Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Who let the (happy) dogs out? (Bali part 2: Kuta)

Although we were based in Kuta for the second half of our trip, we didn't linger in commercialized Aussie-land.  On Saturday morning, we met up with Rachel (A classmate of one of my best friends from high school who has lived in Bali for the past couple of years) who got up signed up on an awesome day trip to Nusa Lembongan through her friend Martin.  Fortified with donuts, we boarded a boat and sped off to the island, aka heaven on earth.  The area is relatively off-the-beaten path so it's less touristy, the locals were nice (but we found that to be true everywhere) and the scenery was positively breathtaking.  We went snorkeling in crystal clear water.  We didn't see any manta rays (which the island is famous for) but there were fish of every shape and size (we didn't even have to bribe them with bananas!).  Deb and I discovered three stone buddhas at the bottom which were supercool.  After snorkeling, we piled into open-aired jeeps and bounced down dirt roads through an island, switched to a small boat to cross to a neighboring island Nusa Ceningan (because a bridge was recently blown out... which was a bummer since we were supposed to go be able to rent motorbikes to get there) then continued on another truck.  Riding down these quiet dirt roads was an experience in itself- Deb stood up, arms outspread (never-let-me-go-Jack-style) to feel the ocean breezes and commented "I don't know if its the ghetto Jersey in me but who needs the Titanic when you have a truck like this?".  Especially when the truck leads to incredible vistas of limestone cliffs and the bluest water I have ever seen (even the colored water on Singapore's manicured party island, Sentosa, couldn't compare!).  The waves were rough so we could only jump off a smaller deck but Ken, Jen and I survived!

The group chilling by the Blue Lagoon- look at that water!
Bali family totem pole after we survived cliff jumping
The adrenaline rush helped our appetites so the day ended with a tasty Balinese meal overlooking Dream Beach (which many claim is the most beautiful in Bali) and naps on the beach to recharge before some late night adventures in Kuta, upon our return home.  We switched speed boats for the return to the mainland so we could pile on the top for a bouncy, open-air journey.  As you can see below, hanging on for dear life was positively exhilarating.  We joked that we felt like dogs with our heads out the windows and decided "happy dogs" defined a new level of unaltered joy: salty skin, wind-whipped complete carefree-ness!
Happy dogs!

For our last day in Bali, we hired a driver to make sure we hit the major remaining highlights in the south of the island.  We started in Nusa Dua so Ken and Alissa could fit in some watersports (which surprisingly, weren't cheap).  We proceeded to Pandang Pandang, one of the best surfing spots in Bali which was recently featured in the film Eat Pray Love.  The beach itself was pretty hidden and we had to wind down flights of stairs, squeezing between two rock slabs while keeping a wary eye on the monkeys in the jungle trees.  The beach itself wasn't huge but the perfect place for people watching- so many attractive surfers!  The Rip Curl Cup should be happening right now but unfortunately, there wasn't any official competition while we were there.  Which was probably a good thing so we could relax and enjoy the sun and the surf.
It's always an adventure with us- jumping photo at Nusa Dua, the watersports capital of Bali
After the beach, we wrapped ourselves in purple skirts to visit the Uluwatu temple.  The temple itself wasn't incredibly impressive but monkeys and an amazing view from 300-foot cliffs made the stop worthwhile.  The temple is one of the most famous six in the island and it's supposed to guard the Balinese from the evil spirits of the ocean.  I was grateful that the temple guarded me in my attempts to do yoga cliffside- Ken and two Asian men almost peed in their pants when they saw me attempting tree pose teetering near the edge of a steep drop-off but I survived!  Our day ended with a seafood dinner and sunset on Jimbaran beach.  Our feet were buried in sand as we enjoyed Pina Coladas, were serenaded by wandering musicians and watched the daylight turn into twinkly stars.  There was a spontaneous fireworks show and we had an excellent view of the planes landing, which kind of helped mentally prepare us for returning back to reality for a 6 AM flight the next morning.
But in all honestly, reality hasn't been all that bad this week!  I met with someone from NUS-Yale college yesterday to dialogue about their vision for this brand new school.  As Asia's first liberal arts college, this school aims to integrate interdisciplinary competence in a strong core curriculum and give graduates an Ivy League equivalent education.  He wants me to give a talk/discussion my last week here so I'll definitely be busy!  And Peter from MIT wants me to embark on a quantitative gender study on his decades of grades and course data... I think I could make that part of my dissertation data collection and it would be pretty amaze-balls to be published with co-authors from MIT!
Time to swim!  Oh and link to full Bali album here.