Ubud: Tirta Empul

 

 

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On our tour around Ubud we stopped at Pura Tirta Empul, one of the holiest temples in Bali that dates back to the 10th century. It sits on top of an active spring that is believed to have been created by the Hindu god Indra. According to the legend, Indra’s powers had been poisoned by Mayadanawa and he pierced the earth to create a fountain that would restore his forces and lend him immortality.

Today, worshippers come to visit the temple and take part in the ritual cleansing. The highlight of Tirta Empul is the long rectangular bath that is fed by twelve fountains, fueled with water from the holy spring. One can bring an offering to and be cleansed by each fountain.

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I knew coming into the trip that I wanted to visit the temple and, moreover, that I wanted to participate in the ritual cleansing. Adam and I are not practicing Hindus, though we are actively religious people. Perhaps that makes my desire contradictory, but personally I wanted to experience a local custom while simultaneously paying reverence and respect to the tradition behind it.

Our guide, Wayan, was enthusiastic about our participation, but I have to admit that Adam was a little skeptical at first. I think he was afraid of it being a tourist trap, but in reality we were some of the only tourists who took part in the ritual. And in the end Adam was grateful for the experience, as was I.

During the cleansing you offer up a prayer and then completely submerge your head in the fountain water three times before moving on to the next fountain. It was a time of deep reflection and intention for me, a chance to reconnect with my own religious beliefs and motivations. Afterward, Wayan explained that some people might scoff him (or us) for “selling his religion” to tourists and visitors. He believes, however, that it is an opportunity for us to gain a greater understanding of the practices and traditions that make Bali special and unique. He can demonstrate his values and customs in a sacred space and offer visitors a truly special opportunity to connect with local life. It was a special morning that I will fondly think about forever.

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Shortly after we finished the ritual cleansing and changed back into dry clothing a traditional celebrating began with drums, offerings and a large parade into the temple. After our participation it felt really wonderful to see the temple come to life with activity.

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P1100153^^the holy spring

Traveling is, for me, about learning and exploring. I do believe, however, that there is a delicate balance involved when experiencing local customs and procedures. It is important to remember that locals are not props in a photo. They are living their everyday life and that is to be respected. We made every effort to respect the solemnity of the occasion and I think that went a long way toward ensuring we weren’t making a mockery of the ritual or doing it to satisfy a bulleted item on our bucket list. If anything I think it amounted to a fuller, richer experience.

How do you feel about this? I think it can be a bit polarizing: when to step in and when to step back.

 

 

Tuesday Book Club: Reading on the Honeymoon

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One afternoon while we were laying by the pool in Sanur I noticed that the couple a few chairs down from us was watching a TV program on their iPad. With so much beauty surrounding them, lush flora and fauna, slow-rolling waves, even the well maintained pool, I admit to being a little judgmental about their choice of entertainment. Who watches TV at the pool?

But, as I stuck my nose back in my book, I realized that I was similarly distracted from my own surroundings. Adam and I crushed books while we were on our trip and I can say with certainty that there were times when I completely lost touch with reality in favor of reading. So, does it matter if it’s TV or a book if it’s still distracting you from nature?

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I suppose it doesn’t really matter because nothing will stop me from wanting to simply devour books while on vacation. I love reading and I love reading without distraction or time restrictions even more. This trip–really most beach trips–was no exception. With nothing but time and a strict commitment to rest and relaxation it was the perfect opportunity to get lost in a book or two. I read three full books while we were on our trip and started a fourth, which I just finished last night. Our holiday was bookended by two 12-hour flights, plus connections, and those certainly helped add to the total page count.

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  • Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan: On our trip to Greece this summer I read Sullivan’s most recent novel The Engagements and really enjoyed her voyeuristic approach to love and relationships, both romantic and familial. Her second novel, Maine, offered a similarly juicy tale that satisfied all my longings for gossip and family drama–not in my own life, of course, only others’. It’s a spirited story of family feuds and long-held grudges, as well as our insatiable desire to rectify our wrongs. Sullivan’s writing is quick and witty and the story moved along at a perfect vacation pace. That is, there’s a lot of backstory, but if you’ve got the time to devote to family lore then Maine delivers with both tenderness and spunk. I thought it was wonderfully entertaining. IMG_5898

 

  • The Little Friend by Donna Tartt: Second in line, The Little Friend often doesn’t get the recognition of Tartt’s first and third books. The Secret History was hugely successful and satisfying and its hard to imagine the book that follows such success earning more than a consolation prize and a “you gave it your all” from editors, reviewers and readers. That said, I loved The Little Friend. It’s Harriet the Spy meets To Kill a Mockingbird meets Dickens. It’s a dark Southern Gothic filled with superstition, murder, youthful angst and thrilling twists. I suppose I’m not selling it as a true beach read, but it’s a book you want to devote some time to, much like her third novel The Goldfinch. Tartt is a master wordsmith and I am continually enthralled by her attention to detail and character development. The wicked dialogue (and dialect) is spot-on and her feisty little characters are a pleasure. IMG_5899

 

  • & Sons by David Gilbert: If Maine is about the obsession with family mythology from a female point of view, then & Sons is an excellent male counterpoint to those observations. Gilbert’s novel is about fathers and sons and the near impossibility of understanding, or even articulating, that relationship. As a woman it is somewhat hard to identify with the relationships, especially given how glib and sardonic they are. But, as a human, it’s captivating sociology and psychology. Adam read it first and loved it and I was equally moved by it. Despite the sadness inherent in every relationship, indeed every page, it is gut-bustingly funny at parts. The novel is almost too clever for its own good but I think you’ll be stunned by the narration, which is a true treat. Unreliable, self-serving, distasteful, the narrator drives this tale of pride and patrimony. Heavily doused with metaphors, similes, allusions and intertexutality it can require a bit of muscle (and forgiveness in its own right) to get through. But, I think you’ll like it.

I also read The Vacationers by Emma Straub, which I found in our hotel’s library. I zipped through it in 24 hours and appreciated the light humor after the density of The Little Friend. It was indulgent and funny but honestly I’m not sure I would recommend it save as a light beach read.

What are you reading? My book club starts next month and we’re beginning with Where’d You Go, Bernadette, which I read earlier this year. If you haven’t read it, it’s sharp and caustic and oddly moving given its spastic main character. Maria Semple excels at bringing the mixed media form out of a shameful hiding place and turns it into something hugely satisfying, like a contemporary mystery with a satiric edge. It’s perfect for a book club as Bernadette is a controversial character and you’ll have fun deciding if she’s sympathetic or just batshit.

 

Ubud: Part 1 (or, Most of It)

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I’m excited to share some photos from our honeymoon in Bali, beginning with Ubud! Ubud is the cultural capital of the province and is rich with tradition and history. Coastal Kuta and Seminyak might be the only places on the island that are more populated with tourists and expats, but Ubud certainly sees its fair share of visitors. It’s easy to see why, with its tranquil Hindu temples and rice paddies located just outside the city center.

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We stayed outside of the center, which was wonderfully relaxing. It was quiet and peaceful, yet the ride into town was only about ten minutes. We liked having a quiet retreat to return to each day.

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One morning we went out on the Campuhan Ridge walk and meandered through rice paddies and small villages. We started around 9:00 but the morning quickly warmed up and it turned out to be quite a toasty adventure. Though we consulted a map through various points in our route we will managed to get lost, making our tour several kilometers longer and sweatier.

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On another morning we hired a guide and took a long tour visiting various places that were on our sightseeing list. A note about organizing tours in Bali: don’t worry about leaving it until the last minute. It may seem like a cliche, but much of the area revolves on island time, and tours and events can often be organized with very little notice. We happened to hire someone who worked at our hotel and we set an itinerary the night before the tour. Almost everything is negotiable, price included, so make sure you’re clear about you’d like to see (and what isn’t important to you) and then set a price before you set off, ensuring you have your most memorable and enjoyable experience. It was super easy to put this day together and I’m so glad we did. That said, it’s nothing that we could have done beforehand, which takes a little bit of pressure off when you’re planning your trip up to months in advance. Be ready to go with the flow : )

IMG_5258^^our guide, Wayan

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Our first stop was the Tegalalang Rice Terraces just north of Ubud. It was truly stunning. Only a handful of people, mostly women, maintain the terraces and their scope and height were breathtaking. We walked through with our guide and I was grateful for a couple of gentlemen to help me down the steeper portions of the trail. If you visit, do note it’s mostly packed mud and wooden steps so be prepared with sturdy shoes and clothing you don’t mind getting dirty.

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Next we visited Gunung Kawi, an 11th-century temple complex in Tampaksiring, also north of Ubud. Within the complex you’ll find 7-meter shrines carved into the rock face that are beautiful and imposing.

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To get to the temple and the carvings you need to walk down almost 300 steps. It’s wonderful to do in 85-degree weather. Before you head down though, you’re invited to check out The Best View In The World. Well, probably the best.

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After huffing and puffing our way back up the stairs, and stopping for a brief lunch, we headed to Goa Gajah, or the Elephant Cave. Its English moniker is more of a gesture to its proximity to the Elephant River, as the cave itself is rather small. On the outside are carvings of demons and scary faces intended to ward off evil spirits. It was once used to hold hiding Hindu priests and you’ll find three statues inside toward the back, as well as small hiding niches.

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The cave is located on an active worship site with Hindu temples and a nearby Buddhist temple, suggesting that perhaps the cave also has some Buddhist significance. It’s a beautiful place to walk around and there are several spots for quiet contemplation and meditation.

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Later this week I’ll share the final component of our day trip. It was a really special experience that I want to devote a little more space to.

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One morning Adam got up early enough to see the sunrise. According to him the view wasn’t much, but I think the watercolor sky and stillness of the rice paddies is so soothing.

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Girl Time

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Are you a Lena Dunham fan? She is everywhere right now. Of course, since the runaway success of her show Girls, she and her career have been central for many a debate on feminism, “making it”, creativity and the role of the millenial. In short, it’s been hard to miss her over the past years, beginning with her successful movie Tiny Furniture (you can watch it on Netflix if you haven’t seen it yet–highly recommend).

It is the publication of her new book, set for next Tuesday, that has everyone buzzing about her with renewed fervor. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy of Not That Kind of Girl and I’m anxious to read it. So far it’s been highly praised for its candor and wit (no surprises there) and for Lena’s ability to explore the delicate balance between personal essay and “advice” without swaying too far into been-there-done-that-over-it territory. It feels like your friend is telling you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about her and far, far more. You can read more from the New York Times and the Washington Post if you’re interested.

In anticipation of the her book I’ve been trolling through interviews and articles about her and I really enjoyed this interview she did with Mindy Kaling. These two are killing it in comedy right now and it’s exciting to see such fresh voices collaborate and seem to genuinely enjoy one another.

What are your thoughts? Do you like Lena Dunham? Mindy Kaling? What about their shows? I love Girls, despite how cringe-inducing it is. I actually watched a few episodes on our recent flights and felt a little embarrassed about it, but not enough to stop me from watching. It’s addicting! I know Lena and her character Hannah can be very polarizing so I’m interested to hear what you think about them.

In other news, what are you up to this weekend? Our friend Phil moved to Zurich yesterday (!) so we will hopefully meet up with him and a couple friends for brunch. Otherwise we plan to take it easy and enjoy the nice weather. It feels so good to be home.

 

(image via)

Back from Bali

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IMG_1730Oh, my, it feels good to be back.

Bali was wonderful and beautiful and surprisingly, and happily, different than I expected. In Ubud we had our fill of “urban” exploration. It’s a dense town full of shops, restaurants, temples, yoga studios, craft shops and more. Uluwatu was a surfer’s paradise and though we didn’t hang ten at any point it was fun to soak in the laid back vibe. Sanur was divine. Absolutely, out of control divine. Luxury and decadence through and through, but that’s mostly due to where we stayed and what we did (basically nothing but read and get massages).

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I’ve included a few iPhone photos here just to give a small glimpse into what our last two weeks looked like, but I hope to share more pictures with you once I go through my camera and pull out a few gems. I won’t be posting at length about our trip like I usually do, but I definitely will share the highlights. Bali is too beautiful not to.

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We loved our honeymoon. It was well worth the year-long wait. It was exciting to tell people we were on our honeymoon and see them light up with excitement, offer their congratulations and maybe even remark on their own honeymoon. It’s fun to feel celebrated by others.

It’s crazy to think that events that have been in various stages of planning since last May are already over. The wedding is over, as is the honeymoon, and now what do we do? It’s certainly a bittersweet feeling as I’m happy to no longer be planning and answering emails but am saddened to think that the hoopla has passed.

To help soften the blow we planned a few fun activities for October that would keep us busy and excited about fall. Do you ever do this? It made coming back a lot easier, as did the realization that I would be able to brush my teeth with tap water again : )

I recently heard that this time of year is often referred to as the shoulder season: a time when airfare and accommodations are typically cheaper and crowds are usually thinner. We found this to be the case (somewhat; we still flew across the world and had to find accommodation for two weeks…) and enjoyed traveling with less fellow tourists. Are you planning any trips during the shoulder season? Where are you going? If you’re staying home, where is one place you would love to go if time, money and planning weren’t considerations? I love playing the fantasy travel game. I have a great longing to just be at home right now, but if pressed, I would choose Barcelona. I’m dying to get my hands on some authentic tapas!

 

It’s Bali Time

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We’re off to Bali tomorrow and I’m at a loss to describe my full enthusiasm for this prospect. I haven’t taken a vacation this long since I went to Thailand three years ago and I am looking forward to a long break immensely. We’ve done some research and have a few ideas mapped out of what we’d like to do, but the program mostly consists of showing up and figuring it out. We’re looking forward to being on island time if you can’t tell.

We’re also looking forward to unplugging in our own way. Computers will stay at home, but we are bringing an iPad and our iPhones, so expect the errant Instagram shot, but I’m sorry to say this space will remain stagnant for the next two and a half weeks. I had hopes of preparing posts in advance but a project landed in my lap that deserved my attention, and more accurately, I just didn’t get around to it. I hope you understand.

What are you up to this weekend? We’re going out for pizza and defrosting our fridge tonight (obvious honeymooners here) and packing tomorrow before our late-night flight. I hope that you get up to something wonderful this weekend and start indulging in all those exciting fall pastimes. We won’t be back until the end of September so fall will be in full swing! Pumpkin soup, here I come!

In case you’re looking for a few distractions, here are a few links I found around the web. Bis dann!

A cool song that I’ve been listening to nonstop (really, just go for the whole album)

New slim boyfriend jeans I’ve been wearing nonstop

Also, a tutorial on how to distress denim yourself

A cozy sweater to go with my new boyfriend jeans. I’m obsessed.

Comforting soup. It really must almost be fall!

Kinda gross, but still true

How to set up your home bar cart

Turn your favorite character into a mural–what a cool idea for a kid’s room!

How to use essential oils. I’d love to try the peppermint for energy boosts : )

A list of books for the honeymoon:

Made me laugh

A sweet sleepy chick

Incredible sand art. Like crop circles, but way cooler

A beautiful elopement. Mega swoon.

Bill Hader, funny guy. We should all see this movie. 

Stunning photos of Amazon warriors fighting for their trees.

And lastly…

(image of the Hanging Gardens in Ubud–the first leg of our journey–via)

 

Our Week in the States: The Wedding

altarNow that the wedding is nearly two weeks behind us we’ve had a chance to share our memories with the friends who couldn’t be there or recap some of the night’s best moments with those who could. Reliving one of the best days of my life has been a dream.

A lot of people told me that they didn’t remember anything about their wedding, that it all went by too quickly for them to even process. I can say that happened for much of the week leading up to the wedding weekend, but thankfully the preparations before and both the ceremony and reception are crystal clear. My hair was wrapped up in a ballerina bun in about five minutes (with about 50 bobby pins and 500 spritzes of hair spray) and I had a chance to just read a magazine while Courtney’s romantic low bun was completed. That, and sipping coffee with one of my best friends in the morning, really set the tone for the whole day. It was very relaxed and calm and intentional. Man, I just loved it all.

Below you’ll find a smattering of pictures from the day, but by no means is it comprehensive…

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popOur coordinators at Berg Event Space were trying out a new brand of champagne and Courtney and I got to be models for their promotion. Sipping champagne and laughing with your best friend, posing for pictures all the while, sure is hard work (that I’ll do any day for free).

IMG_4824Look at that sweet family! The triplets were so wonderful walking down the aisle, throwing petals and picking them back up all the way down : )

As we were trying to work out a way to delineate the altar space our florist suggested a hanging installation of loose branches. It sounded ethereal and beautiful and was even more stunning in person. I loved it and thought it was much more interesting than two tall planters on either side, which was our first suggestion. Professionals rule! It ended up looking so cool hanging above our band as the space transitioned into the reception area.

IMG_4842Our fabulous, fabulous parents.

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IMG_4865Courtney, the girl in the middle of this photo is responsible for setting us up!! We couldn’t be more grateful for her matchmaking skills.

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Moms

 

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joeI love this picture of Adam’s dad: smiles all day long.

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lylasThe LYLAS girls–Courtney, Claire, meself, Whitney, Laura and Hayley

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IMG_1580A perfect cake topper

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Above was a big mix of photos taken by Kyle and iPhone photos from our friends. It’s been hard tracking down all the pictures, but they are slowly coming in. Part of me wishes we would have left disposable cameras at each table because I’m sure we would have gotten some gems. This crowd was a really good one.

I can’t wait to see the professional photos, however. I’ll be sure to share those with you when they come in if you’re interested : )

Overall, the day was incredibly magical and wonderful and as perfect as possible. We loved it, and we loved having the opportunity to share our love and commitment with our closest kin. I had a few flashbacks to our first wedding and how intimate and special it was. I’m so happy (and feel so lucky!) to have both experiences to look back to. In fact, I might just recommend this strategy to everyone! Get married alone a year before your actual party–it makes the day feel so relaxed and FUN!

Our friends and family made this day amazing and we owe them heaps of gratitude and love for all their support and encouragement. Thank you so, so much for making it such a treasure.