Monday, March 23, 2009

my 10 most guilty pleasures in Bali, part 1

The Catholic in me preconditions my mind that too much pleasure is sinful. I must have got this irrationality from my early years in a school run by Benedictine nuns. Or maybe this is just my own way of rationalizing my impatience and inability to relax.

Bali is called the island of the gods, and with lots of reasons
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/1000s, f/4.5, 33mm, ISO 100, +2/3EV

But I am no ascetic and there are occasions when I take the time to relax, enjoy the scene and soak in physical pleasures. So perhaps as acknowledgment to treat myself better, I am sharing here my favorite delights, first, in what one can enjoy in Bali. This magical island that most people only get to read in travel magazines is the one place that I have lived in the longest time outside of my hometown Cebu. I know the place. I speak Indonesian. I have numerous Balinese friends. I even got married there.

Penaturan Agung, Besakih
Bali is renowned to have more than a thousand temples
Canon PowerShot S40, 1/320s, f/8, 14.7mm

So perhaps if you happen to stray in Bali, you too might like to get pieces of bliss. Here are mine. What’s a little guilt to nurse anyway?

1. enjoy a massage

Whether you take it on the beach (think of Sanur, Kuta or Nusa Dua) or in the myriad of spas all over the island, a massage is divine. My version is heading off to a friend’s home and commissioning the family’s favorite healer – remember that traditional massage is almost exclusively for healing in Southeast Asia – for an hour and a half of deep tissue kneading. Goodness, I can feel my bad back asking for one today!

Kuta beach, Bali
Kuta Beach is famous for surfing, sunbathing and enjoying a massage
Canon PowerShot S40, 1/160s, f/3.5, 7.1mm, +2/3 EV

by the beach of Geger
Another popular place for a massage is the Geger beach, where a picturesque temple looms atop a hill
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/250s, f/8.0, 25mm, ISO 100

2. wade in the beach

I am no pool person. If I wanted to take a dip, I’d go to the beach. Thankfully for me, my work involves checking out seaweed farms and with Bali a primary producer of this commodity, I am spoilt for choice. This and my current involvement with photography take wading in the waters to a whole new dimension for me. Business with pleasure. Who wouldn’t want that?

an early morning scene in Geger Beach, Bali
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/200s, f/5.6, 135mm, ISO 100

a harvesting scene in Geger Beach, Bali
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/800s, f/5.6, 55mm, ISO 100, +1.0EV

3. join a Hindu ceremony

Bali has an open embracing society. People are used to living under the microscope of tourism that they practically welcome strangers inside their temples. Their ability to zone out and enter their own cosmic fold regardless of inquisitive eyes (and camera lenses) makes joining a Hindu ceremony easy. Check the Bali events calendar . Chances are there’s always a temple anniversary somewhere, or perhaps a village has cremation, wedding or teeth-filing ceremony. Do observe certain protocols like not getting in the way of prayer rites and not sitting higher than the priest.

offering gifts
my mom is shown here posing during a Hindu commemoration ceremony at a family's banjar (hall) in Nusa Dua, Bali
Canon PowerShot S40, 1/10s, f/3.5, 10.3mm

at a ceremony I joined in Sawangan, Nusa Dua, Bali
Camera: Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1.6s, f/5.6, 55mm, ISO 200

4. pig out with babi guling

While Indonesia is predominantly Muslim nation, Bali is Hindu and nowhere else can you find pork so widely consumed and displayed in abandon. The queen of pork dishes in Bali is babi guling. This spicy version of the roast suckling pig is served chopped, with diners given samplings of various pork parts from the crispy skin, the succulent meat, entrails and the spicy vegetable salad. My regular fix could come from anywhere – Ubud, Gianyar or even in Nusa Dua – but cholesterol heaven can seldom be more welcomed.

babi guling Ibu Oka
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/100s, f/4.0, 18mm, ISO 200, +1/3EV
probably the most famous babi guling is the one in Ibu Oka restaurant, Central Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

babi guling at Bukit Buluh temple
a babi guling offering at the Bukit Buluh temple, Klungkung
Canon EOS 350D Digital, 1/160s, f/6.3, 27mm, ISO 100

5. sneak the durian into the hotel room

It is illegal but I need to have my fix. Durian, the ever smelly fruit with the delectably buttery flesh, is banned in hotels. So I would buy a pre-split pack in the supermarket, wrap it in several layers of newspapers and voila, I could pass it undetected into my room. Do be responsible and wrap the refuse back in the thick wads newspaper. The hassle is all worth the aggravation.

glorious durian
the thorny and deliciously sweet durian
Canon PowerShot S40, 0.05s, f/4.5, 14.7mm

up next: my last 5 indulgences in Bali

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