Sunday, April 19, 2009

April 2009

April 2009

It's 4/20 in the American mode of numerical date formats.  April 20th, the date of my wedding anniversary (1989 Fethiye, Turkey) and would have been my 20th wedding anniversary today if I was still married.  It is also Hilter's birthday (1889) and the anniversary of the Columbine school shootings in Colorado (1999).  I lived in Colorado when that happened and had a physician friend in Vail whose sister was a teacher at the school.  After teaching for over 30 years, she left teaching after that and retired to an island off the coast of South Carolina.  I remember distinctly when it happened.  We left for El Salvador shortly after it happened and even in the most rural and remote areas of El Salvador, everyone had heard about it.  Bad news travels fast.  

You also may know of another fairly amusing use of 420 to describe a certain activity...wink wink.  

I've been in Malaysia over a year.  A truly amazing experience and one that has been exactly as it was supposed to be.  I will cherish the memories of the call to prayer from the majhids before sunrise, the distinct scent of frangipani amidst a busy city street, the beauty of the morning chants and smell of incense from the Buddhist temple I walked past on my way to work.  The colourful display of a Hindu ceremony with the rainbow of colours.  Of course, I could go on and on, and then, there is the FOOD!!!  This is certainly one of the best parts of all as it is so diverse and delicious.     

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind with time flying by.  I moved out of my apartment on Friday.  I've lost track of all my moves and have become almost numb to the process.  As always, each time I move is an opportunity to get rid of more stuff.  One of the best parts of my exit from the apartment was giving things away.  The cleaning ladies had come twice during the move process were the recipients of a lot of stuff.  It was moving to see the joy on their faces for the most simple of items.  Mrs L arranged the cleaning for me and shared some of her personal experiences with me in the process.  She has been through some very tough times and is currently caring for a husband who is very ill.  Mrs L is an extremely petite woman of Chinese decent who has lived in Malaysia her entire life.  Her name means "yellow carnation" in Chinese and I would try to put it in pinyun or characters but would likely not get it exactly right so will refrain.  She was so grateful for all the stuff I gave to her and her workers that she asked if she could come back the next morning when I was leaving.  I descended into a puddle of tears when she arrived at my door on Friday morning and proceeded to pull a small red velvet box out of her bag.  Inside was a gorgeous white jade necklace and medallion.  She explained how you can tell the jade is real as it always feels cool to the touch and on the skin.  She told me the necklace had been with her a long time but she never wears it anymore and wanted me to have it.  What a lovely lady.    

I have been watching a Bhaminy Kite from the window of my apartment for weeks.  As they are birds of prey (also called the red sea eagle) and normally found near large bodies of water, I found it quite interesting that he was hanging out in KL.  Of course, Bukit Nanas, the only designated rainforest within in the confines of a city, is a pretty nice place to hang out and no doubt has plenty of things to eat.  Each morning at first light I saw him soaring around the tree tops and venturing out into the open sky.  He seems to spend a lot of time at the level of my apartment, the fifteenth floor.  What a great treat to watch him soaring about oblivious to the chaos of the city below.  

A couple of weeks ago, I was doing my morning pool hangout thing on the weekend and oddly decided to use the jacuzzi tub.  I had been lying around reading and noticed that a couple birds were very loud right above me, almost as if they were trying to tell me something.  I rarely get into the jacuzzi as it is too hot out to want to get in warm water.  It was a great morning with a cool breeze and I was fighting a sore hip and thought the jacuzzi would feel good.  I turned on the jets and got in.  These jacuzzi tubs are huge and fully tiled, really a small swimming pool with jets.  Once I settled into the tub, I notice a big glob of something in one of the water level drains.  I immediately thought it was something like trash or plant debris but as I got closer, I realised it was a little bird stuck in the drain.  I scooped him up and set him under a bush in a huge planter next to the pool.  I sat and watched him for a long time concerned that perhaps he was injured.  He seemed to be a young bird and stood quite strong so I was hopeful.  I watched as his downy feathers began to dry and he kept puffing his chest up as if to help the drying.  After about 20 minutes, I reached towards him one more time and off he went, flying into the sky as if nothing had happened.  Almost immediately I noticed three or four other birds of similar size and type in the area.  Perhaps they were waiting for him.  It was a heartwarming moment and another memory to keep close to my heart.  

Next week will be the end of my assignment in Malaysia.  On 2MAY, my dear friends arrive from the US and we will be off on an exciting adventure around peninsular Malaysia, arranged by a great local travel agent...ME!!!  I know it will be a great trip.  

Peace and light.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

2009 and the year of the Ox

Back to the blog.  It's be awhile and I've likely forgotten many things.  The last couple months have really just flown by and it is hard to believe it is almost March.  I have also been sucked into the work void but now pulling myself out.  

I ushered in 2009 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo and was surrounded by a sky full of stars and a cacophony of bird song.  I have never heard so many birds.  There was one little yellow bird that would sit outside my window and sing every morning.  Really lovely, I think it may have been some type of finch.  I took a day trip to the island of Sipa which is part of the national park.  I think it is 5 islands in and around KK.  It only takes about 30 minutes on the boat.  Sipa has no people living on it, just park staff during the day.  There were several boats of snorkelers but they mostly gathered around the pier.  Odd that people would even choose to snorkel at this time since it is rainy season and the water is quite rough.  I am always fascinated by people standing in 3 feet of water and wearing their life preserver.  Interesting and occasionally quite amusing.  

I hiked the whole island, it is NOT very big, but is quite steep.  I saw 4 gigantic monitor lizards.  One of them was easily 10 feet long.  They are so cool but quite shy.  I tried to get really close but they must have amazing hearing and sense of touch.  I imagine they feel the vibration of people even if they don't hear you.  I was glad to see the area away from the main pier in good shape with very little trash and a well maintained trail.  It was quite dry on this day so I didn't have to worry about slipping.  At the one the trail goes up to the top of the island and it is quite a long way down to the sea over very sharp rocks.  I don't think you would want to get stuck in a typical rainstorm while out here.  I found 3 different private beaches that seemed like something out of a movie.  SImply idyllic.  In fact, one of the islands off the Malaysian coast of Borneo was used for the Survivor show. I ended up crawling up in some rocks to get out of the sun and fell asleep only to wake up to the site of a wild pig on the beach.  I wish I would have had time to do more exploring on Borneo.  I found that is really quite difficult to get around as many roads are dirt only and you need four wheel drive.  During rainy season, it can be difficult to find a driver if you are not part of tour.  I really want to come back and go to the orang sanctuary on the eastern part of the island.  

Langkawi and the dusky langurs, the adorable monkeys in Langkawi.  I wasn't sure if Langkawi would be too commercial but it is actually lovely.  I didn't see that much of it but enjoyed every bit.  Langkawi is actually made of 99 islands and is called a Geopark.  I'm sure what that means, I think the Malaysians made it up to sound eco friendly.  You can see very good efforts at trying to preserve the unbelievably gorgeous natural beauty of this place.  Even the taxi driver from the airport talked about it.  The people here know that they must keep it nice or people will not want to come back.  Langkawi is off the western coast of peninsular Malaysia and is on the Straits of Melaka and the Andaman Sea.  It is quite near to southern Thailand.  I had a lovely little house on stilts out in the water.  The sunsets and sunrises are amazing.  Of course I had to do my spa gig, and had several treatments that were great but the best part was relaxing on the deck in the middle of the forest and opening my eyes to see I was surrounded by monkeys.  Macaques in this case and there were a lot of them.  I jumped a bit at first and one of the big ones hissed at me but then I slowed all my movement down and we all sat around and stared at each other.  There were several small babies in the group and they came quite close and one even reached out to me.  It was very cute.  

i spent a very relaxing couple days at the resort and even got to see the dusky langurs.  They are the most adorable monkeys with the white faces.  They are quite similar to the silver leaf monkeys I saw on Melawati Hill.  They are quite shy and stay in the trees all the time.  I just happened to see a small family in the forest one day at the resort.  There was one mom with a baby but you can't really tell by my pics.  I think they are also orange when very young like the silver leaf monkeys.  I took the cable car on Langkawi as well and it is quite an experience.  You are very high up and can see tons of islands and water.  The walkway at the top of the cable car actually made me a bit nervous as it was very windy and it seemed like you could just fly off.  I hiked between the two stations on the cable car.  There was this tiny little trail which I imagine was used during the building of the cable car.  It must have been quite a feat to build the cable car perched on top of a mountainous island.  Sometimes the engineering of things like that can be quite hard to believe.  I didn't really get to see the whole island but would definitely consider going back someday.  The sea is not as pristine as the east coast of Malaysia but the island is really gorgeous.  

The USA, what a concept.  I spent about 10 days in the US in January to early Feb.  Landing in LA was really quite heart warming to see all the excitement about the President Obama.  People with buttons, hats, scarves and lots of other remnants of this historic event in US history.  My flight was long but nice as I had a whole row to myself.  How nice is that?  I had the distinct pleasure of staying at a friend's house outside of Liberty in a rural area outside of town.  It is SOOOOO quiet other than the sounds of lots of birds.  Leaving the dirt and noise of KL behind for a big was a real treat.  I did lots of fun stuff while in Missouri including seeing an excellent production of the Glass Menagerie at the new HR Block theatre downtown, visiting the adorable town of Excelsior Springs, enjoying the gorgeous sunrises while doing my morning practice and playing with Walt and Church, the resident kitties.  I know I've said this before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, having pets is a wonderful thing and something that I miss very much.  Although I never seem to miss a chance to eat good food and there is certainly plenty of it in KC, my friend and I had the distinct pleasure of eating at a lovely place called the Justus Drugstore.  It is a great story where a young chef did his time in San Fran and now came back home to Smithville, MO to occupy the family pharmacy building that had been in the family for a long time and turn it into a restaurant that prides itself on local ingredients.  Ever had a pork rib eye?  I have now enjoyed this interesting cut of meat at the Justus.  The chef came over after our meal and told us about the locally sourced ingredients including some very unusual cuts of meat, like a pork rib eye which comes from an area around the clavicle and shoulder joint of the pig.  The restaurant is going to be written up in the NYT Sunday magazine.  In fact, that may have happened by now.  

There are pics of Borneo and Langkawi on the web link.  

It is the year of Ox and I hope a good one for all.  I know my 2009 will be filled with adventure.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Xmas 2008

Oh dear, I am very behind on my blogging. Just the way it worked out this time I suppose.

So I guess this is the Xmas blog, so to speak. Yes, Christmas is celebrated in Malaysia and Singapore. The last time I was in Singapore the decorations were all over Orchard Road. See pics of the lovely Raffles hotel with their Xmas decorations.

My Xmas will be spent working as we don't have the day as a holiday this year due to the fact that someone didn't notice it is a national holiday in Malaysia. I guess "googling" national holidays in Malaysia never came up as an option.

It is the northeast monsoon season in Malaysia which affects the east coast although I have noticed it rains more, it is also generally cooler. Some days the big rain comes at night and the mornings can be glorious and almost cool with bright blue skies.

This morning walking to work I was amazed at how fresh it felt. Of course then you turn the corner and get the blast of exhaust in your face from a huge bus and a few minutes later you have to step over a manhole and sewer stink takes your breath away. in an emerging nation in a big city. I've been listening to all the Xmas songs on my iPod it is a bit surreal being reminded about snow and cold when I am sweating.

It has been an interesting few weeks and I have been on the go with trips to Penang and Singpaore twice. Penang was very interesting and has the largest Chinatown outside of China. A good part of the island is rows and rows of shophouses selling everything you can imagine. I stayed in the E&O the Eastern and Oriental Hotel which is where Rudyard Kipling and lots of other famous writers used to stay. Penang is known as the Pearl of the Orient. The hotel is filld will all these old pictures and the history is quite impressive. I have a lovely suite room overlooking the Straits of Melaka. The food in Penang has a bit of different flare with some Chinese influence. The laksa is very yummy and very different than the Laksa in KL. It is flavoured with quite a bit of tamarind and much less coconut milk and so is tangy and not nearly as rich. Delicious!

I have finally found a lovely yoga studio in KL! I has really been great. I had no idea how much I missed regularly attending classes with a good teacher. The studio is an old house in the embassy area of KL. During class we are entertained by lots of different birds, geckos, and sometimes other creatures. The garden outside of the floor to ceiling windows is full of the most beautiful heliconia flowers you have ever seen. Sometimes I use the flower to focus on during standing poses.

I have attended a couple workshops as well as a breathing workshop. The Butekyo breathing method is quite a fascinating approach to breath and has many applications outside of its most famous application in the treatment of asthma. Like any "method or practice", I enjoy learning about it and then taking away what is useful to me.

So I'll be working today on some stuff for Singapore and then meeting my yoga teacher at the studio for some meditation and yoga. It is very flattering that my yoga teacher wants to learn from me so I am teaching her some Anusara priniciples and she will help me with my meditation. I need all the help I can get.

I'm off to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, on the island of Borneo for the New Year. It will be 2009 in SE Asia well ahead of many other parts of world.

Happy Holidays!



A few pics of Singapore and all the Xmas decor. I was staying on a very high floor of the Swisshotel overlooking Marina bay.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Sailing Lessons, Batu Caves, Fireflies, Cherating

Sailing lessons, Hari Raya, Batu Caves, Fireflies, Cherating, South China Sea

Whirlwinds of fun the last couple weeks in and around KL. The pics are a bit out of sync as these are pics from my Bali trip to current taken with my little waterproof Olympus, a great camera for beach and sea but not the one I use most of the time.

My friends from the UK arrived and we had an excellent run of sampling all kinds of delicious food around KL. Yes, it is all about the food! We went to Kampung Baru, about a 10 min walk from my apartment several times. Kampung Baru is the last true "kampung" (village) within the city limits of KL. The area is filled with lots of delicious cheap food and during Ramadan and Raya season, there are tons of special booths dedicated to selling special Raya treats. I think BB was a bit less sure of all the unusual food types but CB was very adventurous in her tastes.

C and B were off to the Singapore Grand Prix over the weekend and I went to Port Dickson to take sailing lessons on the Straits of Melaka (or Malacca). It was great fun and I learned alot. We sailed on the 8 metre Miri Magic, a custom racing yacht. There is so much involved and I have decided I really want to keep learning about sailing. There is nothing quite like that feeling of the raised sails catching the wind and gliding off across the sea. The quiet is fantastic. We saw tons of flying fish and one huge sea turtle. There is lots of work involved as well. I had blisters on my hands from all the rope work. I stayed in a very nice hotel in Port Dickson and had one of those little bungalows on slilts over the water. There a big hole in the middle where you could look down to the water and the shower was outside. It was lovely. Port Dickson gets a bad rap in the guidebooks but I think they have made a big effort to improve things and that has not made it to the guidebooks yet. The small city maintained beach was very nice and being out on the Straits was fab!

C and B came back from S'pore on Monday night and did sight seeing about KL. Wednesday and Thursday were national holidays in Malaysia and took in lots of sights. First stop, Batu Caves just outside of KL. This is quite a spot and although quite touristy, is really a must see. The caves are natural formations in the limestone cliffs and there are TONS of macaques hanging about. One of the pics you see the monkeys lined up on the posts going up the steps. This is a particularly important site during the festival of Thaipusam, an important Hindu festival mainly for the Tamil community. The caves get all this natural light at different points in the day and it is really quite a site. Just had the little camera on this day but those statues are HUGE!!!

Then we headed off to see the Silver Leaf monkeys (second time for me), eat flower crab on the Selangor river and...drum roll...see the Kuala Selangor Fireflies. I think this is one of the most fascinating natural things I have ever seen. The river itself is very cloudy and has these HUGE tidal variations. Right about dusk the river starts to rise and comes up almost 1 metre in about 30 minutes. Once it is dark and the river is up, these interesting little river boats take curious tourists down the river in the pitch dark. The rower stands up while rowing. You travel down the river and once in the midst of the Berembang trees (a type of mangrove), you feel as if you are in the midst of Xmas trees all lit up with Xmas lights. In this case, the lights are the fireflies. We were very lucky in that there had been a big downpour of rain that afternoon and the evening had cleared up to be quite lovely. There were 1000s and 1000s of fireflies and the males flash in unison. The fireflies only light on these certain kinds of trees and no one really knows why they always come back to this one spot. This is supposed be the largest known firefly colony. The Selangor river also has the reputation of having fresh water crocodiles, but we didn't see any of them but made me very sure I didn't want to take any chances of falling in the river.

The other day of the holiday we headed over to the east coast of Malaysia and the little beach town of Cherating. Thanks to Bob for being the driver as the first 90 min or so involved getting lost trying to get out of KL and then driving up and over one of the mountain ranges. We hung out on the beach and swam in the South China sea. We tried to go to the turtle sanctuary but they were closed for the holiday.

I had a great time with C&B and was sad to see them go. My apartment is perfectly suited to having visitors as it is spacious enough to accomodate others without feeling like you are on top of each other.

Happy trails to you....until we meet again.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Monkeys, Mooncakes, and Mantras

The M's have it and keep coming back in my life to show me all kinds of interesting new things.

The Silver Leaf Monkeys of Kuala Selangor, more specifically Melawati Hill. I can't seem to find a specific reference to their grouping although it appears they represent a type of primate monkey unique in the swamp or mangrove habitats. This is something I've been wanted to do for awhile, i.e. get closer to wild monkeys, and was able to do it a couple weekends ago. Melawati Hill is outside of Kuala Lumpur in the state of Selangor and is on the boarder of huge mangrove forests on the west coast of penisular Malaysia. Melawati Hill is now somewhat of a tourist attraction as the monkeys migrate through here on daily basis.

They are incredibly gentle and yet the chaos and excitement of a free food handout has enabled a bit of agression among the large males. The park rangers assist by providing green beans as appropriate treats and discouraging aggression between monkeys. The most amazing thing was the orange babies! It must have been birthing season as there were quite a few babies. If they aren't the cutest thing ever!

I had the pleasure of staying at friend's house in a rural area about 1 hour from Kuala Lumpur. The area is surrounded by huge palm oil plantations and the biggest orchid farm you can imagine. I have never seen so many varieties of orchids. Really gorgeous. And speaking of gorgeous, check out my friend's house! The house is made from a special type of Malaysian hardwood that is used to make boats and the house is fit together without nails on the main beams, it is all a series of pegs holding the beams in place. The grounds are an amazing mixture of gorgeous plants and trees as well as a lotus and fish pond. The mixture attracts all kinds of birds and occasionally some other interesting animals like cobras, civets, and armadillos. I was happy just to see all the gorgeous birds including lots of hummingbirds.

Also went down to the river estuary area of Kuala Selangor where you can sit at a riverfront restaurant and eat yummy crabs. They had several different varieties of crab, I had the big mud crab again. YUM!!! This is the area where the huge firefly colony is, but alas, was raining was no fireflies today.

Spent another week in Singapore working on various sales opps and stayed over the weekend for a wedding. CS is one of my associates in Singapore and attending her wedding was a real treat. It was a typical Singaporean wedding including the wearing of two dresses. We also had a 10 course meal! The wedding occurred on on the Mid-Autumn Festival (zhōng qiū jié), also known as the Moon Festival, is a popular celebration of abundance and togetherness, dating back over 3,000 years to China's Zhou Dynasty. In Malaysia and Singapore, it is also sometimes referred to as the Lantern Festival or Mooncake Festival. The Chinese Lantern Festival is held on the 15th day of the first lunar month which happened to be 14SEP08 this year.

I had my first taste of mooncakes, which are actually the precursor to what became the fortune cookie in the US. Mooncakes are quite a mixture now and all have a simple message, in the form of a Chinese character, usually saying something about health, good fortune, and happiness on top of the cake. The traditional mooncake is filled with lotus paste made from the seeds of the lotus flower and very difficult and time consuming to make. The center also includes a salted egg yolk and outside is a pastry of sorts. My favourite type was the snow skin (no pastry) variety with durian filling. YUM!!! So here's the deal with durian, all you westerners with your love of stinky cheese, you love stinky cheese, why can't you love a stinky fruit? Once you think of that way, you won't be able to resist the silky, creamy, and custard like flesh of the durian. It is delicious!

I went to the Chinese opera in Singapore and really enjoyed The Feast of Han Xizai which is based on a 1000 year old Tang Dynasty painting. It was reallly lovely with lots of dancing and music but very little singing. The music was nanyin, which is a imperial court style of music that is rarely performed. The women played a type of drum and changed the tone with their feet. The costumes were designed by the guy that did Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Very enjoyable way to spend an evening. The Esplanade theatre looks like a giant durian!

Last word on small world/big world ideas. In the course of the mania that is my Inbox, I received an email about my 30th high school reunion. I replied that I would not be attending but wished those in attendance all the best. So then I receive an email while in Singapore from WM, the only member of our class to attend Harvard and super smart and interesting guy. I knew he pretty much disappeared after college as a member of the foreign service. So this email says, "hi from Singapore", what? I almost fell off my chair. Anyway, I met up with WM, his lovely wife, and two of his three daughters the next night in Singapore for dinner. We had a lovely time talking about all of our travels and where our lives have gone over the last 30 years. Pretty amazing stuff, eh?

OM Sri Ganeshaya Namah

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Bali Hai

Wow, I have so much to say, not sure where to begin the journal of my fantastic travels in the beautiful country of Indonesia, specifically on the island of Bali.

I left KL on 22AUG and had my first experience with AirAsia, the discount airline in SE Asia. It was fine, particulary since I had the good sense to pay a bit extra for express boarding. One thing I don't understand about the discount carriers now is that they charge you extra for everything. I could care less about the food or drinks part, but the charges for bags is pretty crazy. I was charged extra both ways for a bag that weighed 19kg where Malaysia airlines allowed me a bag up to 32kg for free simply by being a member of their FF programme. At any rate, the flight did leave timely and arrived timely.

I have to say the approach to the landing strip in Denpasar is certainly one of the more dramatic I have seen and I've seen a lot of them. I believe the flight pattern from KL included flying over Borneo and certainly the turbulence and clouds would support that. Anyway, we finally emerged into clear skies and it is truly magical. Many, many islands all over the place and sparkling sea all around. The landing pattern took us right over the waves and sand to the airport.

So I splurged a bit on my room in Legian. Kuta is just as I thought it would be, very built up and very touristy. I stayed further down the beach in Legian at a lovely hotel called the Padma. I was lucky enough to have my room upgraded to a suite and it was HUGE!!! On my birthday I had a fab day of walking on the beach, playing in the waves, and hanging out under the umbrella enjoying the sound of the waves. The waves were perfect for body surfing and I managed to tire myself out quite well. I had intended to rent a boogie board but the waves were so fun for body surfing, I didn't. The Padma had an enormous pool which was very nice as well. I had planned to dress up and go out on the town for my birthday but as it ended up I just wandered not far from hotel and had some delicious Indonesian food which is quite similar to Malaysian food but the sambal is less spicy. Bintang beer is everywhere and is quite refreshing and tasty. My first night I had amazing garlic crab which was a big mud crab (similar to a Dungeness) and was spicy and delicious with lots of garlic to keep the mosquitoes away. A glass of wine, salad, and the big mud crab (about 0.75 kg) was a total of about $7 USD. Food is incredibly cheap and unlike Malaysia, beer is very inexpensive as well.

On Sunday morning I was picked up to go to Ubud and driven up into to hills of Bali. The drive up was really interesting where you pass all these different villages that do all kinds of handiwork including stone carving, wood carving, furniture making, silver works, and even kite making. I really wanted to stop and each one and see all the cool stuff they were working on. Arrived at Kumara Sakti, the location of my yoga and meditation retreat in the early afternoon. This place is really special! It is built down a slope with lots and lots of steps. My room was simply lovely and the grounds were really gorgeous. See pics as I will soon run out of adjectives to describe Bali.

The retreat week was really good with excellent meditation instruction. The yoga classes were OK, I would say our teacher's strength was her knowledge of meditation and chakras. We had a 100% silent day, no words spoken for a full 24 hours and also had a yoga class at the lookout to the two big volcanoes at sunrise. That was truly inspiring and special as the sun came out and you could actually see the volcanoes, a rare thing that they peek out from behind the clouds.

Bali has some typical 3rd world feel with lots of mangy dogs, trash, and things that are half built and/or half falling down. I suppose the tourist trade has brought certain things to the island but it seems it may have benefitted only a few. The shrines and temples are everywhere and I was in Bali during Galungan. Galungan is as the commemoration of the victory of "Dharma" (virtue) upon "Adharma" (evil) derived from the mythology "mayadewa" the demon king, when involved in a war against God Indra's troops. During the 10 day festival, penjors, tall bamboo-pole decorated with coconut's leaves and flowers, fruit, cakes etc, are on every house entrance and make a marvelous sight along the village roads throughout Bali.

We also went mountain biking, hiking, and had a wine tasting. See pics of penjors and the placenta cemetary. Most Balinese have unique ways of honouring the placenta and one village buries all the placentas in a special cemetary with the ashes inside a coconut. If the baby dies before it is one year old, the baby is also buried in this special cemetary. Some other villages keep the placenta ashes at their house for their entire life so that they can reunitied with it when they die. On the final day we had a cooking class by one of the chef's from a fancy restaurant in Ubud. We made VERY healthy food which was delicious but perhaps a bit complex and time consuming. My favourite was the starter made with jicama. I didn't think jicama was used outside of central American but there it was in Ubud. The vinegarette was so light and delicious...YUM! The chef said something really interesting that stuck with me: "I really prefer my dishes to have varied tastes while eating, I am bored if each bite of a dish tastes the same." I thought that was a very interesting sentiment for food and one which we honoured in the dishes we made.

I spent the last 2 days just chilling on the rural east coast of Bali and was enjoy to enjoy the lovely sound of the sea for a bit longer. The spectacle of the many jukungs out in the sea in the morning for catching fish is quite lovely. A jukung is a canoe with a sail and bamboo poles on either side for stability. See pics.

Back to KL just in time for the start of Ramadan. Can't wait to see all the special foods available for break-fast time. Should be a yummy month!