Living in Bali I’m careful not to crush the delicate box filled with petals and bread at my feet and just follow the path wherever it leads…
Many more of the tiny boxes are scattered over the stone steps and above the mossy walls are the gold temple umbrellas, bright against a cloudless sky.
I’m not sure where the path leads but I appear to be in paradise.
A rice farmer is chanting melodies in the distance… just loud enough to remind me I really am in Bali.
As I look up my visual senses go into overdrive with the verdant green and lush rice field right out my window and literally on my doorstep.
The ricefields go on to be a great source of daily joy during our time in Bali, but more on that in a later post.
A long, long time ago a clairvoyant told me I would live in Bali. It sounded exotic and exciting but I couldn’t see it at the time.
However I went and read about Bali and how everything is aligned for balance and harmony, it fascinated me and thus piqued my initial interest in Bali back in the 90’s. After a couple of short trips we (Des and I) were now here for a few months.
So in a nutshell – the balinese life concept of ‘Tri Hita Karana’ takes the on three aspects of harmony.
Firstly – Harmony between people and god called “Parhyangan’. That means; building the temple, praying at the temple, cleaning the temple, keeping the religion symbols well, making offerings every day.
Secondly – Harmony with each other called ‘Pawongan’ in this simple concept of relationships with each other. It is conducted by good thinking, speaking good things and doing good things.
Thirdly – Harmony between people and environment called ‘Palemahan’ means the concept of man’s relationship with the environment.
Despite, this concept we find much garbage in Bali, although I did see this lady doing her bit with recycling.
It creates peace and happiness which draws you in.
The Balinese exude a calmness all the time and you cannot help but get in their groove.
For us it was choice not between the beach and the mountains, it was ‘where’ in the mountains around Ubud.
These days Ubud’s main road; Jalan Raya is choked with scooters and people carriers, restaurant signage almost obscuring the temples, touts offering “transport”, side by side with men and women in checkered sarongs and neat head-dresses progressing to ceremonies.
Cross the Campuhan Bridge and Ubud performs one of its perplexing jump-shifts from traffic-clogged tourist mecca to rural tranquillity.
Turn hard left up the hill and breathe deeply… you have entered the peaceful village of Penestanan.
Late one night we flew into Denpasar and were whisked off to this place I describe, called Penestanan, and Devi’s Place to be precise.
It was late, it was dark and so it was straight between the sheets to have dreams about awakening in Bali.
After some sound sleep, the morning dawned with a chorus of bugs and birds and the sound of a water fountain that gently woke my slumber…. ah yes I can ‘hear’ we are in the tropics.
Fat, orange claws of heliconia are draped over the high wall on one side of the path; coconut palms rustle above and the fish splash around in the pond.
Soon enough breakfast appears with a perfectly spoken balinese lady with the typical huge Balinese smile. Then a couple of lovely dogs pop around the path followed by Jani. It turns out Jani and I were born in the same town in N Z. The world is small.
She has developed this lovely sanctuary of bungalows, villas, gardens and pools where we have landed for our first week in paradise.
Devi’s Place, which means ‘Place of the Goddess’.
There’s no real public transport or bus system here in Bali and the roads are definitely not made for buses anyway.
Although readily available, getting a taxi everywhere just felt wrong, so scooter it was to be.
Day one we hired a scooter, no mucking around and there was no looking back.
It’s how you get around in Bali – you ride a scooter.
‘Scoopy’ the scooter was brand spanking and shiny new with just 122kms on the clock.
He became our best friend, we took him everywhere and he was reliable and hardly needed any petrol, even Lucky liked riding with us on Scoopy.
In the back of my mind I knew that we needed a scooter in Bali. I knew that the Balinese police couldn’t care less here whether you had a license or not and I knew that it might be a bit dangerous.
I was right on the first two but wrong on the last point about ‘dangerous’. We actually felt pretty safe riding around, once we got the hang of how to ride in ‘harmony’. Des and I that is.
You know how I talked about harmony before… well the same on the roads, they are patient and calm, let you in and road rage is pretty much unknown amongst the balinese.
However you do need to watch out for those white, bare chested, young male tourists who like to zig zag amongst the traffic like heros – that is the danger.
On renting our scooter…we were given a 5 min walkaround, the keys and two helmets and a handshake.
No paperwork – No license – No nothing except $45 a month would be added to our bill, I can live with that.
I’d like to say I can live anywhere, but that’s just not true. I can stay rough for a few nights or even weeks but I can’t ‘live’ rough for four months, unless I’m in Nepal.
The Balinese Bungalows and Villas at Devi’s Place have just the right amount of ‘western’ comfort combined with the balinese culture and furnishings to make life very pleasant indeed. We ended up staying there for most of our time in Bali.
Not that stained glass and pretty cushions make life better but I’m acknowledging and appreciating living with nice decor.
We really only need basic things like a hot shower, unstained linen, decent wifi, a kitchen, a stovetop and a table to work at with decent lighting and Villa Intani had all of that plus more.
I can easily do without an oven or a microwave, a couch, or a tv.
Next up is food… Every country we visit has a different style of eating and because Bali is tropical, we’re not going to be eating roast dinners and stews like we were back in New Zealand.
We found ourselves at local warungs pretty regularly in the first few weeks and loving the cheaper cost of eating out compared to Australia and New Zealand where we had spent the previous 6 months.
But it all adds up and soon enough we get back to cooking in our villa.
Supermarkets in tropical places have a certain smell, not exactly an off smell but not fresh either. Our local Bintang was like that with only the fresh food section slightly air conditioned.
They were able to supply much of what we need to survive, as long as we supplemented with fruit and veges at the local markets.
Unfortunately their meat was often bordering on green, so once again I’m thankful for Des’s skill in buying meat that keeps our bellies happy.
There’s plenty of imported food choices (translation too expensive) especially for us bule as we are called. However I find myself happy with rice, peanuts, noodles and Indonesian spices which I can buy in ready made packets for about 50 cents. Recalling my recipes from my favourite cooking class here in Ubud.
A few things I miss; that are here but are non essential and too pricey… like apples, wine, lemons but then local mandarins, limes, local Papaya and Bintang beer were perfect if not better substitutes.
So while I always miss food from home – yes there are plenty of food choices to keep us happy.
I can live with that.
No definitely not said Des.
I had this thought that since we were there for four months having our own dog might be possible, there was certainly plenty of dogs looking for homes.
Second thoughts – imagine trying to re-home them when we leave, would be unfair and might be difficult.
But wait – at Devi’s Place there are 6 gorgeous mostly friendly dogs – 3 Bali Dogs and 3 Pomeranians, maybe we could share?
One of these; a plump and slightly dense Pomeranian ‘Denny’ was already ‘living’ with our friend Ellen and within a few days we had ‘our’ very own villa dog; Laki Laki or in english ‘Lucky’.
Denny’s mate Lucky started frequenting our house during the day until one night it got dark and late – Lucky decided to stay for a sleep over.
He favored the couch over the hard floor, until I realized too much of his hair was left behind – so you guessed it I bought him his own little dog bed, which you can see he really hated.
He was sold – from that night on he slept over every night, rode on the scooter with Des and jumped all over us when we arrived home, and played cool games with us.
He became my gorgeous boy and I told him that 10 times every day!
So in the end – I got to have my dog in Bali – I can live with that too – secretly I absolutely loved that.
From tiny ants to snakes and bats flying by the pool we have them all here in Bali.
But wait there’s more…frogs, lizards, geckos, dragonflies, butterflies, beetles and more.
You have to share your villa with the bugs in Bali, because they are everywhere and they live in your villa, period. I’m sure they’ve read my blog post and know it’s comfortable to live in the villas.
When we chose our villas in Bali we knew we would be living with bugs because the typical bali villa is the epitome of indoor-outdoor living. Although we can close the doors to our living space and the bedroom and sleep with air con, the villa is far from ‘sealed’ from the outside world.
We know that because the rain gets in too.
We’re lucky to have a mosquito net over the bed which not only keeps the mozzies out but avoids you getting urinated and pooped on by the geckos in the night.
Because we have a ‘tropical garden shower’ we also have the crawlies to go with that – the shower is full of spiders, spider webs, slippery snails and pretty butterflies.
Then there’s the dragonflies and mud wasps that buzz around that land on me and my computer. We’re used to them, they’re quite charming and do no harm.
But the geckos are the most fun. They talk, they skitter up and down the walls and ceilings, they breed and best of all they kill any mosquitos that might like to hang around.
Watching them with their funny little feet climb vertically all over everything at lightning speed is a treat. They cleverly and with swift and calculated moves pounce on flying insects with precision.
We’ve seen them eat mosquitos, and unfortunately also the eat the pretty butterflies.
On the downside they also leave gecko poop and pee all over the floor. I cannot believe how much there is in the morning when I get up. Thank goodness it’s sweepable and not all soft and gooey. And if you’re really lucky you’ll get a poop on your plate when you’re having dinner, like I did. It blended pretty well with the rice.
In Bali they see it as good luck if a gecko poops on you.Unfortunately, the villa is a breeding ground for all kinds of bugs, the snakes eats the frogs and the rats, the geckos eats the mozzies and anything else that flies… the ants eat anything they can get their hands on including our food.
Have I told you about the ants?
We have ants. Millions of ants.
Different kinds of ants… Bull ants, medium sized ants, small ants, and microscopic ants, black ants, red ants…every type of ant lives here with us.
Almost every morning we head into the kitchen we have a trail of ants leading somewhere. They will find the tiniest morsel of dropped food or dead bug and will go to town. I do get mad when they want to share my food though.
A freshly backed banana cake was inside the bench oven.Thinking it was sealed and ant proof – oh no it was found crawling with ants. The back of the oven had some fan holes!
The big black Bull ants freak me out (even more than snakes for some reason) they are so big and fast – one villa we stayed in had a nest in the door frame, like right inside the wood. When we sprayed the anti ant spray in the holes… it rained ants! BIG BLACK BULL ANTS skittering all over the floor.
I never saw anything like it, they fled at sped for dear life.
My least favorite are the microscopic ants. They bite and don’t leave a mark or an itchy bite, they just hurt for a second. I have never been more fidgety and itchy in my life. I seem to scratch constantly but have no actual bites… it’s weird.
Even when nothing is crawling on me I still feel the sensations, and just think they are crawling over my skin.
And of course not to forget the monkeys… not in the villa though – thank goodness.
Then there is the snakes and rats… often Lucky would bark in the kitchen at night – we dismissed him, until one night Des opened the drawer under the oven… and it was moving – with rats.
In rapid fashion he removed the drawer and ceremoniously swept the rats into the ricefields for the snakes dinner.
A night or two later I realized the scratching that had been waking me in the night was not Lucky and the little black sprinkles on the bedroom floor every morning were not all geckos.
Seemingly the solution to being rid of rats is get a cat or a python!
We’ve had bugs in the kitchen, the bathroom, on the toilet, and in the bed, in our shoes. Note to self turn the light on when using the toilet at night and always check your shoes for frogs.
I’ve read that snake attacks are rare, but then they don’t have anti venom for all snakes here either, so you need to be very careful – which brings me to our beautiful ‘Lucky’ story…
Every day Lucky comes to the door and barks to get in… Des plays a little game, barks back, hides behind the door and all hell breaks loose when Lucky pushes the door open and finds Des on the floor!
Playtime…Yay says Lucky.
TODAY however – the usual “Lucky barking and Des barking back” was a bit different – Lucky wasn’t coming in.
I was getting tired of the noise and could hear Lucky was getting agitated.
Jokingly I said to Des – there might be a snake at the door!
So we carefully opening the door and there it was:
A lovely wee “Spitting Cobra” all headed and hooded up ready for attack. First I grabbed Lucky and put him safely in the bedroom then got my camera leaving Des the job of capturing it.
Thankfully Des managed to trap it in a plastic basin we had while we awaited help from the local people. Apparently they can spray deadly venom up to 2 metres, they go for the eyes and it can blind you. (feck – I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time).
Moral of that story – If Lucky barks – take notice!
You know typically we haven’t taken much notice of the weather where we go on our travels. We’re going where we’re going and whatever the weather is the weather.
We’ve ended up in plenty of places in rainy season without issue. We arrived in October and it was very hot, 30 plus most days so we were doing any activities very early in the morning.
I was expecting Bali to be hot steamy and uncomfortable for the months of December and January. But it actually cooled down in January to around 26-27 with a bit of rain most days to cool things down even further, so was very nice.
So forget a jumper or coat in Bali anytime of the year, light dresses and shorts are go… just need a poncho and umbrella for downpours.
The storms and downpours can be a bit of fun until they threaten to flood your house or strand you and your scooter in town when the road turns to a river.
Overall the climate is pretty perfect and as long as I can sleep in air conditioning, and sing in the rain, then all is well.
And with a private pool to cool off in we were reminded again of the paradise we were enjoying.
This is an interesting topic, because usually here in Bali, your rented accommodation will come with staff that come in and clean everyday as part of the deal. That’s nice, yes it is, I agree when you are on holiday for a few weeks. You get your bed made, changed and cleaned like you are in a hotel.
But when you’re here for a few months it gets a bit invasive, this everyday cleaning thing.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not ungrateful and because of bugs cleaning is absolutely needed everyday.
What we had to get used to was someone always dropping in anytime… calling out helloooo… the cleaning staff, the gardener, the pool guy and so on, you get the picture… too bad if we were starkers in the pool. Some mornings I was just getting donkey deep into work and bingo another interruption.
While not major – it’s something we had to get used to, you never get any real privacy in Bali and that is the Bali way.
Where to start…morning walks in the ricefields…
In Bali you can hike volcanoes, white water raft the rivers, snorkel in the ocean, hike the rice terraces, downhill cycle in the mountains, spend days and weeks visiting temples and attending ceremonies, or just walking around and taking in the vibe of this beautiful island, I know it’s cliche but there is something for everyone here.
And when you’ve done all that, don’t forget about the amazing massages, reflexology, yoga, pilates, healing, spas, facials and any other little beauty indulgence you may desire… even botox and tattoo palours if that spins your wheels.
The landscape of Bali is everything you might expect on a tropical island and more…lush jungle vegetation, waterfalls, endless rice terraces, white and black beaches and volcanic mountains.
Add to all of that the balinese culture and beautiful ancient temples and you have what’s called paradise overload.
YES – YES … we can live here.
We lived here for four months in ricefield villas and we were totally happy and contented…
Even after four months though there’s so much more to see and learn in Bali.
Yes, we’ll be back to ‘live’ again and again for months at a time in the future but not permanently.
We can’t give up New Zealand that easily…