12/21/14

Tanah Lot: A Sea Temple In Bali

The driver we hired to take us to Tanah Lot, a Hindu temple built on a rock surrounded by sea, dropped us off in front of a market.

With his assurance the sea temple was on the other side, My Traveling Troop started walking through the maze of market vendors selling everything from clothes and jewelry to masks and paintings.




With the sun blazing high above us, we stopped to buy the kids water and Bintang for the grownups. After all, it's important to stay hydrated. :)


Finally, we started seeing signs — or rather, statues — indicating that we were getting close to the temple.



Once our feet hit the sand, the kids played while the parents tried to figure out the best way to cross the 20 yards of sea separating us and the temple. The rest of the tourists on the beach that day appeared content just snapping photos from the shore, but we wanted to explore and take a peek inside.



Just when we were about to give up, a kind Hindu man came to the rescue. 


He grabbed my hand, and I in turn grabbed my daughter's, and off we went! The water started off being ankle deep, but ended up about thigh high by the time we reached the temple. 


We were so thankful for this man's assistance and the blessings him and his friends bestowed upon us as we reached the foot of the temple. First, they asked us to wash our hands and faces in this fountain.




Then, they proceeded to place a bit of rice and a dab of water on our foreheads. They also placed a flower in our hair.



True story: We tried so hard to keep our son dry, because of the stitches he had on his forehead (he fell at a playground the week prior). Before we could say anything, he got blessed with the water right on top of his stitches. Oh well! Perhaps the wound will heal faster now that it's blessed!


We were not allowed to walk upstairs and see the rest of the temple, but that was okay with us. We were touched that they let us go that far and for the experience. 

Once we waded back to shore, we decided to take a closer look at the maze of shops in the market area. The kids found a cafe serving kopi luwak, which is coffee made from the droppings of a catlike animal known as a luwak or civet. The children were attracted to the animals in the open-air cafe, while the parents were curious about what kopi luwak would taste like. Alas, we didn't get a chance to taste test. We were all too busy gawking at the animals, which included luwaks, a bat, and a dog.  




Don't worry! No tails were pulled in the making of this blog post!


Once we finally convinced the kids to leave the cafe, we explored the market a bit more and then headed to a nearby hill where the kids could run free in the gardens and the parents could enjoy the view.




At one point, I spotted two Balinese ladies dressed in beautiful lace. I asked if I could take their picture; they suggested we take a family photo. How sweet! I'll always cherish this one.


By this time, we were hot, tired, and starving. We should have planned ahead and researched places to eat, avoiding the grumpiness that ensued as we wandered around and tried to find a restaurant we would all enjoy. A couple laps around the market later, we finally found a restaurant overlooking the water with a menu that suited all of our tastes and tucked into some local fare. Our meals were delicious, cheering us up once again. 



Looking back, My Traveling Troop's visit to Tanah Lot was part spiritual and part adventure - a definite highlight of our Bali holiday over Thanksgiving weekend. If you ever find yourself in Bali, I definitely recommend you visit the temple in the sea.







12/17/14

Mystery Of The Snnnoooogggggg In Langkawi

I was staring at the mudskippers and crabs slowly making their way through the mud at the base of towering mangrove trees. All of a sudden, I heard a noise that broke me out of my reverie.

Snnnoooogggggg. Snnnoooogggggg. Snnnoooogggggg. 

I peeked over the sides of the small boat, which was cruising through Langkawi, Malaysia's Kilim Karst Mangroves — the first site in Southeast Asia to be named a UNESCO geopark. I heard the sound again, but this time it was louder.

Snnnoooogggggg. Snnnoooogggggg. Snnnoooogggggg. 

Alarmed, I asked the tour leader what creature could be making that scary sound. An overgrown toad? Crazed monkey? Crocodiles, perhaps?! "No," the tour leader assured me as the strange sound got louder and louder. Though, he admitted, he didn't know what the sound was.

Snnnoooogggggg. Snnnoooogggggg. Snnnoooogggggg. 

A couple people on the boat started looking out in the distance, trying to spot whatever was making the noise. Nervous and positive a big ol' crocodile was going to jump up and take a bite out of us, I held the toddler in my arms just a little tighter. He was safely in a life jacket, but hugging him closer gave me comfort as my boat companions tried to sort this mystery out.

Snnnoooogggggg. Snnnoooogggggg. Snnnoooogggggg. 

A couple minutes later, I finally looked down at my sweet boy, breathed a sigh of relief, and giggled. Apparently, the strange sound was coming from him. He had fallen asleep on the cruise and was snoring!

For me, the mystery of the Snnnoooogggggg was the ultimate highlight of the geopark cruise. However, there were other memorable moments too. My five-year-old peppered the tour guide with questions about wildlife in the mangrove forest  enough to make her journalist mother proud. My Traveling Troop floated through a dark cave and spotted bats. We stopped at a floating restaurant where my daughter fed fish and my son tried ice cream for the very first time. And, of course, our family admired the beauty of the area. Overall, we enjoyed the geopark cruise. Here are some of our favorite photos from the adventure. Crocodile not included! :)
























12/11/14

The Art Of Doing Nothing In Langkawi

There are plenty of ways to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Langkawi, Malaysia  a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) geopark. For example, you can hike to water falls, admire the flora and fauna while on a nature walk, trace the coastline while floating in a kayak, or cruise the sea in a boat. For the most part, however, my husband and I wanted to do nothing more than get massages, take naps, and admire the island's tropical beauty from the comfort of our lounge chairs at the pool and beach.

Luckily, we had quite the view from our respective perches. My Traveling Troop stayed at The Andaman, a lovely hotel surrounded by a ten million year old rainforest and the gently lapping waves of Datai Bay. Apparently, underneath the tranquil waters was an 8,000 year old reef  evidence of which would occasionally wash onto the shore in little pieces.















Normally when we visit another country, we eagerly venture out of the hotel to see the sights and learn about the local culture. But sometimes it's nice to simply relax and take a vacation from your typical vacation. 


 
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