Time truly is a healer of culture shock. Those things that gave you that initial jolt of humility suddenly don't seem that jarring. Eventually what you're experiencing loses its element of surprise. Like the little gecko scrambling up my wall with whom I'm pretty sure now I share a bedroom. Or the Absolut vodka bottles stacked on shelves outside the warungs (the small neighborhood stalls selling food and sundries) whose contents I mistook for alcohol. It's gasoline. Or passing a roadside gathering of men anxiously peering over each other at a cockfight. For me, nature is another cultural neutralizer. So I had to go hunt it down.
And I found it. Heading into Bali's interior around the artsy town of Ubud, Operation: Natural Bali Immersion has been underway. Lumbering along on a revered elephant through some cool tropical environs. Ogling over the exotic technicolor birds at Bali's reserve. ATVing through remote jungle and tucked away villages (pics to come). Strolling wide-eyed through the straight-out-of Indiana-Jones Sacred Monkey Forest as the long-tailed macaques roam freely around you. And often on you. And, if not for the sometimes deafening buzz of cicadas, absorbing the peaceful, emerald green rice fields with their pitched hat farmers and their amazing, historic irrigation systems (more on that later). I knew the true nature of Bali that I had heard so much about was out there!
Side note: I contemplated taking legal action against my guide book for that hike through the rice fields. Granted, you're hard pressed to find a street sign in Bali, but the direction was so terrible and I was so lost that my claims of heat stroke, permanent sunburn, and post traumatic stress disorder would be completely valid. I must've looked in sorry shape straggling down a narrow street when a Balinese angel of god swooped in on his motorbike and asked if I needed a ride. After practically weeping with relief, I threw my decrepit self onto the bike and couldn't have cared less where he took me. I put him on the phone (a whole other AT&T international calling plan debacle) with BJ my driver and they managed to figure out where to meet up. Somehow that 6000 rupiah of thanks I feverishly fished out of my backpack and gave to my motorbike hero just doesn't quite seem to fit the bill now.
And after delving into that beautiful side of Bali... Another great cultural neutralizer? Starbucks. Say what you want about them taking over the world, but sometimes there is no greater relief after solely navigating a long day of language barriers than finding someone faraway from home who understands "grande mocha frappuccino". That's pretty wild.
Rice fields with drying coconut shells in Ubud
Rice fields in Ubud
An offering placed amidst the rice fields
Bali's revered Sumatran elephant. Loved this ride!
Next up in the art collection? The lotus flower!
The Sacred Monkey Forest and temple compound in Ubud
Where's Waldo Monkey Forest style.
Loved this little guy.
Monkey Forest bridge- A great view of all the (sorry) monkeying around.
A selfie attempt. He was not havin' it.
An ATV pitstop with a jungle backdrop. Such a cool way to see the landscape.