Day 71: Non-surfing Bali II: The agony

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August 4th 2010
Published: August 4th 2010
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2 days in a row away from the surf this time. The surf on the rest of the island (mostly) was still small and after our glut in Balian we were ready to see the other parts.

A little more on Bali: Indonesia is a massive country. It is the largest Muslim country in the world and the 4th largest by population. Bali is a tiny Hindu island in this archipelago (with other religious minorities) and they are fiercely proud of their heritage and culture. For hundreds (thousands) of years Chinese, Indian, and Malay traders came to these islands for their ever valuable spices (cloves and nutmeg). The original spice islands that kicked off the European rush to Colonialism are part of Indo. Hinduism and Buddhism came early but Islamic invaders sought to change that. It is rumored that the Balinese king was all set to convert with the other kingdoms-gone-Islam but when he learned that he would have to be circumcised, he ordered his subjects to resist at all costs and the invaders were eventually driven off.
Balinese Hinduism is based on Indian Hinduism but with an Animist flavor. Religion is a prominent part of everyday life here. You find shrines on city streets and at intersections, small temples way out in the middle of acres of rice paddies, and guardian statues at every bridge. Every morning offering baskets, woven from palm leaf, are filled with flowers, rice, crackers and incense and placed at most every doorway and any other place in need of blessing (a low overhanging rock or dangerous traffic bend).

On the way to Ubud we hit up another "important" temple which had a nice path to file tourists in a neat circle around the actual temple... and we're pretty over seeing temples. The tourist industry thrives at these enclaves. Temple entrances and exits lead you through a maze of stalls reminiscent of IKEA. At these Holy sites you can buy the same Bintang t-shirts and wooden cocks as every other tourist stall in the country. An American version would be Jesus-Disneyland.
Our second stop at the Monkey Forest was much more satisfying. Monkeys are sacred and left alone on this preserve/temple. They play and eat and rob things from tourists. Fun stuff to watch.
Ubud is supposed to be a cultural center. I think a bunch of foreign artists found the place, in the heart of rice paddy country, and stayed. Now it is a tourist hub with museums and cultural shows at its center. We went to a Legong and Barong dance at the palace where dancers in elaborate costumes weave traditional stories to ultra complex (almost rhythmless) xylophone-like gamelon music. We hiked to another tourist temple, a ancient cave whose mouth is carved like an elephant and even older Buddhist statues, now toppled and weathered. Other than that, there isn't much going on except relaxing peace without the quiet. If you are into art and crafts and shopping and shit like that, Ubud is the place for you. Not the place for me.

It was in Ubud we finally (3 weeks late) decided to get passport photos taken so we could use an old (mostly fraudulent) international drivers license to appease the police. We finally stuck a photo inside the license minutes before we left Ubud. 45 minutes after that we hit our first police checkpoint. "Thank you Mr. "X"", said the officer. "Its Doctor "x" actually" replied Eric "Have a good day".. and we were off safe and sound.

We struck further north to Batur. The active volcano (not currently erupting) sits inside a massive caldera half flooded with a lake. The last massive eruption was in 1966 or something but smaller eruptions happen every 10 years or so, and a large lava flow from 2000 darkens part of the valley. We went to a couple hotsprings here. I wasted some time on a motorbike trying to get into the heart of the flow. I learned that 125cc mopeds aren't well equipped for lava exploration, good thing I wore shoes. I almost made it across the lake for the view but after being hassled but 4 different assholes selling the same shit (on foot or motorbike) i turned around before i reached the town they were trying to guide me to. My passport was waiting at the US Consul with extra pages so we otherwise sat in the hotsprings until Monday.

We headed back south to the beach, surfed windblown Keramas for a minute and picked up my passport. Back to the Bukit where we were greeted with the sweet comfortable view of Bingin at a hotel next door to our last spot. We jumped back up the hill and headed to Uluwatu for another warbly and crowded surf and headed to the Uluwatu temple at sunset for the Kecak (Kechak) dance. It was pretty intense with 50 or so men sitting in a circle chanting Kechak Kechak Kechak as a backdrop to the whole story. It peaked when Hanuman, the white monkey, was about to be burned alive in a circle of flaming peat but he busts out and starts wildly kicking fireballs. A bit of a surprise to the front row.

We went back to Bingin and almost fell into the routine (surf nap surf nap eat sleep surf) but we are headed out of the country for a new visa.

Off to Singapore (right as the swell is finally picking up again!) BLAST!.


Tot: 2.718s; Tpl: 0.045s; cc: 10; qc: 49; dbt: 0.0431s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb