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Inle Lake in Myanmar

 

Inle Lake hotel and spa

Our lodge on Inle Lake

Inle Lake is a very beautiful, tranquil and special place to visit in Burma or Myanmar. There are many hotels on the lake, maybe the best Myanmar has to offer. We stayed at the Inle lakeResort and Spa. It was off season and we were almost alone in a big resort and spa, so the prices were discounted for massages, which is always a big plus.

Even in the off season, there is a lot to see. Of course everywhere you go,you go by boat.

The lake area supports about 70,000 people. Many of them are fishermen. They fish in an unusual manner.

fishing in Inle lake

The fishermen stand in their small canoes and row with their feet. They are very stable as they throw and retrieve the nets. This guy was so good he was even able to smoke while doing this feat.

The crucial element of this talent is using the toes properly.

These guys are collecting the weeds growing in the lake for use as fertilizer.

Every year in September/October there is a three week event  called Hpaung Daw U Festival.

Included in this festival are races between villages in foot paddled boats.  Also during this festival the Royal Barge is brought out of storage and sailed from village to village.

This is a big deal to the inhabitants of the villages around the lake. The journey of the barge takes up almost the entire three weeks. Each town turns out their best as the barge visits them.

One year, a tragedy struck. A storm hit the lake and the barge sank. The real tragedy was that when this barge does the tour, it carries five Buddhas encrusted with gold leaf. Only four were recovered right away, the fifth turned up in a fishing net years later. This is a photo of a painting in a temple alongside the lake depicting the tragedy.

This is a memorial in the lake to mark the spot where the barge sank.

Buddhas encrusted with gold

Buddhas encrusted with gold leaf? Yup. In fact there is so much gold on these things they look more like a lump of mashed potatoes than Buddhas. Here I am adding to the treasure and having a spiritual moment.

There are numerous villages on the lake. Each one has a different industrious specialty.

In this village, they rolled cheroots and cigars.

In this village they had the Temple of Jumping Cats. The cats were trained by a monk to jump through a hoop. The monk is long dead, but the tradition survives. I canot get my cat to jump off the couch, so I am amazed by this. Of course I am easily amazed.

Burmese cats

In between two villages was a beautiful, very large sanctuary dedicated to the restoration of the Burmese cat to Burma. About ten years ago a wealthy man found out there were no more Burmese cats in Burma. So he went all over the world to find pure bred Burmese cats. They have a playground better than most grammar schools, a huge house to roam. They breed here, but they do not sell the cats. So if you want to see a Burmese cat in Burma, this is the place

Another village is dedicated to weaving lotus stalks into cloth. This is how they extract the fiber from the stalk. The emphasis is on quality not quantity. It takes many man hours (woman hours really) to get enough fiber to weave.

Weaving lotus cloth is much more complicated than cotton or silk, because the strands they have to work with are quite short and must be tied together.

Mary Ann owns more scarfs than I ever owned Grateful Dead T shirts, so I knew she would buy one. All those woman hours do not come cheap, and I imagine the village ate well for a few days after we left.

There were villages dedicated to silver work, paper making and aqua culture. We visited them all.

There are five community market towns surrounding the lake. The market moves from town to town every day. This is the parking lot where we went.

On the way we passed this vendor taking his baskets to market.

Because we were just visitors we had to park a ways away and use this bridge to cross the water to get to the market town.

It was a long walk from the water to the town. We saw many people who had shopped early returning home.

Look closely, you will see my wife “inspecting” a load of bamboo floor mats heading to market.

Traditional clothes are still worn, especially by the women. The Burmese know hats!

nuts in Burma or Myanmar

Nuts and such for sale.

Spices. What did I say about hats?

If you ever go to Burma or Myanmar, be sure to go to Inle. When you do, be sure to see the lost temples.

There is one area on the lake where (in relative terms) they recently discovered hundreds of small temples that the jungle had consumed. Most of them are visible now, and some are restored. It is a great place for a walk.

One more quirky thing to show you.

Whenever you leave the main body of water to go near a village or a lodge, you must go over a speed bump! I have never seen a speed bump on water before.

All good things must come to an end.

That is it for Inle. Thanks for reading please hit share to send this to all your close friends on FB, and if you get truly adventurous, make a comment.

From Bhutan to Borneo

 

We were warned that  the Paro airport in Bhutan is visual only, and the least level of incremental weather shuts it down. Which seems only right because it is surrounded by mountains. They tell you to make any connecting flights with a day lapse in case you cannot get out of Paro.  Well, we arrived at the airport on a cloudy morning with drizzling rain. Nothing that would stop an Airbus 320 anywhere else.

A druk Air A 320 going nowhere because of a light rain.

However our flight was delayed hours, waiting for perfect weather. Druk air served us lunch and tea in the lobby so that people would not be absent if the clouds lifted.

Our flight was back to Kathmandu. We were not on an 320, but a small prop plane.  That meant we should have gotten a great view of Everest.

Right after we boarded the plane, the rain returned, but we made it out of Paro anyway.

We did get a decent look at Everest. This is the “other side” of the great mountain, from the Tibetan side.

We got back to Kathmandu on a nice afternoon. We went back to the KGH. We just relaxed for the next day. We spoke with people who had tried to get into Tibet. They actually had their permits and/or visas. But when they got to the border, the Chicoms turned them around, with little or no reason given. We spoke with our travel agent about a visit to Tibet someday, but he was as perplexed by the Chinese constantly changing the rules as  we were.  Maybe someday we will be able to go, and maybe someday pigs will fly.

We left Kathmandu for Bangkok. We had both been there a few times before, so we looked for something different to do. We signed up for an Intrepid Travel Tuk Tuk tour. It was fun. We saw some interesting and different stuff.

I had never been to the flower market in Bangkok before. It was awfully pretty. This is a table of Lotus flowers on sale

We left BKK for KL. That is Kuala Lumpur. We flew Air Asia, which is an excellent low cost airline that covers that part of the coconut. I hear that the main terminal in KL is beautiful, new and efficient. The low cost terminal is, well, tired.

We went through this airport 3 times on this trip and each time it was crowded, even at one in the morning. There were no jet ways and no buses. You had to walk a long way from the plane to the terminal, dodging luggage trucks and jet blast.

The KL airport is 1 ½ hours away from KL. We were only going to stay in KL overnight, and leave the next morning so we stayed at a  hotel only a ½ hour away, which obviously exists to serve people in transit.

We flew Air Malaysia to a city called Sandakam in the state of Sabah. We were still in the same country, but it was a 2 ½ hour flight, definitely the longest domestic flight I had ever taken in Asia. It was like flying from NY to Chicago. Amazingly, when we got to Sandakam, we had to go through immigration!  Oh well, at this point another stamp in my passport is just another stamp.

We were now officially in Borneo. I am not sure just what I expected. Headhunters?

Our tour was arranged through AMAZING BORNEO TOURS. They picked us up at the airport. Our lodge was n the Kinabatangan river, about two hours away. For the next two hours we drove through nothing but palm oil plantations. Miles and miles, thousands and thousands  of hectares of land that used to be jungle, is now producing palm oil. It is definitely the cash crop of Sabah. Why all this palm oil?  Is this a good or bad thing? Go here to find out.

We got to the lodge after a the long drive. The lodge was OK, nothing to write a blog post about. Our adventure in “wild” Borneo was to start the next day.

The first thing on the agenda was Orangutans.  I was thinking that this was the third endangered species I had seen this year, kinda cool.  We went to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. This one of those places that somehow get orphaned or injured critters and raise them until they are prepared to go back into the wild. They showed us an interesting video of their work. I noticed a glaring error and afterward tried to bring it to the attention of the docent. No big deal, but they ought to get their facts straight. I’m no biologist, but I know the film was flawed.  This place was billed as a chance to see orangutans play together. After a 45 minute wait at a staged area, in the Borneo heat, we saw ONE. He was led to the feeding area by a refuge worker, and did not look all that enthused about being on display.

The rehab center put out a basket full of fruit, he ate one and then swung away like Tarzan, back into the jungle. Mind you, there were at least a hundred tourists who had paid like US$30 apiece standing around sweating and pointing cameras. All in all, this was a disappointing excursion.

we transferred to another lodge where we took trips on the river. On one trip we actually saw Orangutans in the wild, and my favorite, the Jimmy Durante of  primates, the Proboscis monkey, on another.

Although we could not get too close, we were in a boat in a big river, we were pleased and amused to see Orangutans in the wild. Actually we saw quite a few.

My favorite sighting was the Proboscsis monkeys. Their noses are humorous. They are kind of cute. Apparently not endangered, except for loss of their homeland to the palm oil business.

In case I have at all led you to believe we were “explorers” in wild Borneo, this next photo should cancel that idea.

This is just a sample of the tourist boats on the river that day, during LOW season.

We were treated to a great sunset.

I love a good sunset, don’t you?

The next day we left the lodge and the river. We drove through palm oil plantations for another hour to see the second cash crop of Sabah, birds nests. Yup, this is the primary source of birds nests for birds nest soup, of which the Chinese are apparently quite fond. They pay a LOT of money for these nests, harvested from a cave.

The best photo I could get in a dark cave. There is a walkway built of rotting wood that you follow through the cave. The birds nests (Swifts) are all up on the roof, and for me impossible to get a good photo.

Mary Ann and me in front of the opening to the cave on the slippery wooden walkway. It was slippery because it was covered with birdshit. If you fell off, you would land among the 10 billion or so cockroaches on the ground.

Mary Ann showing of her hand covered with birdshit from holding the rail along the walkway. We were ready to leave.

Well folks, that was it for Borneo. Is it worth your time and treasure to go? Only if you want to say you have been there!

Thanks for reading, share with a friend, make a comment, or go order a bowl of birds nest soup cooked with palm oil.

 

Bhutan, Happy in Old and New Knowledge

Bhutan Protects the Timeless Knowledge

My wife Mary Ann strolling in the Bhutan National Library. This was not a stop on our itinerary, but being that Mary Ann is a professional Librarian, when we passed the library, we made sure our guide stopped so we could “tour” it.

There were three floors of the “old” library, each with a shrine to the Buddha.

Each of the floors had rack after rack of prayer scrolls which are quite old. Each prayer is contained in a silk bag. They are all cataloged. The cataloging system was not exactly Dewey-Decimal! Each of the prayers were used by monks for specific requests such as more rain, stop the rain, and so on.

The new section of the library was almost all in English. It contained books about the philosophy  and  practice of Buddhism. It even had a business section about how to run a business according to Buddhist principles!. It had a reading and study area. If I ever decide that I have the discipline to be a Buddhist (fat chance 😉 ) this is where I will go and read for a few months before I ever sit down with a monk.

Bhutan Enters the Digital Age!

Just outside of the capital city of Thimpu, there is a brand new IT Park

Almost finished, the government has already declared it open.

Built as a modern IT building, it nonetheless incorporates classic Bhutanese architecture. It is actually an attractive building. It uses a solar/water based system for air conditioning.

Space inside this building has already been leased to Microsoft and other international high tech companies. It will also serve as a start-up bed for Bhutanese entrepreneurs.

Facilities inside are as modern as any I ever worked in during my career in software development. I have high hopes for this place.

The Project Manager for the construction phase is an Australian that goes by the name of Shax. he keeps an interesting blog about the project and life in Bhutan. I suggest you read it, here.

This is Shax inspecting the water powered prayer wheel he incorporated into the landscape plan.

This is something he did NOT put in his plan. This is the most common weed in Bhutan. It grows EVERYWHERE. Gross National Happiness!

Next post, A sacred ceremony Mary Ann and I performed which was the highlight of my five weeks in Asia.

Please  share. Please return. Please comment. Please enjoy.

Bhutan, Gross National Happiness and Wonderment

Yes, Bhutan is a happy place. I mentioned before that the government actually does a yearly census to evaluate the level of happiness and look for ways to make people even happier, now THAT is a wonderment.

I also mentioned that there is a US$250 “tariff” you must pay to visit Bhutan. This is actually a good deal because it includes everything except beer and souvenirs. So, it cost us a bit more ;-). That tariff is actually in place to keep Bhutan from becoming over run with back packers like what happened with Nepal, India and Thailand. I know it sounds snobbish, but thank Buddha they figured that out. The result keeps everyone happy!  OK backpackers…snipe away in the comments.

One thing every country wants you to see are the handicrafts. Weaving, carving, and paper making. I always enjoy going because you know what…it is always different in every country, not to mention the best place for souvenirs. (My wife and I have a sort of unspoken but over riding rule, if we see something made, we are going to buy it.)

The distinctive patterns from each country are an excellent art form. At the gift shops, they will have everything for sale from bed spreads to scarves. Mary Ann bought so many scarves on this trip that I lost count.

An endless array of patterns, colors and opportunities to spend money!

Besides the crafts, tours in Asia always make sure you see the temples. I know I have been in more Buddhist temples than 95% of the Buddhists on the coconut. But like the weaving, they all have a certain distinctness to them. You have to look hard but it is there. In our travels I have seen the worlds smallest Buddha, and now I have seen the worlds largest under construction Buddha.  When he is done, he will just be a big beautiful Buddha, not the worlds largest. Some very rich man from Hong Kong is paying for this project. I wish I could be there when they consecrate it because I am sure it will be a spectacle.

He is probably 300+ feet high. I am sure if I looked it up, it would turn out that he is multiples of a magic number from the ground to his crown. They always make sure to do that. This Buddha sits on a high hill and overlooks the capital city of Thimpu, and you can see him from anywhere in the city.He is a wonderment.

The next post will take a quick look at Bhutan old and new. The ancient library and the brand new technology center. Whatever makes you happy! Stay tuned, share with a friend.

Happy Atheletes In Bhutan

These two  events were  not on our tour agenda.

On our first full day in Bhutan, we found two towns involved in an archery tournament. Archery is the national sport. I was simply not prepared for what we saw.

bhutan archer

The archers were of course all dressed in traditional garb. The bows and arrows however were ultra modern and probably cost more than my first car.

These guys were all first rate archers, who had earned the right through years of experience to compete for the town they are from. What I found particularly interesting was that when others were shooting, they would drift away and drink beer and smoke cigarettes! What a cool sport!

Can you see the target? It is 150 meters away and not very big. This makes Olympic archery look like playing cowboys and Indians with a Sears and Roebuck toy set.

As you might imagine, when an archer actually hits the the target it is cause for song and dance. No really, song and dance! Play the following video for “proof”.

I am going to jump ahead a few days. The day of the week is important here. It was a Tuesday, which is “Walking Day” in Bhutan. Private cars are not allowed to be driven. The king asks his people to get off their duffs and walk to work or the market.

In a small town in the mountains (well, Bhutan is mostly small towns in the mountains, but…) we ran across a tournement of taxi drivers playing each other in the second national sport of Bhutan, darts.  I am not talking about darts like in some pub. These were serious darts.

darts in Bhutan

They probably weighed a half pound. You cannot see the needle part, which are about 6 inches long.

They were thrown by serious men!

darts in Bhutan

They took this competition in a really good sportsman like manner.

Like the archery this was not an easy sport.

They really had to chuck it  The effort resembled a baseball pitcher.

The target was further away then home plate and much smaller, and the dart weighed more than a baseball.

Of course when they hit the target they sang and danced. Only here, the opposing team members got to harass them a bit!

Next post…hmmm…well, all I’ll promise is  more from the land of the Thunder Dragon. Stay tuned.

Our Asian Summer Part 1

 

Everywhere we went in this expedition across Asia, we felt quite welcome!

Our five weeks in Asia started in Kathmandu

We are lucky enough to be able to refer to this as our return to Kathmandu. Dear readers, you really need to be able to look beyond the obvious and not be distracted by the oblivious to enjoy this city. I will not belabor my love for Kathmandu, I explained it all in this post. In a city this old, in a country without a functional national government, nothing much changes so my two year old post is not outdated. We came here because we know a excellent guide/travel coordinator named Shankar Pandy. (You can contact him using the link.)  He showed us a great time in 2010 and urged us to return so we could see Tibet and Bhutan. But whatever you do, do not ask Mr.Pandy to carry a cabbage!

This time we stayed at the Kathmandu Guest House. Kathmandu has a plethora of places to stay from hostels to luxury. The KGH covers the entire range. Back in the day, when Kathmandu was a target destination for hippies in Volkswagen vans driving the silk road from Europe, the KGH was the hotel  to stay in.

This is the garden of the KGH. This is where Cat Stevens wrote Peace Train. To this day it is a quiet spot used by people to read, do Tai Chi, meditate, or in my case just sit and wonder what it must have been like back then.

The KGH has a walk of fame, kinda like Hollywood Blvd, but at least in Hollywood they can spell.

Even the not so famous can get immortalized at the KGH.

When “the Beetles” stayed here in 1971 or so, the KGH was pure hostel with shared bathrooms. Consequently this is what I call Lennon’s Loo. No, he did not autograph it.But if you feel the need to drop a load where Lennon did, go to Kathmandu!

Our last visit to Kathmandu was highlighted by a visit to  the Buddhist crematorium on the main river through town. You can always catch a cremation live and in person. No reservation needed or admission fee charged. We decided to see it again. Not only is it sacred and solemn, it is also great theater! It takes place on the Pashantinah Temple which is on the Bagmati river, a tributary to the sacred Ganges.

There are always Holy Men sitting around, getting stoned, and adding atmosphere to the place where the cremations take place. This is the same guy I had my photo taken with two years ago, I think maybe his beard grew another inch.

The ceremony starts with the delivery of the body wrapped in cotton or silk, depending on the treasure of the earthly family. Here it is adorned with flowers in season at the time. preferably Marigolds.

In the last act of the family for the deceased, they carry the now flower decorated corpse to the pyre. Only males take part in this.

Now the pros take over. The wood used to burn the body is sandlewood. It is layered with dampened straw to make the fire burn longer. Once the fire is started by the eldest son, a professional takes over. He uses sugar, butter  and coconuts to help the fire keep going.

After the body is cremated to ash, a small urn is filed with the ashes and taken home for a thirteen day celebration, then  the urn is put into the river. In this photo the pro is scraping the rest of the body into the Bagnati river. Every thing has a price and the prices are posted on a board. Wood, straw, the services of the pro, the flowers, all must be bought by the family.

We did not do much else in Kathmandu, we were anxious to get to Bhutan. Read the next post to see one of the traveler’s gems, the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Please share this with your friends, hit the like button, or make a comment. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

 

Kandy, Sri Lanka. As Sweet as it Sounds.

We always enjoy a good walk through a nice botanical garden. The one in Kandy was stunningly beautiful. I thought this picture would be a nice way to start this post even though, as usual, I am ahead of myself.

Our trip  to Kandy, pronounced KhanDEE started at dawn at the Colombo Fort Station. Among the many things the British left behind as their empire collapsed (besides driving n the wrong side of the road and roundabouts) is rail systems. They built them to move goods to market of course. Now days, they do that, they move the locals into the towns to work, and they move travelers and tourists about the country. Personally, I love trains. At a nice slow but quick pace you get to see the countryside away from the cars and trucks on the highways.

The Kandy express was just what the travel doctor ordered. In a few hours we climbed from sea level to Kandy, which is the start of the hill country of Sri Lanka. It sits a mere 500m above sea level, but the difference in climate and flora is very extreme.  Kandy sits at 6.8 degrees north latitude (or so says the GPS app on my IPAD) so  we are definitely in the tropics and it showed.

The communities we passed by are mostly concrete block buildings with corrugated tin roofs, and banana trees in the yard. I think I have seen this before…hmmm.

Because it was an early morning express we made only one stop. The rest of the small stations we whizzed past had people staring at us. The trains going the other direction, into Colombo, were full of people heading to town to work. I do not know if it was because they were full, or because it was cooler,or if it is just cool, but every car on every train had men hanging on, half in, half out of the car. I found myself wondering how many people fall off on any given year. I got up to have a smoke and decided I would try standing in the doorway. I did, for a coupe of seconds, hopped back in and had a second smoke to calm my nerves.

Decor on the outside of our train car.

They had a server who sold some really excellent curries and wonderful tea.

I began to notice something different  from our train trip in India. In India, all along the track, there was litter, disgusting amounts of litter. Not so in Sri Lanka. This cleanliness was apparent for our entire trip.

I also began to see another interesting Sri Lanka custom. When the people erect a Buddha in their town, almost always they encase him in a glass box.  I never figured out why. Probably because they have two monsoon seasons each year. I do not know if they air condition the box, but pity poor Buddha if they dont.

We pulled into Kandy right on time and were met by our driver Farzan from www.srilanka.com who had gotten up even earlier than we did to drive there and meet us.

He took us to our hotel where we prepared for a wonderful day in Kandyland.  I mistakenly crashed a wedding reception, but things got straightened out.

We were in Kandy on an auspicious day for weddings (according to the astrologers) so we saw a few.

The bride at the wedding I crashed. "But there is sooo much food here, can

"Sure mister have some food"

The rest of our stay in Kandy was really nice, and I will cover it in my next post. Teaser: we went to an elephant orphanage, a healing herb garden, and The Royal Botanical Garden.

I have been told by many people to keep my posts short, and try to post something every day. Well, I can do the first thing easy enough. So, thanks for reading, share this around the cyber coconut, and don’t be afraid to tell me what you think with a comment.

Worlds’s Smallest Buddha

Our travel style,in case you are a new reader, is to hire a private guide with a comfortable car who is ours for they duration. We do not just show up and say “whatcha got.” We do our own research with every book we can find, and do not forget my wife is a university librarian. We also peruse all the social media sites, the usual suspects and a few that are truly suspect.

Then we start contacting guides using again every source we can find. If we send someone an email and get no response within 48 hours, that person goes on the dung heap never to be recycled.

That is pretty brutal, but pity the ones who get right back to us. We let them make a proposal in the form of an itinerary. Then we hack at it. They come back with changes. What we are really looking for is a bit of creativity and daring on their part. This consumes a lot of their time. Mary Ann leaves it up to me because I have nothing but time. This puts us in a distinct advantage. We may be playing on their field, but I’m Sandy Koufax and I don’t care where I am pitching.

The person who I ended up choosing was a guy named Johan at Noramix Travels available through www.Srilanka.com. I threw him a few curve balls, and he had a great turn at bat.

All that brings me around to this trip to Sri Lanka.

20120121-103314.jpg

Sun rise over Sri lanka from our Air Arabia flight, taken with my new IPAD

Our first hotel, The Mt Livinia, was chosen for us by the previously mentioned tour agency because one of the things I said I wanted was a taste of the colonial lifestyle. You can't get much more colonial than having this guy run your bags to your room. I ruined the colonial experince by tipping him.

Now that we were settled into a wonderful room our driver, Farzan, or as he put it “not Tarzan”, started taking us around Colombo. It is pretty port town dating back to the days of spice and tea trade. The Portuguese and English in turn ran the trading businesses through this town. Sri Lnka has been independent since shortly after WWII.

The country suffered through a civil war that just ended a few years ago. The tourism industry is recovering nicely in the south west quarter of the country and a bit slower elsewhere. Colombo shows no signs of the war.

Another thing we saw in Colombo, and everywhere else in Sri Lanka,  is a comfortable co-existence of Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian religions. You see it in the temples, mosques and churches and the cultural dress. I wish that were worldwide, alas.

We drove around and saw the city. Nice, but not much to blog about. However we did find one thing I have always wanted to see, a snake charmer.

I can scratch another item from my bucket list!

Then we went to a place that was a combination museum and temple.  This museum is more like a warehouse, but it’s full of valuable and beautiful treasures. Some of the shrines and buddhas were actually made of gold or completely covered in diamonds.  I was busy taking photos of this cute little Buddhist monk…

I just thought it was so cool, but really the monks in the buddhist religion are just normal young men who traditionally become a monk for a few months,or a couple of years, then go back to whatever career is their calling. This guy probably became a surfer.

…when my wife called out, “You gotta see this”. On my bucket list is the worlds largest Buddha statue, which I quess I will need to go to China to see. I had never considered the worlds smallest Buddha but here he was right in front of me .

My photo did not come out so well, so I stole this one from another blogger. This lttle Buddha is in a glass case (This picture makes the case look larger than it is) with a magnifying glass built in (on the right of the photo). If you put one eye up to it and look like a mad scientist into the glass jar you can see a very intricate carving, in gold, of the Buddha. The carving is about the size of a grain of rice, and absolutely beautiful. I do not know where it came from or any other details, but the curator of the museum was proud to tell me it was the world's smallest.

We had been travelling across the coconut all night and day, so we went back to the hotel,  had  our first of many wonderful Sri Lankan meals. We had to get up early in the morning for the trin to Kandeeland!

We were treated to this sunrise while we waited at the train station.

It was worth waiting for! Such a cute train!

Next post, Kandee! A wonderful city in the hill country, gateway to the tea plantations of old Ceylon!

Thanks for reading, tell a friend, pass it along, and remember, I get paid by the comment!

Bali Hai

I have neglected my responsibility to show you some of the beauty and cool stuff about Bali. Sorry. We have been planning our next jaunt and it has consumed my time, imagination and dreams.  But I must finish posting about Bali before I move on, so here goes.

Bali Hai beer. A good way to start your vacation.

Bali has beautiful countryside to look at. These rice terraces are all over the hills. Bali also has long stretches of white sand beaches. I am trying to stay positive with this post, but behind me when I took this picture is a long line of traffic and hundreds of hawkers and junk stores. Plus the beaches are covered with sunburned Russians. Our tour guide described Russians as "loud, vodka drinking louts who do not tip."

Bali's highest point is this volcano called Gunung Batur. The drive up to it, while crowded with people like us (damn tourists), is quite beautiful.

Bali has always had crafts people. They have beautiful weavings. They carve wood for you to buy. But my favorite, and probably the most evocative art craft in Bali is Batik. They make all types of clothing, including unfortunately shirts. I bought more than I will ever need. Anyone want a 2X sized batik shirt? This photo os of a woman applying wax to the design already drawn on the silk. Then they dye it, and do it over again for every color. This is time consuming and labor intensive. Yet, at least in Bali, the shirts are not that expensive.

The food in Bali is really quite wonderful. The seafood in particular (duh, it IS an island). I loved the way they served this rice side dish with the banana leaf dunce cap.

The best place we visited in Bali was this producer of Kopi Luwak. If you ever go to Bali, go here.

This is why you should visit this place. This is Kopi Luwak, which crudely translates into coffee from the shit of the Luwak. The luwak is a cat like animal that feasts on ripe coffee beans. The digestive process of the cat leaves the beans intact, yet secretes any hint of acidity in the coffee. The locals find the cat shit, then they remove the beans and roast them like any other coffee bean. The result is the best coffee this reporter has ever drank, and I have had Costa Rican Terra Zu, Jamaican Blue Mountain, you name it. I love good coffee. This tradition came from colonial edicts that prohibited the locals from harvesting beans for their own use, so they started harvesting the cat shit. When the Dutch ruling class tasted what the locals were drinking, it became a craze. Now it sells for US$1000 a pound in New York. Restaurants charge US$90 a cup for it.

Keeping with weird tradition of showing you what the restroom signs look like...I am glad they used the words or I could not have figured it out.

Could you?

The very weirdest thing I found in Bali was in the men's room of the lobby in our hotel. Take a good look. Too weird anywhere, especially in the men's room.

Well folks, that is it for our trip to Bali. Overall we enjoyed it, but like I said in the previous post, it is not worth the effort or cost to get there. (It took us 26 hours to get home,from the hotel lobby to our living room and cost way too much money). Bali never considered sustainable tourism in their plans, and it is too late now.

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Next post…London!

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