Wanagiri, Pemuteran, Menjangan, and Taman Nasional Bali Barat

Two weekends of hiking and exploring. Life is good.

Wanagiri is a small village located in the mountains between Lake Tamblingan and Lake Buyan. A friend has opened up an ecotourism homestay here so a bunch of us piled into two cars on Saturday morning and made the drive there. After marveling at the views, we started our hike. Luckily, some people know the area quite well so they were able to guide us to a few AMAZING spots that included waterfalls, canyons, and a natural whirlpool area. I don’t have too many pictures of this because I was too distracted by swimming and romping in the water.

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After hiking we all came back and had dinner at the homestay. All around another great day in Bali.

Destination 2: Snorkeling and trekking in the north-west corner of Bali.

The trip started Saturday with a stop at Pura Ulun Danau Beratan, which is a beautiful temple that was quite busy with many processions and ceremonies going on this Saturday morning.

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After stopping at the temple, we continued on to Pemuteran where we stayed for the night. P1000323

In the morning we ventured off to Menjangan Island. Menjangan Island is part of Bali Barat National Park. It is known as one of the best places for snorkeling and diving so I was more than excited for our trip here. After a quick car ride and a bit longer boat ride, we jumped into the amazingly blue water to start snorkeling. I was amazed not only at the number of fish and corals, but also by the size of the reef. It was also very cool to snorkel in the shallow water and venture over to the drop-off for a few deeper dives. We stopped at two separate places to snorkel and were able to witness the vast aquatic life that exists in what seems like a whole different world from the land of Bali. I think I could have stayed in the water looking at the corals and fish for 5 more hours, but we had to get back..

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After snorkeling we had arranged a trek in the national park. To trek in the park you need to have a certified guide who works for the park and pay an entrance fee. I enjoyed the national park a lot because there were many different types of animals to see including grey monkeys, black monkeys, land crabs, and some sort of dragon (like a komodo). Our guide was very experienced and knew a lot about the animals and plant species of the park. It was nice to see that the park is well maintained and I noticed that there was much less trash than in other places I have been hiking on the island.2014-09-28 16.38.57

We stayed one more night in Pemuteran as we were all quite exhausted from the snorkeling and trekking. On Sunday morning we headed back towards Sanur, but made a few stops. The first was at the Jatiluwi rice fields which have been named a UNESCO Cultural Landscape. The view was amazing. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.

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I was also very interested to learn about the methods of irrigation for these rice fields as they are particularly lush and successful. I learned that the Jatiluwi fields are maintained by a traditional Subak irrigation system where farmers of a village work as a cooperative and all of their rice fields are fed by a single dam. Each subak or group of farmers is also linked to one of two water temples. Pura Batu Kau coordinates the subaks existing in West Bali, and Pura Ulun Danau coordinates the subaks in north, east and south Bali. These water temples are very important in that they hold festivals every 105 days, which corresponds with the length of the rice-growing season in Bali.

Our final stop on this cultural weekend adventure was to the Bali Butterfly Park. I don’t think I had prepared myself for the size of some of these butterflies or the potential to being so close to them. But I got used to it after awhile…kind of. Anneli was much more composed than I was.2014-09-29 12.59.202014-09-29 12.56.32

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Really? September? Really?

Wow. September already. Wow.

Some of the best peeps in the office on BATIK FRIDAY.
Some of the best peeps in the office on BATIK FRIDAY.

Some fun memories from august..(not in order of level of fun, mostly in chronological order)

1. Invasion of the tummy troubles. I was down and out for a good while with what I thought was typical Bali Belly. After multiple visits to a clinic in the middle of Denpasar, I actually learned I had made some “friends” who decided to camp out in my colon. Well, a few tests and a couple doses of anti-parasite medicine later I was getting “back on track”. Don’t worry there’s no pictures for this memory and I can definietly say I’ll never pull a Kelly Kapoor…ever.

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2. Visit to Nusa Dua: beautiful beach. Lots of caves to explore, especially during low tide! I didn’t have my camera with me, so major photo cred goes to my pal Anneli for her fab photos.

Nusa Dua
Nusa Dua

3.  More turtles! I stumbled upon the Bali Sea Turtle Society’s daily baby sea turtle release in Kuta beach. It was pretty much a huge group of tourists letting the small turtles scurry into the water, but I still thought it was kind of neat.

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Little sea turtle release in Kuta.

4. A quick visit from Pops. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to Singapore to visit my dad, but he was able to drop into Bali for a quick weekend visit. Its funny how similar family visits are here to family visits during a regular school semester. I showed him around where I live, we ate good food I’m usually too cheap to buy (helloooooo Italian pasta dinner), and good fun was had by all. We ventured down south to Uluwatu which, besides having a really great name (its like OOH-LOO-WAH-TOO), also has some of the most gorgeous beaches in Bali. During the day we visited (still under construction) Ulwatu Cultural Park and also the Pura Luhur temple.

Cultural Park, Uluwatu
Cultural Park, Uluwatu

5. FOOD. NOM NOM.

Copi Bali
Copi Bali aka Balinese coffee that is delicious and ridiculously easy to make (and consume)
Baby Bananas. LOOK HOW ADORABLE IT IS.
Nasi Campur aka mixed rice.
Nasi Campur aka mixed rice.
RICE FOR EVERY MEAL (but this one was heart shaped so it was extra special)
RICE FOR EVERY MEAL (but this one was heart shaped so it was extra special)
So excited about the heart shaped rice and egg.
So excited about the heart shaped rice and egg.

 

HAGS (still applicable, I believe),

MOO

WARNING: ALL COOL PICTURES ARE NEAR THE BOTTOM. ALL BORING WORDS ARE NEAR THE TOP.

VACATION WEEK. Boy was I exhausted from one week of work. Just my luck, the end of Ramadan with Eid Al-Fitr meant a week off from work for everyone in the company. Perfect.

I started off the vacation week with a quick afternoon trip to Serangan. I went by myself one morning as a test to see if I could get myself there. Apparently I got close. I did, however, stumble upon the TCEC or Turtle Conservation and Education Center of Bali so obvs I had to stop.

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I seemed to be the only tourist there at that time, but one friendly worker showed me around and even had me help him carry some of the new hatchlings to their first tank.

TCEC deals not only with breeding turtles for release onto the beach to increase the sea turtle population, but also rescues adult turtles that are suffering from accidental ingestion of plastics in the water or capture by fishermen. For a long time, turtles (or more specifically the turtle meat and shells) have been used in traditional ceremonies and have also had a high demand in the fashion and tourism industry. As the demand for tortious shell products grew, the population of green sea turtles in Bali saw a steep decline. This is why I was really excited to stumble upon TCEC and to be able to see all of the work they are doing. I’m sure I was smiling like a goon when the “guide” told me that he believes education is the most important thing that can be done and showed me a classroom where they regularly host school and community groups to teach them about sea turtle conservation. I was really diggin’ this place. Luckily if anyone wants a long term volunteer commitment, the TCEC is always looking for more volunteers. So who wants to come to Bali and work with some adorable turtles?

Two days later, I continued my vacation with a trip to the Gili Islands. The Gilis are a set of three islands with some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Gili Air is known as a chill beach made for relaxing, Gili Meno is honeymooner’s paradise, and Gili Trawangan (or Gili T) has some nice beaches and is much busier with restaurants, shops, and bars lining the main road. I even found a nice graffiti-filled wall to prove that I did indeed chill on Gili T.

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After a day of hanging on the beach and a quick 10 minute snorkel to catch sight of a passing sea turtle, it was onto the next adventure. Yes, I could have stayed and relaxed on Gili T for the week but I had a bigger boulder calling my name…Mount Rinjani.

It’s a good thing I didn’t do too much research on this or I might have backed out. Instead I decided to ignore the “helpful tips” online that this was a trip for “experienced hikers” and I set off with a group of people I really had just met for the 3 day, 2 night hike. Don’t worry, I had prepared myself with a sweatshirt and the only winter hat I could find..which happened to be a children’s hat from the supermarket.

We started off by taking an early morning public boat from Gili T to the island of Lombok. Fun fact: the public boats don’t run on a schedule, they only run when they are completely FULL. So you pay about 1 USD, hop on this wooden boat, hope that there will be more people getting on with you, and eventually (maybe?) head to your desired destination. Haha. We were in luck since it was early morning on a non-holiday so our boat took off almost as soon as everyone loaded on.

From Lombok, it was another 1.5 hour drive by car to our trekking center. Here we were met with warm coffee, banana pancakes, and more info about the climb. We also learned that we were running behind as we had to meet up with a French couple who were part of our group but had started a few hours before us. So we hopped into a back of a pick-up with our backpacks for a short drive and then started our ascent. The first day consisted of a 2,000 m climb and I was SO TIRED by the end. I think it was a combination of the heat and the steepness but I wasn’t sure how the second two days were going to go over if this was just the first day. Luckily I had some moo motivation and cute puppyness to distract me along the way.

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Anyway, I could go on for hours about the climb, but really it’s not as cool as the pictures are…(all photo cred to Cédric for the amazing night sky pictures.)

Even though Christina and I practically fell down the mountain all wrapped up in our sarongs on the third day trying to keep the dust out of our faces, I had a great time. Met some really cool people, had amazing porters (they carry up to 40 kilos and do the hike in flip flops!) and had probably the most awesome guide ever (Herman Trekker..check him out soon with his own website!!) That being said there’s definitely a reason most people don’t come back to do Rinjani a second time. The massage I went to that evening after showering 3 times and still not being clean…was HEAVENLY (slightly painful, but mostly HEAVENLY).

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night sky rinjani

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Salam,

Moo

SELAMAT PAGI, BALI!

Well, I’ve officially made it through my first week in Bali.

The 30+ hours of traveling was a really, really, really fun experience. All I can say is that I am glad that I will not have to do that again until 5 months from now. Also, sprinting through the Washington Dulles airport to catch a flight to Tokyo is a really intense workout. I highly recommend it. Step 1) Realize that your flight from Detroit is now landing at the time the flight to Tokyo is about to board. Step 2) Have the flight attendant make an announcement to let you run off the plan, across the tarmac, through the terminal, onto a people mover to another terminal, and into your plane to Tokyo. Step 3) Find your seat near the back of the plane only to realize that the passengers next to you are two, crazy (but also somewhat cute) dogs. Step 4) Nod casually at the passengers staring at your red face, but do not explain why you are sweating profusely. Just smile and nod.

Needless to say, I was looking sharp and excited to head to the office after the Tokyo flight and a night spent wandering the Jakarta airport. But the landing into Bali really woke me up more than all of the coffees I had. As the pilot prepares for landing the blue waters and sandy shore comes into view and all is good.

Logistically speaking, I am living in an area called Sanur. So far it seems like a really nice place to stay for a while. Lots of tourists, yes, but not as many as in other areas like Kuta and Seminyak which seem to draw a large portion of the Australian tourists looking for a wild time. There is even an Australian reality show called “What Happens in Bali” that seems to be just like the Jersey Shore but based in Kuta.

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The beach in Sanur.

So instead of catching up on sleep I decided to start my time off right in Bali with a weekend trip to Ubud. After meeting everyone in the office on Friday (side note: the office is a converted villa, very traditional, no shoes allowed, no cubicles, very relaxed) I was invited to join 3 of my desk buddies the next morning for their adventure to Ubud. For many people, Ubud  is best known as “that place that the woman from Eat, Pray, Love filmed her movie”, but it is also known for its rice paddies and monkey forest (YES MONKEY FOREST). So to sum it up Ubud is filled with hippies, yogis, rice, and monkeys. It’s a fabulous place.

View of the rice paddies in Ubud.
View of the rice paddies in Ubud.
Happy Monkey.
Happy Monkey.
Cool Tree. Vines touching the ground are supposed to be good luck.
Cool Tree. Vines touching the ground are supposed to be good luck.
Mischievous Baby Monkey.
Mischievous Baby Monkey.

I stayed the night in Ubud in probably one of the coolest houses I’ve ever seen. We had to walk on a winding path through the rice paddies to get to the villa which stood alone and seemed to be built directly on-top of a paddy. The fact that our payment to the owner of the house was just a bottle of wine was pretty nice as well. That night we went salsa dancing. Totally not my thing but hey, you only go salsa dancing in Ubud once right (actually, I really hope it was just that once)? We then had to rest up for our Sunday morning “ecstatic dance” session at the Yoga Barn (a pretty well-known yoga retreat center). I don’t think I can accurately put it into word but there was a lot of hippies, glitter, dancing, and chanting involved. Please, Google it if that peaked your interest..

Ubud was such a great place, but I know I’ll be back a few more times during my time here so heading back to Sanur on Sunday evening ok. The first week of my internship went well. The company is small but doing a large variety of projects and I’ll definitely learn a lot.

After work was filled with either attempts at surfing or house hunting. Until mid-September the wind conditions make surfing in Sanur (or Seminyak) impossible, so until then Kuta or Uluwatu are some of the go to spots. I’m still working on getting a board so for now I just show up at the beach and rent a rashguard and board from a guy for 500,000 IDR (about $4.50). It’s pretty crowded in the water in Kuta but if you can find a good spot far out enough its quite fun to just sit on your board and watch some of the kids KILL it on these massive waves. Seriously, they make it look effortless.

As for the house front, I’m currently looking with two other office interns. If one place works out we will have our own place about 2 minutes from the office and will probably each pay $100 USD + utilities a month. Yes, the kitchen will pretty much be outside, and so yes you may see a lizard near your stove, but you will not have to think about selling an organ to keep up with rent like in Boston or any major US city.

Hopefully some of the pictures I have attached to this post will show up and I’ll try and keep the ball rollin on these posts.

TTYL MY BFFERS,

Moo

Jambo from Delhi!

Jambo from Delhi!
Unfortunately we will be flying out of India late tomorrow night, but for now here’s some cool stuff I saw during our time in Kerala and some cool things from Delhi.

1. Sunset on the beach in Kovalum.
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2. Sunset from our houseboat looking out onto the rice paddies.
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Side note: lots of great sunsets recently.

3. This is a pineapple I found whilst we made a bus pit stop to answer nature’s call. I plucked it from the plant myself and proceeded to carry it on the bus and other modes of transportation we had to take to get to our next hotel. I decided to document the pineapple’s journey. This was the pineapple riding in an open-air jeep up some very small and twisting roads to the tea plantation where we were staying for two nights. Bet you would never have guessed that.
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And this is my pineapple friend chillin with some tasty cardamom tea from the plantation.
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4. Up next on this list is a picture from a traditional Kerala Martial Arts performance that we saw one evening in Kerala. They even taught us a few pressure point moves that we have been using on each other quite a bit.
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5. Last but not least….the Taj Mahal. Our trip to the Taj Mahal definitely exceeded my expectations. It took 22 years to complete and has been called a “teardrop on the cheek of time”. Made of white marble with gem inlays the Taj quite literally took our breath away, although that was probably also due in part to the fact that it was 115 degrees outside. I could have spent hours sitting on the grass and staring up at it, but we also had the Agra Forts and a 3 hour bus journey on our schedule for the day.
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6. And now our second to last night here will be filled with paper writing, Himalayan water, and peanut butter…
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Until next time, when I’ll be writing to you from Europe and/or ‘Murica…good night.

Moo

Secondsies

I am on limited internet access right now so I’ll make this post pretty short and sweet.

Things I have seen/experienced over the past few days:

1. The terrifying, yet fabulous joy of riding in tuk tuks. So far I have taken a tuk tuk twice. Both times were in Mumbai where the traffic is always insane and road rules do not seem to exist. A tuk tuk is pretty much a three-wheeled cab without doors that can fit two people comfortably (or three squish-idly or four if you are pro-tuk tuk riders). They are a pretty quick and a ten minute ride to the local university cost us 25 rupees which is less than ‘fiddy cent.

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2. Elephanta Caves. Really cool and I don’t think my pictures do the caves justice. Look up the history here: http://asi.nic.in/asi_monu_whs_elephanta.asp

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3. Mysore Palace. After leaving Mumbai, we headed to Mysore which is known for its amazing palaces. The Mysore palace was absolutely amazing, but no pictures were allowed inside. I want one of these Saber-Toothed Tiger statues but the palace only has 6 so I don’t think they would be willing to sell one or two to me. Oh, and we also saw, petted, and got a blessing from some elephants here. Pretty cool.

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4. Henna. Obviously I asked for a version of a mustache on my finger as well as a full hand design.

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That’s all for now, folks. More to come as we bunk down in Bangalore and Kerala.

Moo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Post

Apparently my post written in the airport was not actually posted. So here goes a second attempt at a first post written from the comfort of my bed in Mumbai. While it is just past 11 pm I am justifying being in bed by the fact that I was up at 4:30 this morn (thanks to my new BFF jetlag). Getting up early seems like it will be a common theme, as most of our days seem to be packed with both traveling and exploring different regions of India, followed by multiple hours of class. Luckily I’ve been writing the daily haps down in a notebook so that I can share some of the stuff we are doing here with all (probably 3) of you out there. So without further adooooooo:

Day 1:

Mahatma Gandhi Museum – This was a really cool stop that we took in the morning. It is a house where Gandhi stayed for an extended period of time that has been converted into a museum. Check out his room below.

 

Other events: accidentally walked into and attended part of a wedding in a temple (no one seemed to mind though and one woman was really excited to tell me all about arraigned marriages), consumed my first of many delicious Indian meals that included mango lassi, puri, samosa chat, and dosa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 2: Our morning revolved around a visit to the US consulate, while the afternoon was filled with a very LONG academic session which was interesting but especially difficult to focus after the first 3 hours. Oh I also bought some sweet traditional Indian pants that have all of the amazing qualities of pajama pants while still being totally normal to wear around.

Day 3: It’s difficult to believe we have only been here three days at this point because I feel like we’ve already done so much. Today started out with a tour of some of the temples in a section of Mumbai and a stroll through some of the amazing flower markets where flower necklaces (mala) and temple offerings are created.

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After this we headed to Dharavi, deemed to be the largest slum in Asia. The opportunity to tour this slum was eye-opening for many more reasons than I had expected. Besides trying to wrap my mind around the fact that 1 million people can possibly reside and in 3 square kilometers, it was really interesting to learn about the innovation and businesses that have developed within Dharavi. We walked through both the long street filled with pottery stalls, many run by immigrant people from more rural areas of India and also saw the extensive network of labor around the breakdown of collected recyclable products. There is definitely a lot of innovation, sense of community, and a large number of success stories to come out of Dharavi, including many people who found success while living there and are now giving back to the community. Still, it was also easy for us to see the dangers involved in many of these job opportunities many of which involved chemicals, confined spaces, and open flames. Walking through Dharavi was something that left us all with very mixed emotions and much confusion, but will definately be a memorable experience of this month long trip.

More posts to come eventually as I continue my own version of Eat, Pray, Love.

Moo

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