October 30, 2010 —
I've been wanting to go to Death Valley National Park for some time. After passing on an opportunity earlier this year during the summer, when the temperature in the park never reaches below 100°, I opted to wait. After my Yosemite Trip, I drove straight to Death Valley where the daily high was a much nicer mid 80's. Here are some of the pictures I took while there.
Sunset Lit Clouds
Soft Lit Mountains
See all the pictures in the Death Valley 2010 set.
October 27, 2010 —
I just got back from a great trip to Yosemite Valley with family and friends. I also used the occasion to take some pictures while there.
Yosemite Fall Leaves
Under Vernal Falls
See all the pictures in the Yosemite Fall 2010 set.
October 11, 2010 —
I had the good fortune to be in Ubud during a day when the Hindu holy men read that it was a "good day." Why? Well, on the days deemed good and holy, people can be cremated with Bali Hindu ceremony. And luckily, there were some dead people that needed burnin'.
To the Hindu of Bali (and probably other Hindu, I'm just ignorant of them), the body is a shell for the soul and upon death, must be cremated in an elaborate ceremony befitting the ancestral spirit. The whole community can get involved depending on the significance of the person creating a spectacular event where hundreds or thousands of people are involved.
The body of the deceased is kept in the home until it is to be cremated, on a day that the holy men read is to be holy. Then, the body is carried in a tall, intricately detailed, golden multi-tiered pyre made of bamboo and covered in paper, tinsel, silk, cloth, mirrors and flowers. The pyre is carried by a ton of men (I'd guess at least a hundred in the example I saw) on a bamboo structure to the cemetery in a procession.
Firetruck at the Funeral Procession
Apparently, the procession to the cemetery is designed to confuse the corpse so it cannot find it's way back home. This confusion is done by the men shaking the tower, running it in circles, simulating wars with it, hurling water at it, yelling at it and ...
October 11, 2010 —
The day manager at Khrisna Guesthouse, Nyoman, had recommended that I go to see a traditional Balinese dance while in Ubud. The most popular one, and one that is actually pretty traditional, and the one Nyoman recommended, is the Kecak dance. It takes place in temples, after sunset and involves a group of men and boys who act as the musical instrument and choir during the performance. They sit in a circle around a big candela and make a chak-a-chak-a-chak noise in unison and separately, sometimes quiet and sometimes much louder, supposedly imitating a group of monkeys (monkeys also plays a valuable role in the story).
There are three parts to the dance, with the first part's story being pretty familiar to me. At least one of my sisters (I can't remember if both of them), used to watch the movie A Little Princess all the time when she/they were younger. So I've also seen it more than once, enough times that I can remember most of the story. Well, the girl was in India, and so recounts the famous Hindu epic, Ramayana; the story of how Princess Sita is kidnapped and then Prince Rama must free her with the help of a monkey general and his monkey soldiers (for some reason I'm picturing the people in the story as being blue). Anyways, knowing the story definitely helped for me to know what was going on in the show since there is only dancing and the "choir" making noises.
Kecak Dance ...
October 10, 2010 —
On my second day in Ubud, I actually set an alarm to make sure I woke up early. I wanted to head to the local market early, when the locals were in full force, when they were selling vegetables, fruit and meat, before they switched to Bintang shirts and handicrafts of dubious quality. In other words, get there when no other tourists were there.
I got to the market by 6:15 and it was packed with vendors selling chickens, crates of eggs, vegetables I'd never seen before, all kinds of fruit and raw spices, flowers for offerings as well as fresh and dried fish. In Balinese spice recipes, there are almost always four roots that are used: turmeric (it looks weird in it's root form - kind of like ginger), ginger, lesser galangal and greater galangal. I've never heard of galangal before, but it's a root in the ginger family. The lesser and greater varieties definitely taste different too.
Chilies and Garlic
Once I had wandered around the market enough, I took off for the stereotypical Ubud visitor activity: go to some rice fields at dawn. Many also go at sunset, but it had been raining a lot in the evenings, so I figured dawn would have better luck. I was rewarded with great views.
If you've ever been to Bali, you won't have forgotten ...
October 10, 2010 —
Arriving in Ubud was definitely a surprise. After taking backroads through towns, villages and cities, I was caught off guard when I got to a sign that welcomed me to Ubud. I thought I still had several more kilometers to go. I should have known however, as I kept passing tons of artist and woodcrafter shops. That should have been my first clue I was closer than I thought.
Rain in Ubud
Once there, I sought out a place to stay. Based on someone I know who previously stayed in Ubud, I went first to the Khrisna Guesthouse (sometimes referred to as the Krisna Guesthouse as well). They only had one room (out of six) available for one night. It was more than I'm used to spending, close to $20 USD / night, but I decided to splurge. They did have hot water. I mean, taking a hot shower every once in a while has got to be worth a little extra money, right?
Khrisna Guest House
The extra money was definitely worth it. I had a private balcony overlooking thick palms, banana trees other unknown named trees, bamboo and a small creek I could hear. There was black tea every day between 4 and 5 as well as great breakfasts every morning. The owner was really nice and the day manager was very friendly, accommodating and went out of his way to make sure I was doing what I wanted to do. It turned out that the room available for one night didn ...
October 05, 2010 —
Instead of waiting to leave at 8am for Tulamben from Lovina, I decided to get up before sunrise and start off early, catching some good light along the way. I left my hotel before 6am and started East. After catching the sunrise along coastal rice paddies, I took a quick trip inland to see the Git Git waterfalls. I arrived there before 7am, which meant that I was also there before any locals came to set up their tourist trap stands or even the people selling and collecting tickets. I made the 400m walk to the falls in peace and silence, which has to be a completely different experience than later in the day when droves of tourists in busses and "transport" services arrive.
Random Spot Along the Road
The road between Lovina and Tulamben proved to be more rough than my previous treks, which I'm attributing to the fact that no tourists travel that route. I think that most people get to Tulamben from the East coast, instead of coming East across the North shore. In any case, I enjoyed the ride, arriving in time to shop around at dive shops before finding a great deal and a one-on-one dive with a divemaster.
Inside the Liberty
Tulamben is famous for two dive areas. First, there is a WWII ship, the Liberty, which was a US cargo ship sunk by Japanese submarines in WWII as it tried to pass through the Lombok straight. The ship has since been left ...
October 05, 2010 —
With the ride to Lovina going quickly, my accomodations setup and a dive trip planned, I explored the town a bit.
I was actually quite turned off by the town. Though it was in a beautiful setting, I found the locals who were selling to be especially aggressive. For example, while going from place to place to find a hotel to stay at, people who worked for other hotels would follow me around on their bikes, waiting for me to leave the one I was currently checking out to try and get me to follow them to their hotel. That really bothered me, and prevented me from staying at two hotels. Though I did cave and go with the dive company that displayed the same tactics.
After talking with an owner, I found that Lovina was coming off the end of it's high season. The high season is July and August, when students aren't in school and people are traveling from Europe for the summer. I can't imagine what I'd be like in February or March. I will say that the area has great sunsets.
Huge Coral Everywhere
The next day, I dove Pulau Menjangan. This spot just about lived up the hype. The coral was huge and colorful, the fish were everywhere, we saw a ray, a turtle and got some great time underwater in. My only complaint was that the winds had decreased visibility a little, so there was a lot of 'stuff' floating around, hampering me from ...
October 04, 2010 —
I decided to leave Kuta on the 28th of September. I woke up early, ate breakfast and had tea, packed my backpack, left a small bag with my hotel, monkeyed my backpack onto my bike, and I was off.
I decided that I was going to make the long motorbike journey to the North West corner of Bali to go diving. Instead of going the quick route over the montains, I wanted to see more of the country. I had marked out the route on Google Maps, and then, using a handy bookmarklet, I downloaded that route as a GPX route I could see on my GPS. This ended up being completely crucial to get out of the Kuta and Depansar area.
Bicycle and Rice Fields
However, once out of the big city areas, I was quickly into long sections of rice terracing tracing down from the mountains right up to the edge of the ocean. I wish I had taken more pictures, but there were too many times I just didn't want to stop. The ride was so peaceful and enjoyable, I couldn't bring myself to stop many times. Motorbiking along curvy, smooth roads as they traversed amazing landscapes through jungle, rice terraces, cliffs and breaks over the ocean, small villages and communities, made for a great trip. So even though it took me almost 5 hours to get to the North shore, it was worth it.
October 04, 2010 —
After the familiar of Singapore, I took a quick evening flight to Bali. I arrived to some minor rain and, after purchasing my $25 Indonesian Visa, heading through immigration, I got a taksi (how it's spelled in Bali) to take me to Kuta, the location of one of the most famous beaches in Bali. I'm not sure why, but I decided to not keep my GPS on for the taxi ride, and believed the driver when he told me we arrived at the destination. Well, to make a long story shorter, he dropped me off half-way to Kuta; I had to get another taxi to take the rest of the distance. This was a total bummer, as every other Balinese has been extremely kind and friendly. I am not sure why this particular taxi driver screwed me, but I've since put that experience behind me.
After finding a place to stay, I promptly signed up for 5 nights at my hotel. The next day I rented a motorbike for two weeks and a surfboard for my time in Kuta. The next several days had me surfing, eating, reading and exploring the area on my motorbike.
Every night, I'd head down to the beach, along with countless locals, tourists, expats and dogs to enjoy the dramaticsunsets. While there, low tide was always around 4pm, so more of the sand was exposed, which was a wet hard sand that the local children would play soccer games on.