Here’s some words from the second most opinionated person in our four-person group:
hi everybody, I’m Sandy, Tom’s mom. We depart Bali today and here are my impressions after a week in Bali.
People: The Balinese seem to be very gentle folks. The pace here is slow due to the heat. Even in the busy and crowded towns, we never saw anybody arguing or fussing. The Balinese adore children. They are everywhere and their bahavior natural and unaffected. Never heard a child whine. Parents and other adults dote on them and spoil them in the best sense of the word. The other day, a hotel guest’s baby started fussing in the lobby and was instantly surrounded by 6 of the staff (both men and women), cooing and comforting her. Children even in the poorest rural areas seem to be well cared for and well fed.
Work: There is more person power available here than work available, so the hotels and other establishments are amazingly overstaffed. Staff is friendly and helpful. Given the amount of signage on the roads and in the towns, it seems that most of the population is literate in Bahasa Indonesia and all hotel workers learn Japanese and English.
Rural areas: With the juxtaposition of cell phones ringing in the rice paddy, the clash of 21st century and life as it has been for hundreds of years is sometimes a jolt. Yesterday we were on a raft trip down a river, and stopped for a break by a waterfall, where women were selling Cokes. Our guide told us that the women climb down the gorge 3 kilometers with coolers full of cold drinks for the tourists. At another spot, the guide showed us the path that folks walk down the same distance to get clean drinking water and carry it up the hill. One day on the side of the rioad I saw two women carrying cement slabs on their heads. (Like carring a couple of cinder blocks) Another day I say two women carrying loads of bamboo on their heads up a steep mountain road, and one of them was about 7 months pregnant!
Flora and fauna: The tropical jungle is lush and beautiful. We have seen a lot of birds, monitor lizards and a billion geckos. As a matter of fact we have a gecko resident in our room here, living in the palm thatch ceiling and he pooped on me yesterday!
Spiritual life: Balinese are very spiritual (the island in mostly Hindu, in contrast to the rest of Indonesia which is Muslim). There are temples everywhere, and in addition shrines at every curve in the road. It seems that the shrines are put up to protect travellers from dangers (a sharp curve, a busy intersection). One of the most common and interesting customs is that of leaving offerings. Every business establishment, shrine, coffee stand will have little woven palm frond plates 3 inches square on the ground in front of it. On the plate will be some flowers, a few grains of cooked rice, a small piece of fruit, sometimes a coin or wrapped candy. These are placed daily. One of our drivers told us they are to thank the gods for having work and to assure safety in the work day to come. This driver had his offering on the dash board and said it would help assure no road rage, good traffic patterns, no accidents. A very touching custom, really. And offerings are EVERYWHERE.