Christmas Boat Parade

In order to get in the Christmas spirit, we attended a local event on Australia’s Sunshine Coast called the Christmas Boat Parade. Local families gathered at the Mooloolaba Harbour at around 6 pm, decked out in their Christmas finery.Christmasy kids

Barbecues (and sparklers) were lit

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The boats began making their first rounds, even before the sun went down. Children waived frantically to every Santa that came by, even the plastic ones…

Plastic santa

Mother nature was the first to show off her lights…Sunset at Mooloolaba DSCF9330 DSCF9325

And then the boats began to light up the night. DSCF9340

These little ones were among my favorites.DSCF9339 DSCF9346 DSCF9352

This one had a mechanical device that allowed Santa (below) to send up a “match” to light the candle. When it reached the top, the flame came on and waved around. Amazing. DSCF9357

Lighted candle 

This one had a rock band on board that provided the soundtrack for the evening’s festivities.DSCF9354

The lights were inspiring and beautiful, and by night’s end I had a better feel for the unique possibilities offered by a summer Christmas.

Australia’s softer side

Of all the countries we have visited so far, Australia is most like America with its wide roads, big cars, huge shopping malls and the bombardment of advertising. Being a relatively “young” country, there aren’t cathedrals and castles to visit. Its primary attraction is the great outdoors. Before coming to Australia, I pictured it as an arid landscape with vast, harsh deserts on the interior and scrubby, dry areas nearer to the oceans. This might actually be true of parts of Australia, but not the parts we have visited. I have been delighted and surprised by the lush and gorgeous rain forests, the tropical plants, the stunning tropical birds and fish. I’ve always considered it my own little dirty secret that I love tropical plants, birds, and fish. In California, these things are exotics or invasives and to be avoided. But everything is native to somewhere and I’ve been completely “wowed” by the lush, verdant, and colorful world around me here in coastal Queensland.

As George pointed out, all this beauty comes at the price of a little danger, but Australia has its softer side, too. Every bit as iconic as the saltwater crocodile is Australia’s indigenous teddy bear, the koala.

These furry little marsupials are as soft as they look.

These furry little marsupials are in no way related to bears and they are as soft as they look.

Today we spotted one in the wild. It was in a tree near the visitor’s center at Noosa National Park on the Sunshine Coast. Somehow, the fact that it was right near the parking lot felt a little cheap, but at least it wasn’t because it has become habituated to human food. Koalas eat only eucalyptus leaves which are very low in calories, and consequently they spend most of their day sleeping because they don’t have energy to do anything else. We were hoping this would mean we would see dozens of them snoozing away in the trees, but today we only saw the one.

Female cassowary, about 6 feet tall.

Female cassowary, about 6 feet tall.

IMG_9433

Wombat

We still haven’t seen a kangaroo or a cassowary (human sized bird found in the tropics – see George’s previous post) in the wild, but we did see them at the Australia Zoo the other day.

I’m usually not a fan of zoos, but I thought this one was quite well done. The zoo was begun by the parents of Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) as a small wildlife park in the 1970s. Steve took over the park in the 1990s and changed the name to the Australia Zoo. When Steve began filming the Crocodile Hunter series, he and his wife, Terri, decided to put all the money from filming and merchandise back into the zoo and wildlife conservation. Many of the enclosures at the zoo aren’t really enclosed, like a lot of the bird habitat, so some of the animals are hard to spot. Staff regularly walk around with animals that you can meet and possibly even touch such as small freshwater crocodiles, wombats, and eagles.

Red kangaroo roaming through "roo heaven" at the Australia Zoo.

Red kangaroo roaming through “roo heaven” at the Australia Zoo.

You can pet a koala and feed a kangaroo. Rather than having kangaroos in cages, they have a huge walk-through kangaroo area where you can just wander around with over 14 different species of ‘roos and wallabies.

The zoo mostly focuses on Australian wildlife, but they also have an African and Asian section where you can see bengal tigers, rhinoceros, giraffes, elephants and zebras. The bengal tiger was the highlight of the day for me. I think they are perhaps the most gorgeous animals in the world.

 

A black-tipped reef shark floats above us in the tunnel at the aquarium.

A black-tipped reef shark floats above us in the tunnel at the aquarium.

We spent the next day at Underwater World, the Sunshine Coast Aquarium and Oceanarium. Definitely the highlight there was the enormous shark and stingray “tube” where you can walk through with beautiful sharks and rays swimming around and above you. We learned that out of the 360 shark species, there are only 4 species of shark that will attack humans unprovoked – great whites, tiger sharks, bull sharks and the oceanic white tip. Fatalities are rare. In fact, on average, fewer than 2 people per year dies from shark attack worldwide. If you go to the beach, you are far more likely to drown than to be attacked by a shark.  Over 100 million sharks are killed by people each year though, mostly to supply the shark fin product trade. Sometimes sharks fins are cut off and then the still living shark is dumped back in the water where it can no longer swim, so it sinks to the bottom of the ocean and drowns. While we were snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef we felt so incredibly privileged to see White Tip Reef sharks. These beauties were about 5 feet long and so graceful. They are a little shy, but we managed to enjoy watching them cruise slowly through their natural habitat. At the aquarium, we also learned that 30% of shark species lay eggs, while the other 70% give birth to live young. I did not know that before.

We don’t even have to go out to see great wildlife, though. The home exchange we are doing here on the Sunshine Coast has a beautiful deck overlooking a flora and fauna preserve. We get to see the most fantastic bird life. Between this spot and the back yard at our home in Cairns, we have seen so many gorgeous birds hanging out nearby and serenading us with their songs, calls, and whistles. Yesterday a flock of rainbow lorikeets flew by. We spotted some really large owls in a neighboring tree, and we’ve seen a few cockatoos. We recently spotted a kookaburra in a tree near the driveway, though, we have been hearing them “laughing” in the trees for a couple weeks now.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra. Their call really does sound like maniacal laughter.

At the house in Cairns, a playful pair of sunbirds darted all around our deck area, landing on any brightly colored thing and looking very much like hummingbirds as they hovered and checked it out. We’re still trying to identify some birds that we are hearing but not seeing, especially one that starts up in the early morning and sounds like someone cracking a whip. Maybe that’s just our neighbors getting a little feisty, though.

Green sea turtle with tropical fish (not my photo, but I wish it was!)

Green sea turtle with tropical fish (not my photo, but I wish it was!)

And then, of course, there are the stunningly beautiful and completely harmless tropical fish, coral, and other marine life that congregate along Australia’s shores. Six of the seven species of sea turtles in the world are found in Australia’s waters. These slow moving, peaceful amphibians move languidly through the water, practically asking you to follow along and enjoy the slower pace of life. All seven species are endangered, some of them critically so.

And lastly, there are the peaceful and fun-loving Aussies themselves. Their most frequent refrain seems to be, “No worries” and they really seem to mean it. George has enthusiastically picked up this turn of phrase and uses it at every opportunity. We have found them to be friendly and helpful, kind and generous.

Although we are only going to see a tiny little slice of this vast country (this time around), I have loved getting to know this area that feels a little like home, but in other ways still feels exotic and wild and enticing… in a very sweet way.

The swimming pool that rocked my world

How have I not been swimming here every day since we arrived? 

This pool in downtown Cairns is amazing. This photo really doesn’t capture its size or location or special features. First of all, it is huge – 4800 sq meters (almost 52,000 sq ft or 1.2 acres) and it is slightly saltwater with white sand “beaches” at the edge that come right out into the water. It is located on the Esplanade (3 miles or so of waterfront in the downtown area) so it has magnificent views of the sea.

My favorite thing about this pool? No crocodiles and no box jellyfish (see George’s post on stingers.) I know it’s so much more hip and cool to swim in the ocean, but the salt water is very salty and I’m constantly worried about bumping into something larger and scarier than myself. The beach right down the street from here not only has stinger warnings, it also says, “crocodiles are known to inhabit these waters”. The biggest thing I have to worry about is bumping into in this pool is another person who will laugh and we will both excuse ourselves and carry on. No problem. No hospital visit or missing limb. And have I mentioned the temperature? I think it was custom made for my comfort zone. I have always said that I like 80° water, but I’m revising that down to about 78°. The water temperature in this area at this time of year is about 83° which is actually warm enough to not feel refreshing.

Today we decided to run along the Esplanade and then get in the pool to cool off. On a whim, I decided to try to keep up with George on our run today. I managed to stay at his pace for 2.5 miles and then dropped back to my own comfort zone. I ran 6k, which means he ran closer to 6.5k or maybe even more. We are slowly getting stronger and I am beginning to see a 10k in our futures. Although George consistently runs farther and faster than I do, we are both seeing the results. George now weighs less than I did when we left Sonoma County! (Take that in for a moment.) He’s lost nearly 25 pounds and I’ve lost about 12. I’m actually beginning to worry that he will come back weighing less than I do.

In any case, I hope to spend some portion of each of our 5 remaining days in Cairns enjoying the urban plunge into waters not too salty, not too chlorine-y, not too warm, not too cold, not too dangerous – but juuuuusssst right!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas?

It is summer in the tropical area of Australia. Temperatures are in the low 90s and beaches are   bustling. We wandered in to the mall (me still in my bathing suit top) to find a notice that Santa will be available for photos next week. Aussies are busily discussing their plans for the summer “hols” (holidays). For them, Christmas means barbecues and watermelon and sweet corn and playing with your new frisbee on the beach. I’m finding it a little disconcerting to be browsing through shorts and flip flops while listening to “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” on the in-store entertainment system. Maybe this is my big chance to pick up a Santa themed bikini… and actually get to wear it.

 

Second Cooking Lesson with Ayu

For our second cooking lesson we made Sweet Tempeh, Fried Noodles, and Black Rice Pudding for dessert. I thought I should mention that the sweet soy sauce we used is thick like maple syrup. I’ll have to look for it in my Asian market at home. The little packet on the left in the photo is oyster sauce, which technically violates the vegetarian thing, but I don’t care.

All the ingredients for the whole meal. The plate on the right (next to the coconut) contains black rice, 2 blocks of palm sugar, 2 bananas, and the fragrant panandan leaves. The iron tool next to the coconut is for opening the coconut.

Sweet Tempeh  (Serves 2)

 Ingredients:

2 blocks tempeh

Tempeh wrapped in a banana leaf. It’s about the same size as our blocks of tempeh at home.

6 garlic cloves

1 small shallot

1 red chili, seeds and veins removed

3 green onions

1 stalk celery, including some of the leaves

1 T. sweet soy sauce

1 T. ketchup

1 T. oyster sauce

coconut oil for frying

Preparation:

  1. Peel and mince the garlic, slice the shallots, and chop the red chilies. Put each ingredient on its own small plate.
  2. Cut the tempeh into small rectangular slabs about ¼ inch x ¼ inch x ¾ inch.
  3. Chop the green onions, including about 2 inches of the green part. Dice the celery and chop the leaves.
  4. Heat coconut oil (1/4 inch deep) in a large skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, carefully add the tempeh cubes and move them around in the pan to coat with the oil. Continue moving them around gently with spatula until they are golden on all sides. (You don’t need to turn them individually.)
  5. Remove the tempeh to a strainer or colander set over a bowl. Reserve 2 T. of the coconut oil.
  6. Using the same pan, heat the 2 T. of coconut oil. When it is hot, add the shallot and cook until golden brown. Add the garlic and the chili and stir fry for a minute or two until fragrant. Add the green onions, celery and the tempeh. Gently stir to mix.
  7. Add the sweet soy sauce, the ketchup, the oyster sauce, and a little salt and white pepper. Stir to coat all pieces with the sauce.
  8. Taste and correct flavors. Remove to a serving dish.

Sweet tempeh served on a banana leaf. This was one of our favorite dishes in Bali. I could have eaten this every day.

 

Fried Noodles (Balinese style)     Serves a lot more than 2

Ingredients:

1 pkg wavy Asian egg noodles

8 garlic cloves

1 large shallot

2 red chili, seeds and veins removed

4 green onions

2 stalk celery, including some of the leaves

1 bunch bok choy, washed and dried

2 eggs

1 medium carrot

½ small head of cabbage (2 cups chopped)

3 T. sweet soy sauce

3 T. ketchup

3 T. oyster sauce

2 T. coconut oil for frying

 

Preparation:

  1. Put on a pot of water to boil while you prepare the vegetables. When it boils, cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain and add a little oil so the noodles don’t stick together. Set aside.
  2. Peel and mince the garlic, slice the shallots, and chop the red chilies. Put each ingredient on its own small plate.
  3. Dice the celery and green onions, including about 2 inches of the green part. Chop the bok choy and cabbage into bite size pieces. Dice the carrot. Dice the celery and chop the leaves.
  4. Heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. (You can use some of the coconut oil that you used to fry the tempeh.) When it is hot, add the shallot and cook until golden brown. Add the garlic and the chili and stir fry for a minute or two until fragrant.
  5. Add the green onions and celery and cook for 1 minute. Crack 2 eggs into the pan and stir them around until cooked and combined with the vegetables. Add the carrot, bok choy, and cabbage. Stir to mix well.
  6. Add the noodles.
  7. Add the sweet soy sauce, the ketchup, the oyster sauce, and a little salt and white pepper. Stir to coat all pieces with the sauce.
  8. Taste and correct flavors. Remove to a serving dish.

Fried noodles, ready to eat.

Black Rice Pudding

This dish takes some advance planning since the black rice needs to be soaked and cooked ahead of time. The whole dish can be made ahead of time and reheated for dessert or for breakfast.

 

Ingredients:

½ cup black rice

1 can coconut milk (or you can make your own coconut milk like we did. Instructions below.)

¾ cup palm sugar or ¾ cup dark brown sugar, packed

* 3 fragrant panandan leaves (These are used for flavoring and coloring cakes and other baked goods. Obviously you can only add these if you are in Bali.)

salt

sliced bananas

 

Preparation:

  1. Soak the black rice for 8 hours or more. Drain off the water.
  2. Put the soaked rice in a large pot and add 10 cups cold water (it should cover the rice by about 5 inches. Cook the rice over low heat for an hour or more. Taste to see if the rice is tender. You should have about ½ an inch of black water in the pan with the rice. If the rice isn’t tender yet, add more water and keep cooking it down until you have tender rice and about ½ inch of creamy, black, soupy water.

*Add the fragrant leaves to the last 15 minutes of cooking time.

3. While the rice is cooking, melt the brown sugar with 1 T. of water until syrupy. Set aside to use later.

4. Add 1 can coconut milk and a pinch of salt to the pot with the black rice. Bring to a boil, stirring so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom. Boil for 5 minutes.

5. Add at least half of the sugar syrup. Taste and add more sugar as desired *Remove the leaves before serving.

6. Serve in small bowls or cups with sliced bananas on top.

 

Note: Here’s how to make your own coconut milk. This is the way we made it in Bali.

  1. Get a mature coconut off your tree in the back yard. Get your husband to remove the husk with a hatchet.

    Wayan removing the coconut husk.

  2. Crack the coconut open with a penyeluhan, a small crow-bar looking tool that is made just for opening coconuts.
  3. Drain off the coconut water.
  4. Separate the coconut meat from the hard shell. Break off 5 large chunks (about the size of your palm).
  5. Using a traditional wooden grater made from the bark of a palm fern tree, finely grate the coconut meat.

    Grating coconut

  6. Put the grated coconut in a large bowl and add 1½ cups of water. Using your hands, squeeze the water through the grated coconut for about 10 minutes. Remove as much grated coconut as you can with your hands, then drain the coconut milk off using a fine mesh strainer. It is now ready to add to the pot with the black rice (or whatever else you’re making.)
  7. Feed the discarded grated coconut to your pigs. (It makes the meat really tasty I’m told.) Use the coconut shell for making bowls and fancy spoons. Use the coconut husk for grilling suckling pig and other meats, or for your fire dance ceremony.

First Cooking Lesson with Ayu

About a week ago I had my first cooking lesson with Ayu. We made Gado-Gado (Boiled Vegetables With Peanut Sauce), Tofu With Peanut Sauce, and Fried Banana for dessert. Here are the recipes and a few photos:

Tofu and Vegetables with Peanut Sauce

 Ingredients:

1 pound firm tofu

10 long beans (or 2 handfuls green beans)

1 large handful bean sprouts

½ bunch spinach (or 1 package baby spinach)

1 cup raw peanuts

10 cloves garlic, chopped very small (1/3 cup?)

2-3 shallots, thinly sliced

2 red chili peppers, seeds and veins removed

1 T. sweet soy sauce

1-2 T. cane sugar

*Optional: A squeeze of fresh lime juice. (We used half a Balinese lime, which is teeny tiny lime about the size of a ping-pong ball. You don’t juice it, you just put it in rind and all.)

coconut oil for frying

(Serve with white rice or thin rice noodles. If you have leftover rice you can warm it up with boiling water just before serving. If you need to make rice, start it cooking at the beginning of the process.)

Clockwise from upper left: Spinach, long beans, bean sprouts; tofu blocks; garlic, shallots, bali lime; salt; sweet soy sauce; coconut oil in the plastic water bottle; peanuts; bananas; jackfruit (which we also made into fritters for dessert.)

Preparation:

  1. Peel and mince the garlic, slice the shallots, and chop the red chilies. Put each ingredient on its own small plate.

    Prepping the veggies

  2. Slice the tofu ¼ inch thick from the small end of the cube and put it in a bowl.

    Slicing the tofu.

    3. Wash and trim the spinach. Drain well. Cut the long beans into 3 inch lengths.

    4. Heat coconut oil (1/4 inch deep) in a large skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, carefully add the tofu slices one at a time with tongs. When you can see they are becoming golden on the bottom, turn them to cook on the other side. If the oil gets smoky, turn the heat down (or off) for a little bit. When cooked on both sides, remove to a strainer placed over a bowl to drain and cool.

    5. While the tofu is cooking, heat more coconut oil in a small frying pan. Fry the shallots until crispy and browned. Remove them to a plate. Using the same oil, fry the garlic and chilies until the garlic is very pale golden, just a couple of minutes. Remove them to a separate plate.

    Fried shallots, and fried garlic and chili in coconut oil.

    6. After the tofu is finished cooking, use the same oil (add more as needed) to fry the peanuts. Stir constantly until the peanuts are nicely colored. Remove them to a plate to cool. Dispose of any remaining frying oil.

    Frying the peanuts while the tofu drains in the natural bamboo colander.

    7. Put a large pot of water on to boil. When the water is boiling, add the long beans or green beans. Put the lid on and let the water return to a boil. Taste a bean for doneness. It should be tender crisp. Add the spinach on top and push it down into the water. Then add the bean sprouts. Move them around in the water for one minute, then turn off the heat. Put them in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Let them drain.

    8. Make the peanut sauce. Grind the peanuts in a mortar and pestle or put them in the food processor. Add a little water to loosen the paste. Add the shallots, garlic, and chilies and process until smooth.

    Grinding peanuts in a stone bowl with a round rock.

    Seeing how it’s really done.

     

    9. Using the same large frying pan that you used for the peanuts, heat some water (approximately an equal quantity as the peanut paste.) Stir in the peanut paste. Add salt, sweet soy sauce, and cane sugar. Taste and adjust flavors as needed. Cook the sauce until it is the consistency of gravy. (At this point, you could try adding a little bit of lime juice to brighten the flavors, or just leave it as it is.)

    10. Put the tofu on a wide serving dish and spoon half the peanut sauce over the tofu. Drizzle with more sweet soy sauce.

    11. Put the vegetables on a separate serving dish and pour the remaining peanut sauce over them. Stir to coat all the vegetables with the sauce. Add a little more salt, some sweet soy sauce, and taste. Correct flavors as needed.

    Main dishes ready for the table. Gado-gado on the left, plain white rice in the middle on a beautiful banana-leaf mat, and tofu with peanut sauce on the right.

Fried Bananas   (Makes 8 small fritters)

Ingredients:

2 cups white flour

2 eggs

¼ t. salt

4 T. sugar

2 bananas

coconut oil for frying

Preparation:

  1. Crack the 2 eggs into the flour. Add salt and sugar. Stir with whisk just to combine.
  2. Peel the bananas. Cut them in half to make 3-4 inch long pieces. Cut them in half lengthwise (to make them skinnier.)
  3. Start heating coconut oil ( ¼ inch deep) over medium flame.
  4. Gently place a piece of banana in the batter. Using a spoon, gently move the banana around until it is covered with batter.
  5. When the oil is hot, use the spoon to gently place the coated banana into the oil. Fry for 1 minute or so until golden. Using tongs, turn to cook the other side.
  6. Remove from the oil and drain in a colander placed over a bowl (or on paper towels on a plate.)
  7. Repeat with the other pieces of banana. (You can cook as many pieces as will fit in your pan at the same time, but make sure you still have enough space to turn them over.)

Note: These should be eaten shortly after frying as they don’t keep very well. The batter will keep for a few days, covered in the refrigerator. Balinese people eat these for dessert and for breakfast.

Highlight: Rafting in the Jungle

October 24th

I don’t know if the Agung River Valley is technically considered jungle, but it sure looks and feels that way. We have done a fair amount of rafting (George more than I, of course, since he used to be a white water rafting guide), but no setting has been quite this lush with vegetation. And no other river has had monkeys cavorting along the side.

We met our guide, Made…

Nice abs!

He looks strong enough to get us down the river even if there are only the 3 of us in the boat.

We got geared up and set off on the river.

We weren’t able to take pictures during rafting, but we pulled over to the side several times to take photos.

Once at this beautiful carving of the Ramayana story, carved directly into the boulders that make up the bank of the river. This carving was done in the last 7 years and it took the artists 2 years to complete it. It is nearly 1 km long! It’s so appropriate that this sacred story is found along the banks of the river that flows directly from Bali’s most sacred mountain.

Then we stopped at a waterfall and played in the water for awhile.

While there were plenty of rapids to keep us entertained and plenty of rocks to make the run challenging, the most spectacular part of this trip was the lush jungle scenery all around us. It made us long for a waterproof camera and another day on the river.

 

Highlight: Ubud

Today we spent the day in Ubud, the town made famous by Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat, Pray, Love. Our little village of Abiansemal is about a half hour drive from Ubud, even though it is only about 12 kilometers away. This is due in part to the disrepair of the roads, the incredible traffic in and around Ubud, and the lack of a direct route there. Initially, we thought we would rent a car so we could be independent and see Bali at our own pace. My good friend, Reta, said that it might be wiser to hire a driver, and she was absolutely right. On days when we want to go somewhere, our host can arrange a car and driver for us for less than it would cost to rent a car. We are paying $15.00 to be picked up at our “home” and taken to Ubud, and then driven home at any time we want. If we wanted to do an all-day tour to far-flung places on the island, it would only cost about $50 (including gas and parking.) Even if it weren’t cheaper this way, it would still be worth it because of the chaotic nature of driving here. Driving is on the left, there are motor scooters everywhere, often with 3 or 4 helmetless riders, and they pass on both sides of the vehicle (right and left). Although it’s not as extreme as what I imagine India and China to be like, it is still quite intimidating and nerve wracking. I prefer to leave the driving to the locals. One of my favorite cars we’ve ridden in is a VW Thing. Remember these?

Our driver, Made Bagus, ready to take us to Ubud in his VW Thing

Ubud is often referred to as the cultural and artistic heart of Bali. There are several museums, many art galleries, upscale shopping, spas, yoga retreats, dance performances, many different temples, rice terraces, gardens, and myriad restaurants. Everyone wants to get a little piece of the tourist action generated by Eat, Pray, Love (EPL as it’s called here.) During the 20 minute walk down Monkey Forest Road to, you guessed it, the Monkey Forest, we were asked about 50 times if we needed a taxi ride or a massage. We declined because we already had a taxi driver and we were scheduled for massages the next day in our own room back in Abiansemal. (By the way, $8 for a one-hour massage, and an excellent one at that.)

When we first arrived in town, we visited the gathering space just outside the temple where we saw little girls attending a dance class.

After that we visited the Puri Lukisan Museum which houses traditional and “modern traditional” art ranging from paintings and pen-and-ink drawings to wood carving. The gardens are at least as spectacular as the art. (No photos allowed inside the museum, but here are some pictures of the grounds.

Statue wrapped up in the roots of a huge banyon tree.

Lotus in the pond outside the museum

Our museum ticket came with a beverage at the little cafe, so while we sipped our iced tea, we watched (and listened to) a gamelan orchestra made up of school-aged boys. The dance classes for the girls and music practice for the boys are common Sunday activities, as Sunday is their one day out of school during the week. Monday through Friday they are in school from 7:30 until noon for the younger children, and 7:30 until 2:00 for the older children. On Saturdays they go to school only in the morning for dance or sports.

Boys practicing gamelan

The monkey forest sanctuary was great fun. Monkeys are sacred in Balinese Hinduism and they have their own temple and forest area to hang out in. When we walked up to the entrance (entry fee $2), there was no gate or enclosure of any kind. The monkeys are free to come and go as they please, but mostly they stay because they are fed by staff and by visitors. Just outside the entrance you can buy bananas to feed to the monkeys. There are hundreds of them, all throughout the sanctuary forest. Their personalities seem to range from playful (the younger ones especially) to bickering to territorial and hostile (with each other, not so much with humans.) Although most guidebooks say it is an overrated experience, I found it charming. It’s hard to resist monkeys. I loved the temple, the statues, and the monkey graveyard almost as much as watching the critters themselves.

Provocative Pigs

My favorite statue in the Monkey Forest. Love those tongues.

When the monkeys die, they are buried in the Sacred Forest and given a headstone.

Here’s a close up of one monkey’s headstone.

And another little monkey

We also took a walk through the rice fields around Ubud, which are very pretty.

Path through the rice paddies.

On our walk we met a man named Made and bought a green coconut from him for $1 (more than enough for the two of us). While he opened it for us, we sat in the shade of his little wooden shelter and talked about Bali. He asked where we were from and where we were staying. When he learned that we were retired, he asked how much retirement money we got. When we told him, he assured us that we could move to Bali and live like kings if we wanted to. He said that a nice 3 bedroom house with all the modern conveniences rents for about $500 a month, or, if we wanted to live more modestly in a smaller place (but still nice), we could rent a house for $1,000 a year. Sitting in the shade, sipping fresh coconut juice and looking across the rice paddies, I was sorely tempted.