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2016: Let’s Look Beyond the Headlines

ScratchMapWhen I look back at the headlines from 2015, it was a pretty rotten year. The world looks like a pretty scary place when you see a constant stream of terrorism, political fighting, climate change, and gun violence. My goal in 2016 is to help people look beyond the headlines.

Here are some examples from recent news:

New Year’s Eve headline: A high rise building caught fire in Dubai, burning right next to the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, as the city celebrated New Years with their annual fireworks (1).

What I think of when I hear about Dubai: I only spent one night in Dubai, but I’ll remember watching the spectacular dancing fountains just below that tall tower, the Burj Khalifa.

Last week’s headline: China will get rid of its one child policy, and starting yesterday, January 1st, 2016, families will be able to have two children without huge tax fines (2).

What I’ll think of when I hear about China: I spent 7 weeks teaching English speaking high school students about China during the summer of 2012. I’ll remember so many amazing moments, such as volunteering with the Migrant Children’s Project, helping children from families unable to go to public school because of a complex government policy.

Last month’s headline: Forest fires in Indonesia this year destroyed 6.4 million acres of rainforest and farmland, causing more than half a million people to develop acute respiratory infections (3).

What I think of when I hear about Indonesia: The beaches of Bali will be forever etched into my memory, but the island’s friendly people are really what make this place so compelling to tourists from around the world.

Last year’s headline: Mali 391-1Terrorists took over a hotel in Bamako, the capital of Mali, keeping hostages for many hours (4).

What I think of when I hear about Mali: I’ll remember the amazing people who took care of me during my time volunteering there. And listening to the beautiful Muslim call to prayer at one of the most amazing mosques in the world, made entirely of mud.

Nobody knows what 2016 will bring, but let’s all work together to look past the headlines, and see the people. As you can see, travel helps me feel connected. What helps you to stay hopeful?

What makes a happy year?

Happy new year! When we look back over the last year, we tend to focus on the big stuff. What changes took place? What adventures did we have?

Inari 6

For me, when I think about 2015, the highlight that stands out is definitely hiking into the crater of the Ijen Volcano on the island of Java, in Indonesia. I will never forget what it felt like to be there.

Even though it’s those big events that stand out, I know that it’s the little moments that matter most. Sharing a laugh with a student. Giving a hug to a friend during a rough time. Just being with people I love. Those moments might not be as memorable, but added together, those are the ones that make up our lives. This year, I got to watch my niece turn 2.

What little moments will fill 2016? Last summer in Japan, it wasn’t the lights of Tokyo or the beautiful temples that made the trip so special. It was spending time with friends like Ishida Sensei, who showed me around his hometown. It was seeing how much pride he feels in his city. Here’s to many more little moments of connection, close to home or far away.

 

The Stories Behind Our Food

It’s all too easy to wander the aisles of the grocery store and pick out our favorite treats without stopping to think about where our food comes from.

Unless you’re in another country. Wandering the aisles of a Japanese grocery store was like being a baby out in the world for the first time. Everything looked new and exciting.

The more time I spend in other countries, the more I appreciate how complicated it is to make food. Let’s take rice for example. You’ve probably eaten it thousands of times, in all sorts of varieties. Here you can see it pictured in a traditional Indonesian dish called Nasi Campur — basically, there’s always rice in the middle, with a bunch of little side dishes around it.

 

Have you ever stopped to think about how rice gets to your plate?

Rice Smile

This past summer, when I traveled to Indonesia and Japan, I got to see rice being grown. Did you even know that rice is a plant? I always think of it in the bread category and not so similar to my vegetables. Sure enough, when rice is growing, it looks like little seeds on very green blades of grass.

Rice up close

Rice needs a lot of water to grow, so people set up complicated irrigation systems to get the water to the fields. The rice paddies, as they are called, are absolutely beautiful.

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Working in the Fields

These photos were taken in Ubud, Bali, which is actually a very busy, traffic congested town. However, if you walk off the main road, pretty quickly you’ll find yourself in a place like this:

Path

Among the rice paddies was a strange mix of locals living their lives…

…and resources for tourists.

Yoga

One minute, it felt like the middle of nowhere. And then, there was a restaurant that served fancy smoothies and yummy Indonesian food. What a view!

I really didn’t know what I was looking at, but I wandered into the fields and saw all sorts of trenches for directing the water. Some were made of dirt, and some were made of stone. These were clearly used to irrigate the fields.

Each field section appeared to have a temple that accompanied it. I imagined that it was the local way of wishing for a good planting season. Balinese people are mostly Hindu; pictured below is a Hindu god named Ganesha.

Temple

It looked like a lot of work to get the crops ready to be harvested.

Special Area

It looked like people cut the rice stalks by hand. These fields were huge, so I’m sure it took days.Cut Rice

And then they had to dry the rice out, sometimes in their driveways!

Drying

Wandering around, I learned a lot just by observing. In Japan, I even wandered into a store that had a rice mill in the back. Here’s a little video that will give you a better sense of what it was like.

I’m no expert, but the amazing crew at Projectexplorer.org put together this fabulous video about the process of making rice. They filmed it in Malaysia, but a lot of the images look like what I saw in Bali, don’t you think?

So, the next time you eat some rice, remember how much work goes into making it. This is probably true for all of the foods you’ll gobble up on Thanksgiving, if you celebrate this American holiday.

Spread Out

What went into making your mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and stuffing? Did your turkey get transported like these chickens in Bali?

Chickens in Transit

When I looked into their eyes as we drove by, I didn’t want to think about it. But then again, seeing our food being made up close helps us to be grateful for what’s on our plate.

Japanese Fast Food

A quick meal in Japan, ordered on a computerized machine

And at least for one day, remember all the people who made it possible for you to eat. Remember the different landscapes all around this planet that made your meal a reality.

Japanese Rice Fields

Rice fields in Japan (photo taken out the train window)

You might be eating a bunch of local food, but some of it probably traveled far and wide to get to you. Now that’s something to be thankful for.

Note: Want to learn more about the Thanksgiving holiday and what it’s really all about? Click here to check out a fabulous interactive website about the first Thanksgiving, made by Plimoth Plantation.

Travel. You’ll experience more kindness than terror.

Anyone who watches the news these days can’t help but feel some fear. How can people be so terrible? The world is a horrible, frightening place, right?

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The crowded streets of Isanbul, Turkey

If you are feeling this way, I have one suggestion — travel. Go out and see the world. Maybe you’ll see some people and places like I’ve seen…

Burj Khalifa

Me and the tallest building in the world (Dubai, the United Arab Emirates)

 

In Indonesia, I took a midnight ferry from the island of Bali to the island of Java to hike a volcano at night. It was totally worth missing a night of sleep, but I was definitely scared arriving in a new place under the light of the moon.

Java Mosque

A mosque in Java, one of the first sites after getting off the ferry

There was nothing to worry about. Our guides were right next to us the whole hike up the volcano. When my foot slipped a little on a rock, they were next to me in a heartbeat, helping me navigate the next steps. The views at sunrise made it all worth the worry!

With Guide

Me with one of our guides

In Mali, at first I was convinced that I’d get Malaria or some tropical disease. I lathered myself with bug spray every night and checked the corners of my mosquito net.

net

The room where I stayed my first night in Mali

After a few weeks with the host family with whom we were staying, I knew that I was being looked after. They made sure our food was safe, and that we had bottled water, local currency, and internet access. The little kids even helped us wash our underwear by hand.

Laundry

Getting some help with laundry

In Lahore, Pakistan, I was told not to go out by myself, even during the day. Only nobody told me that until the day AFTER I went out shopping on my own.

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The streets of Lahore (back in 2001)

I didn’t have any problems, though. In fact, this salesman asked me lots of questions about why I wanted to buy Muslim prayer beads to show my students. He ended up giving them all to me for free! And then I bought a shirt from another person who insisted I come into his house to meet his family and have tea!

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The nicest salesman ever (who wouldn’t take my money!)

In Istanbul, Turkey, I was pretty confused riding public transport. People warned me to stay away from crowds, and then I ended up taking this video while riding a bus that got mixed up in post-game traffic.

Don’t worry — I was fine. Everyone I met in Istanbul went out of their way to be friendly to me. People on buses scanned their cards to give me free rides when they saw I wasn’t a local. A random travel agent introduced me to a public school teacher who invited me into his classroom.

I could go on with more stories from more countries. The images and stories on this blog entry all have one thing in common though. They are all from countries where the vast majority of the population is Muslim.

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Travelers in Capadoccia, Turkey

I know I’m just one person. I can’t speak for everyone, but personally I’ve found Muslim countries to be some of the most friendly places in the world. As far as I can tell, they are the most focused on hospitality compared to other places I’ve traveled in North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Please don’t get confused and think that terrorists are representing Muslim people. Islam is a religion that teaches peace.

Balloons in Dogon Country MaliSo the next time you feel afraid, remember that 99.9% of the world’s people are kind and good to others. If you don’t believe me, go find out for yourself.

Wonders Viewed from a Plane

Aquarium at the Duty Free Shop

Aquarium at the Duty Free Shop

Yesterday I arrived home after a long day of travel, with over 20 hours of flight time! You’d think that I’d be an old hat at flying after visiting so many countries. I am used to it, but I still get nervous when we hit turbulence, even though air travel is very safe. I also get SO excited to look out the window, like that time I flew over Greenland. On this trip, I saw some pretty amazing sights from above:

1. The Great Barrier Reef — We had a short layover in Cairns, Australia between Bali and Tokyo, and we were able to see coral through the clear waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Great Barrier Reef

2. Skyscrapers Amidst Chinese Mountains — Flying home we stopped in Hong Kong, and I was surprised to see so many cities in mainland China surrounded by gorgeous mountains. I didn’t see landscapes like this when I visited Beijing and Shanghai! It looks beautiful!

China

3. Mount Fuji — I really wanted to climb Mount Fuji on this trip, but for a variety of reasons, we decided not to do it. Then, I hoped to see it from the train back to Tokyo, but it ended up getting too dark too soon. That meant that I was SO excited to literally fly over it when leaving Tokyo. We got an incredible view, which is only sort of clear in this photo:

Fuji

4. The Arabian Desert — Flying into Dubai on the way to Bali, we got to see this vast desert of the Middle East.

UAEfromPlane2

5. Manhattan and Central Park — I live so close to New York City, so it’s not so foreign to me… but I have to admit that it’s pretty impressive to see Central Park and the island of Manhattan from above.

Central Park

Seeing so many of these wonders, it makes me even more in awe of this planet we live on! The journey home was tough, but worth it. I added it up, and I think the whole trip took about 43 hours:

  • 1.5 hours — Train to the airport
  • 2.5 hours — Hanging at Narita Airport near Tokyo
  • 5 hours — Flight to Hong Kong
  • 1.5 hours — Hanging at another airport
  • 16 hours — Flight to New York
  • 1.5 hours — Getting through customs, waiting for bags, finding the way to the rental car booth, etc.
  • 2 hours — Driving home before we realized that we were too tired to drive
  • 10 hours — Relaxing and sleeping at a random hotel in Connecticut, just off the highway
  • 2 hours — More driving
  • 1 hour — Dropping off the rental car at Logan Airport in Boston, and then taking a cab home.

SignSince we passed over lots of time zones between Boston and Tokyo, that 16 hour flight left at 4 pm and landed at 8 pm. Seems kind of magical, right?

We landed in New York City as the sun was setting, and it was truly a beautiful sight:

Sunset NY

Even though I’m home, there’s a lot more from this trip to share. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a bunch more stories, photos, and videos from this journey. Curious how I ended up staying in the same room where the Dalai Lama stayed? Or how I walked through the beams at the tippy top of Kyoto’s main train station? Check back soon for more posts. For now, this traveler has some jet lag to get over.

Instagram SignP.S. If you are a part of the Innovation Academy community and you have your own global adventure to share, please consider submitting a guest post! We’d love to hear from you.

Hiking Inside the Crater of Ijen Volcano to See Blue Fire

People say going to Bali is an adventure, but a few days ago, we went on a REAL adventure. We found out that it is possible to hike inside the crater of a volcano on the island of Java, and somehow we decided that this was a good idea. It’s become more popular since there was a National Geographic article that went viral, documenting the volcano’s rare and beautiful blue flames. I was terrified to do this, but it seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So, we paid one million rupiah per person (about $74) to get this all arranged. The journey was part of the experience, so let me give you a sense of what it was like.

Karoke and SmokeWe were picked up at our hotel at 11 PM, and learned that there would be 7 travelers in our midnight escapade — us, a Swiss family, and a Belgian couple. The driver took us to the ferry to go over to the island of Java, and he got us on the boat and sat with us. For the hour long ride, we were inside a strange room where we could watch a TV playing what appeared to be Indonesian Karaoke. And then we arrived in Java!Harbor in Java

While Java is also part of Indonesia, it is a big island and almost entirely Muslim, whereas Bali is a small tourist-centered island that is mostly Hindu. After getting off the boat, our drivers turned us over to our Javanese guides, Errol and Gede. Java MosqueWe got into two other taxi-ish cars to head to the base of the volcano. At first, we saw lots of billboards, mosques, and urban bustle, but then we were in the countryside, winding through the forest. Those curvy roads went up and up, until my ears popped. We turned off the AC because the air outside got crisper as we went into higher altitudes. When we finally arrived at the trailhead, we got out of the car and it was so so cold. I had only brought two thin long-sleeve shirts. StartI put on both and was shivering. Luckily, we found a little stand by the toilets and for $14 or so, I got a new American knock off hoodie. By 2:30 AM or so, we were ready to hike in the cold and dark. And so we set off.

NightThe hiking wasn’t hard at first, but pretty quickly it got steep. It was a pretty sandy road-like surface, but just a lot of incline. We took our time as we ascended. The Swiss family, who were used to mountains, raced ahead. We had head lamps and flashlights, but we almost didn’t need them, because the moon was full and pretty bright, and our eyes adjusted to the dark. In the distance, we could see the outline of other volcanos against the night sky.

And then we arrived at the top of the Ijen Volcano. In the dark, we couldn’t see everything, but the sight was still incredible. Down in the crater before us, we could see the lights of hundreds of other hikers all around the top and going down.Ridge Upon Arrival in Dark

DangerIt was truly unbelievable. As I peered into the crater, I could see the blue flames and smoke in the distance. All the HikersThe steep rocky trail down was intimidating, but at this point, I was just in so much awe at being in this spectacular place. It felt so powerful to see all the lights of all the other hikers from all over the world, doing this with us. Two of the members of our group decided to stay there, because the way down was rocky and the fumes strong, but the rest of us began the decent into the crater. Gas Mask and Head LampWe put on gas masks that were available for rent from salesmen on the volcano. The smell of sulphur was powerful, and it kind of has a rotten egg smell, in addition to being not great for your lungs. The mask worked pretty well though, and I was so happy to be there. I kept wanting to look up to see the blue flames ahead, the crater edge, and the moon, but I had to watch my feet as I hiked.

Sulfur MaterialsAs we hiked, occasionally we needed to move over for miners carrying giant baskets of sulphur up from the base of the crater. It looked extremely heavy. Our guides told us that they make 3,000 rupiah per kilo, and that they carry huge loads, like 65-80 kilos at a time. If I’m doing my math right, that means they make about $15 per load of 150 pounds. That’s not a lot of money. Sometimes they also sell little sulphur sculptures to tourists like me (I bought a little turtle made of sulphur from this guy):

Sara with Miner

Miner at WorkAt the bottom we could see lots of people, lots of smoke, and giant blue flames.  In addition to all the hikers, we could see the miners working, collecting the sulphur right next to that intense heat. Their job must be so difficult. We were told that say the blue color comes from the sulphur of the volcano burning at very high temperatures, over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Imagine having that job! It was truly an amazing sight, and I couldn’t come close to capturing it on camera.

Here’s a little video of the dark hiking experience, but maybe you can sense my excitement:

Adrenaline flowing, the hike back up to the top of the crater was hard, but felt great, knowing what we had accomplished. And the sun was coming up, so the rewards at the top were huge! Ridge in the LightAs the sun filled the sky, the moon still visible, it was like a black and white picture turning into color. The world came alive, and we were in a stunning place. I could really fully see the crater now, and for the first time, realized that there was water in there! I couldn’t see it before because of all the smoke.

The views were truly beautiful:

Panorama Crater

I was so happy to be in this place, to see something like this that I never dreamed I would see.

Sadly, then it was time to make our descent back. Going down is harder on the knees, but now there was light, so we could look around and see the beautiful views. I had to keep stopping for photos. It just couldn’t believe my eyes.

Wow

The light from the sunrise on the other volcano in the distance was so nice, and just then, as we hiked down, we got to see an eruption! The puffs of ash got bigger as we hiked.

First PuffsWe also passed more miners carrying their sulphur down. Some thought it was funny to try to see the tourists attempt to lift their baskets, mostly unsuccessfully. Some guys also carried up carts to wheel the heavy rocks down. The sulphur is a bright yellow color when it’s not heated to ridiculously high temperatures.

By now, it was around 7 in the morning after a missed night of sleep, but the tiredness didn’t kick in until we got back to the car. Hiking down we were still in awe of what we had seen, and seeing the volcano erupting in the distance.

The ride back was sleepy, though our car struggled a bit, and needed to be pushed to get going, which didn’t instill too much confidence. But we made it back to the ferry, and then back to Bali safely.

Back in Bali

It was fun to watch the locals waiting to get off the boat:

And then our motley, tired crew made it off the boat as well, found our drivers, and headed back to our hotels to sleep. With only a short time left in Indonesia, it was then time for some Balinese relaxation. By some weird twist of fate, we managed to get two private villas with private swimming pools for our last two nights in Bali (without spending much money at all).

Since we then needed to travel 24 hours to get to Tokyo, sleep hasn’t been the highlight of this part of the vacation, but it’s been worth it.

Getting a Good Deal in Bali

As travelers in Bali, we are still trying to figure out the money thing. The exchange rate is kind of staggering — we get 13,517 rupiah for every U.S. dollar. So, we still laugh about getting to the airport and taking out 100,000 rupiah, thinking that was a good amount to get us started. We realized we had just withdrawn a little more than $7. We had to go back and get a million. Our wallets are now fat, since most bills are 50,000s.Rupiah

Together with the fact that haggling is expected here, it can be pretty confusing to figure out what something is worth. Yesterday, we wanted to head northwest to the town of Pemuteran, which is very close to Menjangan Island, where snorkeling is supposed to be amazing. It was a long drive from where we were before, Ubud — maybe 4 hours or so. It sounded like we could have paid about 150,000 rupiah per person to take a bus most of the way there (total about $22), but we realized that a private car was not too much more. So, for about $50, we called up a driver we met a few days before. With our new friend Wayan, we got our own mini tour of Bali. Wayan took us to several beautiful stops, including this stunning lake:LakeThe drive itself was gorgeous, through rice fields, mountains, and loads of green.View from Car

We also stopped at the GitGit Twin Waterfalls. There, a guide tried to convince us to pay 300,000 rupiah per person to walk us to the waterfalls. In case you didn’t do the math, that’s about $45! We ended up deciding to go on our own, and the path was totally clear without a guide. GitGit Twin Waterfalls

We had a sweet stop for lunch at Lovina Beach, where we got a laugh at the salt and “paper” shakers, and treated Wayan to some fried rice.

Salt and Paper

Lovina Beach was beautiful, famous for its dolphins. The sand was dark, but not quite the black sand from volcanic ash that we had heard about:

Lovina Beach

We made it to Pemuteran after a full day of adventure, where we had reserved a hotel room for about $40. Wayan told us that we were paying too much — we could find something for $10. Sigh. But hey, we got a welcome watermelon juice and we have a really cool bathroom with an outdoor shower. So, here’s to getting ripped off in style.

Sacred Monkey Forest

Yesterday, we visited the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary of Ubud. It lived up to its name! There were beautiful temples, trees, and monkeys everywhere. It was possible to get pretty close too, which was simultaneously amazing and terrifying.Me with monkeyI know you probably just want to see cute photos of monkeys, so I’ll just include them here, along with some interesting facts from the brochure we got upon arrival. I had trouble choosing my favorites, so this is a monkey heavy post. Enjoy!Parenting is rough

If you want to interact of feed the monkey, please exercise caution. If you give bananas or food to the monkey and they approach to take it, do not ever try to pull it back. To maintain the monkey’s health, please do not feed the monkeys peanuts, biscuits, bread, or other snacks.Mmmm… BananaThe mission of the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is conserving the area based on the concept of Tri (three) Hita (happiness) Karana (the cause). Thus, Tri Hita Karana means “Three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being” or how people maintain a harmonious relationship in their current life. Those three relationships comprise of harmonious relationships between humans and humans, humans and their environment, and humans with The Supreme God.
How's my hair?

As well as being the lungs of the city, rare plants are cultivated for conservation purposes alongside those used for rituals.

The forest area is sanctified by the local community. There are some parts that are prohibited for the public to see or visit, for example the sacred area or temple. The temple area is only accessible for those willing to pray and wear proper Balinese dress.

Clean my backside!

There are about 600 monkeys living in the area. They are divided into 5 groups. Conflicts between groups of monkeys cannot be avoided. Sometimes a group may pass into another’s territory for a specific reason, such as taking a bath in the river in the dry season. See these teeth?

This type of primate is active during the day and rests at night. Their gestation period is about 6 months and generally they give birth to only one infant; they rarely have twins. Mama and Newborn

The infant stays with their mother for about 10 months, and thereafter they will be weaned in order to live independently. Little Guy Learning

Mothers intensively care for their infants; even female monkeys who are not the parent may also participate in caring for the baby.Parenting can be boring

The average weight of female monkey is 2.5 – 5.7 kg and male monkey 3.5 – 8 kg. Transport

The lifespan of male monkey is up to 15 years while female monkey can live up to 20 years.Just a typical day at work

Long-tailed monkeys are omnivores. In the Monkey Forest Ubud, the main food they eat is sweet potato, given 3 times a day, combined typically with one of the following: banana, papaya leaf, corn, cucumber, coconut, and other local fruit.Multitasking

And… a few more cute ones, because you can never have too many monkey photos, right?

Note: I used a zoom lens for most of these photos. These monkeys can be pretty dangerous, as they do bite, and could carry diseases. There were Monkey Security guys at the park for helping to keep visitors safe. Note the band-aid on this monkey security guy’s finger. Yikes!

Civet Poop Coffee… and More!

Today, I visited the Kopi Luwak Coffee Plantation, where they make make all sorts of teas and coffees… and they are famous for one very special type. You might not believe it, but this animal’s poop is used to make coffee.

Civet

These animals are called Asian Palm Civets, and they are in the cat family. We saw them in a cage, and they were pretty sleepy because they are nocturnal animals. At night, they go out eating, and they love to climb trees and chow on the coffee beans off the plant. Coffee PlantThen people collect the pooped out beans and process them into coffee! Why would you want those ones? Apparently, the civets only choose the best, most ripened beans, and then some enzymes in their stomachs also help the beans become less bitter and less caffeinated. It’s not gross because the beans are cleaned, roasted, and boiled before becoming a nice top quality coffee.

Coffee Beans Pre RoastedAt the farm, we decided to try the civet poop coffee. To me, it tasted like any other coffee, but I’m glad I tried it! I also loved that the farm let us sample all their varieties of coffee and tea. Some were very unusual, like coconot coffee or mangosteen tea, from a fruit native to Asia. It was a taster’s dream!Samples

They even let us try the chocolate made there, by special request.

ChocolateIt was really neat to see foods that I have eaten often in a plant form that I’ve never seen. For instance, while we were walking by the coffee and cocoa plants, our guide took a leaf off a tree and crushed it up for us to smell. It was cinnamon, and it smelled so fresh! Unfortunately, cinnamon the spice is made from the bark of the tree, so they have to cut down the whole tree to harvest it.

It turned out that the owners of the coffee plantation also keep a pet fruit bat named BomBom. I couldn’t decide if she was adorable, or creepy, but getting to meet her was a highlight of the visit. Too bad this bat couldn’t earn her keep like the civets!

8 Reasons to Visit Uluwatu if you go to Bali

1. Uluwatu is a sea temple in a stunningly beautiful location.

Beauty

2. It was built in the 11th century, long before the United States of America even existed. If you look carefully at the photo below, you might see a little friend of mine, Loki.

Loki

3. It’s fun to watch the monkeys there!

Monkey at UluwatuHe looks cute right? Don’t be fooled. These guys steal people’s sunglasses and phones. You’ve just got to watch your things, and don’t get too close. Maybe they just like things that are shiny, or maybe someone will try to bribe them with fruit to get their belongings back.

4. It felt amazing to be there surrounded by visitors from all over the world. When visiting the temple, everyone wears a purple sarong or yellow sash provided by the temple staff, for modesty (not showing your knees). It was great to be surrounded by other guests, all in the same outfit, enjoying this spectacular place.

Sarongs

5. It’s so peaceful to watch the waves crash from up above.

6. If you stay for sunset, you can watch a traditional show in the most awesome location, as the sun sets behind the stage. Note the stadium seating behind me in this photo:

Me at Uluwatu

7. Kecak is a form of dance and music where the musicians create all the sounds with their mouths. Very impressive. This show also told a Hindu story of the capture of Sita, and her husband Rama’s rescue.

8. My favorite part of the show was watching Hanoman, the Monkey King. He was very funny, and acted just like the real monkeys, climbing into the audience and stealing people’s sunglasses. He also performed some fire dancing, kicking balls of fire with his bare feet!

All in all, Uluwatu should definitely be on anyone’s list for things to do when visiting Bali. While you’re in the area, stop by Padang Padang Beach and then get fresh fish right on the beach in Jimbaran too.

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