The trip was an AMAZING LIFE CHANGING ADVENTURE. The WHOLE EXPERIENCE was BREATH-TAKING, WONDERFUL and UNIQUE. Now Bali feels like my second home where I will always be welcomed back.
Before leaving home we joined a YAHOO GROUP where we asked questions, answered surveys and discussed activities. There was reading material about places of interest, our accommodations, what to pack, schedule of workshops, activities and more. Our ARRIVAL and DEPARTURE were well prepared and professional. It was great to walk out of the airport terminal after such a long journey and be warmly greeted by maRia and friends who waited for us with air conditioned vehicles. The ACCOMMODATIONS at the PALACE were MODEST yet ELEGANT. They served us well, dorm style housing for the younger ladies in the group and more private rooms for the adults.
The MEALS were great, from soup to nuts. I loved the extremes and the variety of tastes was DELICIOUS. The night market was an adventurous and fun place to go. I also enjoyed dining in the villages we visited and sampling the different EATERIES from small, authentic places to hotel restaurants, to catered meals at the palace. I was very satisfied with the TRANSPORTATION and our DRIVERS. Not every driver arrives promptly at 9AM with gifts in hand. Prince Ari was an absolute joy, so knowledgeable and willing to share his religion, and culture that I felt I received an education each time he drove us.
This was nothing like a typical tourist experience, it was TOTAL IMMERSION in Balinese culture. I learned something at every turn and felt the combination of workshops provided a basis for understanding Balinese arts in the CONTEXT of CULTURE and RELIGION. This allowed me to truly appreciate Balinese arts because we tried it ourselves and then were amazed to see shadow play, DANCE and GAMELAN MUSIC outside of our classes at the palace, in REAL CEREMONIES. My favorite workshop was shadow play, especially when we improvised dialogue. I was so happy to be able to follow Pak Nartha's SHADOW PLAY PERFORMANCE only because of what we learned in class. After CARVING a shadow character. I developed a deep appreciation of the amount of work it takes to make each character, especially the Tree of Life. I was pleasantly surprised that were able to learn so much yet still have time to RELAX, get enough SLEEP, and SEE other parts of Bali.
The cremation ceremony was particularly MEMORABLE, partly because it was so unexpected and such a WINDOW INTO BALInese religion, culture and the ARTS all at once. Another day we witnessed Balinese hospitality when we attended a ceremony to bless a new house - we were whisked off to eat lunch even though we were total strangers to the hosts. The temple ceremonies were EXCEPTIONAL, an opportunity to be part of an ANCIENT RITUAL under the FULL MOON in ceremonial Balinese dress. The massages will always be UNFORGETTABLE for the COMPLETE RELAXATION that occurred during every one. The field trips were wonderful for seeing BEACHES, the COUNTRYSIDE, MUSEUMS, the MONKEY FOREST and we even RODE ELEPHANTS
MaRia was the CONSUMMATE GUIDE and INTERPRETER, always trying to make sure our needs were met. She is an ASTONISHING person, FULL OF LIFE and JOY, well suited to this vocation. The whole experience ASBOLUTELY EXCEEDED MY EXPECTATIONS MANY TIMES OVER. It was not just about going to an EXOTIC ISLAND and seeing STUNNING and BEAUTIFUL SCENERY. I gained an UNDERSTANDING of a FOREIGN CULTURE in a relatively short period of time. I BECAME FRIENDS with a warm and loving group of people with whom I will be able to visit again and again. I had three of the MOST RELAXING MASSAGES ever. The hot stone massage was unbelievable, so was the one with hot herbal packs. The chocolate massage was simply exotic. Compared to the USA, prices for the treatments were incredibly reasonable - in fact, inconceivable. I have the MOST OUTSTANDING PHOTOS of anywhere that I have been. All of this was possible because of our WELL-TRAVELED, WELL- TRAVERSED GUIDE of Indonesian culture, who is fluent in the language and customs. It's more than knowing where to go, it's gaining a whole new family.
WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT FROM A TRIP TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD!
MaRia is fabulous. MaRia is FABULOUS, MaRia is fabulous. This Indonesian CULTURE BEARER, a female Jimmy Durante, comes with POSITIVE ATTITUDE, BOUNDLESS ENERGY and enough vaudeville jokes for a lifetime. It's hard not to love her instantly :-) There are two kinds of travelers - those that wish to experience a country vicariously - from a distance - and those that wish to leave it feeling that they have CAPTURED ITS' ESSENCE for however long they wish to keep it. I am the latter, and wish only to travel this way. If you wish to SKIP THE BUS TOURS with matching hats and T-shirts, and have a say or DESIGN in YOUR own EXPERIENCE - TRAVEL WITH MaRia. You'll be SAFE, knowledgeable and GIFTED with a TREMENDOUS SPIRIT who can share with you her love of Balinese culture. If you are rigid, inflexible and want menus that are always in English, findher route :-)
Julia R. Ohm, Betty Bryson Carr, Becky Carr