Tag Archives: Bali

Gecko ‘Mule Jewel’ now on my wrist…

20 Mar

LOOK! I finally got my bracelet back from Kerobokan Prison and the guys on the silversmith program did an awesome job! I asked them to make me a gecko like the one who used to live behind the painting in my old villa (more about him in the book 😉 and I think they captured him quite perfectly… although the real Monet didn’t have quite so many holes in him.

The Mule Jewels line of jewelry is all crafted inside Kerobokan Prison and the program currently gives eight prisoners the chance to work full time jobs and hone a whole new set of skills as they serve their sentences. I went along a while back with the lovely lady who runs the program, Joanna Witt, who started the venture in 2010. It’s really amazing what they do all day, and how much confidence they’re building from doing something so creative and constructive.

Si Yi (who’s in Kerobokan Prison because of his part in the Bali 9 drug ring) practices Taoism and as such, every piece he makes has a specific meaning. He wants to carry on working with silver when he gets out of prison, which I think you’d agree, having seen this bracelet, would be a brilliant move. He’d probably do very well.

If you’re coming to Bali you should definitely check out the Mule Jewels range in Ubud’s Studio Perak stores. There’s also one on Gili Trawangan. All proceeds go back into the program and thus help these guys to have a better time of things inside the prison. They use the money to buy nice food so they don’t have to eat the nasty stuff they’re served.

Oh and you can read more about my time in the prison and with the lovely Joanna and Si Yi (and Monet the gecko) in my book ‘There’s Something About Bali’, in October.

It’s my blog and I’ll plug if I want to.

Off out to show off Monet…


Boars, bread and the “real” Bali…

11 Mar

When you ask if a resort has brown bread and the waitress nods and smiles, you expect some brown bread to be delivered. What you don’t expect, is for a plate of cheap sugary white bread to show up that is indeed brown, because it has been toasted.

Still, bread issues aside, Jen and I are having a lovely time in our adventures in northwest Bali. We spent two nights at the Puri Lumpung in Munduk, which is the REAL Bali. I never really knew what people meant when they said “the REAL Bali” before, but now I do, and you can find it in Munduk. Munduk provides you views like this, which quite rightly should only exist in paintings on gallery walls, or in fantastical movies directed by Tim Burton.

In fact, I’ll admit, we dressed up specifically for the chance to take photos of each other looking nice in the REAL Bali. Because normally, we don’t look very nice in Bali. Well, Jen might. But I don’t.

Anyway, right now we’re in a place called Waka Shorea National Park, which is about as far northwest as you can get in Bali without hacking through a forest with a spear. To get here we had to ride a little boat from the West Bali National Park which saved us cruising the entire peninsular on the back of a motorbike – not ideal when you’re traveling with everything you own in the world like I am, including a Winnie the Pooh suitcase, a Bali patchwork hold all, a camera case and a guitar I can’t play and that doesn’t actually even belong to me (don’t ask).

The boat we rode over here was also carrying our supplies for the next three days, which the resort no doubt ordered just for us (because there’s hardly anyone else here). These were dominated by a crate of Bintang, some eggs and several watermelons.

When we arrived, giddy from our pilfered Bintangs and excited by the prospect of being amongst nature and hiking and possibly spotting some wild boars, we were immediately informed that the WIFI box had been eaten by a black monkey. The laughter stopped there. This was serious. Fuck nature. What do you mean there’s no WIFI?

“We are getting it fixed,” said Putu apologetically.

We breathed a sigh of relief. “OK, great. When?”

“We don’t know,” he shrugged.

It’s still not fixed. I’m sending this blog via the slowest Ethernet connection on planet Earth. I’m not complaining. If Bali’s most northwestern tip on the edge of the ocean has an Internet connection of any shape or form, I’m pretty sure that this bodes well for the future of the Universe. Well, as far as calling for help is concerned, when you’re being attacked by wild boars. Or black monkeys intent on taking your 3G as well as your WIFI.

I’m not sure my pork ribs last night were made from wild boars. Or monkeys. Jen and I have not been impressed by the food here so far. It’s more warung quality at ten times the price. But it’s a nice chance to not check our emails, embrace nature, write, read, not dive (because the current’s too strong) and send a prayer out on the gentle Bali breeze that maybe tomorrow, we’ll get some proper brown bread.

An ode to Steve Jobs from Indonesia…

15 Oct

Took this photo the other day at a beautiful ceremony in a village called Bona, about 20 minutes out of Ubud, in Bali. This local man appears to be filming or taking photos of the banten being carried to the temple, with his iPad. Cool huh! I hope Steve’s looking down on his awesome legacy from up there, and smiling. People all over the world are sharing their lives in new ways, because of him 🙂

Think before you thieve…

8 Sep

In the UK, “Thieves Will Be Prosecuted”, and “Stealing Will Result In A $100,000,000,000 Fine”. Let’s face it, people DO need telling. Rules are broken so often in my own fair land these days, with absolutely no consequences, that I’m not entirely sure people know the difference between right and wrong anymore.

Here in Ubud, Bali, though. Well… who needs to be threatened with a fine to thwart an action one might grow to regret? A simple reminder that the universe will kick your ass should suffice.

I spent hours in the local library here today, gathering research material to help me on my quest to write my next book. It’s going to be something similar to ‘Burqalicious – The Dubai Diaires’ only this one is not about Dubai, and it won’t involve burqas, aaaaaand there’ll be very little gold, or shopping, or shallow media launch parties. OK, fine, it’s totally different because this one will be documenting life as an expat in Bali. And no, it’s not another Eat Pray Love. (sigh).

She went to THREE countries whereas I’m skint and can only afford to live in one. She met a hot foreign man who couldn’t get enough of her, whereas I can’t seem to meet anyone who’s not a total knob (this could change, though right now the chances are slim) AND, Liz Gilbert got to go on Oprah, which I will never be able to do because she has selfishly shut up shop. With that said I’ll probably never be famous or rich enough to live anywhere other than here when I’m done. EVER. Not that I’d mind. I do have a nice new villa, with a swimming pool…

Anyway, all in all it’s something fun to do for the next six to eight months and seeing as I didn’t have anything better to do with my life when the opportunity arose I thought, why the hell not live in a town full of yoga-loving, raw food eating, crystal-ball-consulting, alcohol-shy hippies?! Hell, you only live once. Unless you steal from book shops.

The only downside to this project (apart from possibly losing my mind and thinking I really do look hot in fisherman pants), is that I’m not allowed to blog anything that might eventually be included in the book. I used to blog all the time. In fact, ‘Burqalicious’ started as a blog, which is why I was scribbling so enthusiastically pretty much every day. Dubai was a weird, weeeeeeeeird place to live and there was tons to write about. And consequently tons to share.

Ubud is equally weird and wacky, just for totally different reasons. It is also one of the most magical, incredible, spiritual places I’ve ever had the fortune to visit. Keeping it all to myself, save for tiny snippets here and there (maybe the odd photo or random rambling that’s not to be included in the manuscript, like this) will be tough, but will have to suffice. And when I give the nod that it’s finally out there to buy (not take), in print (October 2012) you can all rush out and catch up on what clearly hasn’t happened to me yet. Deal?

In the mean time, don’t steal shit and don’t put your future lives in jeopardy. I mean it.

Namaste x

Burqalicious in Bali…

3 Jul

Huge thanks to my friend Trevor here, who made a fabulous host at the Burqalicious – The Dubai Diaries Q&A night in Ubud last week. And yes, it was last week, in case you were thinking this photo has a 1978 sort of quality to it. Not sure what happened there… my dress wasn’t even blue, but hey, it only goes to show how much we had to put up with before the world went digital.

If you’re heading to Bali in the near future, you have to check out the coolest venue on the block, Bar Luna. I was lucky enough to discover Casa Luna’s sexy sister on my first day in Ubud, as a result of reading about the Thursday literary nights in a little magazine. I made it a bit of a regular haunt while I was there; the food is great and even BETTER, the cocktails are buy-one-get-one-free from 5 till 8pm (try the Coconut Killer, it’s to die for). They have live music on Tuesdays too.

The Burqalicious night drew a nice crowd and although I was admittedly a bit nervous at first, it was pretty cool getting to chit-chat for an hour. Trevor was a natural and we had fun. He prepared all sorts of interesting questions and got me talking about the book in a way I haven’t been able to do, to this point. I was actually surprised how fast the time went! It’s a shame we couldn’t get any books delivered as I had a heap of people asking where they could get one, which was cool… but we have to wait for a reprint as they’re all out of stock in Australia, apparently. Sorry peeps!

You’ll find Bar Luna hidden down a little laneway about a 5 minute walk uphill from the main Ubud marketplace (walk in the opposite direction to the Palace). When you hit Nomads on the right, take the little street alongside it and you’ll find this hidden diamond seconds later, waiting for your arrival. Tell them I said hi!

Ah Ubud, I miss you so, but I know I’ll be back soon and there are tons more literary nights and events to look forward to in your wicked bubble of creativity and inspiration. Big thanks again to Trevor, and Chara, Janet and all the awesome staff at Bar Luna for a fab night and much-appreciated support for Burqalicious. Mwah xxx

Musings from a wooden bench in Bali…

1 Jul

And so it is that I leave Bali, this stunning land that has somehow wrapped its fingers round my heart! I don’t remember feeling this sad about leaving anywhere since I left New York. I wasn’t expecting to love Bali so much, especially Ubud. But isn’t it funny how a place can win you over?

I’ve been trying to put my finger on why exactly I feel so connected to this place. Was I Balinese in my last life? Did I carry mangoes on my head, practice healing, cook with galangal and jackfruit and offer taxi rides to the relatively few tourists who poked their heads, wide-eyed and blinking into this magical kingdom? I know I’m not the first to feel this way about Bali. In fact, I’m possibly a bit of a cliché, falling in love with the hues of greens and knowing smiles and the peace that emanates from every tiny village and temple – the sort of stuff we only dream about as we squeeze and stress through day-to-day existence in a city.

I’m living in a screensaver here, a desktop wallpaper scene of amber butterflies and bicycles leaning up against bamboo scaffolding. I’m walking through holiday brochures, trekking from page to page across rice fields, waving at women in pointed straw hats, getting my hair wrapped in banana leaves, stopping to chat with men carrying machetes at the end of their shift in the sunshine. Maybe it is just magic – the hold that Bali has on me. A magic spell that invokes a sort of innocence that would be dangerous and frowned upon in a city.

I feel like nature reaches out to you here. We are at its mercy and never is that more obvious than when you’re standing small in the middle of a giant grassy staircase, trickling with water down a mountainside. Is that the magic, perhaps?  The possibilities offered by all those fascinating things I can’t see, hidden in the cracks? The world holds promise. My days are sprinkled with purpose and peppered with mystery… not like in a city. The little things get lost; at times the life we should be breathing in gets sucked straight out, don’t you think? We lose the blue of the sky through a tinted window, to an office partition. We lose the sound of rain on a roof made from leaves and straw, suffocate it with bricks and insulation. We lose human connections. Glued to our phones we type instead of talk, we forget the utter joy that comes with sitting on a street corner, talking to a stranger and hearing a story. Two souls connected for the briefest moment in time. A new friend with no notion of Facebook.

It’s hard to know what’s convenient and what is inconvenient anymore.

A thousand eyes are watching you from everywhere in Bali. A thousand voices are whispering, drawing you closer to the person you forgot, waking you up… there are voices in the treetops, the cracks in the temple stones, the frangipani offerings on doorsteps and walls and piles of sand. Skyscraper bars and fancy cars are the nightmare, instead of the dream. You’re never alone, and yet you are, because the world has finally stopped to let you think. The world has finally given you some time to step inside your own mind.

The more I think about going back to Sydney, the more a little voice in my head starts panicking and shouting, resisting. I was pretty happy there, wasn’t I? But maybe I wasn’t. Maybe I was just telling myself I was. Hmmm. It’s hard to tell. I’m worried I’m sounding like a hippy again. You know, one of those silly people who goes on holiday somewhere and comes back thinking she’s changed? But the more I think about it, the more I think, what if I did come back here, to Ubud more specifically, and stay longer? What would happen? Would the world end? Would anyone care except me? Probably not. Life is short, after all.

I want to live in a villa and spend three dollars a day on food and not drink wine for three months. I feel better, not having drunk it for three and a half weeks! My head feels clearer. In Ubud, I met people who are clear about what they want and where they’re going. And by that I mean they’re clear about the day-to-day stuff, and they’re happy just to see where they end up. You can’t be like that in a city, really, can you? Everyone expects you to have a plan, and people don’t understand you when you tell them you don’t really have one. You end up feeling like you don’t fit in, and then you feel like shit because everyone wants to belong. But maybe you just don’t belong there, where you are. It’s the reason you can’t concentrate at a desk, working under someone’s thumb. It’s the reason you cloud your brain with expensive alcohol and food-fuelled opportunities… to stop the thinking. What if you discover something you’re not ready for?

The optimist, and possibly the child in me is romanced by freedom. I am charmed and re-charged by the notion of flying through life on the wind, like a bird against a rainbow. And now I know I’m not alone.

In the writing group I’ve been a part of for the last few weeks, we practiced writing from the heart, just letting the words flow without stopping, which is kind of what I’m doing now. I think maybe I’ve always done this, but I’ve always edited myself too. Maybe it’s time to stop editing so much. Our whole lives are edited versions of what we really want, anyway. Whatever happens, first I must go to Thailand, and Cambodia and Vietnam, and Malaysia and Borneo. And then I must decide whether chasing a job in a city, just to belong there according to the system, is really for me. I thought it was, but maybe that’s because I didn’t know any differently.

Maybe I really am just a hippy, floating through Bali on a cloud of self-discovery, little realising she’ll be lost to the land of mobile-phone connections and city wine bars as soon as she leaves.

Or maybe, just maybe, something really did just change.

The human Muesli bar experiment…

28 Jun

I can’t say it was ever my dream to be covered in yogurt. Some people might think that’s quite erotic, but personally, sensing my body being slathered in the milky, bitter-smelling treatment and then rubbed in with coffee granules made me feel a bit like a human muesli bar. Still, this was all part of the famous “mandi” treatment down the road from the Uma Ubud hotel (fab by the way, I’m loving my minimalist villa and its black and white bathroom with enormous stand-alone tub, oooh er!) I decided to splash out all of… ooooh I don’t know…. I guess it was about AUS $20 for a 1 hour 50 minute massage including a relaxing, therapeutic flower petal bath overlooking the jungle yesterday.

The Bali Botanica day spa is kind of hidden away down a back street about 4 minutes from Uma Ubud. To reach it you have to walk past some rice fields and a bunch of men constructing yet another villa where a patch of grass should be, thinking hmmmm have I gone the wrong way? And then it appears before you, a tiny haven in the foliage, dripping with the sounds of sweet, tranquil music, like moths fluttering about in treacle. So peaceful. And a welcome change from the abusive volume of motorbikes.

Normally when you’re lying face down on those spa beds, your ears pick up that carefully chosen CD of animal sounds, gushing water and the odd bit of birdsong in the background. But here, with my eyes focused on a jar of frangipani flowers below me, I realised those sounds were natural. I wonder if other spas, say in London, or Tenerife, or Basingstoke actually call places like this and ask them to record an hour of “noise” outside their windows. It’s exactly the same. I heard crickets, frogs, birds and the babbling of a stream, plus the gentle song of panpipes, which I think was pre-recorded, unless they went all out and employed a man to sit in the forest with some instruments.

My therapist was very good, although let me just say that unless you state otherwise, everything will be massaged. And I mean everything. There was the odd moment when I thought, hang on… I’m not so sure that’s… are you really goin…oh, ok,… yup, OK, … but all in all I think she knew what she was doing and she was very professional. I’m still not sure what the yogurt did though. I spill yogurt on myself occasionally, you know, over breakfast while reading a book, and I’ve never thought, ‘Ooooh hey, that feels great, what if I just rolled in it and covered ALL of me?’ but then, I do feel a lot smoother today, skin-wise anyway.

Weirdly I was instructed to shower while my therapist was still in the room. I don’t think it’s the done thing to be bashful about things like this in Bali. She was too busy wiping up yogurt and coffee granules to care that I was semi naked, apart from a pair of fetching black puffy disposable knickers right next to her. I was thankfully left alone for my flower petal bath, however, looking out over the trees and listening to the rain, sipping some hot ginger tea. Bliss!

I liked it so much that I have booked something called an ayurvedic crown massage for tomorrow. This treatment lasts 45 minutes, costs about AUS $15 and involves having cloves and orange oil rubbed into your head, and vitamins B1, B2 and C applied to your hair via a fresh, hibiscus leaf mask. Sounds better than Pantene. I like spas in Bali.

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