the laughing man

His laughter was contagious. There was rarely anything even to laugh about, yet he laughed often and with great sincerity. This was the way with Mudarta, since the moment I met him and stepped into his taxi in Bali.

He appeared like most taxi drivers, friendly and  filled with small talk that seems almost formulaic. Yet Mudarta was special. His warmth filled the space completely, and his laughter provoked an immediate smile. His philosophies on life were profound and plenty. I chose to be a disciple of this discerning man.

Mudarta was deeply spiritual. He often paid tribute to the Balinese gods by partaking in traditional dances. His days were spent working in a hotel and his nights on the road. Several years earlier he had chosen a wife, based upon the simple formula of shared affection and compatibility. Together they raised a child, little Regi, who accompanied his father on our prophetic journey, quietly listening to the wise discourse, smiling with his eyes.

It was that day in his taxi, winding through rice fields, into a village of wood carvings and wild herons, up into the scenic heights overlooking an active volcano, into the thoughts and teachings of a simple, happy man, that I experienced great peace. 

I often think of Mudarta, this modest man and the melody of his laughter. And always, I smile.

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo and HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition. (Mudarta is one of the favorite people I met on my journey around the world. We still keep in touch.)

to live and laugh

Love and laughter are key ingredients towards a happy life. “I often laugh at nothing, but I always laugh” says Mudarta, who I call the laughing man. A Balinese local with a contagious smile and warm countenance, whose laughter provokes a smile in even the most dour face. Mudarta has a very wise approach to life. such wisdom is learned in the invaluable school of life and cannot be taught. I took a liking to him immediately, and in the days that followed we drove throughout Bali, to the sacred temple of Tanah Lot where I was blessed with holy water, and far away to the still active Batur volcano. time of visual stimulation and insights. It is through such interaction with others that I learn the most about life.


Skillfully crafted masks found on the roadside in Ubud.

Gili Trawangan

After my most exhilarating diving experience to date (it was my 6th dive!!) in the waters near Padang Bai, where I spotted several sharks, a tiger ray and an assortment of fish in multifarious shapes and colors, we boarded a ferry to the island of Gili Trawangan, near Lombok. A four hour ride into a glorious sunset. The island is inhabited by warm souls, cats with uniquely short tails and donkeys which provide the transportation. Sooji and I met many people from distant lands, and together we shared this lucid dream.

a day in Ubud

A room with a view. the rice fields outside of my homestay.

A morning at the monkey forest. Yes, that is really a monkey on my back! Adorable but fiesty!

An afternoon at the impressive Neka Museum which boasts the work of Arie Smit, a Dutch painter who greatly influenced the art movement in Bali.

By nightfall, following a meal at my favorite restaurant Nomad, I experienced a traditional Kecak dance in which many locals participate. The people of Bali are so filled with spirituality!

Island of the gods

In the belief of reincarnation, our deeds, wealth, and love determine the next life. I would like mine to be lived in Bali. This is a beautiful land where people smile often and the art of creation brings nourishment to the soul. Ubud is a haven for artists, writers and anyone seeking spiritual enlightenment. My days are spent in admiration of the great artistic expression present in the temples, paintings, dance, even the food, which each mouthful I savour. Might I mention the (ever so inexpensive) art of massage which I experience as often as possible. At the hands of master painter Nyoman Sudadnya I am learning the techniques of Batik painting, quite a skill involving hot wax and patience. Amidst the miles of rice fields this composition of my life continues…

A batik comes to life from the recesses of a vivid imagination…