the Long's Strange Trip

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~  2001: A Gutter Odyssey ~
December 28 through January 12, 2001
$1 U.S. = 9200 Indonesian Rupiah
(Remember to click on the thumbnails for enlargements of the photos)

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
December 28 through January 12, 2001

(ccl)  Approximately six months ago, Wiley and I were sitting around talking (as we often are) and the conversation turned to last New Year's Eve.  On that night, an impromptu gathering of friends turned into the best New Year's Eve party we'd ever been to, and it was at our house.  After reminiscing about it, we sent out an email to the people who were there and essentially challenged them to, this year, come to Bali for New Year's.  Not really expecting anyone to take us up on it, we laughed at the responses.  Then one came from our good friend Andre' Golubic, indicating that he and his girlfriend, Sha Ficarrota, were actually considering making the trip.  One thing led to another, and eventually they had a four-week tour of south-east Asia in the works with plans to start it in Bali with us, beginning December 28th.

I don't think I fully appreciated what it takes for someone to come halfway around the world to see us until first our friend, Paula Attaway, then Wiley's sister, Lele, met us in Greece and Thailand, respectively.  We never talked "real time" with any of these people, and planned both of those meetings by email alone.  It must take some guts to get on a plane and hope you met up with the two people you're looking to, who are "somewhere out there", especially when you're by yourself.  In Lele's case, I remember thinking when we left her at the check-in counter at the airport that she had basically flown 36 hours to spend six days with us, and now had to turn around and go back in the other direction.  

We got to know Sha on a ski trip to Lake Tahoe in 1999.  She used to live down the street from some friends of ours, Mike and Dana Persons, who organize a ski trip of folks from Atlanta and other parts of the country every spring.  We had met Sha before, but on the trip we shared a bedroom with her (quarters are close when you're trying to save money in the Land of $45 Lift Tickets) and she and I had celebrated our birthdays together.  Andre' lived next door to an apartment complex in our neighborhood that everyone referred to as "Melrose Place", mainly because of the soap opera-like nature of the goings-on there.  We knew a lot of people who lived there, and met Andre' at an Austin Powers party at Melrose Place.  The story goes that one day Andre' was looking out of the window of his house and saw Sha leaning over the railing at Melrose Place, where she was visiting someone.  Andre' told his roommate, "Patrick, I think I'm in love,", and they've been pretty much inseparable ever since.  We've gotten to be really good friends with them, and we were ecstatic to hear that we'd be ushering in the REAL millennium with them.

SHANDRE'!!!  If you've never emerged from the customs gauntlet at a third world airport and into the teeming masses waiting outside, you've missed an interesting aspect of travel.  Maybe for us in the West, air travel has become so mundane that no one much makes a big deal about it anymore.  When I used to travel a lot on business I hardly ever noticed more than a handful of people waiting to met someone as they got off the plane.  In some of  the places we've been people seem to come to the airport for entertainment, and when you emerge from the terminal building into the blinding sunlight you are amazed at the number of people waiting outside.  Typically, no one is allowed to come into the terminal building for security reasons, so people gather outside, some holding signs with the names of the people they are trying to pick up on them.  On the day that Sha and Andre' arrived (or "Shandre'", as they are collectively known), we were part of that throng of people, all sweating it out together in the afternoon Balinese humidity.  We had been waiting more than 45 minutes since the PA system announced the arrival of their flight, and had watched numerous package tourists come out of the terminal, squint in a confused manner at the signs that read, "Four Seasons", "Ritz Carlton", and "Hard Rock Hotel", when I saw them coming out.  They, too, looked uncomprehendingly at the crowd, until Wiley and I yelled "SHANDRE'!!".  They screamed and ran over to us and tackled us, backpacks and all.  The crowd, rather bored up to this point, enjoyed the performance so much it began cheering and clapping.  I imagine that most people never receive that kind of auspicious welcome when they travel.

And so our time together began...Sha and Andre' were scheduled to leave Bali on the 9th of January to continue their trip in Thailand and Cambodia, so we had twelve days together.  One of our first orders of business was to procure appropriately stunning attire for New Year's Eve.  The sarongs that the Balinese men and women wear come in a myriad of colors, fabrics, and prints, and can be as muted as a simple earth-toned batik to an elaborate organza with gold and silver threads.  Most are relatively inexpensive, so we went to visit Nyoman, who had already sold Wiley his Christmas Eve sarong (many of you know how good Wiley looks in a sarong...).  Nyoman had a rather noticeable affection for Wiley, and seemed to especially enjoy dressing him up.  He outfitted everyone but me - I, of course, didn't find my sarong until New Year's Eve day.

That afternoon we stopped for happy hour at our favorite bar, Three Monkeys.  Winner of the Only Bar with Cranberry Juice on the Long's Strange Trip award, we had made it our second home during our time in Ubud, as they had a special on Absolut Vodka and cranberry juice during the holidays.  Being a firm believer in the medicinal benefits of cranberry juice, I felt that we should have one, in order to ensure the health of our newly-arrived friends.  While there, our new friends and fellow world travelers, Ed and Linda Hawkins walked by, and joined us for a drink.  It was kind of cool, after being on the road on our own for so long, to have a table full of friends enjoying happy hour together.  Even though we have made lots of friends along the way, it's somehow different.  

Here's a little tidbit I may have left out up to this point in my writings about Bali: Ubud is not on the beach.  I keep getting emails from various members of my family, cautioning me to remember to use sunscreen, and making snide comments about why I haven't written them any emails when all I have to do is lie on the beach.  Ubud is firmly inland, and can get quite muggy at times, so it's important to try and head for the beach when you can.  The closest beach is Kuta, which is the main tourist town on the island, and somehow that we had so far managed to avoid.  Lonely Planet made Kuta sound like a town in which tourism and development had run amok, but how bad could it be for one afternoon?

Doing our best impression of budget travelers, we took the shuttle bus to Kuta instead of a taxi.  Motion sickness and heat exhaustion forced us to bail from the bus well before the end of the line, and once our heads cleared we realized that bus fare for the four of us exceeded the price of a private taxi ride from Ubud to Kuta.  Oh well... 

Yes, that fifth time you played "La Bamba" was great, but don't you know "Rocky Top"?  At this point on the trip, we have been on beaches in Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, India, and Thailand.  Add to that the numerous beaches I have visited on other trips, and I will tell you with certainty: I have never seen a beach as dirty as Kuta Beach in Bali.  Kuta was rife with aggressive vendors of everything from massages to tattoos to bad silver jewelry, and swimming involved being periodically assailed by bits of plastic bags that did a passable impression of sea creatures.  I thought of my sister, Barbara, who once used the excuse that "a fish swam between my legs" as the reason that she was not able to get up on waterskis.  Barbara would not have liked Kuta Beach.

But as we were in the company of good friends, we had a good time.  When the boys went for a walk, Sha and I were accosted by two Italian guys who wanted their picture made with us, and who made us promise to meet them at the "deez-co" that night, so we headed into a nearby restaurant to escape any more unwanted attention.  The boys came back, and we sat for a while in the restaurant, and then emerged to catch the sunset.  To our amazement, we saw that the beach was now filled with more people than I have ever seen on a beach in my life.  Everyone had come out for sunset, and the place was a friendly throng of locals and tourists, playing in the waves, strolling, and generally enjoying themselves.  Everybody turns out for sunset at Kuta Beach

It should be illegal to look this good  We took it easy on New Year's Eve day, in anticipation of a big night.  Our plans were to drink some beers at the house, then walk down the street for some dinner at a local restaurant, then ring in the New Year at a party down the road that promised to have a live reggae band.  We had decided to walk that evening, instead of taking the scooters, not only because the boys weren't sure how to drive a scooter in a sarong, but also because one of the guys at our hotel told us that his plans for the evening were to "get drunk and ride around on my motorbike". 

Shandre' sandwich!  Things were going well.  We made some really silly pictures at the house of all of us in our festive attire, then we headed out to start the evening.  I was the only one without a beer in my hand, I'm SURE because my mother taught me that ladies don't drink beer, and not simply because we had run out.  We could not have been 50 yards from the hotel when we encountered our first hole in the sidewalk.  A construction crew had been working on the road ever since we had been there, and on the sidewalks as well.  The sidewalks covered storm ditches, which swept away the copious amounts of rain that seem to fall at least once a day here.  We later learned that most of the menial heavy-labor type jobs here are done by workers who are brought from Java, and they are Muslims. The end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coincided with New Year's Eve, and apparently the workers vanished to celebrate, leaving off EVERY ONE of the large concrete covers that provide access to the ditches below the sidewalk.  Wiley, Andre', and Sha had all been down the road on foot before and were aware that there were holes in the sidewalk every ten feet or so; I had not and therefore was not. After stepping around the first three or four of these holes, I kind of forgot about them, and starting thinking about whether the restaurant up the street would be a good place for dinner. One second I was happily chatting with Andre', the next, I was standing in a hole. Apparently, I planted my left foot, then made the step with my right foot right down into the hole, which looked to be about four-and-a-half feet deep, based on the fact that the underside of my left elbow was scraped. When they hauled me out, there was quite a bit of blood pooling in my sandal, and I was pretty woozy, probably from shock.

This is where is becomes quite important that I DIDN'T have a beer bottle in my hand when I fell into the hole.  If I had, I would have smashed it on the sidewalk, and would have probably cut my hand up as well.

It's funny: I had remarked when we moved in that it was quite convenient that there was a 24-hour medical clinic right next to our hotel, never fathoming that it would be me who needed it. The guys supported me back to our house, and Sha, who has her masters in nursing, took a look and said that she thought stitches would be a good idea, given the depth of two of the wounds. I had basically grazed the top of my foot, then hit hard twice on my shin, then scraped the top of my shin.  The shot is always the worst part

Thank God I had recently had a pedicure  I limped back over to the medical clinic, where an exceedingly young-looking doctor examined me. I asked her how long she had been a doctor and she cheerfully responded, "One year!". But she was extremely professional, and Sha was close at hand to make sure that everything was sterile and the procedures well-done. My "support team" was working overtime, and the jokes were flying fast and furious.  Andre' documented the entire event on film, and I remember saying at one point that this was my mother's worse nightmare (me lying in a third-world emergency room with needles).  I was out of there in about 30 minutes, and after a brief rest back at the house, I felt great again and we headed back out for the party, albeit much more carefully.  This will make a lovely addition to my already extensive collection of scars

Since the accident, I've come to realize that for a year-long trip around the world to some exotic and slightly dangerous locations, if we had to have one emergency room visit, this was a pretty innocuous one to have.

At the party, my wounds generated much sympathy, and I found that I was able to dance in a modified fashion.  At seven minutes to midnight, Andre' and Wiley threaded their way through the crowd to the bar to get champagne, and while there heard, "Ten!  Nine!  Eight!", and quickly rushed back to Sha and me, where we all rang in the New Year together.  There were lots of locals at the party, and they all wanted to exchange New Year's greetings with us.  On the way home we stopped at a couple of impromptu parties that were being held by various hotel employees in their parking lots.  They welcomed us with open arms, offered us some of their food, and made us feel right at home.  

Mt. Batur, the still active volcano on Bali  New Year's Day was a recovery day for everyone.  I was hobbling around, but doing pretty well, although we were all somewhat tired from the activities of the previous night, so we gave ourselves the night off.  The next day we rallied, and headed up the road for incredible views of Mt. Batur, a still-active volcano.  On the way back we were pelted with rain, and got home drenched, as none of us had the foresight to bring rain gear.  That night Ketut, the owner of our hotel (remember, the owner of our LAST hotel was ALSO named Ketut - this is ridiculous, isn't it?) insisted that he take us to the night market in the neighboring town of Gianyar for a true Balinese feast.  We sat down in front of a food vendor, and in one of the rare moments when I have been elated that I have decided to be a vegetarian, I watched as Sha, Andre', and Wiley were served the largest concentration of animal fat I have ever seen on a single plate.  The dinner included fried pig skin, fried chicken skin, a sausage made completely from large, white chunks of fat, and chunks of pork including (you guessed it!) fat!  I was served a lovely bowl of steamed rice and a green bean salad, and wore a haughty air of superiority for the next 24 hours as we all cringed at the sound of blood squeezing its way through the arteries of the others.

Andre' has a friend named Jim Barin, and when he found out about Jimbarin Bay in Bali, he wanted to go and get his friend a t-shirt or something from the beach that bears his name.  It turned out that Jimbarin had also been recommended by another friend of ours as a great place to go for fresh seafood, so we had wanted to go there, too.  We went into central Ubud to hire a driver for the day, figuring we had had our fill of the bus service on the island.  After arguing with several guys who wanted way too much money, we met Made, who agreed to drive us around all day for a reasonable price.  We made a brief stop in Kuta to try to find some lamps that Sha and Andre' wanted.  There, Sha and I met a Balinese guy who talked our heads off for at least 30 minutes.  He told us about how a 17 year old girl was in love with him, and how he was going to marry her, even though he already has a wife and two children.  According to him, it's OK for a man to have two wives in Bali, as long as the first wife agrees.  This guy told us that he had the power to make women fall in love with him, and that was part of his problem.  He had made this 17 year old girl fall in love with him, and now he had to marry her. 

He then proceeded to tell us that he was a master of an Indonesian martial art that allowed him to make his enemies to fall down on the ground, helpless with laughter, when they attempted to attack him.  Actually, I had heard of this before, but when this man attempted to turn himself into a lion right there in the mini mart, we were pretty sure it was time for us to say our goodbyes.  I suppose on day I should write a book about all of the interesting characters I have met on this trip - this guy would definitely make it.

Sha Ficarrota, the newest member of the "Baywatch" cast  We got to Jimbarin about an hour before sunset.  It's a long, sandy beach lined with little shack-like restaurants, each serving seafood fresh from the ocean and good, cold beer.  For some reason, your meal is cheaper if you sit out at one of the tables on the beach than inside the restaurant.  We chose a little place and sat down to enjoy the sunset.  The rest of the gang went for a swim, but in my crippled condition I could only watch and make halting small talk with Made.  We followed our waitress inside to look at the fresh seafood.  There were huge lobsters, snapper, grouper, and king-sized prawns.  As the sun made a real show in the west, we devoured a delicious grilled seafood dinner.  We never get tired of beautiful sunsets

After dinner, as we sat and finished our beers, we talked with our waitress, who turned out to own the place with her husband.  It was interesting that earlier in the day we had met the guy who told us about how he was about to marry his second wife, because this woman told us her side of a similar story.  Her husband had a girlfriend, which she really didn't seem to mind so much, except that he was never around to help with the restaurant.  She then told us that five hours after she gave birth to the third of their three children, she had to borrow someone's scooter to get from the hospital back to her home to feed the other two.  Her husband had been with his girlfriend the entire time.  She later apologized for telling me this sad story, saying that "sometimes I talk too much".  She was obviously a strong woman, and one who fiercely loved her children, who were playing inside the restaurant.  Her little boy, who was no more than two, ran up to me as we were saying our goodbyes.  How cute, I thought, he wants to give me a hug.  Wrong!  The devil child attempted to kick me in the leg, right on the bandages that covered my all-too-new wounds.  In what I hope was a translation error, she told me, "I hope if you have a child, it is just like him.".  Thanks, but no thanks...  

Jimbarin Bay had no souvenir shops that we saw, so in a final attempt to get something for Andre's friend, we had Made take us to the Four Seasons hotel.  As Andre' talked to the front desk clerk, the three of us sidled past him, and into the pool area.  The hotel, which charges $550 per night and up for a room, has an incredible pool that runs straight up to the edge of the hillside that overlooks the bay.  No one seemed to mind if the group (sans me, of course) had a quick dip, and it was a fine way to end the day.

Step inside my lair...  Lest you think we ignored the cultural and historical aspects of the island during Sha and Andre's visit, let me assure you: we spent at least one or two full afternoons seeing the sights.  One day we made the short ride over to Goa Gaja, known as the Elephant Cave.  Legend tells that the cave was carved in a single day by the fingernail of a giant; probably it dates to the 11th century and was rediscovered by Dutch archaeologists in 1923.  The cave is ornately carved at the mouth to resemble a monster forcing himself out of somewhere, almost as if he were being born into this world, and is comical and scary all at the same time.  The grounds around the cave are extensive, and we managed to work our way down to a beautiful river that rushed on its way past the site.  The swimmers in the crowd were, once again, able to go in for a quick cool off, while I stayed on the side and took pictures.   Wow, this water is COLD!

Probably the most impressive monument we have seen on Bali is Gunung Kawi.  After cruising back and forth on the main road a few times, we finally located the poorly marked entrance to the temple.  We parked our bikes next to some local men who were stroking their roosters in preparation for the evening's cock fights.  Cock fighting is big sport on Bali, and everywhere you can see old men squatting on their haunches, petting their birds.  I have thought several times that the thousands of stray, diseased dogs on Bali would welcome one-one hundredth of the attention shown to the island's fighting cocks.

Gunung Kawi rice terraces at dusk  Gunung Kawi is the oldest of Bali's ancient monuments.  A series of rock-carved steps lead one down, down, down, through the lush green rice paddies to a temple that contains ten monolithic shrines cut from the massive rock faces on the hillsides.  We were there are dusk, and the only people in the place.  It was eerily still and quiet, and the huge rocks loomed menacingly above us.  The monuments are believed to be memorials to 11th century Balinese royalty, but little is known about how they actually got there.  Again, legend tells us that a giant carved out the whole place in a night with his fingernail.  Whatever these giants are taking to make their fingernails so strong, I need some of it.  I believe I could sell it in the nail salons of America and become rich beyond my wildest dreams.  Gunung Kawi

One of the most enjoyable things we have done since being in Bali has been taking a class in making batik paintings.  Batik is an ancient art, and it didn't originate on Bali, but some of the finest Batik works come from this island.  The process involves painting a design on cloth with wax, and then applying dyes to the cloth where you want color.  As you apply the dyes, starting with the lighter colors and moving to the darker, you add more wax to your design when you want to preserve the existing colors.  In the simple process that we did, we first outlined our designs in wax, then yellow vegetable dye was applied.  On the areas where we wanted to preserve the yellow color, we applied wax.  Then the cloth was dipped in green dye.  Afterwards, again, where we wanted to preserve the green color, we applied more wax.  The process continues through orange, red, and finally dark blue dyes.  Right before the cloth is put into the blue dye, you scrunch up the whole piece of fabric, to crack the wax and give the batik a "crinkle" effect.  This allows a little bit of blue color to bleed through onto the lighter color beneath.  The whole process is somewhat confusing, and I had to consult the teacher constantly for advice on where to add more wax based on what color was going to be used next.  You really have no idea how the whole thing is going to look until it has been through the entire dying process and the wax is removed with boiling water.   Crinkling

Nyoman, laughing as usual  Our teacher for the class was Nyoman Suradnya, an accomplished artist in the mediums of batik, watercolor, and oil.  A large, jolly man, Nyoman teaches students from around the world, including from the American colleges of the Naropa Institute and Wyoming State.  On the day we started our class, Nyoman was wearing a shirt that one of his students from Bowling Green State had given him; we all thought that especially appropriate given the fact that our good friend, Bob Lutz, is an esteemed alumni of this institution.  Nyoman laughed loud and often, and called our efforts, "cool", and "groovy", and "awesome".  He had a dog named Tokay (which means "gecko" in Balinese; apparently as a puppy the dog had been no bigger than a lizard) who was the friendliest dog we had met on the island.  Balinese dogs are notoriously vicious, and aren't shown much regard by humans, so your presence is typically greeted with howls and growls when you come upon them.  But Tokay couldn't get enough affection, despite all of our best efforts.  Note to self: remember to always apply dog food to ear when a vet (note tail blur)

Sha waxes her sunshine  Our one-day class stretched into two days because a torrential downpour started and didn't let up.  But we didn't mind, because Nyoman was infinitely interesting company, and his house was a virtual playground of kitty cats, cool birds, art, and of course, Tokay.  We came back on Sunday to finish our batiks, and it was great fun watching as each person's went through the final dye processes.  Each of us had chosen a completely different subject.  I came up with an underwater sunset-kind of thing, Andre' drew a picture of hands playing a bass guitar (which is his instrument), Wiley's included a huge question mark (Wiley says that in our relationship, he's the question mark and I'm the exclamation point) along with our "Why the hell not???" theme, and Sha drew an incredible picture that she said reminded her of her goal to always follow her heart.  We were all pleased with our results.  The pride is palpable

No visit to Bali is complete without seeing one of the many traditional dances which are performed with regularity by various groups around the island.  The dancers are typically ordinary people who indulge their passion for the dance after working their day jobs.  Most dances are accompanied by a gamelan orchestra, and the movements made by the dancers are as jerky and rhythmical as the music.  Dancer dances the Legong

The dancers are typically acting out a story, and oftentimes it's from a much-loved ancient Hindu saga.  We saw the Legong dance, which is one of the most famous of Balinese dances.  It tells the story of a beautiful princess who is kidnapped and married by a king.  The princess' brother goes out to fight the king for the return of his sister, and on the way to the battle the king is warned by a giant eagle that the battle will result in his death.  The costumes are elaborate and richly decorated, and the story is told not only through the movements of the dancers, but also through their eye, hand, and facial gestures, and more head bobbing than one of those little dogs that sits on the dashboards of taxi cabs.  The dancers maintain a wide-eyed expression throughout, and are constantly cutting their eyes back and forth to indicate something, I'm not sure what, however.  We saw five or six different dances, including a mask dance, where a male dancer wears a huge and somewhat frightening mask onto the stage for a solo performance.  The Balinese handle the masks with extreme care, as they believe that when a person dons the mask, they take on its personality.  The mask is carefully stored between performances, and it only brought out immediately before the dance begins.  Watch out for that mask! 

We've been to two of these performances now, and while it's pretty interesting, there's a lot I just don't get.  I suppose the Balinese understand the average tourist's short attention span for the dances, because both times I've begun squirming in earnest, the dances have ended.  But, as I mentioned above, there are many different dances, and we will probably see at least one more before we leave the island.  We are both particularly interested in the Kecak dance, where there is no musical accompaniment, only a group of men chanting.  

Let me just take this opportunity to rant about something that continues to bewilder me while on this trip (I pay for this web site, therefore I am afforded certain rights thereof).  During the night we were at the dance with Sha and Andre', a woman in front of us watched the entire performance on the screen of her digital video camera while she filmed it.  First of all, this bothers me because it seems like buying tenth row tickets to see the Stones, then watching the whole concert on the huge video screen.  And secondly, I wonder: are these people ever going to watch this?  Are going to say to each other on a regular basis, "Hey, Honey, why don't you get out that hour-long video of the Balinese dance we went to so we can show it when the neighbors come over?"??  I remember when we were in the National Museum in Egypt, in the room where the gold and other amazing treasure from King Tut's tomb is kept, and I watched this man move from object to object, carefully videotaping each one for about ten seconds.  PEOPLE, THIS STUFF DOESN'T MOVE!!!  It's cool for you to be there, but it's boring as watching paint dry to anyone else, so put down the camera and ENJOY IT!!!  

OK, now I feel better.

They don't do this at the Highland Tap!  We spent Andre' and Sha's last full day in Bali shopping for furniture.  The Balinese make some beautiful stuff, and there's a ton of stores selling it at really good prices.  The catch?  You have to pay to get it home, but fear not.  There are also a ton of shipping companies who will pack your stuff into a container on a big freighter and get it to you.  It's all relatively pain free, and even after the shipping, you've saved considerable money.  After Andre' and Sha bought an armoire and a coffee table, we headed for a place just outside of Ubud called Naughty Nury's Warung.  We had read somewhere that they make a "mean martini" there, and it was no exaggeration.  When we walked in we were greeted by Brian, the owner, a former New York cop, and his wife, Nury, also known as Naughty Nury.  We sat and chatted with Brian as his Balinese staff, no doubt after completing rigorous training with him, served us very cold and very dry martinis with an elaborate flourish.  Brian told us that he came to Bali for a month-long vacation about ten years ago, met Nury, who was a guide, and fell in love.  Some friends were visiting from Jakarta once, and convinced them that Nury's cooking was so good, they should open a restaurant.  He told us that for the first year they were open, they would sometimes go five nights with no customers.  Then the ex-pat crowd caught on, and the place is packed every night.  One of the reasons is that Nury's has a gas grill, a relative oddity in Bali, and Brian cooks up racks of spare ribs, pork chops, and steaks that make homesick travelers weep with joy.  When I told Brian how I had injured my leg, he told us about a filmmaker who fell into a hole in Kuta (we had actually rented a couple of videos this guy had done before leaving home) and broke his leg.  He went to the hospital and found out they only took cash, so he hobbled back out to get money out of the cash machine, where he dropped dead of a heart attack.  Suddenly, three stitches don't seem so bad.  

Good friends  The next afternoon we bid farewell to our wonderful friends, and sent them on the remainder of their adventure.  Once again we were alone, and things seemed pretty quiet at Bali Breeze Bungalows.  We spent the next couple of days searching for a house to rent for the final month of the Long's Strange Trip, as we had decided to hunker down and enjoy the rest of our time on the road in one place.  I suppose we had high standards: affordable, good view, phone line, kitchen, pool, and most importantly, comfort.  We looked at so many places I began to remember what I had hated so much about house-hunting, but we finally found the perfect place in the Sayan Ridge area of Ubud.  Sayan Ridge overlooks the Ayung river and the highest peak on Bali, Sungai Agung, is visible in the distance, along with several other mountains.  The river gorge is lined with verdant green rice terraces and coconut palms laden with nuts.  We made an incredible deal to rent an entire house for $1000 per month.  The place is amazing - every day, no less than four people come to clean it, and a woman brings new floral arrangements as well.  It's in the traditional Balinese style, with two floors and the downstairs is completely open.  There's a gorgeous wooden chaise lounge with great pillows for lounging and sighing as you stare out at the view, which we do a lot.  There's a bedroom upstairs, but so far we prefer to sleep in the downstairs bed, which is completely open and protected by a mosquito net.  It feels like we're on one of those exotic and expensive African safaris.  The houseboys bring breakfast every morning, and the pool is about ten feet from our front porch.  And best of all, we have the same view as the people at the Four Seasons, which is right next door, but they're paying $500 more per night for it!  Our view

Open air living  As I write this, we've been here one week, and have settled into a slow and languorous pace of living.  We're both doing work on the Internet, getting prepared for the tasks that await us when we get home.  We read books and sleep late and cook great meals and eat at great restaurants, but mostly we talk about and anticipate the many exciting challenges ahead.  We have mixed feelings about the trip ending - it's been an amazing chapter in our lives together, but we feel compelled to start the next chapter.  It's hard to believe it's been nearly a year since we took off for Mexico, relative babes-in-the-woods of world travel, saying goodbye to so many people we love, and now it is with great anticipation that we plan our many reunions with them.


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