Bali: The Island of the Exotic

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Bali has always been the ideal tropical getaway for years, and when Eat, Pray, Love came out, the seams of tourism for this little country island exploded.

The locals suddenly saw an onslaught of Western tourists and adapted accordingly; they picked up basic conversational English and an exceptional customer service attitude. Embarrassingly, my friend and I didn’t know Indonesian or Malay – except for a few well-known terms like “thank you” and “exit”, so it was a pleasant surprise (and relief) when they could speak to us in English.

We stayed in Bali, Ubud, for about 3 days and flew to Bandung for 6. Looking back, we would have gone with 4 days in Bali and 5 days in Bandung instead. We didn’t visit any beaches (what blasphemy!), but we had a ton of fun doing other activities like volcano trekking, water rafting, cafe hopping, indulging in balinese massages and rice terrace visiting. Our itinerary is pretty cookie cut-out, and I remember wishing we were more divergent on this point :(

Okay, here’s our itinerary for the 3 days we were in Bali.

Day 1:

  • Checked in to Jalan Tirta Tawar, Indigo Villas (they will be closing this year, sadly)
  • Dinner at AA Juicery & Cafe (4.6 star rating) – A vegan cafe with genuine fruit juices! Very delicious and cosy setting!

Day 2:

  • 2am: Mount Batur Volcano Bali Trek (about 2-3 hours to reach the top if you go at a consistent speed)
  • Lunch at a place which had quite bad food. It was part of the package.img_7708
  • Rice terrace visit

Day 3:

  • 8am: Water-rafting
  • Ubud Money Forest
  • Coffee Plantation (Famous for Luwak Coffee aka luwak poop coffee)

    This was amazing. They let us try 16 different kinds of coffee in small cups! So delish! We didn’t try the luwak coffee though.

  • Balinese massage (no photos here! haha)
  • Bamboo Bar for our last night, and Spanish foodfor dinner before that. (it’s nearby the Bamboo Bar, you can’t miss it. I can’t remember the name unfortunately)

A few points to note:

  1. Mozzie infestation: Especially at night. It’s a bloodfest. If you frequently get bites in your own country (less mozzie-ish country, that is), you should plaster yourself all over with mozzie stickers here.
  2. It’s expensive: Bali, it seems, more than the other Indonesian states, charges way too high. A day tour package is at least USD$65 and at most a hundred. So watch out for the lowest prices. Haggle, if you can.
  3. Bring good walking shoes: You’re probably going to do a lot of walking during the day tours so bring along a pair of comfy walking shoes. I brought a high-cut converse pair of shoes and suffered abrasion bites from the shoe’s high flap :(
  4. Mind you, volcanoes aren’t hot. They’re cold at the top. Contrary to popular belief (or maybe it’s just me), volcanoes are just like mountains when you climb to the top. I can’t believe I was so silly to have thought otherwise. So bring proper thick jackets when you go volcano trekking!
  5. Adventure water rafting (don’t try the commercialised ones for the real kick!): At first, we thought that we’d be tumbling over three meters high waterfalls in our dinghy. It was quite smooth-sailing, nothing scary. I’d have to say that USS’s Jurassic World water rapids ride was a lot more hair-raising. We went to the Ayung river. I can’t recommend you others because we didn’t get to try ‘em, but if you’re looking for a real thrill, you might want to seek out another river.
  6. Taxis are a convenience. Watch out for over-friendly taxi drivers, too.
    1. The taxis are affordable, even if the day tours aren’t.
    2. I also can’t help thinking it’s because of tourism that has made these taxi drivers a whole lot more “open” than they would usually be… Some would even go as far as to invite you out for drinks and stuff – see what your limits are and act accordingly. Don’t be pressured into thinking you’ll be a prude / rude if you refuse.
  7. Indonesian and Western food galore. Yup, a lot of the shops sell a variety of Indonesian and Western food. We absolutely enjoyed the rich flavours of the Nasi Goreng, Ayam Penyet, Mee Soto and Balinese Chicken Soup. The average pricing for a local dish would be between RP15,000 to RP25,000.
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Wedding Ring

ring

It wasn’t anything special, really. No fireworks of epiphany, nor people trumpeting things, loudly in my face.

I was on the way home after work today and I caught sight of an indian man’s wedding ring. It was wedged uncomfortably on his oversized fourth finger – and it looked to me the most ordinary thing on earth. Haven’t I seen enough rings and bands? Then a thought jumps into my mind.

Behind every wedding ring, there’s an extraordinary story. A story so powerful it brought two utterly opposite worlds together, driving all opposition away. A story that survived and fought through time. One that bore the marks of giddy happiness, irrelevant nonsense, inside jokes, cuddles, melancholic flavours…

And as I gazed at his pressed hand against the tampered glass of the MRT seat, I wondered deeply. What was his story like? Was he still very much in love with his wife? How long have they been married? What was his first feelings like? Did he know he was to marry her? Why did he love her? I had so many thoughts.

With no probable answers in sight.

Then the indian man got off a couple of stops later.

His hand left a mark on the glass, and I was still in my dreamy state. I made certain one thing: I knew I’d want a wedding ring with a beautiful story that lasts. Really lasts.

Wedding Ring Poem

Till the sun wears out or Mars burns dry
Till the moon stops shining or the stars fall and die
Till the dreamers stop dreaming
And the oceans part ways
The creatures within stop singing

Till rain is no more
And the skies melt away
Till the clouds dissolve
And the earth give way

I cannot stop loving you.

Soap and Jesus

Today Reinhard Bonnke visited my church.

He is a funny man, someone with traits similar to that of the jolly G.K Chesterton. He has that same uncanny ability to cook up spot-on and hilarious analogies in seconds, leaving the congregation in laughing fits… which we could never quite recover from.

A funny, meek and wise guy

Reinhard is very down-to-earth and doesn’t take himself seriously. Dressed in oversized trousers and blazers, he clownishly joked about how his name was totally inappropriate and unpronounceable in a country like Africa. And how he threw his english exercise book into the trench to rid of his guilt of failing english so bad it was like an olympic record (he had 5 red marks on a single word for dictation). He also good-humouredly shared about how his first crusade in the National Stadium in africa had only a turnout of 100 people (“including himself,” he added with a laugh).

“Better an old man with fire than a young man without,” Reinhard said light-heartedly, when he talked about his age and having Facebook followers below the age of 24.

Despite all his wisecracks, one easily senses the firm and deep anchorage in this 73-year old man with an exuberant step and cheerful laugh. An absolute believer in the power of Jesus, Reinhard declares, “Philosophy does nothing for the wife-beater, nor does it give comfort to the beaten wife,” and continues, “Only the power of the blood of Jesus saves. He is the only Saviour!”

Of Witches and Warlords…

The congregation lapped up all his stories as a missionary to africa, including the story of how the world’s most powerful witch went into an asthma attack at the start of his conference after his usual booming “Hallelujah” greeting. That incident was after 4 other minion-witches couldn’t stand in his presence when he preached and sent for the “queen-witch”. One of the 4 warlords (aka bouncers) who was with the queen-witch later returned to share this story with Reinhard. Today, that warlord is an evangelist in africa.

Of Soaps and Jesus

This admirable German pastor shared other amazing stories and testimonies, but his experience with an atheist on TV struck a chord most with me. Here’s what happened:

Reinhard was invited to a TV show where he was to have a debate with an atheist on live television. The show rolled on live and the atheist jumped the gun straight on him. “How can we know Jesus’ blood saves? He shed his blood 2000 years ago, yet 2000 years later, the world is worse than it was before!” The atheist was confident and well-prepared, so he was surprised when Reinhard said, “Mister, i’d like to reply that question.”

“Soap is everywhere, is it not? Yet, may I ask, why are people all over the world still dirty? They know they need the soap. But standing next to even the world’s most powerful soap wouldn’t help them if they would only just stand there staring at the soap. They’ve got to reach out to grab a hold of that bar of soap and apply it to themselves. Then and only then would they realise the cleansing power of that soap.

Likewise, mister, the power of the blood of Jesus cannot be seen unless one reaches out to it, takes it and applies it to one’s life. My good man, I’m sure if you would do that, you will never be the same again.”

At that shocking and clever comeback, the atheist slumped back in his chair as the show went off the air.

After the show, the atheist followed Reinhard to the carpark where he was going to drive back to his house, and whispered (though the carpark was empty) to him, asking if he would pray for him. Which he gladly did.

What an inspiring man of God. We’re so blessed to have him visit us today :)

The creatures speak out

Yeats collected poems

Read this and immediately loved it :o) W.B Yeats wrote this poem about commonplace creatures speaking out about the majesty and loveliness of God. A great poem.

The Moorfowl exclaims

“Who holds the world between His bill

and made us strong or weak

Is an undying moorfowl, and He lives beyond the sky.

The rains are from His dripping wing,

the moonbeams from His eye.

The Lotus speaks

I passed a little further on and heard a lotus talk:

Who made the world and ruleth it, He hangeth on a stalk,

For i am in His image made, and all this tinkling tide

Is but a sliding drop of rain between His petals wide.

The Roebuck wistfully whispers

A little way within the gloom a roebuck raised his eyes

Brimful of starlight, and he said: The Stamper of the Skies,

He is a gentle roebuck; for how else, I pray, could He

Conceive a thing so sad and soft, a gentle thing like me?”

– The Indian upon God, W.B. Yeats

sentimental streak

The phantom of the opera will be performing in singapore soon, so I’ve been getting into the mood of the play’s lovely songs. This one’s a personal favourite :)

RAOUL
No more talk of darkness,
Forget these wide-eyed fears
I’m here, nothing can harm you
my words will warm and calm you
Let me be your freedom,
let daylight dry your tears.
I’m here with you, beside you,
to guard you and to guide you…

CHRISTINE
Say you love me every waking moment,
turn my head with talk of summertime…
Say you need me with you now and always…
Promise me that all you say is true
that’s all I ask of you

RAOUL
Let me be your shelter
let me be your light
You’re safe, No one will find you
your fears are far behind you…

CHRISTINE
All I want is freedom,
a world with no more night
and you, always beside me, to hold me and to hide me…

RAOUL
Then say you’ll share with me
one love, one lifetime
let me lead you from your solitude
Say you need me with you here, beside you…
anywhere you go, let me go too
Christine, that’s all I ask of you…

CHRISTINE
Say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime…
say the word and I will follow you…
BOTH:
Share each day with me,
each night, each morning…
CHRISTINE
Say you love me…

RAOUL
You know I do…

BOTH
Love me – that’s all I ask of you
Anywhere you go let me go too
Love me – that’s all I ask of you.

I’ve never seen Him but i believe he’s beautiful

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“You never saw Him, yet you love Him. You still don’t see Him, yet you trust Him – with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’ve been looking forward to: total salvation.” – 1 Peter 1:8-9

“They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right.” – 1 Peter 2:21-25

“You did it. You changed my wild lament into whirling dance, you ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers. I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about you God, my God, I can’t thank you enough.” – Psalm 30