32 DAYS IN BALI – Part One

It’s 5 p.m.  The sun is setting.  The call to prayers at a nearby mosque can be heard drifting on the breeze along with the ever-present smell of incense, satay being cooked over an open-flame grill and the too-sweet smell of rotting fruit.  

The Balinese language is a muddle of sounds played on a musical scale that rises and falls.  Temperatures hover in the high 80’s with rain falling almost daily, either a brief shower or a torrential downpour, with the humidity level averaging always close to 100%.  Just a hint of a breeze is a gift to be stopped and enjoyed.
What am I doing on this hot, humid, tropical country for a whole month?   Why did I choose to end my 11-month sojourn of the South Pacific on this Indonesian island?  Honestly?  Because I, like so many other women, fell in love with and hoped to find ‘something or someone special’ here after reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray Love.  Stupid reason to visit a country, isn’t it?  And of course, I haven’t seen anyone who comes close to looking like Javier Bardem to say hello to, let alone who could possibly lift me off my feet!
I’m sweating.  I’m always sweating.  I can only manage the heat with two-to-four showers per day, not counting my daily running jump into the pool at my homestay. 

Let me take a moment a tell you what a homestay is, compared to a hotel,  resort or AirBnB.  A homestay is a Balinese family-owned compound.  The depth of a family compound runs from the street it faces to the street behind and can be as wide as 1/2 a city block.  One extended family, their relatives and employees all live happily(?) together in the many structures that are enclosed within the walls of the compound.   

There is always a small temple in the center where these very observant Balinese Hindus pray and give offerings each day.  Structures have been added during recent years to accommodate paying guests.  The one I am staying in is a typical addition.

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At the rear of my homestay is a three-story structure that has 9 very large rooms – 3 per floor.  The beds are enormous, 1 1/2 times the size of an American king.  Several of the rooms have an additional twin or a daybed in the room.  There is an armoire for your clothes, a sink, a shower/tub combo, a toilet and mini fridge. The beds are enclosed in mosquito netting, a must, as there are no screens or windowpanes. 

Rhuma Roda entrance
My room is the top floor – left side

My bedroom, desk & outside seating area.

Looking down at the pool                                        The family Temple.
Though my homestay is located within an easy 10-minute walk to the very center of Ubud, wth their huge marketplace and the Palace (residence of the current ceremonial-only King of Bali) it is located on a fairly quiet street- if you don’t take into consideration the dozens of roosters who crow all day AND ALL NIGHT or the many street dogs who join in with their howls and barks at all hours of the day and night.  And then there is the putt-putt and roar of the main form of Balinese transportation – the motor scooter.  Quiet in Bali is relative.

Yep, there is a scooter under there
Parked in front of Temple for service

Two guys just bought a new wheelbarrow, pulling it behind


They are everywhere, used to transport anything and everything.  There are no rules or at least it seems like that.  They dart around and pass you on both sides of your car, they drive the wrong way on one-way streets, they cut between buses and trucks with only inches to spare.

Though the age for a scooter license is officially 17, children from the ages of 8 or 9 drive scooters to school every day. Parents put babies in a backpack, two other children sit between the driver and the passenger and one standing between the handle bars.  I kid you not, that’s a family of 6 on a scooter – and that’s normal!

And yes, I’ve put my life in the hands of a scooter driver as it’s the cheapest and fastest taxi service in Bali.  I could get a ride to anywhere in Ubud for $10,000IR – that’s 75 cents in USD.

The day I arrived was the March Festival of the Full Moon, a traditional Hindu celebration.  Darta, my host, and head of the family in whose compound I am staying, immediately invited me to attend and photograph this event with his fellow family members and friends.

It is necessary for women to dress properly when entering a temple or attending a ceremony.  I was given a traditional sarong, normally of colorful batik cloth, which one of the women tied for me so it would not fall off and then a scarf is tied around the middle.  Women normally wear a white kebaya, or blouse, but I did not have one so my shirt, because it had a small sleeve, was passable. You will see from the photos that the women’s kebayas can be extravagant, very sheer, lacy, colorful and are worn with a corset underneath.

Men wear a folded white fabric hat, white dress shirt and a darker, muted-colored sarong.  The point of their sarong is always much longer at the front and even drags on the ground.  Darta shared with me that the men do not wear underwear!  In their heat, I could understand why.  My sarong was tied over my pants and within minutes  I so wanted to be able to take them off

I took over 100 photos during the Full Moon’s morning and into afternoon celebration.  Here are just a few.  Don’t forget you can ‘click’ on any photo to enlarge it.

The ‘band’ who would play non-stop all day

 The temple with the women presenting their many offerings.

Waiting for the priest to arrive. He has to officiate at all the local celebrations on the same day so normally runs very late!                      And here he is!  Doesn’t he look like Mr. Miyake from The Karate Kid movies?

The priest changes his outfit and adornments several times during the ceremony while music is constantly being played.  The children are adorable and very well-behaved.

Little girls in traditional dress

                                                                                 Young girls doing traditional Balinese dance
Folk characters performing 
And one must check your email!  

You realize I have now been in Bali less than 24-hours?  I’m exhausted and hot and think it’s time to take a long nap.  But don’t worry, I have so much more to share with you about my time in this beautiful country and lots and lots of photos!

Until next time…..

One Reply to “32 DAYS IN BALI – Part One”

  1. Cool narrative ReAnn! Can't wait for the continuation. I particularly like your insight that finding peace and quiet even in Bali can be a challenge. Lot's of moto's. Keep writing.


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