Bali Impressions

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Here I am now in Bali. While traveling through South East Asia, I’ve only heard the most amazing things about Bali. So I had high expectations when coming here. But I have to admit that once I got here, I thought what’s the big deal with Bali? The following are some of my impressions of Bali.

1. My first destination was Kuta Beach and the beach was absolutely filthy. The beach is a dumping beach and known for good surfing.  However, there was so much garbage in the water that you couldn’t enjoy a swim without a plastic bag getting caught on you legs with every wave.  I was told that since this is rainy season, the wind blows the garbage in from Java. In the summer months, the beach is clean and the water blue and it’s actually a really stunning beach. But for now when you go in the water, it’s not the fish nibbling at you that you worry about, but the garbage that gets tangled around your legs. Disgusting..

2. Walking down Legian St, the main thoroughfare, can be an exhausting mission even when only going 100 meters. “Massage,” “nails done,” “braid hair,” “transport,” “money change,” “taxi,” “tattoo,” “mushrooms,” “cocaine,” and “marijuana” are the things whispered or called out to you as you pass many of the locals who spend their day sitting on the side-walk trying to make a buck.

3. Changing money can be even more exhausting until you know exactly where to go.  Authorized money changers are advertised everywhere, but be careful because most of them are trying to rip you off. They will use slight of hand tricks to skim off some of the money after you’ve counted it. If you don’t allow them to touch the money again, then suddenly there are new taxes and fees that need to be applied or the rate was yesterday’s and surprise surprise, today’s rate is significantly lower. All a bunch of crooks!

4. There are nice beaches even in rainy season, but it seems that the nice beaches tend to be home to 5 star resorts. I went to Nusa Day, which is 30 minutes away by taxi from Kuta, and the water was shades of blue. There was calm water for swimmers and surf for surfers and no garbage.

5. Bali felt more like a holiday island than anything else. Independent travel was not at all promoted. Tours were expensive. If traveling on your own, you almost felt discriminated against because you’d have to pay extra money as there was always a two person minimum.

6. But not all my impressions were falling short of my expectations. When I went 1 hour north to Ubud, a different world awaited me. This town oozed with culture. You could see villagers in cultural dress. Everyday, women would go out with their woven baskets of flower petals, rice, incense and other objects and place them in front of store fronts and shrines. Every night you can take in some form of cultural dance. All over the town, there were Hindu temples and shrines, it was a bit unreal. The natural beauty of the area was stunning. Tropical forests with ravines and rice fields all over the place. I could’ve given up the beaches of Bali for this paradise.

7. If you continue further outside of Ubud, more nature and culture abounds. There are splendid views of terraced rice fields, volcanoes to climb, mountains, lakes, adventure sports and temples. I finally was able to see what it is that people must be referring to about Bali. The interior of the island is just gorgeous and breathtakingly beautiful.

8. Massages. Being a message junkie, I had only had 2 in the Philippines because I was still tainted by my Vietnam experience. Here, in Bali, I succumbed to the massages. Being trained in anatomy and possessing some basis massage techniques, I’m very particular about my massages. I prefer it when someone works out my knots. If I feel like someone doesn’t know what they are doing, then I stop going. So the massages in Bali have been alright, some better than others, and so far professional. Even  had a guy massage me and it wasn’t awkward. I’ve been pretty much going everyday for one. Why not, they are only 5 bucks.

9. Monkey Sanctuary: in the town off Ubud, there is a little area where monkeys live and you can go in and see them. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to this shameless exploitation of monkeys but I’d read that the forest was worth the money, 20000 IDR (less than 2 USD). When you get to the gate, there is a sign that says please help keep the monkey sanctuary functioning. Buy bananas. These ladies sit at the front gate with a stick to keep away the monkeys. The monkeys have learned to fear the stick. But once someone has bought bananas, they attack. They will grab from your hand, jump on you and even bite. Somehow people find this entertaining. These monkeys are well fed. They have potatoes to keep them satisfied, yet they still feel the need to be teased by tourists waving bananas at their face to then move it away quickly at the last second. This was the only thing with Ubud that I didn’t like. They shouldn’t be encouraging wild animals to rely on humans for food.

So Bali was an okay experience. Ubud was where I enjoyed myself the most. If I ever came back I’d try to do it in the dry season and see if Kuta Beach is any better and explore more of the islands beaches.

Sanur Beach

Sanur Beach

Statues everywhere

Statues everywhere

Balinese Cultural Dance

Balinese Cultural Dance

Terraced Rice Fields

Terraced Rice Fields

Full Moon Party Balinese Style

Full Moon Party Balinese Style

Sacrificial Offerings

Sacrificial Offerings

Monkey being head butted after it jumped on this man's head for a banana

Monkey being head butted after it jumped on this man’s head for a banana

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Massage Junkie’s Adventures Continued

As tourism is just starting to grow in Burma, Burma has not yet responded like its neighbours to Western tourists by offering them cheap massages.  So I didn’t get any massages while there.

I had almost forgotten about massages altogether until I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City and was inundated by the number of spas out there.  You couldn’t pass a street corner without a flyer being shoved in your hands.  So, the junkie that I am, couldn’t resist the temptation and decided to have a massage.

The place I went to wasn’t the one I had originally intended on going to, but their prices were right and the lady who had given me the flyer was determined for me to say yes.

When I went into the room to receive the massage, I noticed that everyone in the room was a man.  Suddenly, I wondered if this was a “happy ending” type of place.

I laid down on the massage bed and this one lady in a short skirt started massaging my back.  It was the strangest “professional” massage that I have ever received.  She jumped onto the bed, straddled me and was sitting on my butt in order to massage my back.  My suspicions increased.

Then half way through the massage, she switched with another lady.  This second lady had been working on the guy that was beside me.  I have never had therapists switch in the middle of a session.  I am sure that the first girl that was working on me was the happy ending girl.

I was feeling quite uncomfortable during the massage as it wasn’t as professional as the ones that I had received in Thailand.  The massage itself was nothing spectacular.  I am sure that the guy beside was getting a happy ending.

Conclusion: I will wait until I return to Thailand to do anymore massages.  The only thing I liked about this massage was that they never asked me if I wanted a happy ending 🙂

The Land of Cheap Massages

I am a massage junkie and what better place for an addict to be than Thailand.  The massages are cheap cheap cheap (less than 10 dollars for 1 hour massage) and this is the place that invented the Thai massage.

I decided that I was going to get a massage everyday.  Back home I go for Thai massages once every 2 weeks, so I’m no a stranger to this technique.  Although my therapist back home is Thai, she tickles me compared to these Thai people here.  These people are sadists.  They are pulling and poking and cracking you all over the place.  I had no idea an elbow could be classified as a lethal weapon.

My first massage was 1 hour and it wasn’t that bad.  The pressure was more than I was used to but I was able to handle it.  The second massage was 1/2 hour focusing on my back and shoulders.  The pressure was similar to the first massage but I think my body was wondering what it had done to deserve this abuse.  So for my third massage, I decided to go for an oil (Swedish) massage.  Get some effleurage and petrissage going on and have a relaxing massage.  What I didn’t realize was that for a Thai person, a Swedish massage is a Thai massage with some oil applied in the beginning.  Slap on the oil and get the elbow digging.  This lady who did this massage was a monster.   OMG.  It was so painful that she brought tears to my eyes.  I just wanted a relaxing oil massage.  Why is this hurting so much?  Oh the irony.  I have never been brought to tears in a massage in my life and this woman damaged me!

I have one more day in Thailand.  The massages here are cheap cheap cheap.  I can’t possibly give up on the opportunity to have a cheap massage.  Hmmmm….I wonder if a foot massage will be relaxing 🙂