I managed to make it to Saigon, despite having problems with entry both in Singapore and in Ho Chi Minh; I was ready to buy a ticket back to Bali and skip Vietnam altogether! Some reminiscing of the Island of Gods follows (pictures still lacking due to probably the worst internet connection so far!)
Atmosphere: Smiles, flowers and offerings for Gods, everything is in harmony, even the chaotic traffic. No matter where you are, the Balinese are going about their daily rituals with a smile on their face.
Bikinis: No need to explain. You could probably survive only with bikinis, shorts and flip-flops. Yeah okay Buddhism too.
Canggu: Not a surprise, this one. I spent over a month in this upcoming hipster village, where life seems to stand still and days float by even if you just lied by the pool and listened to music in between surfs.
Diving: I overcome my doubts regarding breathing underwater. Bali hosts some amazing diving spots, and I will definitely return for more!
Environment: aka nature. Various yet always beautiful.
Fruits: Fruits are aplenty in Bali. Now in season are bananas, papaya, different sorts of mangos, mangosteen, snakefruit and jackfruit, just to name a few. You can also find guava, oranges and imported apples at the supermarket. My favorites are definitely papaya and mango, but I also like mangosteen and jackfruit a lot. I did have durian once, but I was a bit disappointed with the small amount I got for my money.
Gado Gado: Both hot and cold, sweet and savory, gado gado is one of my favorite Indonesian dishes. “Mix Mix” is often variable, but includes different steamed or blanched veggies like spinach, cabbage, carrots and beans. The mix also always has fried tempeh and/or fried tofu, and sometimes a boiled egg. It is served with rice and krupuk crackers if you’re lucky. What makes gado gado special is the peanut sauce that identifies the dish. I found instructions to make the sauce, maybe I’ll give it a go at home, since it is just so fulfilling with the light veggies.
Gado gado sauce, easy to make raw version too! 1 cup of peanut butter (or crushed peanuts), 1 tbsp grated ginger, 1 tbsp minced garlic, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 3 tbsp soy sauce. Add crushed red pepper and salt to taste. Mix with 1 1/2 cups hot water and devour!
Heat: Yep, it is hot. I notice it the most when going into a shop/car that has AC and then coming out. Phew! Some days the heat really hits, but when combined with a mild breeze, it is lovely. I have not needed my long sleeved shirts at all. It most definitely doesn’t feel like Christmas is coming.
Islands: Bali is the island of gods, and it is surrounded by lots of other islands. The most popular tourist destinations are Nusa Lembongan, Lombok and the Gili’s that belong to Lombok: Meno, Trawangan and Air.
Jalan: Street. Most of them not pedestrian-friendly, and are definitely not designed for handicapped. Watch where you step and you’ll be fine.
Kuta: Party hell. You can find most tourist stuff here, and some enjoy it. I preferred a quick visit once or twice just to realize how well off I was at the tranquil hoods.
Light: The sun comes up around 5.30 and and goes down around 6.30. Solid amount of sunlight every day works like magic for me. Even if I haven’t had enough sleep, I wake up with more energy.
Massages: Everywhere. Cheap. I wanted to get pampered at least once a week, but ended up getting only like 4 massages in 2 months. I’ll regret that later! From foot reflexology to Balinese and Tai massage, you can easily get your stress washed away or just get a deep relax for 1.5 hrs.
Names: I recently discovered why everyone is called Wayan, Nyoman, Ketut or Made. People are named by their order of birth, so kid #1 is Wayan, kid #2 Nyoman etc. Kid #5 id again Wayan. There are some extra names too, and the 1st girl is called “Ilo”, coincidentally “joy” in Finnish!
Other travellers: Though I did meet some lovely local people, I spent most of my time with fellow backpackers. And what a wonderful group of people did I meet and share experiences with! Mostly from Australia, but other countries too, some surfers, some not. Great talks, great trips, great surfs and lots of good new music for me.
Paradise: May it be a beach, a mountaintop, the rice fields, a jungle or a village, unless your idea of paradise includes snow, changes are Bali has it.
Quality of life: Simple things matter. People wake up at 5 am to cook, make offerings, and to go about their day. No one complains, they enjoy the simple things and take the day as it comes.
Raw food: The raw food/organic restaurants put emphasis on local, organic ingredients that have grown in rich soil. Of course in this climate and environment it is easier to grow produce than, say, in Finland, but I wish we had more of this kinds of places back home! Week or a month is nearly not enough to taste all that just Ubud has to offer.
Sun, sea, surf: All of it. Loving it.
Traffic/taxi: Crazy. Both of em. There is a logic of driving the left side of the road, but then again you can do whatever maneuvers you want as long as you don’t hit anybody. Not nearly all death-defying scooter drivers wear helmets, and some scooters have as many as 4 or 5 people on them. Insane.
The “taxi” refers to the lack of public transportation. If you’re brave enough to drive a scooter, you’re fine. If not, you’ll hear “taxi, taxi” yells at least every 2 minutes in Ubud. I do prefer walking, but sometimes the distances are just too long. Then it’s the matter or bartering the right price. Oh, my.
Ubud: Inland village/town in the center of Bali, Ubud has become the hotspot for tourists looking for the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ experience. Surrounded by rice fields, filled with raw foods cafes and yoga centers, Ubud is truly to place to seek for enlightenment and to relax. The town is very western, so don’t expect to see the “real Bali” here. Lots of massages and other pampering available besides superb food.
Warung: Local food, cheap. Pick and mix your favorites. Delightful amount of veggies.
Yoga: Pretty much Finland-prices, I was a bit shocked how big thing yoga is. I went to a few classes, but could’v done way more if it had been more reasonably priced. Yoga retreats are aplenty with wealthy wallets.
Missing a few but that’s life.