On my list of the reasons

to consider living in the tropics… 
 This color is certainly near the top…

Joel designed the frieze in the bath…
photoshopped from images he made several years ago when workers were cleaning the muddy pools… 


The sink is a boulder… carved with a hollow to hold water…
sitting on a cabinet with a ruggedly-textured wood mosaic facade.

A large slab of wood to the right is
the dining table at which the four of us ate,
since theirs sits only two.

Widi sets-up the table for breakfast
after he brought us coffee one morning…
folding the napkins into clever sculptures he learns from the web.
We would have a plate of fresh fruit to begin…
always with small flavorful local bananas…

Since Nirgrantha is vegetarian, dinner was usually vegetables & rice in various spicy preparations,  while meat was added to the other three plates for us carnivores…

 We did happily play into this Buddhist household by accepting their invitation to sit with them before the morning meal. I quite enjoyed this sign which noted the area’s name Ubud with the philosophy

The meditation room was just through a door in our room, dedicated to Nirgrantha’s long practice, with photos of his teachers, a beautiful Buddha bronze sculpture…  plus a wonderful  gong-ringing bowl. The light was dimmed by a stained glass window screen of a mandala design he got from the Dali Lama. Such practice is too rare these days for me… usually sitting for 35 minutes…

 One morning, while the paying guests were away on a day trip, they took us on a tour of Villa Vajra & its extensive garden Nirgrantha has been developing for some years… tumbling down the steep slopes beyond toward the river below.

Here Nirgrantha lounges in their home as introduction to this interesting & wonderfully witty man, retired from a psychiatric practice in New York City…

Upon entering through its portal one is met with another watery setting… more stepping stones lead toward the several pavilions…

Hanging vines bloom from a pergola covering the walk toward a building containing two bedrooms stacked, with bathrooms exposed so they are combinations of private, enclosed gardens with sheltering roofs.

Another tall wood & bamboo ceiling vault above the enclosed living room which overlooks into the main outdoor living area down at the level of the pool…

That pergola can be seen above the sculpture set in the wall above the pool.

To be able to design outdoor rooms like this seems an improbable delight to one living well north of the equator !

 I liked these airy cast-paper pieces set into screens separating the dining area, with the large main kitchen. There are numerous doors & passages to allow staff unseen access to move while preparing, cooking & serving between the villas.

The surprise of a spa gym is tucked below all of that…

 

From that level
begins 
a rather steep
descent
of steps
landings evolving
toward
terraces & paths…
planted or variously paved

While a stone wash basin invites along going down or climbing up…

Then a meditation platform materializes…

The dollar just keeps climbing…

The deep long view was elusive… however, 
the river was invisibly palpable.

 
One last spot to have chai on our next visit…
perhaps with chess

There’s a river down there somewhere, but well below even Nirgrantha’s dreamings to direct his lithesome sturdy gardeners
I’ll leave us down here… 
knowing the seductive terrain above beacons 
with the romance of more anciently Terra-formed farming… 

I’m cogitating telling the next chapters in this journey…
 we’ve only just arrived,
still familiarizing ourselves with this new territory, 
terroir tropique
I am at home in all climes so far…