2011 has been an interesting year for me. Among other things, I got married, finished grad school and moved from SF to NYC. It also marks the midpoint in time where I have spent half of my life in Malaysia and half of my life in the United States. While I still very much consider Kuala Lumpur home and have the crazy Asian driving chops to prove it, I do pause a little when people ask me where I’m from. It’s almost always simpler to say San Francisco or California because then I don’t have to go through the whole rigmarole of explaining why it is that I don’t seem to speak with much of an accent. (P.S. – It’s because I spent four formative years in Pittsburgh, PA for middle school while my Dad was in grad school during which time I “perfected” my American accent so I wouldn’t stand out too much from the then not-too-diverse population).
My husband and I spent four amazing weeks traveling through Laos and Indonesia for our honeymoon. Of all of the places we visited, I fell completely in love with Bali and could have easily spent another four weeks exploring the island. I suppose what I found so appealing about Bali was its display of nature, culture, food and history. So often when choosing a holiday destination, I find myself having to decide beforehand what kind of vacation it is that I’m looking for. Beach towns tend to lack culture or cities tend to lack nature, etc. With Bali, I didn’t really feel as if I needed to make these tradeoffs so long as I stayed away from the tourist ghettos of Kuta.
The first post is always the hardest. How does one set the tone, send the right message, etc.? I’ve gone through several major life changes recently – finished grad school, married my college sweetheart and moved cross country from San Francisco to New York. Professionally I am also at a crossroads, having spent the last 5 years in finance and investing and now looking to switch into a operational / product-oriented role. These are a lot of things to keep track of.
We spent a few days in Yogyakarta and paid visits to the temples at Borobudur and Prambanan, both very well preserved / restored and especially spectacular when awash with natural light at dawn. On our final night in Indonesia, we saw an open stage production of the Ramayana Ballet, an impressive production acting out scenes depicted on Borobudur’s bas reliefs.
I was surprised by just how much I fell in love with Bali. I was expecting an over-touristed and hyper-commercial has been and while yes, a good part of the island is just that, so much more of it is still very much steeped in tradition if you know where to look for it.
Luang Prabang is a charming place. It’s small enough to bike around and lacks the absolute sense of chaos typical of neighboring cities. There are ornate temples everywhere. We lost track of how many we’d wandered through. Every morning, right around sunrise, saffron-clad monks walk through the streets to collect food from locals although tourists can partake in this ritual as well. In the evenings, we would often hear the collective sounds of prayer chants coming from the active temples.