Sometimes when traveling, there are moments when everything comes together to produce the most surreal experience. Usually, I find this happens when I make the effort to go a bit out of the way for a sight.

While in Ubud, I twice came across the suggestion to view the roosting herons of Petulu at dusk.  We pulled out the map, located Petulu, and hopped on the motos.

While quite easy to find on a map, the actual turnoff road heading toward Petulu was a bit hard for us to find. Maybe it was the rush hour moto traffic (actually quite significant heading in to Ubud), but luckily we were able to ask a few shopkeepers, and get pointed in the right direction.

And if directions failed, we only had to look up and follow the hundreds of white birds, all flying to exactly the same place.

After driving through rice paddies, we made it to the “best” viewing spot – a tiny, one room building with a viewing porch set up. The owner grandly called it a warung (Balinese term for café or restaurant), but we were satisfied with the Bintang beers and peanuts he offered us.

While we were sipping on our Bintangs and watching the birds fly in by the tens and hundreds, our host brought over a worn and tattered booklet.  It was little more than a few pieces of paper stapled together, but his enthusiastic gesturing indicted he was the author.

Inside was the legend of the herons, who first appeared in this spot in 1965. Local Balinese believe the birds are the souls of the estimated 80,000 killed during the massacres of 1965-1966.  

I wish I had taken a picture of the book, to document the incredibly powerful and sensory language.  

In front of us, a woman was planting rice in the paddies. Much muddier than I would have expected!

The rhythmic motion of the rice planting looked time consuming and achingly painful, and has since made me grateful every time I eat rice!

I sat in that warung, watching both the woman planting rice and the birds flying in to roost, and thoroughly felt present in that moment. That is why I love to travel – to enjoy moments when nothing else but the fullness of what you are viewing can fit into your thoughts.

– L


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