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Asia » Indonesia » Bali » Ubud
May 20th 2013
Published: October 1st 2017
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A long but interesting day touring Bali. Paul and I woke up around 5am, to the sound of the rooster next door. And a few lovely birds. It was a little buggy outside, so we enjoyed the view from indoors. At 8am, we went for our tasty breakfast at the restaurant, with a view of the ravine. It was cool and pleasant and very good. Kyla could even get an iced coffee with milk.

At 9am, we met Anwar and began our day. Our first stop was a Balinese dance, depicting the conflict between good and evil. Evil looked a bit like the creature from the Black Lagoon. Good was a lion covered in gold and mirrors. We were given a sheet of paper that described the different scenes, which was helpful for understanding the storyline. On the other hand, the bits about the conflict were quite easily understood. One of the more interesting scenes: near the end, the servants of good come forward to help good defeat evil (who has already surrendered and died but been brought back by a servant). The servants – almost all older men – fight evil with their kris then die, then are brought back to life by good … then they try stabbing themselves with their knives. This made no sense to me until Anwar told us it was a trance dance that is often performed during temple ceremonies and is how the participants demonstrate that they are possessed by good. Even though these men don't enter a trance for the performance, the priest still comes around and blesses the stage with holy water so the men are not injured.

Our next stop was a traditional Balinese compound. It was definitely not restored. As you enter the front gate, you encounter a blank wall, which is designed to prevent evil from entering, as evil can only move in straight lines. There are three areas, representing the head, body, and earth. The head includes the temples/shrines, which, in the case of this compound were not decorated, although we've seen others along the road dressed in black and white checked cloth (which is like ying/yang, good/evil). One of the shrines was built out of the tree it sat on. In the "body" of the house, we saw kitchen, living room, and ceremonial platform, where all the main rituals of the life occur. We learned that children are named on the basis of their birth order, which repeats after four. We also learned that Bali uses a 210 day calendar, which confused us, because it's not like the Gregorian is an arbitrary European invention. But later we realized that Bali uses two calendars: the 210-day ritual calendar and a 12-month lunar calendar. Ritual dates are calculated in both. Finally, we toured the small garden, learning about the different plants and their medicinal uses.

From the compound, we had a short drive to Tirta Empul Temple. This is a Hindu temple complex built around a volcanic spring and is a common pilgrimage site for ritual cleansing. The entrance is protected by a ancient banyan tree, and then you pass through the gates to the pools, with multiple fountains. Those undergoing the ritual carry incense and flowers, which they leave at the base of each fountain, and they wash their hair and let the water from the fountains pass over them. The most inner courtyard is reserved for prayer. Near that, a wall is built around the spring itself, which bubbles through black sand in a very visible way. The entire area is very calming and relaxing; it's too bad that you have to pass through a very long maze of souvenir stalls before reaching the car park. The sellers were all complacent, barely mumbling, “Madame. Just look. One dollar,” as you pass by.

Then, to the coffee plantation, one of the manufacturers of luwak coffee, which is made from coffee beans that have passed through the digestive system of a civet cat. Seriously. Apparently, this is in high demand. Coffee farmers used to go out to the forest to find civet cat poop and process it, but now the animals were sitting in hutches. The poop is still processed. I don't know quite why it is considered so wonderful. We tried it (of course) and it was not particularly … well, much of anything. Just coffee. The best part of the visit was sitting at one of the tables, with a view out over the rain forest, chatting with Anwar. It was also very pleasant to taste the different coffees and teas (we ended up buying a lemon grass tea). Anwar also showed us many plants, including the wild citronella, which I've decided I would like to try to grow at home. Maybe it will keep the mosquitos at bay.

From the coffee plantation, we continued up the slopes of the volcano, to the Lakeview Restaurant, where we had lunch. The buffet was expensive (for Bali), but the view was lovely (despite the clouds). From our table on the terrace, we could see very clearly the most recent lava flow (1963) and the shape of the caldera.

Then, back to town, stopping to view the rice terraces along the way. We could see water flowing from the upper to the lower terraces; we could also see some of the valves that switch the flow of the water to different villages. Mostly, we just enjoyed the view of the rice terraces and the forest. Finally, we ended by trying to watch the herons land. A friend had said it was a great experience, and it was enjoyable, but they were landing only a few at a time. Eventually, it grew dark, so we left to return to the hotel.

Dinner was taken at the hotel restaurant – very tasty, although none of us were very hungry at all. We were, again, the only ones here. I wonder how frequently they have dinner guests, as they are so far out of town. Then, so tired … to bed.


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