A Lizard at Breakfast, A Snake at my Doorstep and Flowers on My Pillow

photo by Ardiles Rante

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Australians could be said to belong to one of two groups of people: Those who’ve been to Bali, and the (six or seven) others who haven’t.

For 50 years, I was a proud member of the second group.

The ones that secretly considered ourselves superior to the yobbos and bogans in Group 1, who lacked the imagination to holiday in more interesting and exotic locations. I mean really… all those wild Australians cavorting on Kuta beaches with all the sex and the drugs and the drinking-themselves-to-oblivion? No way.

All my preconceived ideas changed in one instant the morning I woke up in the middle of a rainforest, next to a fast flowing river, on the side of a hill in Ubud, Bali.

Everything is different when a chameleon lizard watches you eat breakfast from an overhanging branch, and you can’t decide if you’re more entranced by the experience or more worried it’s going to fall into your omelette.

Or when you walk along paths winding around beautiful lotus ponds guarded by weird little lichen-covered statues and you narrowly miss stepping on a little snake at your doorstep.

And most of all when you get back to your room and find fresh flowers on your pillow, every time.

Bali was surprising. I only saw a fraction of it, and what I saw entranced me. Ubiquitous little offerings of beauty left everywhere, narrow streets lined with tall swaying decorations, water temples floating on peaceful lakes, bizarre giant sculptures,  volcanic mountains, thousand year old temple ruins, breathtaking waterfalls, smiling gentle people who use flowers in ways I hadn’t previously imagined, (very free range) chickens and men with flowers in their hair.

In the west we have preciousness about our creative expression. We see ourselves as ‘creative’ or ‘not having a creative bone in our bodies’. We go to classes to learn how to make art, and then we allow our inner critic to run rampant, telling us our art isn’t good enough. We’re either the privileged few who buy art, or we’re not; the sort that visit art galleries or don’t. We can go through our whole lives and never really sit with beautiful, handmade things, because we’re just not that sort of people.

In Bali this would be impossible.

There is almost a casual disregard for the extreme evidences of creative expression everywhere. And I mean everywhere. From the delicately arranged offerings left on the ground for people to walk around (or step on, nobody seemed to mind) to the  intricate stone statues at every corner. Gardens that made my mouth water. People sitting in shopfronts hand-carving the most ridiculously exquisite furniture.

And then there were the rice fields. Now, I was born in Penang, so rice fields hold no quaint, novelty value for me! But the terraced rice fields of Bali were something. True landscape art, so breathtaking it made my head spin.

My daughter, Mary, said at one point, “I feel like telling them all  ‘just chill’! It’s almost too much, too much beauty!”

All this in only 3 days.

Never saw a bogan even once.

Yup, Bali was surprising.

 

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Comments 43

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you Suzanne! It was a treasured experience that I feel so fortunate to have had, and been able to share with folks like you on the other side of the world 🙂

    1. Post
      Author

      Aww thanks Jen! Kind words, I’m honoured. and truly, I had NO idea Bali was like that!! If not for the heat and general disorganisation that characterises most of South East Asia, it actually rivaled my beloved New Zealand. Or maybe I just get really excited when I travel 🙂

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you Chandra! The place was a feast for the eyes so photography was unavoidable 🙂 My daughter and I were there in mid April.

  1. Thank you for another gorgeous and inspiring post, Malini. I’ve always wanted to go to Bali, and now seeing it through your eyes makes me NEED to go there!
    I especially love your observations on our western mentalities about art. When you witness people of meager means creating lives of such beauty and peace, it makes me wonder why in our “affluent” world we allow ourselves to live amidst blight and chaos, neglect and ugliness. And making art seems to be seen as an unattainable goal for so many, as if only an anointed few are capable of it.
    I’m going outside and make some art petal offerings!!!

    1. Post
      Author

      Lisa, I’m so glad you noticed all that – it really came home to me in a big way. It’s not even so much about East and West – I was born and raised in the East, and believe me, the mentalities there can be just as devoid of beauty and peace!!! The parts that I SAW of Bali, however, had a different feel. I stayed away from the touristy beaches, actively sought peaceful places, and noticed how people lived. I asked my Balinese driver very probing and detailed questions…it was quite an eye opener. Granted I was only there for 3 days. I hope you get to go one day, and thanks for stopping by!

  2. You certainly got me thinking about the concept of art versus reward. Or art versus prestige. Or art versus…its just an everyday thing like doing the washing, a skill expected of all. Some seriously interesting thoughts.

    I’ve never been to Bali, but I have been to Cairns for my honeymoon many moons ago. I didn’t take any art equipment at the time, because I thought I wouldn’t need it. Bad mistake. I ended up in empty mall in Kuranda purchasing a sketchbook, pencil, eraser, sharpener and a small packet of coloured pencils from a stationery shop, desperate to draw something down before I lost the concept. The tropics are mired with inspiration and colour. A totally different world from little old Adelaide (though we do have beauty down here, just of a different sort…and Perth, wow, that holiday was even better than Cairns :D).

    So you have turned my impression of Bali, since I will admit to similar thoughts to those you initially had 😀 I think I’d forgotten that it is still part of a world that continues to be beautiful wherever we are.

    Beautiful photos. And wonderfully written post.

    Here’s a question…I was reading your intro page yesterday and you mentioned teaching in South Australia. Will you be doing that at some point, because although I’m not a beginner, I’d love to see you and your work.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, they were inspiring.

    Best wishes,
    Liz

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Liz
      Thank you for that beautiful reply – I love reading my readers’ thoughts, it makes the whole thing come alive for me, so I appreciate you taking the time 🙂 I’m glad I’ve changed your opinion of holidaying in Bali!!

      And yes, I will be teaching in the Barossa Valley later this year – at Seppetsfields Winery actually! Would love to meet you there. My workshops can certainly accommodate non-beginners. I teach my process – everyone’s a beginner in someone else’s process, so it’s all good. I’ll be posting the dates in my newsletter soon, so just sign up for that one and you’ll be first to know!

      Take care and thanks for stopping by!

  3. Once again Malini stunning, magnificent! I was right there with you. I’m now ready to pack my bags and go. I too am in the second group…..thank you for reminding us of the true beauty of Bali.. x

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you Stephanie!! I’m really chuffed that I’m discovering so many Aussies who shared my disdain for the ‘Bali holiday’ and now I’m TURNING them:)) Yay! I really appreciate your kind words too Stephanie x

  4. Thank you for describing Ubud and sharing your experience as a first time Bali-er. I too for 20 years was a proud member of the second group. Ubud completely transformed my ideas and taught me a lesson about how prejudice, during the time it is within you) and until it is completely shattered by truth), could easily be mistaken as knowledge, wisdom or life experience. 😉

    1. Post
      Author

      WELL SAID!! I thought I was wise but I was just prejudiced 🙂 Thank you for sharing your experience all those months ago and starting me on this adventure with Mary! Yay!

  5. ” I know your face” you awesome thing! Thank you for sharing, your posts lift my flagging spirit. You know the rest!!! Always! xxxxx

    1. Post
      Author

      Awww, why do I always get choked up when I read just ONE line of your message! my buddy, LOVE LOVE LOVE xox

  6. I, too, have never travelled to Bali on the assumption that it was a place not for the likes of me.
    With your story and the beautiful photos, I am now willing to change my mind.
    Beauty, they say is in the eye of the beholder, and you have shown in words and pictures,
    the beauty that is Bali, not the idea I had of wild parties etc of the young folk who travel there.
    Thank you for opening my eyes.

    1. Post
      Author

      Robin you are the best! Thank you so much for such a lovely comment. I am so honoured and thrilled that you enjoyed reading it. Much love from me xx

  7. Malini, such a beautifully written experience – I have never been to Bali and you have given me such a gorgeous peek at it through your eyes… perhaps I shall add it to my “wanna go” list now 🙂 Mandy x

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Mandy, I’m really surprised at the number of Aussies that have been telling me they’ve never been to Bali and were never going! Mary and I are so glad that we’re helping to alter negative impressions of Bali 🙂

  8. thanks for this – i really enjoyed seeing another ‘side’ of Bali – it has never appealed to me due to the fact that it is often portrayed as the ‘party place’ – but perhaps now I will be enticed for it’s beauty! 🙂

  9. Thank you so much,your discription bought back all the lovely memories of my trip to Sacred River retreat. Once seen you never forget! I have not been back but my heart was touched forever! I recieved the gift of textile art whilst there and I have been heavily involved since, just a two hour moving meditation painting Silk and I was hooked.So thanks malini I feel wonderful! Your world seems normal for you, I am glad Gregis feeling mostly well. Love to you both. Bobbie

    1. Post
      Author

      Oh my gosh, that sounds divine, Bobbie – a 2 hour moving meditation painting silk!! Bobbie, you are such a treasure, thank you for that lovely feedback – I’m really honoured that my description brought back such profound and beautiful memories and feelings. x

  10. Mal, mal…you look like those people in the travel brochures!! Thanks for the piccies, I know how lovingly picked they are. Made me a bit homesick actually. I love that you realize the inner beauty of the people express through art. Bali is known as the Island of the Gods..that it embodies nirvana on Earth. Every little thing that they do or create therefore is an offering befitting to the Gods. Beauty or art therefore is a standard they live by and homage of gratitude that they have been blessed with bounteous nature. It is not something you learn externally, but intrinsically a reflection of the nobility of your soul. When you set foot on the island, no matter how humbling the abode you will always be greeted with sincere hospitality for you are a guest of the Gods, and they are the guardian of the legacy of the royal kingdom. They are a bit blase with goodbyes as well, because they know you’ll always come back 🙂

    1. Post
      Author

      wow, thanks gorgeous – that is an AMAZING description of Bali. So glad you wrote it down for me, I’ll treasure it. No one has expressed it like that before. xox

  11. You look so happy and relaxed in these photos Malini! Bali obviously agrees with you 🙂
    I guess every place has it’s unique beauty and wisdom, sometimes you just have to seek it out and look beyond all the ‘fluff’

    1. Post
      Author

      Carol that is so true. The thing is in Asia, maybe because I was born and raised there, it is much for difficult for me. And I’m very familiar with Indonesia too, and believe me, I’ve never had THAT kind of experience anywhere else in the country!! Bali certainly was special… and it helped that we stayed in a beautiful hotel and had a driver :)))

  12. I had the same feeling as you about Bali until I was honoured to be invited to share my friend’s 60 th birthday there with her last Sept. your exquisite photos brought back so many wonderful memories, Malani. Thank you.

    1. Post
      Author

      So glad you can relate, Jill! How silly we are to make judgements before seeing with our own eyes! I’m so glad I did! Looking forward to sharing the weekend with you at Take Flight soon 🙂

  13. Malini, your pictures and description of Bali is sensational.
    It is all so true, us westerners go to Kuta and over indulge in alcohol and partying. Bali has so much beauty and it is a shame people don’t explore other parts of Indonesia. It seems like you had a wonderful trip, your photos are excellent and really portrays different aspects of the Balinese culture. Thanks for sharing this with us!

    and also what camera do you use, it is fantastic!! I’m really loving the photo of yourself in the mirror of the car and you laughing with the balinese children 🙂

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you Christine 🙂 I’m happy that you enjoyed the post and the photos! I use a Canon Kiss DSLR, and I spend a LOT of time in post production 🙂

  14. Hi Malini, Thankyou for such a lovely post – so glad you and Mary had a lovely peaceful time. I felt quite homesick. Lots of love

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello blossom, so nice of you to pop by 🙂 Now I understand why you have a home there! I might have to take you up on that offer of helping me run a retreat there! Take care 🙂

  15. Stunning photos Malini.

    I have been to bali many times. (Not since my daughter was born) Each time has been a different experience. I love Ubud.
    Your photos capture it so well x

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you Fiona, glad you enjoyed the photos! It was so beautiful that picking ones to post was really hard! Hope you get to go again very soon (with your daughter!) x

    1. Post
      Author
  16. I was also part of that second group for 29 years- I’m so glad I went and then inspired Rashel to go and then we inspired you too!!

    Definitely enjoyed every moment of my time in Ubud, Bali… Such beauty everywhere!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Melly! Yes, it all began with you…and now so many more people’s opinions have changed because of YOU! Thank you for sharing it all with me in such detail that night. I remember it all so well…magical moments 🙂

  17. same, same, once a proud member of the second group. I say once as I now have a Balinese private company, I own land, rent a home in a Balinese community &, am married (recognised & sanctioned thru Islam/Moslem faith) to the most amazing & beautiful Jawa woman. I will eventually retire there & live out my years surrounded by the people, the magic, the beauty, the serentity of this fantastic island. thank you Malini.

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