I once went to Bali to “chill out.”
It was a difficult time in my life and I needed a change of environment. My friend Anmarie suggested that we go to a non-Christian country for Christmas, to see what it’s Iike. Another friend recommended a trip to this fabled island of Broadway fame. Remember the song Bali Ha’i from the musical “South Pacifc?”
Bali Ha’i may call you any night, any day
In your heart, you’ll hear it call you, “Come away, come away.”
Bali Ha’i will whisper on the wind of the sea
“Here am I, your special island, “Come to me, come to me.”
And so we flew from San Francisco to Singapore, a bucket city for inexpensive airline tickets to other Asian destinations. For around $300, we got flights from Singapore to Yogyarkarta (where we stayed a couple of days to visit the Borobudur and Prambanam temples), on to Bali, and return to Singapore ten days later.
Singapore is just below the South China Sea, while Yogya is above the Indian Ocean, between Jakarta and Bali.
Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world.
Our guide told us about tranquility, eternity, reincarnation, escape from the worldly life, karma, and other goals/principles/practices.
After a couple of days in Buddhist Yogya, we flew to Hindu Bali. Soon after our arrival at Ngurah Rai airport, which looked like a huge temple complex, I was smitten by this very green island. It was pure magic! Even to this day, I still declare that in my next reincarnation I want to be a Balinese.
In the artists’ town of Ubud, Anmarie and I shared a bungalow in the middle of a rice field. The resort was named after Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice and fertility. Each day started with a mini-plate offering left on our doorstep, for placement in a small altar nearby. The plate was made of bamboo or banana leaf and contained some grains of rice, a flower, or some other small token. We were told it was for “the goddess.”
My Bali experience included long days spent writing; I finished several chapters of a book which I eventually shelved because the writing had done the catharsis I sought. Anmarie and I also visited the public market, soaking the ambience of island life which was accented by the aroma of spices and the splashes of colors of tropical fruits and vegetables, and batik material. A day-long trip on a rented vehicle brought us through the silver town of Celuk, along pristine beaches, and across towns where we witnessed, among other events, a funeral procession and the end-of-day ritual of coming from rice harvest.
Food-wise, I brought home a new appreciation for a spicy noodle dish, mie goreng. I later discovered an easy way of reproducing that snack which we ordered often through room service. I never thought I’d be giving recipes in my blog, but here goes:
* At your favorite Asian store, buy a package of Indo Mie brand noodles, preferably one with hot and spicy flavoring packets inside.
* Peel and mince one clove of garlic and 1/4 of an onion. Also, wash and roughly chop one rib of celery, one carrot, and 4-5 leaves from a head of cabbage.
* In a little canola oil, sauté garlic & onion, soon adding the vegetables.
* Add the flavor packets. Mix well.
* Break the noodles into large pieces and add water 3 tablespoons at a time, stirring until the noodles are soft.
* Serve warm with a slice of lemon.
I thoroughly enjoyed my Bali sojourn. All the sweet memories, though, were tempered by one measure of “sadness.” Nobody ever said Merry Christmas! (Hah! What did I expect?)