Bali Roads, Temples and Dragons

I am here now, and I have decided that I can spend time being frustrated and miserable about the state of communication, lack of phones and internet, or I can go see the place. No matter what the rest of this trip is like or not like, I am in Bali now and will be leaving on schedule because it’s darned near impossible to do otherwise without full cancelation. I have accepted that. As for India, well, we’ll see. Last night I communicated with the travel agents working with me and they actually DO seem to want my business in Darjeeling. Huh. What do you know about that? We’ll see if they get that business or not. After the ceremony, I must leave Ubud and go somewhere else (I think maybe Amed for diving, or Lovina, land of the black sand beach). This time I am going to try to find a place with internet service at the hotel for my own computer, and hopefully I can reach the local Delta rep. No one has returned my email yet, but given the ceremony, maybe the office is closed. Post office probably is too.

Today I got out early (left at 8:00). This is not early for the locals, but early for me. The locals get going around 5:00 AM because it’s not so hot and humid then. I’m going to try 5:00 tomorrow for the huge Galungan ceremony taking place tomorrow – there will be all kinds of religious activity up at the Monkey Forest. Today and yesterday everyone has been preparing for this rite. One thing they do is make big bamboo dragons with offerings on them (the large curving poles in the pictures). The local name for this is penjor. There is one for every home, meant to protect the home and family. Galungan is about the triumph of good over evil, and all the ancestral souls are thought to visit the earth. Animals are slaughtered, offerings are made, and feasts are prepared. The next day, friends and family gather and visit, and then the day after that is more praying and offering as the souls of the ancestors return to heaven. The ceremony happens every 210 days, so dates vary across the Julian calendar. I happened in to it. Thanks to the “Rough Guide” for the specifics. Today was a great day to be out and about because a lot of locals were busy doing other things and didn’t have time to try to pester a tourist to shop. A lot of places are closed and it will be a challenge to get dinner, I think.

First we (myself and my tour guide/driver Wayan) drove for maybe an hour to see the view of the volanoes. There are two big ones that are active on Bali. They have erupted in the last 50 years and caused a lot of trouble for people. Remarkably, temples on their slopes were mostly spared. I suppose around here that’s considered an act of divinity, and not so remarkable. There were some gorgeous rice terraces and palms all down the slopes and nearby. There is a lake near one of the big volcanoes, and the people of the lake have had a hard time of it. You wouldn’t know that to look at it though – it’s a gorgeous view.

After that, we went to a small vanilla, ginger, spice, coffee & chocolate plantation co-op. Yeah, that was tasty! They had free samples and wow, it was amazing. At first I was wondering about the water, etc, but then I realized everything was boiled so I drank up. The coffee had been roasted and ground about an hour before and picked and dried in the last week. I have never had coffee so good. Not ever. And I doubt I ever will again. I don’t usually even like coffee, but this was amazing. I’ll never forget what that tasted like. I also had freshly roasted and ground hot chocolate (MMM!), ginger tea, ginseng & caramel coffee (I think that might have tasted the best),dried- ginger hot chocolate, and some lemon ginger tea (too strong). I bought some ginger tea and some chocolate powder, nutmeg and vanilla beans. The vanilla was a dollar a bean after a little bargaining, so I bought 20 of them to send home for my pantry. I would have bought coffee, but I don’t think it would have made it home in the same condition since it wasn’t vacuum packed. Now, they also had a coffee that animals had digested and pooped out that people recovered the coffee beans from (ew!). The name escapes me, but I have heard Tom speak of this before. Apparently the animals are very particular and only rob the coffee trees of their best fruit. Frankly, I thought the regular stuff was good enough for me any day of the week – no pre-digestion required. The farm also had a few pet roosters, fruit bats (size of housecats) and some nocturnal raccoon like creatures that were quite pretty. They grew pepper, cloves, chilis and all kinds of fruit. Wayan is a bit of a gardener and would be more of one if he had more land. He told me his main plant now is orchids. They are compact, can be planted on walls, and they are beautiful. His wife must be happy having so many flowers around her. Wayan was very helpful in pointing out the different plants. He told me that many local farmers did business out of this little co-op, bringing their goods to this particular place for sale.

I walked around the neighborhood a little and shot up close photos of some of the “dragons” and the local homes. The traditional Balinese house is a compound with a gate and a temple. The houses out that way were pretty much all traditional. The way the low stone and thatch homes blend with the land is harmonious and peaceful to behold.

After that, we went to the sacred pool temple, also known as “Tirta Empul Tampaksiring”. Admission was 66 cents. The place was beautiful – natural springs were bubbling up from black volcanic mud and sand, into a green and blue pool with ferns, all enclosed by stones by the people of Bali. Lovely. I did some research later and found out it is also considered the holiest spot in Bali, with springs created by the god Indra when he pierced the earth to revive his flagging troups in a war with Mayadanawa. The spring waters are said to be the elixir of immortality. People from all over the island make pilgrimages to this site.
Also living at this temple were some very large spiders (about the size of my hand). I am told they are not poisonous. If you’re squeamish, skip that photo. Since we were at a temple, of course there were offerings with flowers , incence, fruit and money, and people were bathing in the sacred waters to cleanse the spirit. Formal dress is required, which means covering oneself decently, plus a sarong and a sash. Since I am anti-mosquito, I was covered anyway and the temple man found it only necessary to lend me a sash for the walk. I had the Rolleiflex camera out with me, and a couple of different people recognized it and told me about theirs or about their friends’. One Indonesian fellow told me he had one, but it didn’t work anymore (fungus), and he knew the age of my camera (he said “74 years” and pointed at it). Wow. He asked if I would allow him to take my picture with it, and with his kind sister. Another fellow, a frenchman, immediately walked up to me, smiled and said “vous etes equipe!” since I had so much gear around my neck. After I answered him that yeah, I was equipped and wasn’t it just a little much, he started talking about the Rollei and telling me about his friend who had one in the studio and the results were the “Le plus taille!” I had to get him to slow down a little so I could talk with him, but I was pleased to understand him and practice my French. Obviously he was so distracted by the cameras that he did not bother looking at my shoes (Keds), or he would have started with “Howdy”!

But, as usual in central Bali, it did rain. On our way back from the sacred pool temple, we went to the lost elephant temple, properly named “Goa Gajah Bedulu”. It has been rediscovered and was built a long time ago. Exploring this place required a lot of walking up stone stairs and navigating some wet territory. I have rain gear for the camera, a rain cover for my backpack, and a big straw hat. That usually does the job, but around here, it’s not always enough. Fortunately, Wayan had a big umbrella that he lent me when it got pretty wet. Unfortunately, it was so wet as to be treacherously muddy in a few places. I could not trek back into the jungle to see the jungle temple. I wish I could have, but it was an accident waiting to happen. Steps of slick wet mud that were two feet high each, and steep? I’d have rolled all the way down the hill. Had to settle for going into the Elephant cave instead. Hopefully I can post a picture of the big rocks in the middle of the stream, in an area where several waterfalls empty. The water continues past the big rocks and on down the hill, but this place is quite spooky. I can see why the natives would have thought it a place of powerful spiritis. I thought so, after only a few minutes of standing there.

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2 Responses to Bali Roads, Temples and Dragons

  1. Joe H. says:

    The poop coffee is ‘Kopi luwak‘ . … and it’s not so much that the animals take the ‘best’ fruit, it’s that they won’t eat the fruit ’til it’s ripe, and then it’s a sort of wet fermentation ’til they expel it.

    (ps. they finally released the data last weekend (well, yet another test series), but it seems they broke subscription once again … aren’t you glad you don’t have to deal with this?)

    • Ah Joe, you always know the straight poop… 🙂 I hope it’s okay with everyone that I didn’t want to pay for the privilege of drinking kopi luwak… And speaking of poop, yeah, kind of glad I am not having to apologize to all our subscribers daily because of these hiccups! I hope you get the real thing soon, though, Joe.

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