Bali is a very different place, but we are already getting the hang of backpacking around here. We???re used to dealing in rupiah, which has an exchange rate of approximately 8,800 to $1, and figuring out what the prices should be. (And in the process figured out that we did indeed get ripped off on our hotel in Kuta.) We successfully dealt with our first ???tourist scam.??? (A driver took us to a tourist trap restaurant with a beautiful view of Mount Batur, but the drinks were four times as much as they should have been.) Car rides, while not exactly comfortable, have ceased to be a heart-stopping adventure. (I???ve even figured out that honking a horn means many things, including, ???I???m passing you,??? ???Move over, I???m passing you and there???s oncoming traffic,??? ???Tourist, do you need a ride???? and the universal, ???Get out of my way, you idiot!???.) And as far as bartering goes, we???re still not great at it, but improving all the time.
I???m even starting to get used to many of the strange sights we see every day, like the cargo people balance on motorbikes.?? A family of four, a dozen water cooler jugs and huge baskets of produce are all things we???ve seen perched on mopeds. All the restaurants and warungs are open-air and nobody bats an eye when a stray cat or a chicken wanders in. Speaking of the chickens, they wake us up almost every dawn???no need to set an alarm clock!
The interesting religion here, while not exactly clear to us, is no longer a cause of constant surprise. Most of Indonesia is Muslim, but the island of Bali is Hindu. It???s not like the Hinduism of India, though. It???s more a unique blend of Bali native beliefs and Hinduism. They believe there are many spirits that play an active role in life and need to be kept happy. Apparently, these spirits are not satisfied very easily, as the Balinese are constantly setting out small offerings to them. The gifts are small boxes, about the size of my palm, and are usually filled with flowers and food. Sometimes they leave a burning incense stick with the offerings as well. These little trays are on the sidewalks outside of every doorway???so basically, they???re everywhere. Brad had a hard time not stepping on them when we first got here.
We???ve seen more of the countryside and spent time in small towns and villages. I???m constantly struck by how lush and green everything looks outside the cities. In Tirta Gangga, we went on a short hike up a hill near Mount Agung, where we had a 360?? view of green rice terraces and trees.
My favorite adventure so far happened while we were biking outside of Lovina. Around lunchtime, we rode by a small warung that smelled really good. It looked like just a few tables with locals eating, nothing fancy. We stopped and went up to the guy standing there. He asked us if we wanted fried rice, and I said no. Then he popped open a cooler and, to our surprise, started holding up dead fish. I asked if he grilled them and he said yes, we could pick any of them. We couldn???t tell what types of fish they were, so we just picked a red one and asked how much it was. 25,000 and it included rice and vegetables. We said that???s fine and then he lead us around the corner to this really nice eating area right off the beach where there were many more people eating. Later, he brings out our meal and, sure enough, it???s the exact same fish, just grilled up nicely. I???d never been served a whole fish before and we weren???t quite sure how to go about eating it, but once we figured it out, it was delicious. So we enjoyed this awesome, fresh, fancy-restaurant- quality, ocean view lunch for $2.84.
Even scuba diving had some interesting surprises.??Women carried all of our equipment for us, and they balanced everything-including air tanks-on their heads and shoulders.??It was also the first time we experienced the??phenomenon of having no idea what our divemaster was saying above water, but understanding him perfectly underwater. We did three dives, two at the wreck of the USAT Liberty and one off the shore of Jemeluk. It was our first time diving a shipwreck and we really enjoyed it. The Liberty sunk in 1963, so by now it???s covered by coral and a lot has been destroyed, but we could still make out some of its features. I thought it was interesting how a disaster for us could become a home for so many different fish and creatures. It was a pretty striking example of the circle of life (although nobody died when the Liberty sank). Our dive in Jemeluk wasn???t quite as exciting, but we did see several lion fish and even a scorpion fish, which apparently is one of the world???s most poisonous fish and there???s no antivenin available. Good thing it didn???t sting us!
We???ll keep trying to post our pictures, but it???s been hard to find an Internet connection quick enough for uploading. Our next stop will be the island of Lombok. I don???t really know anything about Lombok, so I???m looking forward to seeing how it compares to Bali. Until then, goodbye and I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving!