Life in Bali

It’s hard to believe I have less than a week left in Bali. My time here has been nothing short of amazing and has passed in a flash. I have truly loved every day of the experience and it will be a bitter sweet feeling to move onto the next stage of my adventure.

The dive course was much busier than I expected it to be, starting most mornings at the dive shop at 7 and not returning till 4 or 5 in the afternoon.  Days off have also been limited and I have been ‘working’ 28 of the 35 days I have been here. However it has been worth it for the variety of experience with clients and diving generally and I am now pleased to say that I am a fully fledged Divemaster with more than 100 dives under my belt. The course also delivered some unexpected practical experiences along the way, including a real life rescue scenario of a panicked snorkeler, as well as my buddy running out of air at 15meters depth after blowing an o-ring on his equipment. Thankfully I passed both ‘tests’ and everyone walked away unscathed, although with nerves perhaps a little frayed.

The diving experiences otherwise have been amazing. I have had the pleasure of diving several times with the graceful mantas on Nusa Penida – most recently we had 5 mantas swimming around us for the entire dive. I never tire of watching these creatures and the excitement on every person’s face, particularly when seeing these beautiful animals for the first time, is priceless. If you have the opportunity to get up close and personal with mantas, I highly recommend it.

The team at Joe’s Gone Diving have also been incredible – lots of fun, patient and very helpful. The program allowed me to spend time with each of their instructors and Divemasters ensuring I had plenty of exposure to different teaching styles, personalities and diving techniques. I am so grateful to every one of them for taking the time to impart their knowledge and allow me to participate in both training and fun dives and of course for the amusing day to day banter. Will definitely be back to visit in Mola Mola season!

I was lucky enough while I was here to also have several visitors pass through Bali. While the travel aspect is certainly fun, it’s always nice to have the touch of home and be able to share part of the experience with others.  My brother and his family visited for just over a week, which also meant a substantial upgrade in my accommodation for that period of time. Not that the other apartment isn’t very comfortable, but this place just set a whole new standard. Proper kitchen, lounge, private pool, canopy bed, driver and…… a washing machine! Sounds crazy I know, but this small life luxury is way too taken for granted. OK yes it’s true they have numerous laundromats in Sanur, but after carefully selecting each article of clothing to cram into my 20kg of luggage, I am not willing to part with any of it, which my Bali sources tell me can be common practice. As such I was limited to handwashing until… this heavenly week with a washing machine. Anyway enough about my newfound washing machine fetish – this of course was a minor highlight, to the main event of sharing time with my brother, his wife, my niece and nephew who spent the week marvelling at the cultural differences of Bali. My niece also enjoyed her first foray into snorkeling and was ecstatic upon finding ‘Nemo’ – future diver in the making??

While in town, my brother and I also encountered the Balinese police – pulled over for apparently being marginally beyond a line at the traffic lights. However it turns out that if you talk incessantly the officer will soon be begging you to continue on your way just to give them some peace and quiet…. Fine Free!! 🙂

On 12March I had the chance to experience the annual day of silence that falls upon Bali. Known as Nyepi, the island effectively shuts down to mark the first day of the Hindu New Year, with strict rules imposed on all residents in Bali, including tourists.  No one is permitted to go outside (well, some of the large hotels buy the privilege of pool usage for their guests, but venturing onto beaches or outside the compound is prohibited), cable TV is switched off, in theory no lights are to be used or fires lit, the airport closes and the roads empty. It is a rather eerie silence with no telltale ‘beep beep’ of passing bemos or scooters and even the dogs seem to respect this auspicious occasion. Prior to the silence falling upon the island, there is a period of raucous celebration, where the communities make large statues called ogu ogu, representing the evil spirits from the past year and parade them through the streets. Fireworks are launched and a procession of fire torches, ogu ogu and a team of musicians on drums and gongs take over. The roads are effectively closed, with the police and officials trying unsuccessfully to maintain control of the crowds that flock to see the parade, with little more than a whistle. The chaos is not aided by the seeming lack of any official details on the parade with no one knowing when it will commence, where it will come from, or exactly what will happen. Nevertheless the experience is once in a lifetime and a spectacle to see.

Today I managed to navigate my furthest distance yet on the scooter, heading up to the ever tranquil Ubud for a day of relaxation amongst the rice paddies and rolling hills. Lunch overlooking the rice fields was idyllic, followed by a spot of shopping and a Holistic Massage which combined a variety of massage techniques into the perfect relaxation therapy. As I started on my way back to Sanur I happened to pass by the home of Ketut Liyer – the medicine man featured in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided it was only fitting to drop in. After wandering into the serene grounds I soon came face to face with the toothless man immortalised by the book and movie. He asked me to wait while he caught his breath, after already having done some 18 palm readings on the day (at $25 a pop, this guy is doing pretty well!). So I paid my fee and joined him on the mat for my reading. First is the ‘reading’ of ears, lips, chin, cheeks, nose, eyes and forehead. All of which I’m told are ‘very lucky. make Ketut very happy’. Particular note made of my dimples which apparently give me an extra element of luck! (the cynic in me acknowledges that ‘unlucky’ probably does not sell quite so well, but nevertheless it’s a nice sentiment). He reads my palm which he tells me I will live long (100?!), be successful at anything I do, although notes I am rather impatient. He tells me not to worry, not to be sad as there is a ‘handsome man’ in my future who I will be with for the rest of my life. He also ‘reads’ my legs, which he says are strong, without accident, but he cautions against driving fast – I suspect this is more a reference to Bali’s chaotic traffic, rather than any impending accident I have to look forward to, given I had also mentioned in passing that I rode the bike to Ubud. Nevertheless I was just slightly more cautious on the ride home.

Overall, while his reading wasn’t especially insightful, Ketut is a sweet guy, with a big smile, who farewelled me with his catchphrase ‘see you later alligator’ .

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