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bali – 7

August 15, 2009

never to see her lover

Finally!  I made it to a gamelan concert and dance.  We were invited by a friend of a friend from California.  The first orchestra to play was a group visiting Bali for a month from the US, studying Balinese music.  The performance was great, and it looked like they were having tremendous fun.  Then the local orchestra played, and they were incredible.  The music here is so unusual; all percussion, other than a flute type instrument.  The dancers were a professional group, and their costumes were colorful and gorgeous, the makeup dramatic.  The dances always tell a story about the gods (hindu) and for this particular performance, there was a narrator who sang the words (in Indonesian).  A jolly good show!

We arrived for the concert early, and since we hadn’t eaten we back-tracked to find a restaurant.  We stopped at a roadside place that specialized in fish, where I was quite hesitant to eat for the sake of my healthy stomach, but hunger overruled.  This was not a tourist joint, so the menus were in Indonesian, and there were no eating utensils available.  Balinese style.  We each got a little bowl of water to dip our greasy hands in when we were done eating (no napkins, either).  D and her husband had fish, and Y and I had chicken, steamed rice, and vegetable concoction of Asia water spinach and sprouts which I couldn’t eat because it was so HOT!  So far, my stomach has been just fine (knock on wood.)

D’s husband drove us there, and if I thought D was a wild driver, I had no clue.  There are no speed limits here, and no demarcations for passing zones.  You beep and go.  I am amazed I am still alive, along with the rest of the population here, though I have witnessed numerous accidents.  The roads are about as wide as two little cars, and usually there is a foot or two of shoulder.  People walk with huge baskets of stuff on their heads.  Motorcycles with families, including small babies, pass on the right and the left (women riding side saddle because of their sarongs, looking bored).  And there are trucks and tour buses that go slowly up hills, so god forbid you don’t want to slow down driving behind one of them.  No seat belts in the back seat, so I made my peace and decided if now was my time to die, so be it.  And here I am to tell the story!

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Friday I spent the day in Ubud again.  D wanted me to take the bemo in and have her husband pick me up on the motorcycle afterwards, but I smiled and waited for another suggestion.  Nope.  You will not get me on a motorcycle in Bali.  Never.  Since she was driving past Ubud on the way to and from her Green School destination, I figured she could drop me off and I could walk into town.  So she agreed.  I had a great day.  I carried an umbrella to guarantee it wouldn’t rain, and I confirmed where north was before I set out so I knew exactly where I was all day!  First I walked about two miles (I got a little lost…. Maps are not terribly accurate in Bali) to visit Threads of Life – an Indonesian textile arts center.  Threads of Life commissions weavers to “recover the skills of their ancestors – sponsoring the weaving of traditional, handmade, natural-dyed textiles.”  Unfortunately, many artists have switched to weaving junk for the tourist market, and have let the traditional practices go.

Threads of Life is a fair trade business that uses culture and conservation to alleviate poverty in rural Indonesia. The heirloom-quality textiles and baskets we commission are made with local materials and natural dyes. With the proceeds from the Threads of Life gallery, we help weavers to form independent cooperatives and to manage their resources sustainably.

The museum was on a beautiful and very (unusually) neat and clean road, so the walk to and from was quite pleasant.  The museum was also air conditioned, so that was a treat too.

threads of life

Then I went in search of decadent food, and I found it, no problem.  A scrumptious croissant made from white flour, butter and jam with sugar in it, and a latte made with cow’s milk!  Don’t tell D!!  It was ambrosial.  My next stop was the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary.  The forest is home to about three hundred Balinese macaques – aside from humans, the most widespread and successful of all primates.  It was dark and cool in the forest and the monkeys were very clever about convincing humans to feed them the tiny little bananas women were selling at the entrance.  There was a walkway down into the gorge, and at the bottom, the river and a bathing temple.

monk

bridge monk forest

Next on my itinerary was shopping.  I met success at the open market and at a couple shops.  The number of shops squished into this small town is unbelievable. And crowds!  Tourists in pairs and groups of thirty, traipsing along in a line, and drivers shouting, “Transport, you need transport?  Not today, tomorrow?”  The sidewalks are about 30 inches wide, and you had better watch your feet because sometimes a paver will fall into the sewer below and you have to step over the hole.  The road is so skinny, traffic is one way, but motorbikes go both ways anyway.  It is hard to window shop when you have to watch out for your life at the same time!  All that work made me hungry, so I found a quiet spot for lunch and enjoyed chicken sate and steamed rice and salad.  And another latte.  The coffee is sooooo good here; who needs to sleep at night!?

After lunch, more walking, people watching, and window-shopping, I was headed for Rendezvousdous.  Listed in my Lonely Planet book as “the most creative spot on the street,” it sounded interesting.  It was definitely different from all the other tourist-type spots I have visited in Ubud.  This was more of a local intellectuals and expat kind of place.  The walls were lined with shelves of used books that could be perused while drinking, or they could be purchased.  Many languages were represented – a book by Toni Morrison was at my eye level, directly across from me.  There was a huge screen tv in the back of the room that was showing silent, black and white films of Bali in the 1930’s.  The owner came out of his packrat style office whenever a customer came in, and greeted them.  He was French, and had a lengthy conversation with the young French couple sitting next to me at the long, communal table.  This time I had an iced latte, which cost me $1.00, and I enjoyed sitting in the dim coolness, surrounded by books, French conversation, and great photographs of old Bali.

It was a lovely way to wile away the last, hot, hour of the afternoon, while I waited for D to pick me up.  We went to a pottery factory on the way home where I bought a teapot made in Java, and we went grocery shopping.  D had a productive day at school, so we were all happy.

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The view, before I pull the mosquito netting around me and tuck it in tight, because last night a RAT ran across my legs.  yuck!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 18, 2009 3:33 am

    A rat? Ah, that’s all part of the adventure. LOL!

    The fabrics on the dancers are just gorgeous. I love how you captured the movement in that image. Lovely. As are all the pictures. I cannot imagine riding side saddle on a motorcycle. Not with the way other people drive…in ANY country!

    This sounds like the perfect day to me, one in which you were alone to just have an adventure. I’ve enjoyed the times I’ve visited other in-the-U.S. cities with friends/family and have had a day all to myself to just explore, shop, people watch. It makes for a refreshing change once in awhile.

    I love your bed, it is beautiful. Although the rat probably takes away from the beauty somewhat!

    By the time the rat ran by, I had become pretty acclimated to all the things that go bump in the night, Carl. Oh well. I just tucked that netting in REAL tight after that. The price you pay for no walls and a great view!

  2. August 18, 2009 10:49 pm

    I can’t believe these amazing experiences and photos. That first one — the dancer — those colors knock my socks off! And those cute monkeys and the steps with those dragons! I love the idea of having your own space, time, adventure and such. It really meant a lot to me in France when I could go off on my own and just experience things I wanted to in my own time!

    Bummer about the rats, though. Because it’s so darned beautiful!

    I have had a good share of time on my own – wandering the rice paddies and hanging out in my “villa” which is next to the family house. Yanni is ten, and we had a great ritual. Around 5 pm I would bring my cup of tea and book over, and he and I would sit at the table and read, discuss our books, etc. while his mom put on what we called “the cooking show” for us.

  3. August 19, 2009 8:28 am

    It took a few reads before I laughed aloud at your comment about how good the coffee is – after all, our colloquial word for it IS “Java”!

    The spread on the bed is beautiful. It looks to me like trapunto – is it hand-done? The whites and creams of the fabrics suit the house beautifully, and help to “cool” it. The brilliant colors of the dancers costumes are delightful, but they’d be a bit much for furnishings.

    Isn’t third world travel a hoot? The scooters are more than I could handle, too. Where I was in Africa we just had “mammy lorries” – very much the same as what you describe (essentially little trucks with open seating in the back), taxis and bicycles. There were private autos, but not so many. At the hospital where I worked there was a VW bug and a VW van that were shared by everyone. You signed up to use the car on a clipboard in the airplane hangar. Can you imagine 60 people or so sharing two vehicles in the States?

    It was nice you had a chance to wander off on your own – a vacation within a vacation. You speak about the French presence there. Is there much evidence of the Dutch rule still remaining, or has that passed into history?

    And good Java it was! Really – I drink very tasty “micro” coffee at home, and it doesn’t compare. Cappuccino is my drink of choice, but I enjoyed “Bali coffee” pretty often in Bali. You grind the coffee extra fine, pour in the boiling water, and let the grounds settle to the bottom of your cup. Rather like Turkish or Armenian coffee, and quite good.

    The spread was sewn by Ketute, who also made my jackets for me. She is the “resident seamstress,” and made all the “soft” furnishings for the houses. The spread was beautiful.

    And no, I can’t imagine 60 people sharing two vehicles here. What a joke that would be! How spoiled we are. I ride my bike when I can, but it for sure wouldn’t be feasible for work.

    As far as I could tell there was no evidence of the Dutch rule. I asked my cousin if any stayed on after the war, and she said absolutely not, they wouldn’t have survived long! There were many Dutch tourists however. I asked if there were currently ill feelings about that, and she responded no. She pointed out that the Balinese are Hindus, and as such are quite fatalistic and feel that their fate is in the hands of the gods. What happened happened, and has no relevance to their lives today.

    I am still waiting for some Africa posts from you!

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