Gimme Shelter — In a Balinese Elephant Cave

© Stephanie Glaser

Kurt and I with Eddie and Kasey © Stephanie Glaser

Goa Gajah or the “Elephant Cave” is a beautiful ancient Hindu complex near Ubud, Bali (what isn’t beautiful in Bali?) The entrance is a bit intimidating since it looks like a dragon’s mouth.  A place to worship, the Inside of the cave is rather small and at one corner stands a small statue of the Hindu deity, Ganesha, who has an elephant head. Photography is not permitted, and visitors and worshippers, alike, must cover their legs (except children and this was good since it was so hot and humid, the cave was somewhat stifling!)

A bathing temple with fountains is also part of the lovely grounds. Another open air building stands nearby in the peaceful and serene setting. It is believed the spiritual complex was built around the 11th century as a sanctuary for Hindu priests.

© Stephanie Glaser

The bathing temple © Stephanie Glaser 2010

© Stephanie Glaser

Eddie and Kurt check out the grounds © Stephanie Glaser

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The Travel Ahh…Meeting locals

© Stephanie Glaser 2003

© Stephanie Glaser 2003

Isn’t one of the reasons we travel to meet people from other cultures? It’s the best way to gain new perspectives and an appreciation of the world. Kurt and I met the woman above on a bus traveling to Marigot in St. Maarten. Friendly and helpful, she told us about a local market to visit and enlightened us on some Caribbean customs.

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The Travel Ahh….Boats

© Stephanie Glaser

There’s something about a boat (like the one above in Sanur, Bali.) Partly, I think it’s about water, imagining the waves sloshing and spraying against the sides, but, to me, it’s comforting to see boats — fishing boats especially. When traveling, I always try to get shots with boats displaying flags.

Again, scenes like this are part of a culture’s daily life that, really, would it be all that exciting if I saw this at home? Actually, I am just that snap happy, because, not even thinking about it, I took photos this summer of boats in my home state of Minnesota.

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The Travel Ahh…A Lasting Impression

© Stephanie Glaser

When traveling with kids, you hope they will appreciate culture as much as you do. You also, when they are young, hope they will remember what they have experienced. In 2010, the beautiful dances of Bali, in particular, Legong Dancing, definitely made an impression on my daughter Kasey.

We went to a show in Ubud that was spectacular. Then, little did we know, we would see more Legong dancing in several restaurants (geared for tourists). The striking music always caught our attention — especially Kasey’s. She would look around and wait for the princesses to come out.

For her, these beautiful princesses, who were unlike the Disney princesses that she loves, captivated her even more. The music that complements the dancing so well also stuck with her.

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Gimme Shelter — The “Bonsai Tree” Temple in Bali

© Stephanie Glaser

Pura Taman Ayun Temple — or the Royal Temple of Mengwi in Bali, has structures that remind me of neatly groomed bonsai trees. I realize that does not sound technical, but who wants to sound technical when talking about such a spiritual and serene place? Balinese Hindu Temples have a calming effect — especially since the settings for many of these religious sites involve water. This beautiful open-air temple complex includes a moat, garden, terraced courtyards and holy shrines.

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The Travel Ahh….Patriotism is Universal

© Stephanie Glaser

Sometimes it’s easy to forget when you’re on a vacation in a beautiful place like Bali that the importance of history, independence, and patriotism is present in addition to the beautiful rice terraces, pristine beaches and silhouetted temple sunsets.

That’s why I love this photo. Kurt, the kids and I were browsing in a market area and we saw this boy outside of one of the shops. He grabbed a nearby flag and began waving it. It was a very cool moment since he was clearly proud of being Indonesian. I don’t know if it was a statement to us like, “remember, Americans, we are patriotic, too.” It did not seem that way. He appeared eager to share the flag with us.

The bottom photo gave me the same feeling. Here were some men standing next to a statue representing the fight for Indonesian Independence. These photos are more important to me than the stunning sunset photos since they show a side of the locals that I don’t think you always get to see in an island paradise tourist destination.

© Stephanie Glaser

The Travel Ahh…

© Stephanie Glaser

Even at our hotel in Sanur, Bali, we saw a lifeguard place a “Canang Sari” and sticks of incense on the cement pool deck near the waterside. These simple but beautiful baskets are traditional offerings meant to thank the Hindu gods, and you see them everywhere in Bali.

The baskets, made out of coconut leaves, contain flowers, rice and sometimes money. It is a comforting sight to see the Canang Sari and these offerings remind everyone, including tourists, the importance of following traditions and being thankful.

Ditching the Strollers in Bali

At the Denpasar Airport. No car seats
© Stephanie Glaser

No kid car seats. I convinced myself this was no big deal as I looked in the eight-passenger seat van that had arrived to pick us up at the Denpasar Airport. Calm down. This is Bali and things are a bit different here. I asked the driver, Waylan, if there were some seats lying around that needed to be set up.

“No, I am sorry, we don’t have car seats for the little ones,” Waylan said as he hoisted up my three-year-old daughter Kasey and tickled her chin. He then leaned over to give her five-year-old brother, Eddie, a high-five.

“They will be fine,” he reassured my husband Kurt and me with a smile displaying the most reflective set of white teeth I’ve seen aside from a Crest White Strips ad. “I am an excellent driver.”

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The Friday Travel Ahh….

Even holy men need a break!
© Stephanie Glaser

As anyone who travels knows, there are missteps, mishaps and misadventures, but then there are those perfect moments when we say: “yeah, this is why I travel.” A Travel Ahh..

When we visited Tanah Lot, a sacred Hindu temple in Bali, Kurt and I were excited to get a rice blessing at the site of a holy water spring below the temple. The Hindu holy men brush water on your forehead and then they adhere a few rice grains. After the rice cluster is secured, the priests place a plumeria behind your ear. It’s lovely event. I snapped the top photo while waiting for our turn. Even holy men need a break! The bottom photos are of our kids Eddie and Kasey getting their blessings.

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Ballistic Bali Belly, a Squat Toilet and the Perfect Sunset

The sunset we almost didn’t see.
© Stephanie Glaser

I knew it would happen. We were in Southeast Asia; it was inevitable. I just didn’t think that our encounter with a squat toilet would take place at Bali’s spectacular Tanah Lot right as the sun moved in for an incredible and blazing appearance.

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