Words of Wisdom ...or so it seems...


Saturday, 17 March 2012

And then there's the case of Ubud.

What felt like an endless padi field satiated every angle my eyes turned to. Cool breezy wind caressed my sun beaten face and body. The distance sound of the enchanting gamelan, seemed to have plunged me into an abyss of day dreams. It almost felt like my soul was trapped and the only way out is to dance to the vibes of Bali. Risking sounding like a cliché, Ubud got me. I was a sitting duck and had no chance of escaping it’s rapture. I’m a prisoner unwilling to be saved.

Alas! Pretty soon my dream would be awoken by the sound of the van honking, ready to porter us to the airport, destination, home. I have been to many places before in my life, but I have always felt homesick after some time. This time around, I still am home sick, only almost sick of home. It dawned to me now, how some Malaysians had become willing prisoners to Bali. For whatever reasons they offer, at the end of the day, Bali got them too.

Below: No, not a Vietnamese stranded in's just me.

What I love about Bali the most is that I can let my guard down and not worry about getting snatch thieved, robbed, cheated senselessly, or worst, raped. I did not get it during my early days here, why everywhere we go, there is no safety box, or even a decent cupboard with a lock at least functioning. It became clear to me later on, when I found the notebook I hid under the bed, being put nicely on the bedside shelf by the housekeeping boy. Frankly, I did not know whether to feel irritated or embarrassed by the fact that I was caught in an act of showing distrust to my hosts. Then again, we come from Malaysia. Our paranoia should be internationally well established by now. It makes me feel sad, at how I’ve witnessed my home, Malaysia, evolved from something of a Bali, into something of a New York city, just minus all the efficient public transportation. During my childhood, I do not recall any incidences of snatch thief, let alone people dying from it. Life was good back then. People can still leave their kids to play outside the house without having so much as to worry about them being kidnapped and sold to human trafficking, or being hit and run by a car.

How did we get here? We cannot forever blame the immigrant workers who come from Indonesia, Bangladesh, India et al. If anything, through my observation, the Malaysians, instead of telling these workers off when they commit silly things like driving their vehicle against the traffic, or cutting queue, practiced “If you cannot beat them, join them”. We have forgotten the spirit of reminding each other of our mistakes because we suddenly develop this “you mind your own business and I will mind mine”. This attitude of minding one’s own business, I believe, should only be applied to the faith one professes, the prerogative lifestyle one chooses that will in no way harm society and perhaps Ibrahim Ali.. that man should be left alone and not be given so much media coverage for his idiosyncrasy, but I digress.

Here in Malaysia, we do the opposite. We mind other people’s faith, proclaiming power to judge on who is going to hell and heaven, we are more interested in who’s effing who and what people do with their assholes, yet have no qualms in closing one eye to kids who no longer give up their seats to the blind, the pregnant etc, to the perennial disgusting public toilet habits, (or should I say “peri-anal” instead?) or to god forbid, corruption. We have become a society who enjoy punishing without solving the problem at its roots. Power is after all, sweet.

When society do not see that passing judgment and punishment that is harsher than the deed of the “offender” itself, is just so wrong, no matter what excuse given, then we become a society devoid of humanity. What is the point of being called “human” without “being human”?

A Muslim lady who was caught and sentence to flogging, some time back drinking alcohol in public for instance, is not even committing an offence in accordance to the Quran, yet flogging her, which is the punishment in the state of Pahang, which is NOT even the slightest mention of it in the Quran, is seen as “justified”. How did we manage to allow retarded people run our lives for us? Are we expected to keep reticent to imbecilic acts by the self-proclaimed authority that uses power of religion to hide behind?

Here’s a simple question I would like to ask my fellow Malaysians. If we avow that we are so righteous and religious, tell me, how come we can no longer leave our hand-phones in the public toilet accidentally and have almost null chances of recovering it? Why do women need to cover their heads up in men in this society is so righteous, enough to gain trust that they will not harm their women who go around not covering their head. (Not that it’s even slightly mentioned in the Quran if I may add). If a society is SO righteous as it claims to be, a woman should be safe walking around without having to cover her head no? In fact, why not solve the mental problem of the men, for not being able to contain their stupid hormones when looking a woman’s hair. Something MUST be medically wrong with their head (probably both heads) if men get turned on just looking at women’s hair. In Bali, women use to walk around topless and it’s nothing to them.

Okay… I think I’d better stop writing now, before I upset my……….whatever time left in Bali. Excuse me while I resume dreaming away…until that darn vehicle honks anyway….

Well, if you consider graffiti as art...I do..
Here's another form of art...they actually have to pay for each slab of tiles that make a road in Jalan Kajeng...which is pretty cool..and sometimes funny..

Well, at least we know where to get grass..

I think, the occupational hazard for a Balinese dancer would be suffering from Bell's Palsy. The Lenggong dance depends heavily on one dancer and how he/she transform art in a form of minute movements alternated by sudden outburst of expressions. If you hate looking at his/her face, you'd be better off going down the nearest food stall eating Bakso instead.

Guilty as charged...the man that quenched our thirst after a day of gazing..

A river flows through it...

Above and below: Gunung Kawi

On the way to Gunung Kawi: Goa Gajah

Gunung Batu Kawi...

Ah well, if no one buys, he eats..nothing goes to waste in Bali

Collin Mc Phee, writer of "A House in Bali" described this river, Ayung Sayan (Sayan River) as devine. I did the trek just adjacent the Ayung Sayan and to my dismay, the water was muddy. It dawned to me that it was either Mc Phee was high on something he got from Hans or Tino et al, or my luck was bad that it rained and there was mud content that made the term "White water rafting" quite oxymoronic. I'm sure it was clear water when Mc Phee described it though...

Resting along Ayong Sayan. We figured, it is lighter to carry the food in our stomachs since it's the center of gravity and all.

And wherever you look, the universe seemed to suggest love..

Thursday, 15 March 2012


Unlike the journey from Denpasar (Ubung bus station) to Candi Kuning (in Bedegul), this time we took a private car up to Lovina. I must say that although it was a much more comfortable mode of transportation, I would have jumped into a public transport if there was one available. Well, they are available, just unreliable in the sense of accessibility and timing and time is of the essence this time around for us.

Most bemo or colt will push off from far and away stations such as the one I waited for my colt, in Ubung. The problem with public transportation such as bemo or colt, is that it will wait for full passengers of 12 before embarking anywhere. By the time it reaches places like Candi Kuning, or if it ever took off at all from the station, it would probably be sometime in late afternoon and as it was a raining season, I will loose a whole day, waiting for the possibility of a hitching a ride on a public transportation, and if I manage to do so, reach my destination late and to be welcomed with rain.

I was told by a local that sometimes, if the turn up of passengers is poor, the transport may not even leave the bus station!! Imagine, after waiting for few hours for the bus to be filled up, and when in vain, you may find yourself without a transport!! If this is not a cowboy town, I don’t know what else is.

To be honest with you, call me a masochist, but I did not really enjoy the journey up in the private trooper as compared to the public transport because of the exclusivity. There was not much of communication with the locals as the driver, if given the chance would have preferred to demolecularize us all and teletransport us to Lovina in a speed of light. Confucius would have become a Confused-cius if he was still alive, as to why his famous quote had gone unheeded, “It is not so much about the destination, but about the journey”.

Fortunately, Lovina is about the destination too. I can’t say that it is THE beach getaway and the only reason why I had decided to put up in Lovina was it was a better choice than Singaraja, to put up in order to access Pura Beji, a 45minutes motorbike ride (well depend on one’s speed). The beach was black sanded and the water was clear enough, but unfortunately, it was not kept clean.

Lovina Beach.... unfortunately, I did not manage to catch the sunset because well, most of the time, it rained in the evening. Speaking of which, I enjoyed going around a motorcycle with my kid in the rain, both of us singing that song, ".ooooooooooooooo...I hear laughter in the rain, walking hand in hand with the one I I love the rainy days and the happy ways, I feel inside....


To be redundant, Lovina is about the destination,for me, as I found a gem, not lost, just undiscovered. The gem came in a form of a German traveller, Robert, who put up at the same place as ours. Unable to find a suitable lodging in Ubud, he ended up in Lovina beach. Dare I say sweet serendipity?? But unlike many other travellers, he engaged himself with the people around him including the vendors by the beach. There, he found a lovely little girl named Puteri Ayu, about 3-4 years of age and decided to help her out. Born to parents, out of wedlock, Ayu was abandoned soon after birth by her mother who according to her grandmother, refused to marry her father, because of poverty. The last bit was my assumption.

Little Ayu is being taken care by her father and her grandparents. Although they are poor, I could feel that Ayu is surrounded by so much love by the beautiful people around her, which include her grandmother’s friends. Balinese are generally poor materially but definitely rich with love and affection, and many more good things in life that is free. I have seen a child born into richness but neglected of love. What Robert had said in response to my observation about Ayu being enveloped by a lot of love, was right on the bull’s eye, “a little help with money would help despite the love”. Robert sponsored Ayu’s 3 years pre-schooling, all paid for in one go.

Turned out, there are a few more kids of the same situation that he had helped along his travel getaways. This, I find, truly inspiring indeed. I mean ask ourselves, how many of us have gone for holidays and helped out the people who we bumped into? Most of us would prefer to put up in fancy hotels that take up almost half of our travel budgets. Then we buy souveniers for people who we have problems remembering their names and who would most likely toss it in some corner soon after it reaches their homes, if not bitch about how ugly it is.

Puteri me, it is very difficult to snap a good photo of kids....I spent more than 10 minutes just trying to get a good shot....this one is my captures the essence of a smart child, just waiting for an opportunity of education to come by...there are many more children such as Ayu, just crying for the help they hardly know at this tender age, that they need.


The place I put up was a basic backpacker’s lodge, Hotel Purnama, which is run by a very warm, kind and friendly family and for the Rupiah 80,000 (RM23 plus breakfast I was a bit guilty to take because of the dirt cheap price!), it offers very basic accommodation. After all, to my thinking, unless one plans to sit in the room all day long to rest and laze about, I do not see any point of paying so much for a room just to come back tired and zonk out. The extra money can be used to perhaps purchase things from poor vendors, as a method of giving them some income. Frankly, I would rather give to the people my eyes witness their poverty rather than to give through an organization for example in Africa, (albeit as noble as the deed may sound) of which I will wonder if the money pumped in would be recycled into coffers of Kalashnikov and Mercedes-Benz of some bejewelled pigs that run the place.

Most Muslims and Hindus for example, would fast (refrain from eating/drinking for a period of time) from time to time. Muslims would avow that the act of fasting, is for us to feel, indulge what it is like to experience poverty. If you ask any poor man on the road, I suspect that they will tell us to go ahead and eat, drink and be merry, instead, just give them the money they need and keep the experience to ourselves as our experience will not help them in any way, the money on the other hand, would.

Pura Beji ; still standing tall despite her past grandeur......

So here’s a suggestion. Perhaps, once a year, when we go for one of our holidays, why not try to keep aside some money to give to the poor that we bump into along the way. The little money to us, may prove to be of bigger in value to them. In the case of Puteri Ayu, it cost Robert around USD400 (that’s about RM1200) to sponsor a three year pre-schooling. Imagine that for the cost half the price of the I-phone or I-Pad some of us are willing to pay for, this could actually make a difference in a poor kid’s life for 3 years.

Ask ourselves this question once in a while, “How do we define the meaning of life?”. It’s to recycle back into society, what the Higher Being had blessed us with, materially at least. Now that is one recycling people should make noise about. To me, a person like Robert not only defined the meaning of life, but put it to practice and that is why I said that I was blessed with an acquaintance with a gem of a human being. Robert, if you are reading this, I want you to know that you are a gem of a guy and I am honored to have met your acquaintance.

That and err…he managed to convince both my dotter and me to initiate picking up garbage by the sea side to educate the unfortunate people who live off tourists visiting the beach, selling whatever they can, to decipher a simple message, “Clean beach, means more tourist attraction, equals to more possible income for them”.

Hitherto, I cannot help but smile at how I was diplomatically talked into, one hour of picking up garbage on the beach… I’m still smiling as I’m writing this down. The last time someone made me pick up garbage was Mrs Tan, a hot tempered teacher who we suspect was suffering from permanent menopausal mood swing and can probably make the Prime Minister pick up garbage, and that was back in primary school!! And it was hardly 1 hour !!

Not a care in the world, born into poverty, and oblivious to their bleak future, a girl lay her head to rest by on the sand, where her guardians vendors.

At the end of the day, the take home message I’m trying to put out there is, let’s just not talk the talk, but let’s walk the walk. Perhaps we underestimate the power of us. We should be able to believe that even the smallest thing we do to change for the good, may initiate something for a society. We should not be comfortably and say in surrender that there are so many things to do to change the world. Yes, it can be overwhelming, but the journey to a thousand miles definitely have to begin with the very first step. Small steps is better than not making a move. It’s always better to contribute something, no matter how small, than not to contribute at all. Imagine if everyone were to contribute even the smallest of thing, the world may have lesser people suffering.

JFK once said, “Ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.

Here’s my rendition of something similar, “Ask not what society can do for you, but what you can do for the society”.

My uncle said that “there’s nothing much to see in Lovina”. I beg to differ. We only fail to see when we choose to close one eye and choose to be unreceptive. I see a lot more than scenic beauty (after the picking up garbage operation) Lovina could offer. I see love, humanity, empathy, and so much more and my only regret is, indeed, deep regret….is that I did not stay one more day in Lovina….

Above : Lovina, when it is not the beach, it's the padi field view that takes your breath away....

Below : Hot spring...water's hot, so are the babes......

Pura Beji.....

Below: a picture of the entrance, where you need to give some donation. I pulled a Rupiah 10,000 (about RM3) and when I detected displeasure in his expression, pulled another 10,000. Hey, what can I say...I'm not a big fan of worship houses, but I reckon that donation would contribute to it's architectural far as I'm concern, humans should spend all that money they waste on sacred houses to allegedly impress God, to help fellow human beings...I am pretty sure, that would give God more pleasure than building Him houses, He have no use of.

I would be extremely happy if I can balance my brains in between my ears...balancing stuff like this on my head, would just be a bonus..

Hot springs where you probably get international urine content in one pool ;-)

Below : Notice the smiles? This is at the cremation. In Balinese, past the bathing of the deceased, no one is allowed to be sad. This is because they believe in reincarnation, and death, although a sad thing for those beloved left behind, is to be seen as a beginning for another life......ergo the spirit of happiness is appropriate. Scenes like this in Malaysia would probably be during the death of some of those nasty politicians...death of an idiot and rebirth of more frogs....I assume politicians will be reborn as frogs, since they like frogging in parliament so much....

Bakso anyone?

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Bali Oh! Bali!

It was to be a mother dotter bonding rendezvous, this trip I took to Bali. After all, my kid will soon go off to further her studies and abiding to the law of nature, of which even a cat knows when to let her litter off into the real world when the right time comes. I suppose soon, I will have to let her go and live her life in the real world. So this trip was to be about us.

The very next day upon approval of my 12 days annual leave (actually it’s either to clear off last year’s annual leave or it be forfeited…), upon last minute confirmation of my annual leave approval, I jumped into the first Air Asia flight available to Bali. Truth be told, I had absolutely no idea where to go and what to do in Bali, but Lonely Planet saved my day.

I had decided to back pack Bali with my kid. I was brought up to think that sometimes, through hardship family bond. Fought and bonded along the way, we did. If I sounded like Yoda, it’s only because I feel jaded like him right now. The trip is fun, but tiring too. I have not just bags under my eyes, but big huge luggage instead. Then again, it’s better to look ugly and feel good than to look good and feel like shit. Of course the best is look good and feel great, but that is another story altogether, no?

I’m sure many have been to Bali, bonded, broken off with girlfriends/boyfriends if according to the “Bali Myth”. (Bali myth claims that most couples break off after coming back from Bali. If you ask me, it’s to do with the high expectations for couples that only the Romantic Comedy films can provide that had caused or is causing the break ups…then again, who am I to hand on relationship advices. I got burned in love many a times, and we didn’t need to go to Bali for that to happen).
So I will not brag about the beautiful places I went to. What I will write about however is Bali, pertaining to her people. People say, home is where their loved ones are. By this definition, then Bali would be my second home. I believe that family is who we choose more than who we were coincidentally born with. I have been in love with Bali long before I stepped foot on this Island. The people, well there are exceptions as in any case anywhere in the world, majority are warm, kind, loving, friendly and honest people. It’s disgusting how honest majority of them are!!

An example; I stuffed my notebook underneath the bed in an attempt to hide it. In came house keeping and by the time we came back to the room, we learned 2 things. The house keeping people cleans under the bed even and that they took out the note book we meant to hide and placed it nicely on the side table!! I don't know if I should feel ashamed for not trusting them or just flabagasted!!

Growing up in a city like Kuala Lumpur, it made me a tough woman but unfortunately with trust issues. The issue is, I hardly trust anyone. I don’t even trust my own mother to leave me alone and not find me some “nice gentleman” to shove into my face just to make her die happy knowing that I have a man to take care of me when she’s gone. Hello, I don’t love a man because I need him, but I would love to need a man because I love him. But try telling that to any moms. Then again, I digress.

I have to share my experience travelling from Denpasar to Candi Kuning. We took a, what the locals call “Colt”, basically if in any developed country would be called “ a transport from hell”. It pushes off from the bus station in Ubung, just north east of Denpasar. Is there a public transport to go from point A to point B in Bali? The answer is “yes”. But will you get to point B? The answer is “maybe if your luck is good”. You see, when it comes to long distance travelling across Bali, most tourists prefer to go on private vehicles, driven by drivers, which is convenient, yes, but also expensive. It’s a smart choice if you ask me. The public transport such as the Bemo, Colt etc, will need to fill up the 12 passengers before budging an inch. And wait is what you need to do. Sometimes, I was told by Ikim, a lady with a broken arm clad in a shoulder cling, after all that waiting, should the Colt fail to accumulate 12 drivers of so (if short of a few people than we all have to pay a little extra which is fair), then the Colt will abort the transportation!!

I chose to take the risk, and after 2 hours of waiting, which I didn’t mind because I was busy filling up my senses with absorbing the surrounding ambiance, we in fact got 13 people in the van. Was it an okay form of transportation? Well, if a lady like Ikim, with a broken bone is not complaining, than what excuse do we all have? Did I mention that there was an old lady, of about 60s travelling with us? Well, there you go, no excuse to bitch about comfort do we now?

So off we went, heading north to Candi Kuning. The journey took us about 2 hours through a narrow but good road. I have to stop here to comment though. I find it bewildering that Indonesia can make a road that lasted 10 years without having many pot holes to reckon with. I wonder what stupid excuses the politicians in Malaysia would feed us with if we ask them how come we cannot make roads like the Indonesians? You know when these politicians start to talk cock, it’s easy to detect. It’s when they start opening their mouths.

The people are ever ready to help you with information and any form of assistance they may offer, which I find very heart warming. Yes, I had to wait for a little over 2 hours, but it wasn’t a time wasted. I had the chance to interact with the locals who you will never find travelling on the private vehicles, except for the drivers of course. Whilst waiting, an announcement was made and it went something like this, “Selamat Sorey semua, moga sihat sihat belaka hari ini…” (Good day, everyone. Hope everyone is in good health today”….) followed by the announcement. For a bus station that looked like it almost did not survive the Bali bombing, the last thing I had expected was a courteous greeting preceding the announcement!! Can anyone imagine this happening in Pudu Raya bus station in Kuala Lumpur??!!! I almost died just there and then from overdose of politeness!!
Below: Ubung Bus Station, northeast of Denpasar, Bali

I also learned from Nyoman, a friendly driver who drove us from Kuta to Denpasar earlier, that Balinese spend 50% of their income on religious/spiritual practices. And here we are complaining that the only sure thing apart from death is tax!! Some may find this disturbing, but I think that this is what makes Balinese trustworthy and good people. I mean, sure, you do not need religion to be a good human being, an atheist is a good example of that, and there are people with religion that practices more of the “holier than thou” attitude which proves to be more of a pest to human kind despite claims of “enlightenment”, more than anything else. But in the case of Balinese people, they are very spiritual and this spirituality somehow had managed to bring out the best behaviour in them. You hardly hear about snatch thieves here and I find it an emotional turmoil to be blessed with a feeling of being able to trust society not to harm us.

Majority may be poor, but definitely rich with what makes humans, humans. They are contented and this somehow makes them happy. I can’t vouch for the rich anywhere in the world though. Ask me. My job covers partly dispensing anti-anxiety, anti-depression medication to people who many envy to have what we imagine as everything in this world. But that is of course another story. I think happiness is what we make of ourselves and money may not have anything to do with it, but it does improve the bargaining position.
In the colt, I learned some Balinese greetings.

“Om swassiastu” means “Peace to you” or more of “hello”
“Om santi santi santi om” is good bye….
for instance.

I think if given more than 2 hours of waiting, I may get them to teach me some expletives in Balinese language. Alas! Before I could accomplish that, the colt moved, finally

I also learned that there is a “Nyepi” meaning a day observing silence, is a day when absolutely all activities are prohibited. The only reason anyone should be on the road is when a woman is in labour. Yes…not even a person with heart attack will be allowed to go to the hospital. I went….what the fish….but my travelling companion, Ketut, explained that they believe in “karma”. If that person is destined to die that day, he will die. I truly disagree but respecting their culture, I kept reticent. If my loved ones suffer from a heart attack and needed to be rushed to the hospital, I will without hesitation, stuff a pillow on my belly and pretend to be in labour and bring along the person who is suffering a heart attack along with me, claiming he fainted from my screaming in pain. I believe in karma, yes, but only after fully exhausting all possibilities of doing something to avoid catastrophe.

In Bali, no matter where you go, people will ask you where you are from. I have to say that it is refreshing that they only stop there. They do not ask beyond, "where are you from?". They are not bothered whether you are Malay, Indian, Chinese or what not. They are happy with the answer "Malaysian". My question to my fellow Malaysian is, "When will we be contented with saying that we are Malaysians, without the minute detail of what race we are?"...

Halfway through, it rained and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the reason we got slightly wet was because the windows do not approximate.

There was rain water that found the way onto my face and I closed my eyes to feel it’s sensation on it and thought of how the same rain that could cause annoyance to some of us, may mean life for others. I don’t hear anyone complaining about getting wet too. It’s like it’s something they’ve accepted. For a split second, my heart did try to deceive me by wondering how this would not have happened should we have taken the private vehicle, but my sense put my conscience at check. So there I was, in a colt heading up north, getting insidiously wet not in the sexual sense of it unfortunately, feeling somewhat oddly happy. Happy, that I was blessed with the experience of travelling as the not so fortunate people travel.

A thought occurred to me. That particular journey reminded me how some religious beliefs fast (refrain from eating, drinking and whatever) in order to attain humility. It bewilders me that despite many of us fasting, and despite what it claims to do to a human’s soul, there are still many people starving in this world. I could not help but wonder, if we spend slightly less money on building beautiful worship house to brag about to the other religion, perhaps that money could have been channelled towards the needy. I have problems believing that to be a good Muslim, or Christian or whatever, all that is sufficient is to believe in God, and worship Him and feel happy about it thinking this will make us a better human being. I think serving God would make us realize that it takes more than just believing to become a better human being. Serving humanity IS serving God. Ponder on that before you send someone to cut my head off for saying what I feel is right.

Travelling in hardship have more impact on, I find, on myself in the sense of the humility it feeds my soul. Look at it this way. So what, if the seats were hard, not to mention, non-ergonomic. So what, if it was a little cramped with human beings that do not have so much as a watch on them. So we get a little wet from the rain that escaped the gapping windows of a cheap transport. At the end of the holiday, we get to go back to our comfort zone, whilst these local people are less fortunate and have to resume their lives the way we had experienced it for that short moment in ours. For us, it was an adventure, for them, a routine.

Having contented with the beauty of Bali feasted upon my eyes through a leaking window, I hardly realized that we had reached destination Candi Kuning. Despite reaching destination in the less comfortable manner, I was quite disappointed that the journey wasn’t for some moment longer. When I left the colt, it wasn’t just my luggage that I had managed to pull out from it, but it was also the refreshing experience that came with the journey. Whilst the price of the tickets may be dirt cheap, but the experience throughout the journey upon reaching there, was indeed to me, priceless........

Below...snippets of Bali.