“We’re with the Princesses”

legong dancers gazing outUbud, Bali, August 2010

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Balinese dancers blow Disney princesses out of the water — and I’m not just talking about the Island of the God’s own Indian Ocean. It’s any body of water. No question. I didn’t even have to look at the reaction of my three-year-old daughter Kasey, who before the Legong dance performance began, was partial to the blonde contingency of Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel  and Cinderella.

dancers in unison

My own eyes confirmed that Balinese dancers reigned supreme as we watched them flex their fingers backward, snap their fans, jerk their heads to the side and slide their bare feet at 90 degree angles across the stage in slow-mo unison — not to mention, the Balinese “princesses” displayed more gold than the Magic Kingdom’s reserves. 

more gamelanThe striking sound of the gamelan, a collection of Indonesian percussion instruments, amped up the dramatic presentation. It sounded a bit like an ensemble consisting of a hard core heavy metal xylophone, steel drum and reedy flute. The xylophone, or metallophone, when struck by the musicians’ mallets, prompted the hairs to rise on the back of my neck.

Meanwhile, the dancers’ movements transfixed Kasey and my five-year-old son, Eddie, in addition to securing a second wind for them. Even Kurt, my husband who wasn’t always as exuberant about all the cultural activities I dragged him to see, sat ramrod straight with focus. At the very least, the dancers distracted us from the heinous humidity that still hovered in the stagnant August evening air.

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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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The Friday Travel Ahh….

© 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..

This series of photos was taken at a beach in Sanur, Bali. My son, Eddie, who was five at the time, was intrigued not only by a traditional fishing boat but by some local boys who were playing in the water. Eddie slowly made his way over to check things out. The local boys included him in their water games. Eddie definitely had some Balinese buds by the end of the day. This, to me, is a little slice of the world in perfect harmony.

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Leaving our kid with a stranger in Bali (But it’s Putu!)

Eddie and Putu, best buds.
© Stephanie Glaser

Steph’s note: This story is more of a Travel Oops when I tell it in the United States, and I see people’s reactions. It still doesn’t seem truly like an oops to me. 

Everybody on the island of Bali treated Kurt, my kids Eddie and Kasey, and me like VIPs  — Brangelina even. Asian tourists often asked to take photos of the kids, who are blonde and blue-eyed, or even pose for pictures with them. We happily consented.

There were no strangers in Bali. We made friends with everyone we met and even flew kites with local boys at a beach in Sanur. Each driver we hired to take us sightseeing instantly became our best friend. Putu, a young, skinny man who had spiky black hair and wore a mint green button down shirt, was our favorite.

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Drinking poop coffee in Bali

Our kind host gives us the Kopi Luwak — gulp!
Photo © Stephanie Glaser

Coffee – to me, is a delicacy wherever I am.  I love it brewed any way, shape or form. However, I didn’t realize this standard philosophy would put to the test in Bali.

When given the opportunity to visit a family compound outside of Ubud where they grew and harvested coffee, I didn’t hesitate to go and neither did my husband Kurt.  “Awesome!” was my only thought.

After touring the grounds with our kids in tow, we were invited to a tasting — essentialy heaven. Sitting at a picnic table, you leisurely sipped the many varieties of teas and coffees offered by one of the family hosts. Near the table, a hyper mongoose paced in its cage. It seemed rather random, but there was a purpose for this creature as we would soon find out.

At this particular compound, the family offered a highly prized coffee, Kopi Luwak, which is processed in the stomach of the mongoose. The coffee beans are fed to the mongoose and while he or she is digesting them, the enzymes and acids in the stomach break down the coffee, thereby eliminating bitterness.

The catch: the only way to get the processed beans is by waiting for the mongoose to poop them out. Once that has happened, someone gets to pick the beans from the dung and remove the outer layer of the bean so it is finally ready to be roasted. Our host explained this to us and gave us a brochure to read.

Frankly, it sounded like something my son Eddie made up. Like any five-year-old, most of his revelations and stories involved poop, farts, boogers or any other gross products that shoot or drain out of an orifice.

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