Bali Sightseeing Day 2

On our first day in Ubud, we went Bali style.

We had amazing breakfast in our hotel cafe.

And the Nathaniel hired us a driver and car. Well, he hired us a driver and an old old jeepy type thing with no seat belts or air conditioning. Now, you know how I feel about passenger safety. This was not my first choice, but it was the only option we had. This is the way of life here. I figured it was better than us trying to navigate ourselves on motorbikes.

So, piled in and off we went.

My favorite part of the keep experience was the front seat belts had retractors that were not bolted to anything. Just hanging from the webbing. Our driver diligently buckled his every time. Cause that'll help.

Our first stop was an amazing rice patty terrace. I had seen pictures and knew it was amazing and gorgeous. It was so neat.

It was truly spectacular. The sounds of the running water and the people working in the patties. So amazing. Of course, I slipped into the mud. Go me.

Our next stop was the temple of holy springs where Hindi people do ceremonies in the water.

The kids were mostly excited by bananas from a street seller (look at how cute!) and the stray dogs.

Nathaniel and I each touched the water.

A ceremony was starting too.

After our sweet banana snack, we needed some lunch an headed to a place called Koi.

It was beautiful. The kids and I made friends with a stray kitten. The waitstaff told us we could take her home, and Rosie and I were so sad we couldn't.

We saw a parade go by from the temple.

And then we had delicious lunch.

Our next stop was a temple carved into a mountain. It was amazing and bigger than life. Also bigger than life were the number of stair we had to climb! My calves were on fire on the way up!

We saw women making items for the upcoming festival.

The kids and I felt a bit like we were in Moana.

Our final stop for the day was the Elephant cave temple which was made in 11th century.

A large portion of this temple was covered by stones until it was discovered in 1954! The cave was known but they excavated a bunch of rocks and discovered a natural spring with a statues!

The whole area was amazing.

And finally, dinner at an adorable place called Laba Laba.

You guys, banana fritters. Amazing.

We were exhausted after this. More to come!

Bali Massage (2)

We stayed in adorable hotel/inn in Ubud (Jati Cottages if you're looking) that had a massage place right in front of it.

Nathaniel went on our first night there and got a deep tissue massage. Apparently they asked him if he was a strong man! He said it was good.

On our second night in Ubud it was mama's turn! I went for a traditional full body massage. (I'm not a strong man) I had a young man who did a very nice job. And I felt very relaxed.

In the spot next to me was an English speaker who is learning Balinese and apparently visits this spa often. It was pretty funny to hear their conversations. However he had opted for the deep tissue and he clearly was also not a strong man! There was lots of crying out!

This massage was 60000 rupiah which is $4.49. I will say it was good but not as amazing as my hot stone massage.

Hard to Explain

Some tough subjects I have no trouble explaining to my children. For instance, telling my kids about sex and pregnancy and STIs doesn't phase me. I don't bat an eye when I tell my children that there are bad people in the world who do terrible things to other people. Informed consent is a topic of conversation I'm not shy about. I'm happy to talk about learning differences and white privilege.

But third world countries? Contaminated drinking water? Beggars? For some reason, my tongue goes dry. I don't have the right words. I stumble. I can't make sentences that make sense and all I can manage is to snap out "not now". Or "I'll tell you about it later". Why?

I'm not sure to be honest but I think part of my inability to convey these ideas is that I don't 100% have the answers. I mean, I understand that being poor (is that what we say? Is there a better phrase?) is so hard to overcome because the cards are already stacked against you. I get it on a personal and family sense. But on a Country wide level? I have a hard time grasping it.

It also isn't something I was widely exposed to growing up. I lived in a middle class family, in a working class town in the USA. Poverty was around me every day I'm sure, but not like you see in a country like Bali (for instance). I mean, I read about it. My parents talked about it in an abstract sense. I learned about third world countries in school. But to see it? It's something totally different.

I want my children to understand that the people who live in poverty don't deserve to be there but that it's not a problem that is easily solved on such a grand scale. I want to show Isaac and Rosie that having money does not equal happiness, as is obvious by some of the wonderful people we've met in Bali.

I want my children to know and understand that having a roof over our heads and enough food to eat is a privilege that we are so so lucky to have. To have clean drinking water, regular bathing opportunities and the wonderful education systems are not things that everyone is offered.

But how do I explain these things to an 8 and 10 year old who lead really hard lives because they don't have iPhones or iPads? My kids are GOOD kids and we are very fortunate to be in a position where we aren't worried about water or food or shelter and I don't want to take that away from them to teach them, but I want them to understand.

So people of the internet, teach me. Show me age appropriate resources for them. Show me ways we can make a difference. Give me talking points that aren't "finish your peas. Children in Africa are starving". Help me help them to make the world a better place.

Bali Safari

So when I last told you what was going down here, we had just finished our night safari where an elephant sneezed on me.

The next morning, an elephant arrived and took us to breakfast!

Isaac and I went first because it was a smaller elephant so I got to see Nathaniel and Rosie arrive in style!

We enjoyed a buffet while the male lions had their breakfast right outside!!!

However the lady lion just watched over the bar.

Pretty crazy conditions to be waitressing under eh?

Then we saw the petting zoo.

We took in a tiger show which was amazing.

They talked about the history of tigers and why they are endangered. Bali Safari and Marine park has made considerable efforts to help the tigers including releasing tigers into their natural habitat AND artificially inseminating wild tigers. And you thought your Monday was rough?

We headed to the zoo portion but we were waylaid by this guy.

We saw the crocodiles being fed.

Just kidding!

And then various other animals, in no particular order.

After we fed our wild beasts we at for almost an hour and watched an elephant named Sweetie get her lunch. Did you know elephants eat 300 kilos of food per day??? They only stop eating when they're sleeping. So many jokes there.

Sweetie, do you like to eat?

Ok Sweetie, all done. Time to go home.

You guys, this elephant legit turned into a two year old. She was not leaving. She kept pointing at the food stand "go over there!" And wouldn't turn around to go home. We were dying.

Her big gentle eyes were amazing.

We saw a parade of her friends on our way out

And the. We were off to our next stop, Ubud.

The kids splashed in the pool

And I read a book.

Then we walked to dinner.

And then we were off to bed!

Bali Sightseeing Day 1

Saturday was our first real day of sightseeing. We hired a driver for 500000 rupees ($35 ish) to take us around for 10 hours. This is important: DO NOT DRIVE IN BALI.

There are a lot of cars, even more motorbikes and it seems, very few rules. At one point our driver took us down what I swear was a sidewalk but he assured us it was a street.

They also use their horns a lot. They say "hello", "I'm here too" "please move" "move. Now." "Learn to drive" "hi mom". I would seriously not know what was happening if someone honked at me.

We stopped first at Starbucks to fuel up for the day. Here they have an Asian Dolce Latte that is so tasty. No idea what it is but so good! Japan Starbucks has a very limited menu so it was fun to see something different!

And we were off to our first stop which was Tamar Festival Bali, an abandoned amusement park!!

To get in, to the abandoned park, we paid a super authentic looking security guard. I'm sure he wasn't just some dude off the street making some money off tourists. Totally legit.

It was beautiful, and creepy. Nathaniel went inside a dark room and proclaimed there were bats! That was the last dark room Rosie and I entered. The park was never fully completed and there are many conflicting stories about what caused the park to close. One legend says that the crocodiles that were featured there were just left behind. We did hear something in the bushes and Nathaniel said it had a tail so I'm glad we didn't read that tale until later in the day!

At the end of the park is a beautiful temple right on the ocean. We put on our sarongs and visited its beauty.

Across from us we saw a number of people bathing in the water.

They seemed so happy!

On our way towards the park we had seen a kite festival, so we walked back along the ocean to see the kite flying teams!

Our next stop was lunch. We asked our driver, Kooz to take us someplace that had chicken. He took us to a place that was right on some water, had traditional Balinese food and some western food, and Balinese wine!

I could seriously eat Indonesian food all day, every day. Thank you Ron for introducing me.

Our next stop was a coffee farm. Here's the thing about the coffee farms here. They make Lawak coffee which is made from coffee beans, fed to mongooses and then pooped out. A lot of these animals are not treated well. And while on principal, I don't want to promote the mistreatment of animals, this is where our driver took us. They did say that each mongoose only spends a week near the tourists and then a lot of time on the farm where they have more room. I hope this is true.

We saw how they grow a lot of different trees for the flavors in their coffees and teas as well as essential oils.

Then we enjoyed a coffee and tea sampler.

And of course, #poopcoffee

The coffee was good for something shat out of a rodent. Best poop I've consumed.

Our next stop was a temple known as the "bat cave temple" because it has a cave filled with bats. And pythons who eat the bats. It was beautiful to see. We paid for a tour guide (again, super official) and it was so nice to have the explanations of what we were seeing.

You can hear the bats in this video.

Our Shuten (Japanese for last stop) was the Bali Safari park where we stayed for Saturday night. We went on a magical night safari whee we pet and fed zebras, tigers and elephants! Because they don't want to upset the animals, you cannot use your flash so we don't have a lot of pictures but it was really amazing!

Here is their female giraffe, Sophie!

An elephant spotted on me. It was amazing. And then I saw lady lions looking into the bathroom window in the restaurant! So that was Saturday! The hotel was super swanky and absolutely breathtaking! On Sunday we spent all day with animals, so you'll hear or read all about it next time on Home is Where the Coffee is. (Imagine me saying that in the TCM guys voice).

Bali Massage

After going down the water slides all day on Friday, this mama needed a massage. Across the street from our hotel was a massage place. Actually, everywhere you look there are massage places. And like the shopping, they stand outside and reel you in.

So the kids went to sleep and I meandered across the street and signed up for a 60 minute hot stone massage because I'm a big spender. 90000 rupees. So $6.74.

You guys. This teeny tiny lady massaged the crap out of me.

It was an amazing massage. It was cool in the room, but not uncomfortable and it was amazing once the hot stones hit my skin. And she was not shy. She touched me all over. And let me tell you, she put hot as hell stones on my butt cheeks and it was amazing.

I've never understood how when I get a massage I lay down and suddenly the person giving the massage has 15 hands. I always wonder how they grow all these arms while my eyes are closed.
She also did this thing where she punched my palms and soles of my feet (not at the same time, she didn't have THAT many arms) and it was amazing.

She also massaged my stomach which I've never had done in the states. It was splendid. I thought it would be weird but once the hot stones hit my pale white belly, I was in heaven.

Thank the dear lord I literally only had to stumble across the street and into bed. And then Nathaniel went for his turn. By the time he came back I was passed out in a puddle of my own drool. Cause I'm klassy.

Water Bomb (Bali)

As I mentioned, we spent yesterday at Water Bomb water park, the number 1 water park in Asia! I don't have a ton of pictures because, you know that waterproof camera I have. . . Yeah I didn't think to actually carry it around!

But here is what I do have for your enjoyment

I got to have my first swim up bar experience which was on my bucket list and well worth it!

Nathaniel made me race him down a slide. I'll let you know when I get my swimsuit out of my insides.

Nathaniel however greatly enjoyed the slides and had me take this video of him.

Sorry it's sideways. I got nothing.

We also met the mascots which I think are ducks.

The park itself was beautiful. It was well shaded, beautifully maintained and very well landscaped. There were trees and flowers all over the place so you really felt as though you were in a rainforest! The staff was very nice and it was clean everywhere you went!

Before the park we had lunch at a little place with amazing food on a very busy street. I cannot get used to the driving in Bali and I am very glad that neither Nathaniel nor I have to deal with it. There are about eleventy billion cars and motorbikes and they go very quickly wherever they please! It's very disconcerting to watch.

Anyway, tasty lunch.

After the park we went to A&W because Isaac loves root beer and it's not really a thing in Japan. I also really wanted a hot dog.

Jokes on me (and Rosie). No hot dogs!!!!!!!! But we made it work anyway.

Afterwards we opted to walk back to our hotel so we could do some shopping. This is where things got spotty for me. The sellers are very aggressive. They invite you to look and then really give you the hard sell. I kept inadvertently engaging with them. They say "hello". I say "hello". Next thing you know, you can't leave their shop without buying something. It's so hard for me. I want to buy something from everyone but I just can't and in reality I don't WANT to, but they make me feel guilty. It was really hard for me. You also have to bargain with everyone. This has always made me uncomfortable. I'm the chump who wants to just pay sticker price to avoid the discomfort of bartering back and forth. It's just the way I am. However, we survived and got only what we wanted, mostly thanks to Nathaniel.

My internet here at the Bali safari is spotty so I have to sign off now, but rest assured that as soon as I have better internet you'll hear about how an elephant sneezed on me.

Bali Bitches!

Ok you had to see that title coming.

We left for the airport at 6:30am on our Thursday and arrived in Bali at 11:00pm Japan time (10 Bali time) to start our first ever family vacation! Ok, we've travelled before but this is the first time we aren't traveling to see family or friends or for work! Very exciting stuff!

We were not anticipating how crazy the Nagoya airport would be leading up to Obon but we made it to our flight just in time for boarding. I even got a coffee in time.

And we were off to Seoul!

The flight was 1.5 hours long and they fed us a meal!

And gave the kids an activity!

Shot out to Korean Air for amazing service.

We had a five hour layover in Seoul which I was dreading but we deplaned to find the most exciting thing we've seen in a while.

I inadvertently ordered a meal designed for 2 people. #sorrynotsorry #dontjudgeme

Seoul airport has a whole area designed for passengers who are transferring. You can take in some of the Korean culture or shop, or relax. We did a bit of each.

These robots were awesome!

Some of us took our resting more seriously than others.
but eventually we were on to our second flight!

Again, food and toys!

Then it was time to rest.

Finally we were in Bali!

Once we made it to the hotel, Nathaniel scored us some amazing food

And then it was bedtime!

Yesterday we spent the day at the #1 rated water park in all of Asia! I can't wait to tell you about it but it's time for our driver to risk all of our lives and take us someplace new!

I Should

Tell you all about Bali but I just had the most amazing massage and I can't word. Tomorrow.

Guest Post: The Luckiest

The following post is written by my amazing sister!

First, an introduction: Hi! I’m Torey’s sister, Alix. I’m the older sister, though her kids won’t be convinced, and I’ll tell you I’m 29.  I’M TWENTY-NINE. I’m back in Ann Arbor, her once and future stomping grounds, and we grew up together (OBVI) in Dexter. Our mother always told us “Hey! Be nice! She’s the only sister you’ll ever have!” and BOY are we glad we heeded her advice (*ahem* Mom – we really DID listen). We are the best of friends, who look after each other’s kids (mine all have 4 feet) and houses, run errands together, and bring each other coffee in emergencies and sometimes just because. In short, I’m the luckiest, because I ended up with the best sister in the world. Since I was able to visit T, N, and the kids in Japan, I also promised my sister I would write a blog post. Well, turns out, I’m on the wordy side, so A blog post turned into a FEW blog posts, and this is the first. Now, bear with me, because I’m not as funny as Torey, but I will do my best.

 

To begin at the beginning (a very good place to start. I should mention I’m the executive director of a community theatre, so forgive me if I break into song now and then), I had MAJOR mixed feelings when I learned that my baby sis was moving halfway around the world for a minimum of a year. I mean, what an amazing opportunity! But, also, HOW AM I GOING TO SURVIVE WITHOUT MY SISTER THAT LONG?? So I swore then and there that I would do whatever I could to make a trip to Japan happen. And once again, I am the luckiest, because I was able to take the time from my job, my wonderful SO, Andy, was very supportive, and, thanks to the kindness and generosity of a couple of wonderful people, it was much more affordable than I had feared. The luckiest, I tell you. Now, with that said, there were a couple of not-as-ideal points. One, Andy wasn’t going to be able to come with me. His job, and the health of his father (who doesn’t leave super nearby) meant that he wasn’t going to be able to take the time necessary to travel to Japan – I mean, one doesn’t ocean-hop for a weekend. So, boo to that. And two, summer is the time I get to take my vacation because we are in between seasons in July and August. And summer is a *little* toasty in Japan, but c’est la vie. I WAS GOING TO JAPAN!! And my trip was AMAZING. It was INCREDIBLE. And I am so grateful that I was able to take it. And now, as promised, I get to guest-post for my sister! This first post (if you’ve managed to get past my rambling intro) is an overview of my trip. In future posts, I’ll cover travel tips/things I learned, plus more detailed information on our trips out of Nagoya.

 

A trip like this was certainly something that took a fair amount of planning, and, not to brag or anything, but I’m like, really good at worrying. So I researched and I planned, and I bugged my sister, and then I bugged our friend Roberta, who visited T with her family before my trip (*cough* and who still owes T a blog post *cough). I found out all I could about what to pack, what to expect, how to behave, where to go, what to see, etc. And I wrote lists. I love lists. I am a list maker. GOOD NEWS THOUGH: My sister is a phenomenal host, and let me know all sorts of things she thought would be helpful. She made sure I knew things like tank tops aren’t really a thing in Japan, and that everyone carries a small towel with them, and not to forget bug spray. She forewarned me about Japanese toilets (you guys, I could do a whole POST on toilets, but I won’t. I have a phobia of public restrooms …). And Roberta talked me through all the logistics: what it was like getting through customs, what I could expect at the airport in Nagoya, and how normal people who actually get hot (unlike my sister) handle the summer weather. So, after all these lists , two suitcases, 50 pounds of American goods headed to T, a carry on, a suitable outfit for 13.5 hours on a plane, and goodbyes to Andy and the furbabies, it was GO TIME!

 

Thank GOODNESS I inherited my father’s ability to sleep on planes. That, plus going forward in time (let me tell you, going in REVERSE across the dateline, like on the way back, will MESS YOU UP), plus landing in Nagoya late afternoon local time meant that I could basically hit the ground running. Of course, by running, I mean waiting in line at immigration and then and customs, bouncing up and down, sweating, and texting my sister who was on the other side of the gate, also bouncing and texting. But we managed to keep it (mostly) together, I made it through, and then, SEVEN MONTHS after we’d last seen each other, it was SEESTER TIME! She drove me back to her house (she rocks this driving on the opposite side thing!), and I got to see the kiddos! They sorta noticed I was there. Well, they played it cool for a little while, and THEN I got hugs and cuddles and it was the BEST. I have really missed watching those kids grow up a little every day. Seven months is a lot of growing up when you are 8 and 10. I don’t think I even got to see Nathaniel that night – unfortunately, his work schedule meant that I didn’t get to see a lot him at all, but it was really good to see him too, and to catch up and hang out. I’m telling you what – family is my happy place .

 

We spent the first couple of days of my trip in Nagoya, hanging out, catching up, drinking coffee (in the morning), drinking beer or cocktails (in the evening), eating all the things, letting me get acclimated to time and weather, and taking it on the easier side. Two things to note here: one, canned cocktails in Japan are pretty awesome, not like pre-mixed stuff here. Business idea: figure out how to import Strong Zero. Two, when my sister told me it was humid, she was not kidding! As I mentioned, Torey is an excellent host, and prepared me well for the fact that everything in Japan in high summer is, er … (Molly, if you’re reading, skip ahead) … moist. Not only did she warn me, she explained to me why even if the temp and humidy % were comparable to home it feels WAY hotter in Japan. The answer? Dew point. Theirs is 10-15 degrees higher than ours, so yeah. It’s HUMID. And it was pretty dang hot too.

 

When I say we took those days on the easier side, we still did a bunch! We had lunch at a conveyor belt sushi place which is basically heaven. This was my first lesson in “everything in Japan talks or has a song.” It really amused this gaijin. But OMG SUSHI. And we ate unagi (eel) for good luck, because apparently we were supposed to on that day. It was delicious. It was ALL delicious.

.Then, my sister had made us (herself, Rosie, and me) reservations to do Shibori (traditional Japanese tie-dyeing) at a shibori museum in a place called Arimatsu, which is a very old town with gorgeous traditional architecture. It was SUPER fun. The ladies who taught us didn’t speak English, and Torey speaks some Japanese, but I speak none. But I do sew, and so I caught on pretty quickly. To the point that one of the teachers only realized about halfway through that I wasn’t understanding a word she was saying, only following what she showed me! Both teachers were absolutely lovely, and the older of the two thought Rosie was a hoot (did I mention Rosie wore her giraffe ears?), and basically ended up doing Rosie’s project while teaching her in Japanese with the cutest sound effects EVER.

We also hit the mall to go to the Daiso (100 yen store. So like a dollar store. But WAY better), the junk food store (Japanese junk food is awesome), and grab Starbucks and a snack. And then … GIRLS NIGHT! I got introduced to Yamachan (which has the BEST tabesaki (chicken wings famous in Nagoya) and something called cheese fry which is little pieces of deep fried cheese that put American mozzarella sticks to shame) and then we did karaoke. Oh did we karaoke. My sister and love a good karaoke room, and we sang until we were hoarse. My sister knows me well, and I had a fabulous time.

 

The next day we (Rosie and Torey and I) got crafty again and made hair ornaments at a party hosted by one of Torey’s ex-pat friends. This was also so much fun, and we ended up with gorgeous hair clips. And Rosie NAILED this craft.

 Then lunch at a curry joint (yum), my intro to Mr. Donut (OMGYUM), and the train to a mystery destination. Which turned out to be A FABRIC STORE. Which was unbelievable. 4 or 5 floors with traditional fabrics, modern prints, all you need to make those Lolita-style costumes you see in Japan, more trims than you can shake a stick at, crafting stuff, home dec … OMG. I “restrained” myself and only ended up with 3 metres of printed silk. Aaaand some obi-weight fabric. Aaaaaaaaaand some trims. And a kit to make another hair ornament but really at that point … Ok yes. I am a fabric junkie.. Then off to Osu Kannen to see the temple/shrine and to the second hand kimono store, where again I *ahem* restrained myself. Which meant three kimono and an obi.Then it was pizza and movie night while Nathaniel was at a work function, and we got ready to travel.

 

The rest of visit included a day/night in Hiroshima, a day/night on Miyajima, and an overnight in Kyoto. And, as with everything else, my sister did an impeccable job of planning and catering to everybody really well. But more on all of that later. Thanks for reading this far, if you’ve made it. I’m loving getting to share my amazing trip with all of you. (and if you’re thinking of visiting, if I haven’t made it clear, Torey is the best host 🙂 )

 

Cheers!

 

Alix