- Nothing says Welcome like a giant starbucks sign right as you get out of the airport… Jan 2, 2018
- Some “Us” time Jan 2, 2018
After a week of frenetic activities to get the daughters opportunities to spend time with their grandparents and cousins, Sharmila and I finally got some “us” time here in Bali.
Today is a planned “lazy” day. Kicked it off with coffee with Sharmila. If you can see the water through the trees, that is the Indian Ocean.
- This is why the second lesson in most important to me… Jan 2, 2018
We landed in Bangkok on our way to transit to Bali. At the coffee shop in the wee hours, I was chatting up the lady who was cleaning up the place. I asked her “How do you say Thank You in Thai?”. She said “Kop Un Kha”.
Excuse me if I got this completely wrong – spelling wise. I was desperately trying to learn the pronunciation. While not totally accurate, I think I got most of the pronunciation. The rest, I expected the Thais to look the other way just because I was trying their language as a foreigner.
Next stop, Natasha wanted to pick up some gifts for her friends. After choosing some stuff, the girls stepped outside the shop waiting for me to finish paying for it. As I mentioned before, it was very early in the morning. The checking out counter was empty. In fact, two young ladies helped me thru the process.
At the end, to impress them, I came out with my knowledge of the language Thai in its entirety – “Kop Un Kha”!!! I even put the flair at the end like I had heard the cleaning lady do.
The response was not exactly what I expected. You could see that they were bemused by my Thai. Not above learning, I asked them – “Did I get it wrong? How do you say Thank You?”
What I learnt was that I was absolutely perfect in my words and delivery. If I were a girl!!
Apparently, it matters whether you are a boy or a girl when you say Thank You in Thai. I believe I was to say “Kop Un Kup” (with the same flair in the end). Or something like that.
In college, every 101 course was easy for me. It is the 102 that got me.
Not much has changed from those college days.
🙂 🙂 🙂
- The Indian Ocean Jan 2, 2018
- That was a bright colored dragonfly Jan 2, 2018
- The only problem with the kids are that… Jan 2, 2018
- Lest she be accused of lowering her standards… Jan 3, 2018
- Table tennis with Nikita… Jan 3, 2018
- First run of the year. Jan 3, 2018
- A lazy day means… Jan 3, 2018
- Had to check it out first hand… Jan 4, 2018
- Did not even bat an eyelid… Jan 4, 2018
- Forget the rules… Jan 4, 2018
- Interesting trivia about school uniform Jan 4, 2018
While exploring Bali yesterday, we noticed a lot of school kids on the road. Most of them were biking to school – weaving thru pretty heavy traffic – to school. I thought the kids were wearing pretty interesting – and different – uniform. Colorful printed shirt. What I learnt from a local is even more interesting. Apparently schools have multiple uniforms. However, on two days a week – I think Wed and Thu – they wear “Batik” (printed) shirts.
When I was growing up, it was always one color for the whole week!!
- Terraced paddy fields of Tegallalang Jan 4, 2018
- “Batik” cloth Jan 4, 2018
After seeing those school kids in their “batik” uniforms, took the girls to see how batik cloth is made. Visited a loom in Batubulan. First time the two daughters saw a handloom and how cloth is made thru the interweaving. I, myself, was not aware at all how wax is used to protect layers of colors during the process of adding color to the whole cloth and then the wax is washed away by dipping in hot water!
- Active Volcano – Mt. Batur! Jan 5, 2018
Today, we went to see one of the two active volcanoes in Bali – Mt. Batur. It took us nearly two and a half hours but we finally reached there. To get a clear view, we went to the northwest side. You can see the “caldera” (the middle portion of the mountain that caved in) that was formed after the 1963 eruption. Most of the lava flowed on this side of the mountain – you can see the black coloration – and killed nearly 1500 people. If you see in a Google map satellite pictures of this mountain, you will see on the other side total green color and a lot of localities.
The last eruption of this volcano was only 7 years back in 2000.
We lucked out with this view. In about fifteen minutes, thick clouds engulfed the whole area and it started raining cats and dogs.
- River of Lava Jan 5, 2018
- Random turtle Jan 5, 2018
- The sisters exploring temples today… Jan 5, 2018
- My souvenir from Bali !!! Jan 5, 2018
- Sometimes, I wish I stuck to my core competencies… Jan 5, 2018
One of the things I have made a habit out of after landing in a new country is learn the basics in the local language – you know – “Hello”, “Thank You”, “How are you” etc. If I am there for more than a day, I usually grab a local and learn a little more – like one thru ten, education system, political system and all that.
Bali is a place you always negotiate and haggle. And I like it. This is one of those “predictably irrational” things. I absolute delight in saving 30 cents in a haggle (the full price would be a dollar) but am too lazy to walk out of the hotel for half a kilometer and get my wine for five dollars less. Go figure.
In any case, after one of those temple visits today, the girls decided to buy some local sarongs. Once they had chosen what they wanted, they went away to sit under a tree as I commenced my bargaining.
The problem with my bargaining was that I was trying to beard the lion in its own den. So, I started with my knowledge in Indonesian numerals that I had just learnt the previous day – mpat.. noll.. noll… I started. For the Indonesiany-challenged, let me tell you – a problem with Indonesian currency is that everything is in thousands and millions. The lowest denomination in one thousand. No idea why. But basically, I was “nolling” all the time. (noll being a zero).
The lady was trying her best in her language. Which I did not know. But I knew the numbers. So, I even threatened to go down… “triga, lima, noll, noll…..”.
After a couple of minutes of exasperation, she gave up. Gave me a straight, stern look and said “Four dollars, sir?”.
I was stunned. I was not sure how to react once she had taken the fight to my home turf. Four dollars? Sure? By the way, that was for three sarongs.
The deal was done.
I was very satisfied.
I have my calculator with me in my hand. Looks like I paid her more than what she had asked me to begin with!!
- Costliest coffee in the world? Jan 5, 2018
We went to a agrobusiness coffee plantation in Bali (Batubulan village) that advertised Luwak coffee. We saw quite a few plantations like this. I had no idea what Luwak coffee is or why it is so costly. At the end of the tour we had a little of the coffee too.
What I did not know is how the coffee is made. I remember seeing the whole coffee production process in a coffee plantation in Costa Rica once but this is rather unique. And gross.
First a cat like animal – called civet – Indonesians call it a “luwak” (see the picture – the farm had quite a few of them) actually eats the coffee cherries from the trees. Inside the stomach, the cherry goes thru the digestion process. The fermentation dissolves the outer layer but the beans themselves (there are two beans in a pod) cannot be digested by the cat’s digestive system. So, next day, it poops the beans out (this is the gross part). You can see dry poop in the picture.
The poop is then collected and cleaned and the beans recovered. The shells are broken and then roasted in an open oven as shown in the picture. Finally, the beans are ground to powder like the lady was doing.
After packaging, it is then sold at prices that reach 20X-40X more than normal coffee!!
- One of the more thoughtful and certainly useful posters above the urinals… Jan 6, 2018
- A shout out to our new found friend in Bali – Wayan Werta Jan 6, 2018
Without Wayan, we would not have half the fun in Bali as we did. From picking us up at the airport to dropping us at the airport and all the travel in between, he was our constant companion. Learnt a lot of local language, customs, political structure, educational system, healthcare system and what have you about Bali. Given his detailed knowledge of the island, we were able to take in quite a few off the road spots.
Above all, I was fascinated to learn about his own family and his three kids. The father in him often came out during our discussions in the long drives – his exasperation at how they constantly fight and how his only goal in working hard in life is to be able to afford his young kids as a good an education as he possibly can!
His business card said “I Wayan Werta”. After some constant questioning, I found out some naming intricacies in Indonesia. First off, there are only four names – Wayan, Made, Nyoman and Ketut (there is a new version now – Putu, Kadek, Komang and Ketut). Regardless of boy or girl, the naming is done strictly in that sequence. (first child Wayan, second child Made etc etc). You start over with Wayan (or Putu) for the fifth child. And basically keep repeating that.
As you can imagine there are a lot of Wayans in Bali. You differentiate by the last name. Finally, if you are a boy, you put an “I” in the beginning and if you are a girl, put a “Ni”.
Whew!! That was a wee bit complicated!!
- 7K in Benjakitti Park in Bangkok. 18th country done. Jan 6, 2018
- Natasha strolling along in Chatuchak Park Jan 7, 2018
- That was a hectic day in Bangkok!!! Jan 7, 2018
- Exploring Bangkok… Jan 7, 2018
- Very interesting and colorful boats all over Chao Phraya river in Bangkok… Jan 7, 2018
- Ubud: Small Village. Mega Intersection!!! Jan 8, 2018
This is one of those mega intersections that has so many people and so many connections involved that I may not be able to keep everything on the up and up. It involves Atlanta, Durgapur, California, Illinois, Panang Malaysia, Dubai and of all places – Ubud (a small village in Bali).
Let’s start with the picture on the top as the initial point. That is Natasha and Nayanika. They became friends over a summer when they were doing a summer program at North Western in Evanston, Illinois. The day I had gone to pick her up to come back home, the university had arranged for a free things – including a lunch for the students and the parents. I found myself randomly sitting in a table with mostly young kids either crying or talking excitedly promising to keep in touch with each other. Also at the table was the gentleman second from one end in the lowest picture.
Not knowing anything better (and frankly not able to help myself), I struck up a conversation with him. Realized that he – Gaurav – is a very successful, entrepreneur in the Bay Area. So, those were three strikes against me – I am neither successful, nor an entrepreneur and certainly cannot afford to live in the Bay Area. But I persisted. And hit pay dirt!!! In a few minutes, we realized that we are married to classmates. His wife – Anupama – was Sharmila’s classmate in primary school. What’s more – his mother in law was Sharmila’s teacher for a year!
Back to Bali.
Natasha had mentioned that Nayanika and her parents would be in Nusa Dua too. Except that by the time we reached Nusa Dua, they had already left. (I chalk it up to higher level of intelligence 🙂 Must be the water in Bay Area 🙂 ). Not to give up easily, I found out that they were in Ubud and promised Natasha that one way or the other, I will make sure she got to see Nayanika.
After visiting a few villages, we landed up in Ubud for lunch. Where the Sharan family swung by!!! That marked the meeting of two classmates. In fact, two sets of them!! That explains the second picture from the top – Sharmila and Anupama.
“I do not recognize your face. I like your hairstyle though. I wonder why!! ”, I had to humbly admit to Amit – the gentleman in white shirt who had come with Anupama.
“I am Amit – Anupama’s brother”, he replied, laughing.
“Oh! I remember your name. You were one year junior to me in school”.
And we talked a lot about our school teachers. Then finally, I asked
“Where did you go to college?”
“RE College, Durgapur”
“Hmmm… That is interesting”
“Do you know a Soumya Kanti Ghosh?”
Seeing him deep dig into his memory… I helped further – “You might remember him as Apu. He was a day scholar too”.
“Oh! Apu. Soumya. He was our class topper”
“How do you know him?”
“Funny you should mention that. You see that lady?”, I asked him pointing to Sharmila.
“She is his sister. He is my brother in law”.
Was that cool or was that cool?
Three Sharan families had come from Bay Area, California, Panang, Malaysia and Dubai, UAE. The Roys had come from Atlanta, Georgia. We had the opportunity to meet in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. The whole thing happened because one Roy girl and one Sharan girl went to a program together in Evanston, Illinois. To realize that their mothers were classmates!! And so were their maternal uncles!!!
What is the chance of that?
- Third part of the three part vacation starts… Jan 9, 2018