They say that every cloud has a silver lining and I am going to have to agree…yet our cloud wins even a silver lining with a fluffy golden pink one here in Bali. As we sit and watch the sun slide behind the glowing green rice fields while sipping an ice-cold Bintang, I can’t help but feel so relieved to be here and not in Iceland. Sure I am sad we didn’t get to see our families or hang with Megan and the amazing team we had pulled together for the Iceland weddings but, I feel like we SHOULD be here right now. You have heard us say it so many times I know, but truly, everything happens for a reason.
While here in beautiful Bali we have had time to build content for the new website (which is close to launch), we have re-set our bodies, which were about to be abused with a schedule that would make Santa flinch, with rest and peace, we have unwound from the disappointment of being led down the garden path by a deranged lady and we have ultimately bounced back with a force parallel to none. Weddings are arranged in several countries moving forward, we have just invited the King and Queen of Jordan to our ceremony in Petra (I’m not even joking) and in the next few weeks Boris will touch down in Singapore. Bring it on, we are ready…all thanks to Bali. Bali is a tiny lush, green paradise ringed with pristine sands and tropical turquoise waters. Inland, in Ubud where we are staying, resplendent rice fields glow a magical green, the mouths of carved Gods hold offerings of pretty flowers, rice and gently smoking incense as rich moss crawls gently over their curves, the faces of the peaceful people hold wide smiles as they carry trays of delicately, lovingly made baskets of offerings on their heads and the sun glances over all between the huge fingers of the coconut trees. Calming music sails on the breeze on a Sunday, the beat held by tiny cymbals and the melody joyous voices. Scents of incense mingle with fresh herbs and spices; lemongrass, mint and kaffir lime the prominent notes, forcing hunger upon you at all times, your tongue craving the tingling flavours of the local cuisine. We have eaten out more here than we ever have in our lives and have tried everything imaginable; it is all fantastic.
Ubud is the cultural heart of Bali and without sounding like one of the thousand yoga loving hippies that flock to its centre, it is a place of peace and tranquility. We have thankfully found ourselves outside of the epicentre of the town in a cheap villa and have remained here, not tempted by the pull of fancy tourist restaurants or monkey forests and have immersed ourselves in the local way of life…with a few perks. The Balinese food culture captured my heart in Melbourne when I found a cookbook in one of the house-sits we did. I cooked solely Balinese for weeks. When we arrived here in Ubud we went to the restaurant opposite our villa to find it is managed by the author of the very same book. Janet DeNeefe is an Aussie who moved to Bali, married a Balinese guy and also fell in love with the cuisine. One of the recipes had been denied to me in Australia due to the inability to get many of the ingredients there, so, when we saw that there was a cooking class available to cook that same recipe we jumped at the chance.
The ceremonial smoked duck was an interesting class. The hostess (not Janet herself) talked us through the ingredients, we chopped them and smushed them on an enormous volcanic rock pestle and mortar. Next the pastes were massaged into the poor unsuspecting duck whose head and feet were unceremoniously snapped and wiggled until they complied with the desired direction…which was…again unceremoniously for a ceremonial dish…in its own bottom. The duck was then wrapped lovingly (almost in an act of asking forgiveness for such abuse) in coconut tree bark and buried in a smouldering pile of rice husks for 8 hours over night. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait that long to taste all of our hard work as, rather in the style of Blue Peter, there appeared one that had been made earlier. The duck was soft and tasted mildly of smoke, the accompaniments we made were fiery as hell and we were all thankful for the carrot and cucumber salad to cool our mouths. It was all incredibly tasty and the talk about Balinese culture very interesting. Small snippets of our hosts life came with her excitable chatter and her endearing accent made us all giggle. That was as far as our ‘touristing’ went outside of eating at a couple of great restaurants. Getting to the great restaurants is an entirely different tale in itself.
The danger of ging anywhere on foot in Ubud, (which seems a completely alien concept here I might add, taxi drivers park willy nilly all over the pavement adding to the danger of putting one foot in front of the other to get to a place) is the pavement! The path which can only be described as a death trap takes some maneuvering. Slopes SO steep you have to take a run up to get up them or risk a broken ankle getting down them are the least of your worries. The gaping holes in the pavement can certainly kill you and if it looks like it might wobble when you step on it, it most definitely will. It is hard to decide which parts of the path are not going to disappear under foot like those floating bricks in Super Mario Brothers. You have to carefully pick your way along, eyes always on the ground. The traffic whizzing by removes any temptation to just walk on the road but sometimes there is no choice. Trees sprout randomly in drive ways, tendrils drip from overhead offering a perfect opportunity to find some kind of Amazonion looking creature on your face should you dare to walk through them, scooters, cars and animals park themselves perfectly in the way and street vendors block the entire path with their trolleys. God forbid one should visit with a pram or a wheelchair. The restaurants all require the dance with death to get there, with our favourite spot only 200 meters away it seems lazy to grab a cab. Going there in the light of day is a risk but only if you had a clumsy accident or glanced up while walking. However, after eating our fill, consuming a bottle of wine( and maybe a cocktail) and in the dark, the death threat becomes real.
The food and the service is worth it though and it is so cheap it is rude not to eat locally instead of cooking (which I never thought I would say…EVER). We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Bali but new adventures await. Jordan has been a push for us mentally and financially after Iceland but we have made it happen and we have a great team coming along. After Jordan we have the joys of maneuvering our 20 foot camper around Singapore…one of the most heavily populated cities in the world (the 3rd in fact). So, we’ll just pretend that isn’t happening til we get there!
Denial is the best medicine right now!