Itinerary May 2014

Airlines:  Philippines Air, Air Asia, and Jet Star

Flight paths for next couple of weeks.
Flight paths for most of May.

Manila: 1-5

Singapore: 5-7

Phuket: 7-14

Bangkok: 14-20

Bali: 20-2

I realize now this map should have been posted earlier. Whoops! I will have to pull together my Manila info quickly. That part of the trip is wrapping up!

Early day tomorrow. Catching a flight to Singapore where I will stay with my college roommate, Lisa Bartz and her husband Arnold ūüôā See you there!

Black and White

In school I was horrible at picking out symbolism in literature. I don’t know if I lacked the ability to identify it? Or perhaps it was a rebellion on my part. I kept questioning whether the author always¬†chose a white dress to signify purity, blackness to foreshadow death, and red for passion or adultery. (I’m simplifying of course) What if the author just plain ol’ wanted his subject in a white dress?

Fast forward 30 years and my interest in symbolism has shifted. It has been interesting to see black and white‚ÄĒand red‚ÄĒapplied in this Balinese context. There is much meaning behind the use of the various colors and designs and I’m sure I recognize only a fraction of what is in front of me.




I was unaware of the police and/or security presence in Bali until I understood that they look like this (below) as opposed to the uniforms we’re used to.


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Even the little mourning dove wears a black & white necklace.


Bali’s regional mascot, the Bali Myna bird. (below) Mostly white, but a little black.


When I first arrived, these billboards were everywhere. I had no idea who these people were but I always thought of restaurants and chefs when I saw them. It was only a bit later that a taxi driver explained these were for an upcoming election for governor. I think the opposing party clothing was (I believe) more red and black (don’t quote me!)


Below, people on their way to ceremony (a lot more white than black going on here). I have seen lots of trucks filled with people going to ceremony but I just can’t seem to get a good photo of them! Wisconsinites might get a kick out of knowing I saw one guy outside of a temple milling around with others dressed in their ceremonial clothes‚ÄĒthe back of his shirt said Harley Davidson.


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Not sure how apparent it is, but these small flags across a rice field are black and white.



This last photo was taken in a little restaurant next to Bintang Market. It made me think of our cousin Chris so I wanted to post it somehow. I wasn’t sure how to link Bali and PEZ, but black and white did it.


Rice Fields of Bali

Arrrrgh! Technology.

I took a cab to a camera shop in¬†Denpasar (biggest city) last week to see if they could fix my camera. No one at the Denpasar location spoke english. I was lucky enough to be with a balinese driver, Made (pronounced Mah-day), who is the regular driver for a friend I’ve met here. I’d hired Made to get through several errands: easier than trying to hail a cab every time I stop and the price is usually cheaper that way. Through Made’s translation¬†I found out my camera would need to be sent to Jakarta, it would cost $200 to fix, and no one knew how long it would take other than “a long time”. So, I bought a new camera for $80. Two days later I finally realized I had not been given the USB cable that served 2 functions: charging the battery and being able to download photos to the computer. Duh.

To shorten up the story: the Denpasar store said they still had the cable and, they agreed to drop off the cable at a mall with a branch store that was more convenient for me. Yay!¬†I finally downloaded the photos from the memory card yesterday… which included photos from waaaaay back when my original camera stopped working.

So many things I haven’t put up yet… I’ll just try to get started.

These photos cover 2 different days. One set is from the rice fields around Ubud, but this first batch that looks intensely green is from the Unesco World Heritage site, Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. I took a day trip with another girl to visit this area.When the fields are flooded, that seems to be a prime time to take photos since the water is reflective and adds another dimension to the terracing. (you can Google those)

The first shot is me.

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This shot is an attempt to show you the distance from one level to the next in the terracing. This varies depending on the topography, but in many cases this was a 3-4 ft. drop. I did not see concrete reinforcements, just a dirt wall with grass growing. If there is something reinforcing it on the interior it was invisible to me.¬†On several occasions I have seen people hand-cutting this with machetes to keep it trimmed. ¬†Nothing was blocked off from access so we were free to walk on them and they did not give way. These ledges aren’t exactly sidewalk width though. Watch your step!


Below are photos of workers in the field. Our driver was kind enough to stop as we passed this area so I could photograph some real life examples of work in the rice fields. The traffic noise drowned out my ability to hear the driver detailing the process but I think this first photo was sort of like a rice nursery. Men were taking up rice-lings from the nursery (Photo 1), bundling them (Photo 2), and then the bundles are taken out and planted (Photo 3) and I believe this is a freshly planted field (Photo 4). Kinda looks like razor stubble.

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Don’t wear your best shoes to work.

These ladies are knocking the rice grains off the shaft. They would whack the bundle a few times, maybe 3 or 4 times, and then go get another bundle. This photo was shot the same day I shot the planting photos above. The fields are rotated so you have planting and harvesting going on all at the same time. I think they get 2 or 3 harvests a year and they also rotate crops so it isn’t always rice.

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Speaking of rice fields, my second hotel was in a rice field. The path you see cutting through the field was the only path to get there. Looks pretty unassuming from the front, but out the backside of the hotel was a lush valley of palms & greenery. This was the view from my room.

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Several mornings I saw a woman come through the fields with something in her hand to try to scare away birds from eating the grains. I saw a variety of approaches to scarecrows.

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Now we’re to the rice fields around Ubud. I took some video of my friend Kayla and I walking around one day but I think I need to reduce the size of the files to get them to post. So, for now, here are photos.

This first photo with the guy carrying a ladder sums up the situation. There is no other way to get things into the rice fields other than on these little paths. So these next photos of houses… think about it!

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Roads may be wide(ish), or not so much.

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This was our goal destination that day: Sari Organic, a restaurant smack in the middle of the rice fields. Paths weren’t well marked so we did a good 2-hr trek before we found the place which is actually only a 20 min. walk out of town. It was an interesting walk!


You initially walk up a set of stairs, leave your shoes (had that photo in an earlier post) and you see this super cool concrete floor. Remember this color? Just look back 1 post to Sadus tiles. I made it easy and included the photo below this one.



You can choose from traditional seating and sort of private seating in little huts. But the reason few people are sitting there is because there is another area with a view to the fields…

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… that’s where everyone is!

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I’ll try to increase my posting frequency now, and aim for shorter posts! Thanks for following ūüôā

Back to the Artisan Tour: Sadus Tiles

Concrete Tile

Several years ago¬†I’d found a few cuban concrete tiles at a garage sale where an architect was unloading some samples.¬†Then, while researching tile for remodeling jobs, I found myself constantly reflecting on the soft looking matte surfaces & subtle variations in the solid colors but couldn’t find anything that had quite these same qualities. Concrete is heavier than many other tile options so shipping is expensive. The only thing that came close was clay mexican tile, but those are considered to be more fragile‚ÄĒdrop something on them and you’re more likely to chip it. Concrete on the other hand is extremely durable.

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Here is a photo of Marylin, and the owner of Sadus Tiles in his factory.

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Below is their crazy wall of samples, but it also shows the water bath for curing the tiles. The water curing method takes very little energy and at the end of its use they clean the water before returning it to the river.


Love, love, L-O-V-E this color!!!


These metal stamps are occasionally sold in stores here for home decoration.

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Sadus is not a huge commercial outfit; they employ 15 people and can only manufacture a certain number of tiles in a day. I just visited their Facebook page where they posted photos of new tile designs. They even came up with an ikat motif (ikat means ‘weaving’, but also means a certain pattern & look that is currently trending in interior design & fabrics). Super cool.

This area is east of Ubud with gorgeous hilly terrain. They have built a few guesthouses and pools to serve the few tourists that choose to come to the area as there are few options for places to stay.

Below is one of the RARE photos you’ll see of me. We were walking around the guesthouse property and enjoying the river view, the garden, the guesthouses and the cascading pools (using Sadus tiles).

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This is the restaurant from the outside, then from the entrance.

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La Villa Coca – Kerobokan

I thought I was going to base myself in Ubud, but nope. I’ll admit I got a much better sense of the Balinese culture there: smaller town and less aggressive sales tactics, so it was a good place to start the trip. But now that I have seen Seminyak, this is where I have to be for awhile.

So‚ÄĒhere’s my new place for the next month!


Anyone who knows me shouldn’t be surprised that I had to draw this one out (no measurements, just eyeballed). I like the layout and want to remember it. There is a cross axis that works really nicely, and then there are 2 bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms that mirror each other. (I only show the one I’m staying in as they are just decorated slightly differently.)

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Same area shown below, just from opposite ends.

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A variety of printed (uh… not necessarily original, but still interesting) artwork hangs throughout the space:



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The compound is walled but gets plenty of sun so I’ve taken advantage of the pool both days I’ve been here. I sure wouldn’t want to see what happens to someone who attempts to climb over these walls though! Bordering 2 sides is a french restaurant and the other two are private residences‚ÄĒno walls border a public street. I like the music that floats through from the restaurant, the bell ring I hear when food is ready, and the generally quiet chatter.

Finally, to get around I needed some wheels! The management company was nice enough to send over a bike, but I am going to keep searching because this one isn’t exactly sized for me.


I also didn’t get a lock with the bike so that was project #1 for the day. There is an interesting deterrent lock already on the bike that allows you to lock the front wheel in an angled position so someone can’t ride, except in a circle! But I still hoped the bike wouldn’t disappear while I was in the store. I had the management assistant Dolla, write down the words for “bike lock” in bahasa indonesian. I then was able to show this piece of paper at the store rather than waste time trying to pantomime my request. “Gembok sepeda” was the ticket. I was surprised that all the store carried were these (below) with the only variations being cable length, and color. I bought two since the cables were extremely short. I spent about $7.00 total on them.¬†Do these look like airplanes, or fish to you?



The offerings are the woman’s domain‚ÄĒas stated to me several times by balinese men and women. Below, you see the grandmother and another woman beginning preparation of the morning offerings¬†at my week-long homestay called Nirvana Pension in Ubud.
(Please excuse the crappy photos. My camera lens stopped working and I’m now limited to my iPhone camera. Plus for some reason, these photos aren’t enlarging).

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At Nirvana Pension, they create something like 93 offerings each morning. The volume of offerings is dependent on the number of areas you are protecting or giving thanks. A basic location would be the entrance to your home. If you have a business, you would also put one there. If you have a car, a bike, a motorcycle, a home office, you will want to create offerings to place in or on each of these things. I can’t say I ever saw an offering on a motorcycle, but there was a fresh offering on the right-hand side of the dashboard of every taxi I’ve ridden in.¬†(Here, see the reflection in the window on the right near the driver).


Here is an example of an entrance offering. This particular day, a coconut husk was being burned along with the offering and incense.


To create the offerings, coconut leaves are fashioned into boxes or flower-shaped containers. I’ve seen some people use staples, and others use small toothpick pieces to hold the edges together. The boxes then hold bits of various things… petals, grass, perhaps whole flowers, and sometimes I’ve seen dollops of rice and even small baggies of what looks like coffee (as a liquid, not as grounds) placed on top. Leaves may be spliced and twirled into various shapes to decorate the finished piece.

When the offering is placed, I’ve seen some people dip a flower that looks like a cosmos or daisy into a bowl and then flick the water in the direction of the offering. I was told that they must get the water, which has been blessed, from their priest.

Most of the places I’ve stayed, I’ve had offerings placed for me at my entrance (I’m in a regular hotel now – so no offering). In this photo, that is my door in the background, and this little checkered, decorated tower seemed to be assigned to both my bungalow, and the one across from me. It received a new offering every day.


Here are examples of some of the offerings I’ve seen. Old ones aren’t necessarily discarded so they seem to pile up at times.¬†

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These can be found all up and down the street in front of houses, on the sidewalks in front of businesses, and anywhere someone felt it was appropriate to place an offering. Given the narrow sidewalks and their location underfoot, it is quite common to see where someone has accidentally stepped on one (or several). As one balinese woman said

“No problem! The prayer is made when the offering is placed; then it is done. What happens after that is of no consequence.”

These offerings are on the ledge just prior to crossing a bridge.


This woman, below, is presenting offerings at the morning market. I asked our guide about this as it was my assumption that someone was taking responsibility for making offerings in lieu of others because it seemed like the place would overflow with offerings given how many stalls were there. I was told that EVERY business in that marketplace would make an offering if they worked there. There was one other location we passed that was more near the entrance.


Offerings have created a small industry. Here you see people providing bulk product for offerings (leaves, petals, flowers, small food items) or,  you can buy the entire offering as a done deal. Our guide said this would be a last resort as one would feel guilty if they relied on pre-made offerings too frequently.

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The women here carry things on their heads and they’re extremely skilled at it. I’ve seen the most lopsided things perched on heads that somehow are carried hands-free. These photos show women carrying offerings for ceremonies. The first and third photos are examples of offering boxes which are sold in all kinds of markets here.

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Although these are not offerings, I love how the practice of the offering seems to spill over into a different type of awareness. Intentionally placed flowers, or even bits of colorful petals enliven a tiny location that would otherwise go unnoticed. Here are some examples:

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Artistically, I love what the offerings bring to a space: little touches of color,
the smell of incense, and you know someone offered a prayer of thanks.

Thanks for following ūüôā

Quick Post: Bali Life

The internet has been very temperamental where I’m staying recently. Since I’m not sure when it will recover, I’ve wandered down the road to the hotel where I’ve taken cooking classes the last 2 days. For the sake of a quick post I’ve chosen some photos that highlight what seems to be ‘normal’ Balinese life.

Motorcycles are the major mode of transportation here. The unique aspects are:
1 – without helmets is the norm
2 – more than 2 people isn’t unreasonable. If you’re a woman, you commonly ride side-saddle
3 – if you can strap it on¬†the motorcycle or someone can carry it,¬†it’s fair game to transport.

I didn’t manage to get a lot of photos with children, but it’s very common to see. If they’re small they’re probably squished in between the mother & father. The day I shot a lot of these was a ceremonial day so a number of riders are dressed up in traditional clothing. Some of the women are carrying offering boxes. If you look in the 2nd photo, the woman in the gold shirt and red cumberbund has a little leg hanging behind her on the left: child sandwiched in the middle. In the last photo, you can see a man with a child coming toward the viewer on the right.

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Below are a bunch of photos of rooters under baskets. This caught my eye because we have a chicken issue in Key West and all I could think when I saw these was, “Is it really that easy to get a chicken under a basket?” In Key West, people pay a “chicken man” $20 per chicken. He sets traps that may, or may not catch chickens.

A little more inquiry was needed to understand the situation‚ÄĒalthough I think chickens may still be able to be captured under baskets.

These aren’t just any old chickens getting basket for cages … they’re fighting roosters, specifically for cock fighting. I can now verify that every ‘chicken’ under a basket has been a rooster. According to the Balinese driver that filled me in on the custom, putting the rooster under a basket helps the rooster to conserve energy and it also calms them. They become passive and more like a pet so the owner can handle them. Cock fighting is not actually a sport that is supported in Bali but for certain ceremonial situations, the offering of blood is necessary. The Balinese allow cock fighting for these particular ceremonies but the ‘fight to the finish’ process is sped up by attaching knives (somehow) to the roosters’ spurs. This is viewed as a compassionate custom as the fight could be long and drawn out were the knives not utilized.

The Balinese driver did admit that cock fighting as a sport is actually alive and well.


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Finally, taking off one’s shoes before entering a home, or almost any establishment (except for most restaurants) really is a normal tradition here. The following photos are taken:
1) Outside of a store along a main street in Ubud. The balinese let tourists leave their shoes on, but the Balinese take their shoes off while working in the store and even when they’re working at a hotel’s reception desk.
2) At Sari Organic, a restaurant situated out in the rice fields just outside of Ubud. Everyone removed their shoes prior to entering the restaurant. By the way, this place had excellent food!
3) Outside a childrens’ school.


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Hope to get my internet back soon. Thanks for following!

Gaya Ceramic & Design

Gaya Ceramics ( can’t really¬†be summed up as a ceramic ware company. Their booklet explains that it is part of a larger organization called the Gaya Fusion Group. Located west of Ubud, it could be described as a small campus. I thought the interior of their factory space was quite interesting with it’s tented roof.


Here are two workers in the factory. The words of the day are patience, and steady hands. The person working on the sea urchin vessel is poking tiny holes into the small bumps on the surface. A live sea urchin would have had spines, and these are lost once the urchin dies. This replication of the detail made for a very realistic urchin skeleton (I think called the test?) The person on the right has the small cup lightly affixed to a turn table and it is rotating at a steady speed. The worker loads their brush with glaze, then carefully positions their hand to touch the edge of the cup at one point. As the cup turns, the entire rim is coated delicately and evenly‚ÄĒone hopes!


Across the road was a workshop where people could take classes, see demonstrations, have access to studio time, and even take a 3, 5, or 7-day retreat that blended yoga, meditation, journaling, and chanting with the goal of creating a deeper interaction with clay. (For anyone interested, please see The third image below that shows the ceiling & loft area of the workshop was intended to show you the elaborate detail that is surrounding the loft ceiling area. However, it was carved detail, not painted, so it doesn’t really show up here.



A short drive down the road brought us to this temple looking structure. The top part is an open air restaurant. On the right is a small coffee shop that sells baked items like biscotti, and they also had some amazing gelato. Everything I’ve had here in Bali has been so incredibly fresh and the gelato was the best I’ve tasted. My choice? The pistachio gelato… and it was not green.


This pendant light fixture hung throughout the restaurant. I had seen something similar at the factory, coils stacked and holes punched in the sides. Marilyn and I both had been trying to figure out what that could possibly be once assembled. And here it was! The coffee shop also carried some of their ceramic ware like these bowls and the cupcake foils (which are actually ceramic).


I don’t want to definitively say Gaya makes these table & chairs, but there were 4 or 5 sets in front of their coffee shop and I loved them! The seats are a simplified version of the chinese garden stool, complete with carrying handles. Smart.


These last two items are for fun. The chicken chair was one of the dining chairs in the restaurant, and these op-art chairs were in a seating area.


Thanks for hangin’ in there! Still more to come…

Artisan Tour: artiles & Seni-Man

I should have taken a good photo of my tour guide, Marilyn, but I completely spaced it. She appears in one or two shots in my tour so that will have to suffice. She arranged this custom tour of artisans for me, picked me up at my hotel in an air conditioned car with a driver, and entertained me with varied stories the entire day. Should anyone else be interested in creating their own tour‚ÄĒwhether for silver jewelry, art, clothes shopping, import/export or whatever you can dream up‚ÄĒMarilyn is the person to contact. She knows these artisans personally and chatted with all of them about their families and lives as we got the behind the scenes tour of their particular industries. ¬†You can find Marilyn at

Before leaving Sanur, we headed to the showroom for artiles where we met with artist Philip Lakeman. His showroom featured some super interesting tile I would sum up as ‘textural’. The tile would¬†offer fantastic options for creating a wall that is like 3D artwork. I particularly liked his use of soft, low-contrast tones.

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He also took us to his office where showed us the toys he promotes through his name Seni-Man (Seni means ‘art’, I believe). ¬†Here you see Marilyn, my personal guide for artisans in Bali, and Philip, with some of the small brightly colored toy statues he creates. Multi-colored buddhas, pigs and elephants sat on top of the boxes with his Seni-Man logo.¬†



These vase-like sculptures were quite tall, maybe 3 feet?


Another example of his creativity overflows into what seemed to simply be their break room. That countertop is all one piece, not separate tiles (there is a single grout line between the sink and full length of the counter). For those of us who have had tiled countertops and cursed the grout lines and tile edges, Philip makes a single, smooth surface dream into a reality by create one super-sized painted tile! This style isn’t for purchase, but if you are a tile maker and have the means to create a painted ceramic surface counter, why not!?!


This last image made me realize just how small the world can be. Philip showed me published photos of one of his previous homes in Bali. As soon as he opened to this page I said “I know this place!” I had one of the same coffee table books on Bali homes and this one I remembered because of it’s distinctive entrance. In this thumbnail image it may look like a fireplace, but if you enlarge this, you see this is the doorway to a home. The entire entrance is surrounded with a verdi-gris tile, designed by Philip.


There is more to the tour‚ÄĒstay tuned.