Mad Monkeys, Motorbikes and Bunda Bali

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May 12th 2006
Published: May 13th 2006
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Rp35,000 seemed a good price to pay for a motorbike to save 3 bemo changes and several hours of journeying, so this was the method of transport that I used to get from Denpasar to Ubud. I think sometimes the driver forgot how big I am, and I was convinced that at somepoint I was going to lost one of both kneecaps. I finally realised how the horn is used in balinese driving. It is not the responsibility of the person pulling out to look, rather it is the responsibility of the oncoming traffic to inform that driver of their presence with the horn. The horn is also used to inform of overtaking manouvers, to scare stray dogs, to say hello, to see if people walking want a lift and possibly 1001 other messages. In short everything is random.

Having looked round Ubud's bustling and touristy art and food market I headed out around town to try and find a Balinese cookery course which I had heard ran here. Most of the shops seemed to be related to tourists selling either souveniers, food or tours. I finally found a restaurant offering a cookery course, and joined in. I missed the start which was a market visit, but the actual teaching was still to come. The course was specific to cooking balinese food rather than indonesian, and featured a number of dishes I have not tried before. The first dish was a base spice paste which we then used in a number of other hot and cold dishes such as currys, spicy fried prawns and the balinese version of sate. I also got the chance to talk about the tutors personal culinary tastes, in particular a fondness of dog. His friends, he told us, drive around on mopeds with hammers harvesting the stray street dogs that are everywhere in Bali. He, however, prefers the tender and tasty flesh of young puppies.

After the cookery course I headed down to the curious tourist attraction of Monkey Forest. Monkey forest is a forest containing a number of temples, and a lot of monkeys which form a monkey sanctuary. What is unique about this sanctuary is the utter lack of fences allowing for total interaction. I took a small bunch of bananas in with me, but one greedy and big monkey stole the whole lot straight from by hand. It was nice to watch the monkeys wandering around, attacking the visitors and generally making nuisances of themselves!

Feeling monkeyed out I went back to Denpasar to see the end of the full moon festival. My host informed me I would be welcome enough at the temple if I wore a sarong and sash, so this is where I went. As I walked down the streets were a sight to behold - young couples on mopeds immaculately dressed, the girls on the back sitting sidesadle and carrying large and immacualte offerings. Despite my appropriate dress I felt very out of place inside the temple, so I only stayed briefly before retiring outside to watch a shadown puppet show done in the traditional style with a flaming torch for back illumination.

For dinner I went back to the night market and had Babi Gulung Lawar. Babi Gulung is a roasted "suckling pig" and Lawar is a mix of spices, meat and freeeesh blood. It was served with a delicious soup which was hot enough to bring tears to my eyes. On the way back to Nakula Familar I stopped off at my coffee stall for a cup of the hot, sweet and gritty. I was given a present of a bunch of bananas and a piece of ceremonial bread by the older sister, but im not really sure why. They were tasty tho...

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