Reflections on Bali

Flying into Kuala Lumpur after my third trip to Bali, the plane makes it final glide. It is nearly midnight with one more hour’s taxi ride home. My mind drifts in and out of sleep on the well lit freeways of KL mostly in remembrance of a week in paradise. Paradise is a cliche in Bali. It is so rare to find such a rich blend of culture, spirituality, art, ocean and river sports, natural beauty, and warmth in one place.

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Bali is not without its problems, but things just have a good way of working themselves out in a positive way. Maybe it is because the people seem to be in a constant state of prayer because of their ceremonial way of life. The unique style of Hinduism, influenced by mother nature, herself, although to my western mind seems superstitious at times, still seems to have the effect of people being in a constant state of prayer which gives a certain peacefulness and tranquility to life to those of us who travel there. It reminds me of the many experiences we have had living and working with the Crees in Alberta.

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We arrive at our first hotel shortly past midnight only to find that they don’t have a record of our reservation even though the paper I am holding says that my reservation is confirmed. There is a warm wind from the sea that despite the confusion gives a certain amount of patience. The night clerks, who speak almost no English, along with the taxi driver, spend the next 20 minutes trying to find us another hotel. Nothing is successful by phone so all of us enter the taxi and go on a late night room hunt. We settle on a 30 USD homestay which is quite comfortable. We are quite tired. Early the next morning, 5 am, the roosters sound their morning alarms which awakens us slightly by not enough for the final stirring.

The scuba shop which is located in the homestay is manned by friendly Balinese who give us great information and ideas for possible dives the next day. They lend us some snorkeling gear so that we can check out the local reef near some other hotels. We are still thinking of returning to where we had the original booking, but as we turn into the villas where the coral reef is, we drop all plans, find what we really need in the next 3 days, pay more than we anticipated, and allow our bodies and souls to soak up all that the area has to offer. The Persians have a saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Another way I have heard it said is that man has his plans and God has His plans, but God’s are much better. What has happened to us can only be described as the mercy of God. What we needed was a calm, relaxing place surrounded by beauty, but still active and fun. We stumbled into it, or was it that God knew what we needed and had us stumble to find it? I am sure that the Balinese would answer the latter.

Scuba diving is an interesting activity. It is like taking a leisurely walk through the forest, only instead of greenery, and birds and insects, with the occasional larger animal, you see coral and fish and other creatures as you make your way through the beautiful waters. Every once in awhile you see a big turtle or a ray or a shark. 4 dives in two days gives me a chance to learn to relax underwater and take in the rich beauty of the underwater world. The Balinese divemasters are patient, encouraging, helpful, and observant. I always feel secure with them.

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After several days of the ocean, we pack our bags and head to the center of the island to one of Bali’s volcanos that still steams and has erupted in 1929. We sign for a morning adventure up the mountain and find that we are being awakened at 3:00 am, fed a light breakfast in the hotel, taken to the trail’s head and then exerting our feet and legs  for more than 2 hours to reach the summit by 6 am to watch the sunrise. The hike is cloudy, dark, and difficult. With flashlights in hand we take frequent breaks. After an hour the trail steepens making the last hour more sweaty and more tiring. Still foggy at the summit, we sit and wait for the clouds to part, sipping hot coffee and tea, nibbling on another light breakfast, watching the monkeys waiting for a handout. We are mostly happy to have made it to the top, but then after nearly 20 minutes, the clouds suddenly scatter, and the sun’s reflection shines brightly on the lake below. It is a magical moment of which one becomes accustomed in Bali.

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The hot springs give our muscles a deserved break after the morning climb, and then a great buffet finishes our stay in Bali. We are fortunate that Bali is only 3 hours from our home a blessing that we cherish not knowing how long our stay in Asia will be. I am reflecting on the three trips to Thailand, the trip to Vietnam, Jakarta, Sarawak, the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia.

I feel as the Chinese all hope for, lucky.

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