Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Indonesia! Part two!

People are great. Also, this wedding shot is great (for the bride.) Generally, this was a great moment and everyone should feel great about it. Weddings! One of my best friends got married last weekend, and I was this guy. The photographer. Sometimes things come full circle in an interesting way. I love photographing weddings because you encounter this poignant and boisterous nebula of a thing in a tiny several-hour package, and then you unpack it in the editing of the photographs, and if you are responsible for crafting an album, you have the opportunity to entirely rescaffold the narrative in this profoundly intimate way. I suppose you have the chance to do that with travel photography, also. It is a weighty thing!

Hanuman is incredibly popular in Bali, and for good reason. Not only is he relatable because monkeys are actually everywhere all of the time, but the Ramayana is an amazing story. Also, Hanuman thought the sun was a mango once and tried to fly toward it to eat it, and I can relate to that.   You can see him above, contently grasping at the sky, and not attempting to fly anywhere.

I'm not entirely sure of where my travels will take me next, or how, or why. I used to heavily rely on performing an act of service in some way while traveling, and then it was foreign language study, and now it's yoga--if I could do all three concurrently, I absolutely would. I need something to tether me to the place-ness of the place, when I travel, and creating a community for myself prior to arrival really accomplishes that. I don't want to float through it as though I were at home, or stick too much to what makes me comfortable, or to who I already know, or isolate myself. That being said, I need to be able to find vegetarian food and avoid abduction along some dark, decrepit side street. Priorities!

I love visual creative outlets, which is I suppose why I like photography so much, but I often wish I were better at drawing. Most critical acclaim for my drawings has been based on their tragic hilarity. They are very bad, but they embrace being very bad. I would like to venture into the wild world of webcomics. Perhaps when I am older and wiser and need to convey this to 'The Youth.' I am getting a bit off-Bali-topic here, though I can perhaps tie everything back together by suggesting that Bali would be an excellent place to spend a year privately tutoring English, working on art, and inexpensively finding oneself. I could definitely imagine that life, and would endorse it to others. The Balinese people with whom I interacted were so welcoming and kind, too... it would be an easy place to escape for a bit. It helps that the Indonesian language is fascinating and extremely easy to learn from an English-speaking background. The Indonesian Embassy in DC teaches it for free on Thursday nights, if anyone is interested!

I did not ride on a motorbike while in Bali, which is either a travesty or the reason why I am able to type this blog entry using my fully-functional set of limbs--it's difficult to determine which. This is often a difficult decision I face while traveling... do I do the reasonable thing, or the daring thing that will possibly result in an awesome story and maximum comedy? I often go with the former, assuming that I will organically (inevitably) be faced with the latter at some point, anyway. Perhaps my adventures in parasites/dysentery/whatever count as that? It's a stylistic difference between myself and others, I suppose. It's also the reason why I never couch surf. I'm a firm believer in Murphy's Law (except perhaps in booking a flight from Singapore to Denpasar in the first place, which is risky business nowadays. Cheap, though!)

All up on somebody else's wedding shots again. As I was telling my sister the other day, one of my favorite things about the wedding shots on this beach in particular is that people regularly drown here from the enormous, completely spontaneous waves that crash on the shore and drag innocent bystanders out to sea. A very rocky, very heavily-currented sea. There's some metaphor about marriage in there, somewhere.

I am not sure what the purpose of this statue is, or was, but I would like it in front of my home. I did not go to any zoos in Indonesia because I hear that animal treatment there is seriously problematic--which is a shame, because I love nature reserves that provide much-needed refuge for animals (and often animals that are endangered or have been rescued from trafficking or inappropriate captivity situations.) Belize is an excellent example of a country that Does That Well. Someday, when I am my own country, I would like to do that well. If you would like a creature named after you, that can be arranged.

Bali: A Place You Should Visit. Excellent Adventures Abound.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

On Bali (Part one of... several?)

In writing this blog post, I realize that I never wrote about Belize in December! Whoops! Or Portland (versus Seattle, which I did indeed write about)--which is tragic--because I liked Portland far more than Seattle. Big surprise there, if you've ever watched Portlandia. But here we are: in May, and here I am, with a fantastically under-updated travel blog. Good thing I'm on night shift this week and anticipate having a lot of blogging time during the day.

Bali is in Indonesia. It is an island. The capital of Bali is Denpasar. The capital of Indonesia is Jakarta. I didn't love Jakarta, and so I'm not going to really talk about it (to be fair, I barely saw Jakarta.) I did, however, adore Bali and as such will talk about it extensively. I also saw a whole lot of it, because I scheduled all of these tours that involved Eva, sometimes Daniel, and I being driven around much of the island. A 10-hour tour in Bali is around 35 dollars total--no, not per person, and not with any hidden fees--and so there's really not any incentive to not do tours. Trying to drive yourself around Bali is a bad idea, anyway. It reminded me of China at times, in that driving without understanding A) the language (although I do know several compelling phrases) or B) the traffic laws or C) that unfathomable aspect of human nature that compels people in large cities to drive like total maniacs is probably... an atrocious idea.

So yes. Bali is basically one of my favorite places ever. It has nowhere near the same number of mosquitoes as Central America, and yet everywhere I made it a point to go was jungly, inexpensive, and down to earth. My entire trip, including my lodging and airfare and food, was less than $1500 for the 17ish days I was gone. A substantive percentage of that was probably spent on sushi at the Tokyo airport, for obvious reasons. I mention my budget because for the cost-weary traveler, this really is a solid location to consider going to that feels wholly and totally different. If you need an escape from the status quo, this is a wonderful option, assuming that you don't stay in a fancy spa or something (that being said, all of my massages were less than eight dollars.) Of course, the downside is that it takes around 30 hours to get to Bali. But hey, airplane food! Who doesn't love that?

Answer: Eva and I don't love that, because we got our first cases of food poisoning from one of our flights to Bali, likely Jakarta to Denpasar. My second case of--well, my doctor was undecided between dysentery and parasites, but why choose?--was probably from one of about fifty things I shouldn't have eaten for sanitary reasons... but people kept trying to bless me with stuff! I can use all of the blessings I can get. Really. Religious inclinations inside, I am open to all prayers, offerings, and devotionals. Raw rice? Holy water? I do not discriminate, and this is why I have strange gastrointestinal animals, probably forever.

I mostly chose Bali for yoga reasons. I love doing yoga on trips, and it's about 50% the yoga and 50% the people who do the yoga. The latter 50% tend to know the interesting places to go, where the best vegetarian food is, and enjoy community activities. The former 50% is advantageous because I stay active while traveling, get time to meditate on the many new things I am seeing, and have an excuse to bring a very limited wardrobe (and usually smell. But strangers anticipate that hippies will smell, and so no one is unpleasantly surprised.)

That being said, I also love temples, mythology, tofu, and beaches... and boy, does Bali have all of those things. In droves! I saw many of the major temples during my trip, a lot of which have to do with water. I also hiked a pretty sweet volcano with some pretty hilarious monkeys in tow, one of whom completely unapologetically threw Eva's water bottle down a cliff. This would have been a lot less funny if we were going up at that point, instead of down. Anyway, every other restaurant was a vegetarian restaurant, which was probably due to a combination of the preferences of some Balinese Hindus and the swarms of hungry ethnically-diverse yogis. Eva and I did yoga at Radiantly Alive and Yoga Barn in Ubud, and at Serenity Eco Guesthouse in Canggu. My favorite teacher of the trip was at the latter location, because he reminded me of a surly Anthony Bourdain (but is there any other kind, really?) and had studied with some of my previous Yoga to the People teachers from the East Village. The world is very small.

And on that note, more soon.