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!
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.
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.
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.
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!