Ramadan ends with a major holiday, called Eid el Fitri or Lebaran. It’s kind of like Thanksgiving in the U.S. in that a lot of things close and most people travel to visit and feast with their families, except in Indonesia it lasts for at least a week instead of just 2 days. All of us English Language Fellows here in Indonesia decided to spend our week off vacationing together in Bali. It was an absolute blast and I could write a book about it, but instead I’ll just try to highlight some of the more memorable experiences.
- Ubud, Bali. This is a very touristy town, but of the artsy cultural sort rather than the raging party or beach bum varieties. Definitely my kind of place, and the one city I really want to revisit. The morning started with a stroll through the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, with Hindu temples and statues scattered through the tropical forest, full of long-tailed macaques. I spent the afternoon shopping in markets full of beautiful handicrafts, particularly silverwork and batik, although I also bought some lovely glass mosaic pieces. Evening brought a Kecak dance performance, which was thrilling. I want more Ubud! (The only damper on this day came at the end of our one-hour taxi ride back to our villa, when the driver stopped on the side of a remote road in Canggu and demanded more money to actually take us to our hotel. Like a random rice paddy was exactly what we had in mind when we asked him to drive us to Canggu! We all sat in the car, in the dark, for a good 10-15 minutes before agreeing to pay the extra money to go to our villa. The driver then had to get directions to figure out where that actually was. When we arrived we argued some more, refused to pay the extra amount, and walked away. Ridiculousness! )
- Clubbing in Legian. Three of us went hard core on our quest for some hip-hop, and finally found it at M Bar Go. My friend Adam is probably the best dancer I’ve seen in person, and it was great fun to dance the night away and watch a developing gang of groupies follow him around the dance floor. They grew increasingly enthralled. I grew increasingly exhausted. But it was a fun night out.
- Snorkeling. Our whole group chartered a small skiff to take us out snorkeling/diving in Manjangan Bay. Our first site was insane – rough waves, coral inches below us, and lots of bumps and scrapes. Our second location was much calmer, resulting in a wonderful snorkeling experience. The amount of colorful fish, coral, and sea creatures was breathtaking – better than any other place I’ve snorkeled. For lunch we pulled up to dock alongside several other tour boats. As we pulled in, Adam and Maura, the two ELFs who have already spent a year in Indonesia, sang a popular Indonesian movie song from beginning to end. It was a huge hit with all the other boat operators. I bet none of THEIR tour groups had ever serenaded the bay with Indonesian pop songs!
- Rat in our room. My roomie throughout the trip, Amber, is a light sleeper. During our first night in Pemuteran she awoke to some rustling in our gazebo, and finally woke me up when she couldn’t stand it any longer. After a few moments of listening, we both heard the distinctive pitter patter of little feet under our bed, which brought us closer together – literally! Sitting huddled in our bed behind the protective mosquito netting, we finally worked up the courage to get out and check under the bed. Amber saw a rat. We got a security guard. He scoured our gazebo but found nothing. Our little visitor must have left while we were getting help. For the remaining two nights we made a point to search the room and batten down the hatches before retiring. Eeek.
- Volcano hike. Five of us braved an early morning wake-up to travel 3 hours via van AND ferry to climb Gunung Ijen on Java. It took about 2 hours to hike to the top, but the fresh air was wonderful and the scenes awaiting us at the finish were worth it. Very different from the volcanoes I visited in Costa Rica – more barren and rugged and rocky.
- Batik workshop. In Padang Bai 3 of us enrolled in a half-day batik workshop. This was totally up my alley. The teacher didn’t speak much English so we didn’t fully understand the process until we were in the middle of each step, but it was a great way to spend our last afternoon in Bali, and I have a fun handmade souvenir as a result.