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Published: October 20th 2017
We arrived in the island province of Bali and felt like we had arrived in an entirely different country, which it actually was up until 1906 when it was invaded by the Dutch. Hindu culture and design is apparent and prolific everywhere and makes everything a bit more beautiful and exotic. Hindus comprise about 90% of the population here, an extreme departure from the predominantly Muslim populations elsewhere in Indonesia.
There are shrines and statutes of deities such as Vishnu, Garuda or Ganesh in front of every structure and seemed as though there were small temples on every block. Every day we watched the Balinese women engage in daily offerings to the Gods. Offerings are generally made twice daily, in the morning and late afternoon, by women in every household and business in multiple locations. The offerings are small baskets made from palm leaves filled with burning incense, rice, flowers or fruits. Everywhere you go you will find these small offerings laying around- on sidewalks, roads, in front of shops, restaurants and houses. It’s sometimes actually rather difficult just to walk without accidentally stepping on them but it makes everywhere smell amazing in the morning!
Besides these twice-daily routine
offerings, the Balinese make random offerings to ancestors and devils. Offerings to devils are made with colored rice placed on coconut leaf baskets. These offerings are then always put on the ground, never up inside shrines or temples. Sometimes alcohol is also offered to devils.
Offerings to ancestors are made whenever someone thinks or dreams of their dead relative. These offerings are on plates placed on water plus things that ancestor liked such as coffee or tea, cake, favorite foods, and cigarettes. In addition to offerings for ancestors and devils, Balinese also place offerings inside cars before each trip and you'll see them on the dashboards.
We spent our first night in the seaside town of Sanur at the Gustav Bali Homestay ($14) so we could be close to the early morning ferry to the island of Nusa Lembongan. We heard about this island by the divers we met in Papua and that it is a prime location to see Mola Molas and Manta Rays so of course we had to change our travel plans because you miss 100% off the shots you don't take right?
Our fastboat transport ($29 r/t) took about 30 mins through some
of the roughest seas and biggest swell I have been on. Dennis and I both got a bit queasy towards the end from the diesel fumes in the cabin but didn't vomit as many were in the back of the boat.
We got to Nusa Lembongan, a beautiful green hilly island with sheltered turquoise green water coves and tons of adorable pet dogs running the streets. I was happy to see there are many collared a d well cared for dogs so far after learning that the dog meat trade is quite widespread and horrific in Indonesia. A recent article exposed that in Bali specifically they serve dog under the guise of chicken to many tourists to save money and that over 70,000 dogs, including stolen pets, are tortured, poisoned and slaughtered just in Bali every year. We have recently adopted a little dog from China that was rescued from the dog meat trade so this is something I am sadly quite knowledgeable about and acquainted with.
We stayed at the Arya Inn ($22) two blocks from the beach and rented a scooter for the day to tour the island ($5) which took about an hour round trip.
They drive on the left side of the road here so it takes some getting used to and several near head on misses to get the hang of it.
We dove with Bali Diving Academy ($81 2 tank w/equip) the following morning to the east side of Nusa Penida island where the ocean swells were less than 10 feet compared to the others, yikes. We didn't get to see our Molas or Mantas but the diving was great (not as good as Raja Ampat of course) and we got to see some 5 foot long fatally venomous banded sea snakes, a first, turtles, scorpionfish and more! The currents were pretty wild there and unlike anything we have experienced before and we got a taste of what it will be like in Komodo. I ended up holding onto Dennis and using him for added propulsion for the second dive after being blown around so much and getting thrown into a coral pinnacle and getting a little stressed out. Thankfully the water was cool and we were in 5mm full suits so I didn't even get a scratch.
From where we were on the dive boat we could see Mt.
Agung looming in the distance with a small plume of smoke rising from it. This is the main volcano in Bali that woke up about a month ago after being dormant for over 50 years and has religious significance to the Balinese. I read that the locals believe the volcano is angry because there have been tourists climbing it and urinating while hiking it and menstruating women daring to get near it...seriously. Religion.
There is a mandatory 12km evacuation zone around it and there is about 1,000 earthquakes a day signaling an impending eruption. Unfortunately a WWII wreck we wanted to dive is in this evacuation zone so no dive trips are going out the last few weeks. The last famous WWII wreck we wanted to dive was in the Red Sea a few years ago which got cancelled due to a lack of tourists after the bombing of the Russian airliner a few weeks prior. Again I decided to roll the dice and not cancel our trip plans and stress out my poor Mother as always. We just brought some N95 face masks in case there was an eruption and ash cloud. Realistically the volcano could go back
to sleep or erupt this moment, no one can really predict it for certain.
Next stop we are headed to the spiritual hub of Bali, Ubud, for a few days away from the ocean.
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