A small glimpse into the life and adventures of Brady and the Yukster

Thursday, July 05, 2007


We are back in Japan now. I still want to comment on the rest of our trip in northern Bali, Eastern Bali and Lombok over the next few days. But until then, here is a link to an album with the pictures that we took.

You can check them out HERE


Ubud and around

On day 6 of our 3 week trip, we left the chaos of the Kuta beach area and headed for the "spiritual center" of Bali, Ubud. Ubud is to Bali like Kyoto is to Japan; if you want to get a good idea of Balinese culture, art, dance this is where you head. Much like Kyoto, it is also packed to the brim with tourists, and thus tourist services abound.

The morning of our departure from Kuta we found a website advertising "last minute" prices and snagged a room at classy, little hotel in a village just outside of Ubud. We awoke to the sound of running water every morning and watched the tranquil action (or lack of action...) on the rice fields that our balcony looked onto, over breakfast. A very chilled break from the hectic pace of touristy Kuta and the center of Ubud. Every day, ,rain or shine, one or two farmers were out in their rice fields, slowly tending their crop.....adjusting the flow of water between each field, hoeing the odd weed, and stopping to lean on their hoes as they stared at their rice crop. On the third morning,we decided to give our Indonesian a go and asked the nearest farmer how he was doing. Then we introduced ourselves in Indonesian...as that was the only other thing we knew how to say. He seemed rather impressed that we were able to pull two sentences out of my asses and seemingly thought we could engage in further conversation, to which I responded with a lot of "Ya, ya" and smiles having no idea what he was getting at. After a good natured laugh and a hearty smile, he returned to his farming duties and Yuki and I, to our coffee.

During the days we took in the town, visited art museums, fought off touts and stuffed ourselves on good food. In the evenings in Ubud we went to check out Balinese dance. All performances were accompanied by a orchestra of Balinese men in costume banging the hell out of metal and wood xylophone-like instruments called the "gamelan". At first, it sounds like there is little order or melody to their chaotic music, but once your ear gets used to it you can pick up the swaying rhythm of the music and follow the loud chaotic crescendos. The dance is rather spooky, with gorgeously dressed dancers performing a movement highlighted by finger movements, twittering of their heads and intense stares out towards the audience. The second night we saw the Kecak dance, where dancers performed a similar story, however their orchestra was instead 80 shirtless men sitting around in a circle using their voices in what can only be described as loud arranged "clucking" sounds, creating a melodic chanting of sorts. This is accompanied with swaying of their bodies and choreographed waving of their arms and fingers in a trance like dance. If you have ever watched the documentary "Baraca" you have seen it there. At the end of the performance, one brave dude goes into a trance, grabs a wooden horse head and much like Harry Potter on a broom, flies around the stage.......although he is running through and kicking up flaming hot coals in his bare feet to the rhythm of his buddies clucking away and urging him on. Quite the performance. At the end of it all, members of the audience are invited to sit on either side of the fire dancer and pose for pictures with him and his smoldering feet.

After getting all cultured up, we took a bicycle tour of the surrounding villages, and rice fields. Luckily for us, the route was 95% downhill as we flew through little mountain villages, past countless temples and shrines, people giving offerings and past the tranquil, green landscape. Our tour included visiting a small plantation where we saw growing, harvesting and processing of coffee, cacao, ginger, rice and tropical fruits. On our tour were a pair of 60-something American ladies who were a force to keep up with and they blazed by Yuki and I on their bikes laughing as we braked to avoid running into the roosters and chickens the scared up. The tour finished off with a visit to the Ubud "Monkey Forest Sanctuary" where 4 clans of hysteric monkeys live on the protected grounds of a large Balinese temple. The rabid little bastards greedily eat fruit provided by tourists all day and fight viciously amongst themselves for food, territory and presumably the best shags. We saw more than one monkey nursing it's bleeding wounds along the side of the road after a spat over a banana. Yuki stepped up to show me who was "the man" by bravely placing several bananas on her lap to lure a ravenous little demon over to sit on her knees and tear in the the fruit. She later bragged to me that she could clearly feel the little monsters bum-hole resting on her hand as he sat there...... I had clearly missed out on the action.

Answers to a few questions

Here are some questions that my last post received on my frined Jason's website and my answer to the questions (more like my rant after a long day)

From Jason:

Hey Brady,

What kind of waves are you getting out there? How hot is it? Any good pure vegetarian food?

Yes, please post photos, especially of you know who (or e-mail them to me and I can upload them to the forum from here).

Thanks for posting and keep us updated,


From Mike:

Sounds good Brady- thanks for the update. I remember that constant haggling/pressure to buy and sell from my short residency in New Dehli. I didn`t find a way though to get out and take that pressure off- so it`s good you`ve been able to do so.

My response (rant)

Hi Guys,

Thanks for the comments. Sorry for the delay in gettting to the internet. Although there are internet terminals about, we haven't found the time to get to one since my last post. And now that we are at one, it is painfully slow!!

First to answer a few questions.....

The vegetrarian options here are fantastic compared to most places I have travelled. In the touristy places, there is always a section on the menu for vegetrarians consisting of Balanese dishes, Indonesian dishes and Western food. And then in the less touristy places, there are still lots of options. They use a lot of Tempe here and it is really fantastic. I have had it a few times in health food stores in Canada, but here you can really see how it is ment to be cooked. (Tempe is like a small thin brick of soyabeans and some other ingredents....it is denser than tofu and really absorbs flavors well. Quite filling and a great subsitute for meat in curries or fried with rice) They also us a lot of Tofu here in their dishes. Then there is the fresh fruit...papaya, pineapple, waterlmellon, pasionfruit, mangostein.....all fantastic and fresh. Fresh fruit juices, noodles, fried rice...the list goes on and on. And the best thing is the price. You can have a meal and a drink at an indoesian place for $3, or you can go to a nicer touristy place and have an excellent meal in a really nice restaurant for $5 to $10. So we have been doing well.

Then the constant hassles for sellers and touts.....yeah it is relentless actually. It is a constant hassle really and we are getting a bit worn out from it. I mean I understand the situtation here.... The main income here is tourism and now then there are less tourists here since the terrorist attacks, and people really depend on the income they can get from tourists...and quite possibly they have been out on the beach trying to sell things all day and you are the first person who they have gotten to look at their stuff....or you are the only couple in the hotel.......BUT you start to realize that all the people that are nice and friendly are really lovely to you just want to find a way to part you with your money. Not by stealing or cheating you....altough if you paid the first price they offer you it would be cheating you. It is everywhere......at your hotel they are offering you tours and transport to other places and trying to get you to book tours with them. (Except at the first 4 star resort we stayed at...they just let us be there) On the street, it is impossible to go anywhere without getting hassled. (As I type, there is a guy trying to get Yuki to buy a necklace from her in our internet cafe....) People will ask you questions and start talking to you and then the sales pitch comes. And we find that they strech the truth a lot to get you to buy from them, and that makes us suspicious. To get from place to place the best way is to hire a driver for the day to take you in his car and you always have to negotiate. In a way it is a bit fun trying to get them down to a good price, but sometimes it is a real hassle. We try to not make this the thing we talk about the most.....or write about in these type of messages to friends back home, but it is such a big part of the tourist experience here.

So I really enjoy the times when we are in a place that is not so touristy......and we can talk to local people here without knowing that they are looking to part you with your money. People here are really, really nice and friendly....even if they are trying to sell you something they are never rude and have a great sense of humour even if you don't buy anything from them, but it is so nice just to talk to people when they are not on the sell. Some places we have had luck with that is meeting people at temples, or on public transport when they are passengers, or talking to the restaurant staff. We also went to a coupld of places that are popular with Balinese tourists, but not so popular with foreign tourists and have found that people are just really curious about you and freindly and want to find out what you think of their country. So those times are really nice.

I have gone on about that far too much.

We have seen a lot of really exciting stuff and had some great experiences in here that I want to write about, but I will have to leave that to another post as I have been here to long and the beach is calling. We are in a chillout type of beach resort on Lombok, another island in Indonesia and I hope I can find time to explain what we have been up to this evening.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

5 days in Southern Bali

It has been forever since I posted something on this blog......over a year.. Shame, shame shame...

This will have to be quick. Here is a recap of what we have been up to in Bali.. Pictures to come later when I have more time.

Wow! Bali is everything it is said to be...... amazingly friendly people, stunning beaches lined with palm trees, fantastic food, shitloads of young Aussie tourists roaming about, everybody and their dog trying to sell you something or give you a lift somewhere or drag you into their store selling the same junk everyone else is.

Depending on where you go in southern Bali, you can have the most relaxed, chilled-out time watching the sunset from the beach as you listen to the waves gently crash in front of you and feel the cool breeze on your face...... to being aggressively overloaded on all the senses.....car fumes, traffic noise, 5 people a minute trying to get your attention to sell you something and oppressive heat all blasting down on you as you try to manage your way along a crowed street without stepping through a gaping hole in the sidewalk or on a rabid dog sleeping on the street.

Our trip has been a good mixture of both. Yuki rocked with picking out the tour from a Japanese travel agent and got us 6 nights at a 4 star, swankster beach resort in the quieter place of southern Bali. Far more space and luxury than we needed, but it is nice to be truly pampered once in a while.
Days have generally followed the following pattern:
-up early for 2 hours of yoga.
-fill our faces with fresh fruit at breakfast
-walk 200 meters to the beach and rent a surfboard....try not to get killed or look like too much of an ass.
-fend off friendly, but relentless peddlers of goods and services while trying to relax on the beach.

Some highlights of our trip over the first 5 days have been

-People: Balinese people are just so damn happy!! Always smiling, and eager to find out where you are from and what your plans are here in Bali. People at the hotel are happy to stop what they are doing to have a chat about whatever comes to mind. Small talk, get some travel advice, find out about the culture. Although they are working long hours it is at a very slow and relaxed pace.

-Crashing an AA party- Yuki and I ordered a couple of beers in a crowded bar full of seasoned traveler and I tried to strike up a conversation with the dude at the next table. He didn't really seem interested in talking much. Later everyone went up stairs and left Yuki and I there with our tall, frosty beers. We then saw a posting that on that night it was the local AA meeting and all the people we were drinking around were recovering alcoholics waiting to go upstairs to start their meeting.

-Balinese religion / culture: Every building has a small shine...the local people make small bamboo offerings to it throughout the day. There are loads of statues of Hindu gods on the corner of every building. Our hotel must have 50 of them. People pick fresh flowers and put them on the statues every morning. People here live their lives with their beliefs always in their minds....it is really apart of their lives in every way.

-SPA.....for Yuki anyways..... 5 hours of Spa treatment for 10,000yen. Ayuvedic treatment, hot stone massage, Essential oil bath.....all sorts of womenly pampering. I spend the day walking around polluted streets fending off dogs and street merchants.

These first 5 days have been about getting our bearings and kicking back and relaxing on the beach....doing yoga and surfing. Next we are off to the spiritual center of Ubud, up in the mountains. Hope to do some trekking in the mountains and rice fields and see some dances and cultural shows while we are there...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Here is picture of the rianbow that appeared in the sky last weekend. Mike, Jason and I were on my roof enjoying the view when we saw it. There was actually a double rainbow, with another lighter rianbow on the other side of the tower, but by the time we'd gotten our camera, we'd missed it, so you'll have to take my word for it. Mike and Jason were in Fujisawa along with the rest of the Ultimate crew for a Beach Ultimate Tournament that our Frisbee group participated in under the name "the Big One" We won a trophy and all got increadibly sun-burnt. A good time was had by all in the end. You can check out Jason's photos from the even and see the madness at http://www.jasoncollin.org/ultimate/ebashicup2006/ Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Japanese tourists look on as my Mom engages a Buddist monk by giving her offerings near Kyomizudera temple in Kyoto. Mom did her best to return the monk's bow but later reported that the monk had been saying something that continued on for quite a while and she didn't know if she should stay and listen or how to respond. We found out that the monk was only chanting her sutras continuously as my mother approached her to offer her donation. Posted by Picasa

Ripples in the Sand

The simplicity of the rock garden in Nanzen-ji, Kyoto leaves me calm and contemplative. This would be the perfect place to come and take up a serious study of Zen buddism, except for the hoards of tourists that come marching through every day. Maybe it is just my romanticized ideas of what the life of a Zen monk at this temple must be like. This picture was taken during my second trip to Kyoto. The garden was just as I had remembered it and it didn't fail to impress me again with it's simplicity and minimalist design. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Rock Stars

My parents are visiting in Japan right now, and we have been having a grand time! Yesterday we met up with friends Tetsu (Austin Powers), and Yuko for Okonomiyaki, which is a style of Japanes pizza or pancake....well not really like either, but that is kinda what it looks like. And afterwards, we took the two karaoke virgins off to the local karaoke joint to belt out a few classic hits. And did they take to it like fish to water, like birds to the sky, like a beaver to a pond with lots of sticks....
In the small confides of that little room, as the echo was turned up and the disco lights ignighted, all inhibitions evaporated. Dad belted out classics from Johnny Cash, the Eagles and even dipped into the 80's with a little Culture Club. Mom hit success with the Carpenters and brought Dad in for a Elvis melody or two. History was made when Mom and Dad discovered KARAOKE!! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Mr. and Mrs. Strachan!!!

Aloha!! We haven't updated this blog for a while, and that is mainly because we were busy getting ready for our trip to Hawaii to get married. Well we are here in Hawaii right now and already married. This picture proves it. We went for a casual beach wedding....not too casual though as you can see that I'm not wearing an Aloha shirt and Yuki isn't in a bikini. (Our parents, who are not in this picture, are dressed as such so as too keep things casual...jj.) Our wedding was on April 25th on a beautiful beach with fantastic weather. We were married by Rev. Mike Nelson who did an excellent job of conduting the service in both English and Japanese. My parents, Yuki's parents, her brother Nobuyuki, Shaelyn and Casey and my Uncle Charlie and Aunt Bonnie were there to witness the event, as were a few sun-tanned onlookeers and their dogs. Everyone (excluding the beach bums) packed into a long stretch limo and we toasted our marrige with champaine on the way back from the beach. We booked everything through the wedding planners at www.ahawaiiwedding.com. They did a very professional job and we are anxiously awaiting our photos, which we will post a link on this blog to at that time. (the one above is a sample....as it says)

We had our wedding reception at a very nice, classy restaurant called Aaron's atop of the Ala Moana hotel. The food, service and view were as fantastic as we had hoped. We continued our little trip into the world of luxury with a small honeymoon at the secluded Turtle Bay Resort on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. (www.turtlebayresort.com) And what a place this is! They up-graded us to the delux suite upon finding out that it was our honeymoon. A nice touch at a place that was already a relm of luxery that we hadn't experienced before. Yuki and I have spent the last few days snorkelling, relaxing in our room and by the pool and as few attempts at surfing the waves beside the resort. (Unfortunately the swell was pretty low, and there weren't much for waves. But we were both just happy to be out there in that clear blue water on a board) In the evening we feasted on fresh fish and seafood while listening to the waves crash on the show at the romantic restaurants on the resort. The food on this island is amazing!! Nothing against Japanese cooking, but I haven never tasted fish cooked so well before. With all the above, and waking up to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore right ourside our door, I really don't think I can leave this place...............

Monday, February 06, 2006

Kamakura Revisited

We revisited Kamakura a few weeks ago. We started out a bit late, so this time we took the most direct route and arrived at Kita-Kamakura in about 15 minutes. It is only 2 train stops from our apartment. Kita-Kamakura (North Kamakura) is the place where most of the extravagant Zen Temples are located. We chose two locations to see on that day, with one of them being the largest and most important Zen Temple in Kamakura, and the oldest Zen training monastery in Japan, Kencho-ji Temple.

Once through the temple's main gates, one notices a feeling of stillness and tranquility that set in. It may just be the simple fact that the walk to the temple is along a very busy road that allows little pedestrian space and is crammed next to the main road with cars and trucks flying by only a few feet from where we walk. However once you enter the temple grounds and walk away from the enterance, the sound of the traffic dies out and the images of the congested street are replaced by the tranquil magnificance of the Buddist Halls and accompanying gardens.

The above picture is of the front rock garden in the court yard of the Main Hall (Hojo) I hope the meticulous appearence of the court yard captures the tranquility of the temple grounds. Posted by Picasa

Setsubun - The Bean Throwing Festival

February 3rd was Setsubun or the "Bean Throwing Festival" in Japan. It is held on the day before spring (on the Lunar New Year).

On this day, people buy roasted soy beans and throw them out the front door to ward off evil spirits. There are some rules to this about having the correct number of beans, usually equal to the thrower's age, and you have to chant "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!", which is translated as "Demons out! Luck in!". Often the father of the house will dress up as a devil and the children will pelt him with beans driving him and his evil ways away. How luck rushes into the house at this time, I am not entirely sure. Everyone then is allowed to eat the same number of beans as their age, plus one. (I didn't know this and ate quite a few...they are tasty you see. I am not sure what to expect in forms of luck...maybe a shed-load of luck for me!!)

There are also celebrations at Shrines and Temples where people throw beans and pray for good luck. Some people go as far as hanging holy leaves or dead fish heads at the enterence of their house to ward off evil, and undoutedly everyone else in the neighborhood! Most likely the luck they attract will be in the form of stray cats (which are bringers of good luck) attracted to the fish heads, but this is only my observation. Yuki was quick to point out that she has never seen this, so please don't get the idea that everyone is doing strange things with fish heads in Japan.

Luckily for us, no one in our apartment building hung dead fish heads at the enterence of their flat. We did find soya beans scattered in the hall and even threw a few there ourselves. Yuki told me that we had to do this at each possible entry point so we ran around to the windows, threw dried beans and told the devil where to go. (I am expecting a good crop of soya plants come summer....and just outside my window!!)

Another interesting custom on this day is to eat a massive.....really massive sushi maki. A sushi maki is along cylinder sushi. Green nori seaweed paper on the outside, followed by rice and various fillings in the center. The ones I picked up from the convience store on my way home were filled with cooked sweet egg, tuna, pickles and cucumber. We weren't allowed to cut these big makis up in the way that one normally eats maki. Instead we ate them in big bites facing south - south/east, as this was the lucky direction. Having no compass in our flat, it was an estimated south-south/east and I hope we haven't called upon the demons in the river below in our incorrect sushi-eating. Just in case, I am armed with beans and will be sure to send them back!! Posted by Picasa