Tales from the Road: Bali
Rice paddies in the town of Ubud, Bali
In the town of Ubud in central Bali, every bit of space is in use.  Rice paddies will turn up right in the centre of town, using every available vacant lot.  The only real open space in town is the school soccer field.
Playing the djambe in Ubud, Bali February 9 -- We got to see a guy walk barefoot on fire tonight.  Actually, he didn't so much walk on it, but kind of danced through it, kicking the coals around a bit.  Yikes, I thought.

The guy was in a trance, and appeared to be unaffected by his encounter with the coals.  It was part of the Kechak Fire Dance, a traditional Balinese dance performance involving about 150 dancers and singers.  I think the performers outnumbered the audience tonight.  It was all very impressive.

The fire dancer was still in a bit of a trance, sitting on the ground after the performance, when the Japanese tourists closed in, all taking turns having their pictures taken with him.  It seemed a bit much, but he appeared to be okay with it, blessing each of them in turn with drops of sweat from his brow.  The Japanese like to take a lot of pictures.

Carol and I were chatting the other afternoon in a cafe near our guesthouse in Ubud when the woman at the next table turned and asked:  "So where in Canada are you from?"

"Saskatchewan," I replied, "and you?"  Turns out she was from Guelph, Ontario but had been living in Bali for four years.  Time can sneak by you in a place like this.

I asked her if things had changed much after the bombing.  She told me she was sick of talking about the bombing.  "Actually, things changed here a lot after September 11th."

It was clear that Bali was suffering from a lack of foreign visitors.  Ubud had the quietest market I've ever wandered through.  The shelves were all well-stocked, though some stalls had closed right up.  People pleaded with us to buy something, anything.

February 6 -- Every new country we visit has some kind of fruit we've never heard of or tasted.  In Vietnam it was the dragon fruit, here in Bali it's the mangostine, and it's a winner, it is delicious!  It's a hard, dark purple fruit, but this is just the thick peel.  Inside are about eight juicy white sections of sweet fruit ready to pop into your mouth, and only one pit.  It's great, and only a little bit messy.

Fine food seems to be another of the many art forms here.  We've found a number of restaurants already that offer cooking courses during the day, and given the quality of the cuisine we've sampled, I'm not surprised.  Tasty healthy delights abound here.  I think we all eat here just for the sensation, not because we're hungry or anything.  What a dilemma!  We've already got about four favourite restaurants here in Ubud, and there's several more beckoning menus we've haven't had the chance to try yet.  I'm starting to understand why people are reluctant to leave.

Ubud prides itself on being the cultural centre of Bali, both in the visual and the performing arts.  It didn't take long for Carol to find a shop where she could pick up a few lessons in her djambe playing.
Terraced rice fields on a hillside in Bali
The hillsides of Bali are covered with little terraced rice paddies.  There seems to be no shortage of water in this land, and most of it is in continuous flow.  The rice terraces were lovely, just another part of the artwork.

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