2014 – animal memories

From bats, cats, snakes, iguanas and monkeys – and back to cats again…

First up is Jojo.  We’ve had him since he was a kitten and he’s now about 2.5 years old.

Everyone loves him – I’m sure you can see why!  Scroll down to the last picture to see Jojo and our other cat, Jj, curled up together.


Jojo and me overlooking our garden

Meanwhile, here are some more unusual animals I met last year… this must be the granddaddy of all iguanas:



Most of these pictures were taken at a very interactive animal home up in Bedugul – I can’t call it a zoo, as it’s far too small, but it does have some cool, tame, animals – and a giant fruit bat:

'Holy bat cave, Robin'

‘Holy bat cave, Robin’

I’ve no idea what animal this is – anyone know?  (please, no comments about me using him as a toothpick!)

Here he is again:

And then there was this hungry gentleman on my shoulders:

A hungry Luwak - but no coffee today!

A hungry luwak – but no coffee today!

He’s a luwak and they’re famous for ‘Coffee Luwak’.

Yes, these are the animals that eat the choicest of coffee beans which go through their digestive system completely ‘intact’.  When they come out the other end, the, err… ‘waste’ is scrapped off and the beans are taken from the shell and made into the most expensive coffee in the world! = Coffee Luwak or, as it is called over here, ‘Kopi Luwak’ (they have this in Vietnam too and it’s called Weasel Coffee – the luwak comes from the weasel family, I believe).

Anyway, here he is again:


No, there are no coffee beans in my hair, Mr Luwak

What about this sizeable snake – worn as a necklace!



I’m pretty sure it’s a python… keep it away from this little cutie:


Cutie – but are they porcupine quills on your head?

And what about this snake-like reptile, called an Alu:

Snake-like lizard

Snake-like lizard/reptile = Alu

And here’s that iguana again – my what a long tail you have!

Fully grown iguana

Fully grown granddaddy of an iguana

Here I’m feeding the fish – at our nearby restaurant!

Bale Udang has many bale’s (like gazebo’s) perched on top of a lake and that is where you dine – on fish.  If you have a little spare rice left over from your meal you can feed it to the carp swimming directly beneath you:  Eat fish, feed fish = balance.

Feeding the fish - at a restaurant

Feeding the fish – at a restaurant

And now I’m feeding a monkey in the Monkey Forest which is just 8 mins walk from my home – so close that, on rare occasions, the monkeys venture into my garden – they eat the leaves from my papaya tree but, luckily, they leave me with the fruit!

Feeding a monkey in the Monkey Forest

Feeding a monkey in the Monkey Forest

And here, as promised, is Jojo and JJ in perfect harmony:

Jojo and Jj - in perfect harmony

Jojo and Jj – in perfect harmony

A perfect way to end a post.


White Water Rafting

Vince and his friend Andy came to stay with us and we went White Water Rafting together.

Life jackets, helmets, paddles, sense of adventure… Ready!

All geared up to go rafting

All geared up to go rafting

Actually, no.  Not ready yet.

First we have to walk down 400 steps to get to the river which is DEEP down in the valley.

Our great rafting adventure

Our great rafting adventure begins

Our cameras and the guy’s cigarettes are safe in Mega-Rafting’s water-proof bags, so now we can climb into the raft and listen to our guide’s instructions.

Nyoman said if we were about to hit a rock he would yell, ‘Boom Boom” – which meant ‘Hold On!’  We said that phrase a lot over the next two hours.

Rafting with Yaniq, Vince and Andy

Rafting with Yaniq, Vince and Andy – Boom Boom!

No one fell out, but we did sometimes topple backwards inside the inflatable raft… like insects that can’t right themselves we had to rely on each other for a helping hand.

Fabulous scenery around every bend

Fabulous scenery around every bend

Between the rapids there are plenty of calm waters where you can look up to nature’s jungle scenery on each side of the steep valley, simply breath-taking.

A well deserved beer

A well deserved beer

We had a pit-stop half way along the journey where we enjoyed a cold beer (the women selling the drinks had carried them down 400 steps – is it any wonder they were expensive?).

Yaniq and I at the half way stop

Yaniq and I – chilling on a rock at the half way stop

The rapids here on the Ayung River are grade II or III.  Not the wildest rapids I’ve experienced, but far and away the most beautiful – think: ‘Indiana Jones’, especially when you see the carvings in the rock and go under the steep wooden swing bridge.

It was also the most fun rafting too – especially when our guide slammed us into the waterfall – boom boom!

Hmmm, maybe Yaniq will be inspired to write a song about rafting

Hmmm, maybe Yaniq will be inspired to write a song about rafting – boom boom

We had a waterfight with the crew of another raft and then we jumped out and swam the last section, just as a huge thunderclap shattered the air.

The rafting has ended - let's eat!

The rafting has ended – let’s eat!

Ok, so now we are wet and hungry… easily sorted as Mega Rafting has showers and towels and then they give you a huge plate of food to eat as you sit next to the river.

A great adventure has ended – but now we have to climb up the valley again.  Only 291 steps this time (Andy counted them all).

Musical poetry at Dragonfly Village

In the midst of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival I performed poetry, along with Yaniq http://yaniq1.wordpress.com/ who played guitar.  This was part of a ‘Spiritual Creative Writing Day’ held at the beautiful retreat, ‘Dragonfly Village’ out in the rice fields.

On arrival we walked past the swimming pool, where the golden flames of a giant bonfire were dancing against a moonlit sky.

Barefoot, we climbed the stairs into the natural bamboo and wood framed building and reclined on comfortable floor chairs (well, they were legless – and no, I don’t mean drunk, as this village is a health retreat and they don’t even serve beer!)

Yaniq singing 'Ticket to Paradise'

Yaniq singing ‘Ticket to Paradise’

Our host, Eagle, welcomed us next to the flower petal mandala she had made on the floor.   The pink, cerise and purple heart had Balinese offerings (canang) inside.

Next to the flower petal mandala

Singing next to the flower petal mandala

We chatted about Eagle’s successful day which had already featured talks, via skype on the big screen, from authors around the world – America, Canada, France, Thailand and then there was myself from England and Yaniq from Bali, Indonesia.

Her other guests for our evening session were Italian, German, English and American – a small, but multi-national, group.

I read poems that fitted with the spiritual theme… ‘Valley of Meditation’, ‘Stone Buddha’, ‘Alternatives’, Who Is It’, Living Consciously’ and ‘I am a Bridge’.

Are you ready for a poem?

Are you ready for another poem?

Yaniq then joined me for musical poetry that we performed together called, ‘TMTTT’ (Meditating), and then he continued to play and sing for us with his own new material, ‘Smile’, ‘Ticket to Paradise’, ‘Lost in a Hammock’, ‘B’cos of You’ and more.

It was a lovely evening and I was pleased that my friends, Sandeh and Ulrika had joined us as well as Karen, who works for the British Embassy in Jakarta.

Karen was here to promote a campaign called, ‘Great’ (putting the ‘Great’ back into Great Britain).  It’s about encouraging people from Indonesia to study the creative arts and do business in Great Britain.  I couldn’t help suggesting that a reciprocal link would be a good idea too – i.e. get people from the UK to visit Indonesia, and Bali in particular, in order to study the incredible range of arts and culture here, and bring some much needed funds into Indonesia!

Anyway, we gave away free smiles 🙂 during the evening, – if you would like one, just click here.

Spiritual Art expressed as Dance

Diane Butler calls it sharing ‘Awakening Art’.  But what does that mean?

I googled ‘Awakening Art’ and found, unsurprisingly, a range of sites about painting.  They mainly focused upon artwork of a spiritual nature and some of them sprinkled yoga or music into the mix.

But Diane is a dancer at heart and so she uses embodied movement to express and share her art.  It’s a term that other dancers may be familiar with, but I’m not a dancer, or am I?

Goa Gajah - elephant cave

Goa Gajah – Elephant Cave

We met by the lotus pond in the garden of ‘Goa Gajah’ (the Elephant Cave) in Bedulu Village, not far from my home in Ubud.  The surroundings of this atmospheric temple go back to circa 9th century and it is thought to have been two hermitages where Hindu and Buddhist monks had resided side by side.

A small group of us sat on the ground wearing our sarongs.  We introduced ourselves under dappled sunlight while the rest of the jungle spread itself down to the river below.

At this point, I was too focused on our conversation to hear the birds sing.

On the other side of the pond we could see a niche in the cliff above.  This small, bare, south-facing ascetic’s hollow is where meditators from ancient times would do their practice and here we were, in 2013, to engage in own practice right in front of this holy place.

An ascetic or monk, probably lived in that small cave for months or even years, whereas we stayed for just three hours.  Their form of meditation would have been very different and the results, after such long periods, would have been significantly more intense too.

Perfect place for meditation

Perfect place for meditation

I wanted to drink from the same natural spring that these spiritual Balinese ancestors would have used, and I did.  Well, it was right there, convenient for us and those monks of ancient times.  What’s more, it was, ‘Banyu Pinaruh’, a special day in Bali for purifying yourself with water – perfect!

Our surroundings were stunning but we were not tourists.

We were there to use our bodies as moving art, to share, flow, express, learn, be at peace and become one with ourselves, each other and nature.  We were there to utilise energy, to embody movement, to embrace space and to ‘be’ Awakening Art.

Diane, an American movement artist living in Bedulu for the past 12 years, had brought us Balinese canang.  We were to use these offerings of small baskets made of coconut leaves containing coloured flowers and incense, while moving. 

I reached into the bag to take a canang and noticed that it was less perfect than the others.  I could have exchanged it, as there were spare ones available, but I decided to keep it.  It reminded me that everything is perfectly imperfect.

This one is a pretty perfect canang

This one is a pretty perfect canang

Nothing happens until something moves – Albert Einstein

We moved.

In the garden down there in the valley, below the temple, beneath the meditation niche and below the constant supply of fresh and holy water, we moved.

Some more skilled, confident or more graceful than others, not that it mattered.  At first I was very conscious of being looked at by sightseers who didn’t have a clue what we were doing, or why.  Initially I felt embarrassed, but when I overcame that anxiety and gave myself to the moment, and to the movement, it felt liberating.

Sometimes we held the canang, other times the incense was used and its aromatic smoke wafted along the side of the lotus pond.

At one point I held the canang up high.  It remained in my hand, yet to my eye it appeared to take centre stage of a coconut tree.  It was as if the branches of that giant tree were emanating out of this small offering perched on my finger tips.  Slivers of bright blue sky shone through the leaves of both the tree and the canang.  I would never have seen this view without this opportunity to share Awakening Art through embodied movement.

Lowering my arm I moved my hand around to my back where it met my other hand.  I transferred the canang and watched as it appeared from the left side of my body.  It moved fluidly through the air in my hand, now to the left and downwards, now curving back upwards in a slow spiral.

Both the canang and my hand moved through Diane’s outstretched arms and towards someone’s shoulder.  Although we were aware of each other and moved through and past one another, there was no eye contact and only occasional, random, physical contact.  We just kept moving.

Sometimes Diane asked one of us to tap a small piece of tile with a shard while someone else hummed.  All through this ‘musical’ accompaniment participants flowed and embodied movement.  The back of my hand briefly met someone’s upper arm.  Moments later I smelt the incense as a hand moved past my face.

I couldn’t help thinking about how few adults ever get the chance to move in this unfettered way.  Usually the nearest you would get to relative strangers is by accidentally bumping into them on a crowded bus or jostling for position in a queue.

I imagined how professional dancers must practice… let go of their inhibitions about movement, shed their concerns about daily life, purely move where their breath, heart and desires take them.  But I suppose that’s incorrect, as ‘formal dance’ requires set moves and what we were doing was the opposite.  This was open to possibilities of different artistic expression through movement.  It was free of rules, constraints and expectations.  It was even free of charge.

Not only could you place your right elbow on your left shin and leave it there for a moment.  But you could contemplate the relationship between these two points of your body which, quite probably, have never made contact before.  You could see and feel things from new angles, different perspectives.

Me, Diana and Brandon in front of the meditation niche

Me, Diana and Brandon in front of the meditation niche

We sat back down on the ground and, following a conversation about time, Diane advised that some elder Balinese people still know what the time is by the sound of particular birds.  As soon as she said this, I heard them.  The jungle was full of bird song.  But to be so close to nature that you know the time because a certain bird sings, or because of the silence when it stops, well, that’s really something.

She also explained that generally people in the east perceive ‘mind’ as being located in the heart-centre, more than the head.  It made me question my own thinking about the word.  I would have said it has to do with the head… and yet, when I say, ‘I don’t mind’, that comes from my heart, doesn’t it?

This reminded me of my own maxim about, ‘Learning how to unlearn’ (i.e. unlearn all those old ‘truths’ that no longer stack up).

The mosquitoes were getting the better of us, so we decided to move from the peaceful pond to the running river, fed by small waterfalls that spring out of a cliff.

Long ago a huge stupa fell here and its moss-covered relics interrupt the flow of the river.  You can walk around these massive boulders with your feet ankle deep in the clear water, and we did, still carrying the canang, still moving.

As sunset was approaching, we stopped and sat chatting about how we felt.

I felt awake, uplifted, happy and grateful that, just maybe, I am a dancer after all.

Bye bye Mr Sunshine

We arrived at this beautiful beach with just a few minutes to spare before sunset.

Crossing the wooden bridge

Crossing the wooden bridge

I’d never seen such characterful beach buildings before.  They were all propped up on wooden stilts and were either cafes or accommodation (note to self… must stay there next time).

Walking past the cafes on stilts

Walking past the cafes on stilts

You can see how late in the day it is by the long shadow cast by Yaniq and his guitar.

Yaniq singing about the beach

Yaniq singing Ticket to Paradise

We found a good spot to chill out at and Yaniq kicked off with his song, ‘Ticket to Paradise’ – which was particularly appropriate, given the Balangan beach setting.

I was his only audience on this ocassion, although some passersby did tune-in while they walked along the beach… that started to drip with gold…

Just look at those sunset colours

Just look at those golden sunset colours

Don’t you just love sunsets?

How many shades of sunset yellow?

How many shades of sunset yellow?

I particularly like the colours on this next pic

Bye bye Mr Sunshine

Bye bye Mr Sunshine

Cheers – here’s to sunsets and music on the beach



Fluffy white cotton balls against a blue sky

No, I don’t mean clouds – these really are balls of white cotton!

They grow inside the pods of a ‘kapok’ tree and, when they’re ready, they burst into fluffy white cotton balls.

Fluffy white cotton

Fluffy white cotton

We saw quite a few of them in the Bukit area of south Bali, were we stayed this weekend.

...fit to burst

…fit to burst

It’s sometimes called silk cotton and it can be used for cushions – as well as material for my blog… hahahah.

In fact, all my new cushions have kapok inside them, including this one – which has a recycled rice bag covering:

Recycled rice bag with kapok inside

Recycled rice bag with kapok inside

This ‘Elephant’ brand recycled rice bag cushion sits in our bale (gazebo) in the garden next to the river.  A perfect place for relaxing, meditating, reading your book or browsing the net.  To see more: https://rumahjepun.wordpress.com/

Miss World – comes to Bali

Yes, beautiful Bali will be hosting the Miss World beauty contest this year.

I recommend watching it on TV on 28 Sept 2013 – if only to get a glimpse of Bali.

However, from what I can gather, the event will be taking place over the whole month of Sept.

It will mainly be held in the south of Bali which has many top 5 star hotels and great beaches, probably in the Nusa Dua and Jimbaran areas,.

This is the 63rd Miss World and its the first time it has come to Indonesia.  In fact it’s never been anywhere in S.E. Asia before.

Image from Miss World website

Image from Miss World website

There is another ‘first’ too… instead of wearing bikinis, this year’s contestants will use sarongs which they are calling ‘Balinese beach fabric’.

This is because, although the small island of Bali is Hindu, the country of Indonesia is Muslim.

You can easily see nice pictures of beaches anytime, so I wanted to show you the area around Jati Luwih which, the grapevine has it, will be used for part of the contest (and I’ve just heard they will go to Besakih, The Mother Temple, on the slopes on Mount Agung too).

Valley floor... awash with rice

Valley floor… awash with rice

Jati Luwih was granted the UNESCO Heritage Award last year.

It received the award not for its outstanding natural beauty, but because of the ancient subak organisational system that runs through the sawah/rice fields.  The subak is fundamentally connected to the living culture within Bali.

Stunning rice terrace view

Dreamy rice terrace view

This system dates back to circa 9th century.

It ensures that water runs from the mountains down through the valleys in a maze of channels which irrigate the life blood of Bali i.e. the rice paddies (sawah).

Rice - as far as the eye can see

Rice – as far as the eye can see

I’m was inspired to write this poem about the rice paddies.

The Ricefields of my Being

The shape of my heart
is like Bali

Blood flows like water
through the ricefields
of my being

My soul channels
my life’s energy

And like the subak
its essential work
goes unseen

All through the sawah
of my existence

Seeds grow
then ripen
before fading away

I can watch

As my
inner rice trees
are harvested

Giving me enough sustenance
for yet another day

For more info and pics of Jati Luwih click here.

If you want to come and stay in Bali while Miss World is here, then I currently still have some availability during Sept at Rumah Jepun, Ubud

Day tripper – take me to the bridge

We went for a day trip to see the highest bridge in Indonesia (and in the whole of South East Asia, according to reports).

There was some lovely scenery along the way.

Fields of flowers

Fields of flowers – used daily in Balinese offerings (canang)

And we drove past an elephant on the road.

Ooops - I forgot to bring the bananas

Ooops – I forgot to bring the bananas

A friend of mine works at Bagus Agro Pelaga, near the bridge.  So we stopped in to say hello but he wasn’t working that day –

Bagus Agro Pelaga

Bagus Agro Pelaga

… never mind we had lunch there anyway.

Yaniq’s picking up the asparagus with chopsticks, which is not something the Balinese usually use.

The first time Yaniq has used chopsticks

Eating bakso with chopsticks

In the background you can see his guitar case and we travelled for miles with that guitar on the motorbike.

Above the guitar is a vase of white roses, the scent of which was wonderful (I seem to remember my Mum telling me that pure white roses are relatively rare – these are for you Mum).

Pure white roses

Pure white roses

The meal we shared was interesting… it was called ‘Steamboat’ and you cooked the food (Bakso) yourself at your table

After lunch we wandered around the grounds and saw one of their rooms – great views

Nice views from the balcony at Bagus Agro

Nice views from the balcony at Bagus Agro

I even bought a kilo of the delicious strawberries that they were growing and selling at the resort

Just sitting there, admiring the view

Just sitting there, admiring the view

When we finally reached our destination there were already a number of cars and motorbikes parked on the bridge.

People were selling snacks and one guy was driving his motorbike up and down the bridge trying to find people who wanted their photo taken with the dramatic backdrop.  Luckily I had brought my own camera.

Looking out from the bridge

Looking out from the bridge

The bridge at Pelaga (which is between the towns of Kintamani and Bedugul) stands up to 71.14 meters tall and spans the length of 360 meters across the valley and its magnificent views.

View from the bridge

View from the bridge

The pillars go down 41 feet and they say the bridge can withstand earthquakes up to 7 on the richter scale.

Highest bridge in S.E. Asia

Highest bridge in S.E. Asia

At the other side of the bridge we visited the Bali Eco Village, which deserves a blog all of its own – so click here.

Meanwhile, here’s a picture showing our reflection in the rice fields.

Photo of our own reflection

Photo of our own reflection

I’m hidden behind a tree, but you can see Yaniq and the motorbike and between him and the handlebars is the travelling guitar.

Got a thing about leaves

My last post was mostly about monkeys and trees

now I’ll share my fondness for butterflies and leaves…

These photos were all taken from my garden here at Rumah Jepun, Ubud.  If you want to look at tropical flowers then click here.

The Enchanting Monkey Forest

How lucky am I to have the enchanting Monkey Forest a mere 10 mins walk from Rumah Jepun.

Monkey see, monkey do

Monkey see, monkey do

There are over 600 monkeys in the sacred forest and they all belong to one of four troops, that can often be seen chasing each other as they weave their way past camera laden tourists

Its’ feeding time for this baby long-tailed macaque

Want a snack little fella

Want a snack little fella

Let’s take a tour through the leafy forest

Walk through tree lined pathways

Walk through tree lined pathways – its rare not to see any monkeys here

According to Ubud’s Sacred Forest’s website there are 115 separate species of tree in the forest, some of them are holy trees and many of them have medicinal properties.

Walking through the many tree lined pathways you get to see the different parts of the forest

A large tree in the middle of the walkways

A large tree in the middle of the walkways

There are many impressive trees.

The one in the cemetery has a hole right the way through it

A tree you can see through!

A tree you can see through!

This stump has lots of interestingly shaped mushrooms growing on it

Mushrooms growing on the tree

Mushrooms growing on the tree

I like this tree

Old twisted tree

Old twisted tree

But by far my favourite tree is the one that you walk through…

Massive tree straddling the path

Massive tree straddling the path

The downward growing limbs of this Banyan are seriously huge

Downward growing limbs blocking the sky

Downward growing limbs blocking the sky

Here it is from another viewpoint.  The base of the steps are guarded by two naga (snakes)

Tree covered steps

Tree covered steps

You can almost swing, Tarzan like, from the strong hanging branches

A dripping tree

A dripping tree

Wander down some more steps to where the Komodo dragon statues lurk

Komodo dragon statues

Komodo dragon statues

Meander alongside a stream that trickles over ancient mossy boulders

Walk along the boulder filled stream

Walk along the boulder filled stream

Come back up to the cemetery where dappled sunlight dances over the gravestones

How many monkeys can you spot among the gravestones?

How many monkeys can you spot among the gravestones?

then go up a different set of steps towards the main temple

Beautiful shaded pathways

Beautiful shaded pathways

I challenge you to walk carrying offerings on your head.  Balinese women do this all the time, often not even using a single hand to steady the baskets

Marvel at how Balinese women balance the offerings on their heads

Marvel at how Balinese women balance the offerings on their heads

They have just come from the main temple within the forest

Stunningly beautiful temple entrance

Stunningly beautiful temple entrance inside the forest

Once again there are two naga (snakes) entwined at the base on the steps, they are woven around the giant turtle.

Elsewhere yet another monkey looks like he’s either yawning or shouting out to friends, “hey come and look at this tourist taking a picture of my tail”.

A monkey yawning or calling out to friends?

A monkey yawning or calling out to friends?

my, what a long tail you have!

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