03 Sep Babymoon: Bali Part 2
Bali Day Four
Wanna know what an adventure looks like? Day 4 in Bali!
The first part of our adventure was completely unintentional (but also completely Bali)! We pulled over on a tiny overlook to allow our rental cars to catch up to each other, and there, right in the overlook parking lot, stood a man with a 140-pound python, an owl, an iguana, a massive bat, and a luwak, as though it was the most normal thing in the world to own exotic animals and let strangers hold them for free.
Luwaks are popular in Bali, because they are responsible for producing the most expensive coffee in the world. Luwaks eat coffee beans for food, but they only digest the cherry of the bean…meaning the rest of the coffee bean (which humans use to make coffee) comes back out. The beans are then cleaned (we hoped anyway) and brewed into a famous delicacy: a smooth, very not-bitter cup of coffee called kopi luwak (“luwak coffee”). You’ll hear lots of people referring to luwaks as cats, but they aren’t like the cats we know. That said, they are very soft and cuddly (at least the one we held, which may just mean it was domesticated…or drugged, but the guy really seemed to love the animals, as we passed him later in the day and he was lovingly holding and talking to the luwak, so we went with domesticated).
After lots of photos and lots of laughs, we said goodbye to our python friend and drove the last few miles to Ulun Danu Beratan Temple. To show our respect, we donned our sarongs to cover our shoulders and knees before entering the temple area, and it was so funny to see the guys walking around in makeshift “skirts!”
We set out from Ulun Danu and set our sights on Aling Aling, a famous waterfall in the highlands of northern Bali. We took a quick detour as one of the 8 of us grew extremely ill, and we waited out both the illness and a torrential downpour on the side of the road. We watched lots of kiddos running through the rain and into roadside stands, laughing and soaking wet.
Seeing monkeys on the side of the road, we made a quick stop and fed some bananas to some pretty aggressive monkeys. Seriously, I loved the monkeys in Bali. I was simultaneously terrified of them, but I loved them so much!
A few hours later, we arrived at Aling Aling. At first, we were really bummed to discover we had to pay about $10 per person to take a tour, but in the end, we were so glad we did!
Our guide lead us through a series of 4 waterfalls, and showed us where we could jump off the edge or slide down safely. The bravest in our group jumped off all of them — a 15-footer, then a 30-footer, then a 45-footer — without thinking twice. I, on the other hand, stubbornly refused to jump off any of them.
You guys know I’m unrelentingly terrified of heights, like to the point it’s debilitating. But the group started cheering for me, and the tour guide started cheering for me, and I kept reading the sign next to the platform that said, “Never try, never know.” I didn’t think I could do it. I wanted to in that moment, but I was convinced I wouldn’t actually do it. Standing on the very edge of the platform at the base of the waterfall, the guide started pointing at the waterfall and saying, “Look out, don’t look down. Look out, don’t look down.” And all of a sudden, I did. And I jumped. And it was magical. So magical I then proceeded to slide down the 50 foot waterfall (it’s the one you can see in the background of the video below).
Someone commented on my jumping post the next day: “Maybe God is preparing you for motherhood?! Both terrifying and magical! You will learn who you are.” And I hope she’s right. Because that’s exactly what that moment felt like!
Bali Day Five
I knew as soon as I slid down the waterfall and hit the water that something was wrong with my ear. I emerged at the base of the waterfall and immediately felt sharp pains. I also couldn’t hear a thing. I tried to shake it off, but by that evening, the pain was nearly unbearable. Poor Brian. He just held me and rocked me while I literally screamed. I’ve had ear surgery four times, and I can’t stand people even getting close to my ears. Therefore, any sort of ear pain gets me all nervous that I ruptured my ear drum again, which in turn just makes the pain worse.
So at 8:00 a.m. the next morning, Zach was the brave one who volunteered to drive Brian and me to the nearest health clinic. Y’all, I thought my fear of heights was unbearable, but it turns out it’s nothing compared to my fear of healthcare in a developing country. It didn’t help that the clinic was down a side street that was even less developed than the rest of Ubud. However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear clear English when we walked in and to see real hand soap (a rarity in Bali) next to the sink.
Still, the doctor was out making a house call and wouldn’t be back for another few hours, so they elected to drive us via ambulance to the other side of town (for free). So we said yes and decided to play up the drama of taking an ambulance in a foreign country something fierce!
The doctor at the second clinic location didn’t speak great English and I’m not the greatest at accents (see photo below for a laugh), so the doc and I ended up writing and drawing photos back and forth across the table. After about 10 minutes of back and forth, we determined I did, in fact, have an ear infection and the Eustachian tube was likely swollen as well. So a few hours, sixty American dollars, and 6 medications later, we left the clinic and headed back to our AirBNB to join the rest of our group.
The drive to the the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces (a UNESCO world heritage site) was not fun, as the up and down of the road and the large variances in elevation made my ear hurt terribly. But the terraces themselves were so incredible and definitely worth the drive. We came at the end of harvest season, which is why the terraces were all flooded, but the engineering of the rice terraces (guys, the water in the irrigation canals literally flowed uphill in certain areas of the terraces!) and the beauty of the perfectly manicured landscape was a sight to behold! We had to rush off to meet a missionary family for dinner, but we took in as much of the beauty of the land as we could before heading back and catching the tail end of a beautiful sunset over our AirBNB.
Bali Day Six
Okay, so there is something you need to know about Bali, but something that’s also going to make me sound kinda crazy to some of you. But hear me out, because it’s super important.
I grew up in a great church, but I don’t remember talking much about the idea of spiritual warfare. Oh sure, Satan was real and Jesus was bigger, but I don’t really remember any conversations about demons and the parallel spiritual realm that is just as real as the physical realm we inhabit. But y’all, Bali erased every doubt in my mind that there are dark spiritual forces at work in our world, and I honestly wish I had been more prepared and engaged to deal with it. So I thought I’d put myself out there and talk to you about it too.
On day six, we decided to visit Lempuyang, the highest temple in all of Bali. Getting to Lempuyang involves climbing up a mountain trail that passes 6 other temples along the way, which are all active places of worship. As a pilgrimage site, the journey to Lempuyang is meant to be spiritually and physically taxing, and it didn’t fail to live up to its reputation. As it turns out, our day six was also the day of a huge Hindu festival that only happens once every 5 years, a day full of idol worship and animal sacrifices, so as the morning turned into the afternoon the mountain became increasingly crowded. (Side note: We took a hike break to eat Cliff bars and answer a riddle together, which is the story behind the goofy photo of us lined up in the middle of the path in the photo below.)
Now, as I’ve mentioned before, temples are a dime a dozen in Bali. Literally there are 3-4 for each city block, and most homes have alters as well. By this point it was not at all surprising to see offerings littering the streets (people present offerings to both gods and demons) and smell incense burning constantly, but I guess I had seen it as an interesting tourist attraction more than anything else. Since there are literally hundreds of different gods (and it seems like many of them represent whatever you want them to), I hadn’t really taken any part of Hinduism seriously.
But as we hurried back down the mountain — and saw way too many dead animals — I found myself growing increasingly aware of what was happening. I was particularly thankful for the comic relief back at the “parking lot,” when, out of nowhere, two Balinese men pulled up, got out of their car, took photos with us (all of us, including the Balinese guys, laughing the whole time), and then got back in their car and drove away. This was one of like three instances of strangers coming up and asking for photos with us because we were white, and it never got less strange.
I was also super thankful to eat one of our best meals on the way to the beach! Entrees were about 80 cents in American dollars, so Brian and I got two meals, two glasses of fresh-squeezed juice, a milkshake, and luwak coffee…for about $4! Zach was particularly adventurous with his chicken nuggets, french fries, and Sprite. So we mocked him terribly.
We continued on to the beach, and I couldn’t shake this feeling that something was not right. Yeah, I was tired and I was super frustrated with the disorienting feeling of not being able to hear out of my left ear at all, but it was more than that.
As the day wore on, strange things kept happening. We witnessed a boy kill a puppy on the path in front of us and then laugh about it. We had fun exploring the tide pools near the edge of the beach until, completely out of nowhere, a massive wave came up and pushed Brian and me into the lava rocks, resulting in a lot of scrapes and bruises. Thank God Brian ducked and held on because the wave was big enough (and Brian close enough to the edge) he could have been swept out to sea. Sharayah managed to capture the wave right as it happened (not the first photo below…that was Brian being the Little Mermaid).
On the way back to the AirBNB we got in a car wreck, minor but tiring after an already emotional day. By the time we got back to our room, I felt like maybe I was going crazy. All at once, I felt anxious, depressed, lonely, and scared to the point of panic. I broke into tears, afraid to even walk to the bathroom by myself. The darkness in the room was almost tangible, and a weird presence was definitely occupying the space. I understand this all makes me sound insane, and I would have doubted myself had several others in the group not confirmed the weird feelings over the coming days, totally independently from me. It was as though the veil between the spiritual and physical realms had grown thinner, and Brian and I literally prayed out loud against the darkness and the loneliness and the fear. A powerful and comforting peace settled over our room as we drifted off to sleep.
The very next morning we found something we hadn’t seen before — offerings all over our AirBNB, dedicated to Hindu gods on the day of the festival. My suspicions were confirmed: It had been a spiritual attack the night before. Suddenly the elaborate and photogenic temples lost their luster. The sounds of screeching animals made me almost sick. And all the stories we had heard about spiritual darkness in Southeast Asia suddenly made sense.
Bali Day Seven
After lots of prayer and extra sleep, we woke up to our last day in Bali. Five members of our group had set out at 2:00 a.m. to finish the 6+ hour hike up Mount Agung, but Brian was sick, Hayley was sick, and I, as I mentioned, have a debilitating fear of heights. So the three of us got a ride from Maté (pronounced MAH-tay), our AirBNB host, to downtown Ubud, where we made one last trip to the market and ate one last gelato.
The one Uber driver we could find in Bali wouldn’t take us all the way out of town to our AirBNB, so we found Wayan — owner of “Sexy Taxi Bali” and taxi driver extraordinaire — and negotiated a rate to get home. Stuck in horrendous traffic, Wayan started playing his guitar (he called himself the Bob Marley of Bali, and he was super good!) and we found ourselves laughing along with him! We were cracking up at the slogan on the back of the seats too: Sexy Car, Sexy Driver, Sexy Prices. If you’re ever in Bali, find Wayan. He’s awesome.
Maté met us at the end of the long road to our AirBNB and offered us a ride on his motorbike. Brian took him up on his offer and they flew past us!
We waited a few hours for the rest of our group to get back and shower, and then we set out for our last meal in Bali. We chose a fancy restaurant called Indus, which overlooked a really pretty valley.
We spent one last night in our super awesome AirBNB and then woke up at 2:30 the next morning to continue our journey in Malaysia!