Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In Bali I'm Rich!

My pool in Bali.
I have been in Bali for a week now and I can honestly say that this is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable places I have ever been.

Bali is a province of Indonesia but is quite distinct in that it is 85% Hindu while the rest of Indonesia is primarily Muslim. Bali became popular as a tourist destination in the 20s and 30s when bohemian artsy types first visited and wrote about the artistic Balinese people and culture. I'm sure the many stories about topless Balinese native women didn't hurt either. The island was an exotic destination that became popular with the surfer, hippy crowd in the 60s and 70s. It grew tremendously as a tourist destination for Australians, Chinese and Japanese in the 80s and 90s. Tourism fell off somewhat in the first decade of the twentieth century after two separate bombings took place in the dense tourist destinations of Kuta. The well known movie, based on the book of the same title, Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts has helped to revive the bustling tourist industry here. Many people now lament the added development that has occurred, particularly in the south and south east part of the island.

These small offerings are placed everywhere many times a day.

My carving being prepared.
Having travelled to many hot tourist spots, I must say that Bali has been a pleasent respite despite the many tourists. This may be because I chose not to stay in the more popular beach destinations but rather in a small village in the center of Bali called Penestanan. This village is close enough to Ubud, a famous artistic center, to be convenient but far enough away to be peaceful. The property I am staying in has three Villas that are all sufficiently isolated with tasteful foliage so you feel quite alone. In fact, I am quite alone because no one else is staying here. I have a huge villa with a beatiful salt water pool which is next to a field of rice paddies. Each day, Ari, a young Balinese gentleman delivers my breakfast with a bow. He is so quite and gentle spoken (as are all of the Balinese people I have met) that I rarely hear him approach. He calls me Miss Terry and quitely goes about business cleaning up after me and arranging all of my needs.
The village has a population of about 2000 and like all villages in Bali there are three temples and numerous small Warungs or shops. The Balinese seldom travel as they make family, home, and religion the centre of their lives. Many times a day small offerings are made everywhere you look. Women walk about with trays of small dishes containing incense and offerings to both evil spirits and good ones. This small trays are absolutely everywhere and are offered for all activities with a small prayer. The villages are divided into family compounds which contain numerous buildings for all of the extended family. The compounds each have entranceways which are more elaborate based on the means of the family. The entranceways have small temples at which offerings are made but inside the compounds are larger family temples where ceremonies often take place. The villagers have many celebrations and gatherings at the village temple where they play unique Balinese music and dance. There has been music every night of my stay since the temple in this village is about thirty metres from my Villa. It was charming the first couple of nights but a bit annoying after that. Another charming but eventually annoying sound occurs each morning as the roosters and dogs seem to make it their duty to make sure no one sleeps past six am! These damned roosters seem to take their job very seriously as they continue to make a racket all morning!

Villager going about her business.
I have had daily use of a scooter while here so I have not been isolated in the village. The scooter is the main form of transportation in Bali although there are also many cars and busses. The roads are extremely narrow and many can only be accessed by scooter. I was slightly nervous at first since the scooters actually go quite fast and there are literally scooters everywhere. I was determined to see a bit more of Bali on my own, however, so I donned my helmet and with my trusty iPhone for navigation, off I went! My first stop in Ubud was a cell phone shop where I was able to quickly get a new SIM card for the ridiculously low cost of $10! Now I was safe to go exploring. I had a wonderful day driving through villages and through the countryside. I saw many people going about their business working in rice paddies, washing clothes, drying rice on mats on the road, taking children to school and everywhere I went people waved and said, "Hallo." I thought they were practicing English until I discovered that hello in Indonesian is hallo!
Bali is famous for its artistic wood, stone, and bone carving. These carvings are done in the villages and then sold in the larger tourist areas such as Kuta and Ubud. I stopped at one small place where the carvings were being stained by two women. I guess they weren't used to drop ins because when I used my translator to ask, "How much," while pointing at an unfinished carving, the woman had to call someone. She told me it would be 25,000 Rupiah but that I would need to come back later so they could finish it. 25,000 Rupiah is roughly $2.50....honestly, no wonder I feel like a millionaire here! When I withdrew money from the ATM, I had taken out two and a half million rupiah. But not only are the denominations huge, everything is extremely cheap. In all likelihood, I would have paid a great deal more for my carving if I had bought it at a shop in Ubud so I hastily agreed to come back in a couple of hours.

Some local children going to school.

Next on my journey I visited the Tellanagan Rice Terraces. These were absolutely stunning and although not as high as the mountainous terraces in Longshen, they were possible even more beautiful. I was able to go down and walk in the terraces and met a gentlman at one of the many huts. Now usually, I would be pretty cautious and sceptical about random people wanting to show me around and help me take pictures but I was caught up in the moment and continued my walk through the terraces with this new helper. There were many random Balinese working in the fields and my new guide indicated that they lived in the paddies and he took me to one of their houses. When we were away from prying eyes he surreptitiously unwrapped a package from his jacket that contained two exquisite bone carvings. I couldn't resist when he agreed to a price of 12,000 Rupiah ($1.20) and now I just hope they aren't some banned object.

Bone carvings.

I made it back to my little village in one piece and after taking a short walk down some very dark streets with my little flashlight and being clipped in the shoulder by a passing van, I can say that I think the motor bike was a lot safer than walking!

Tellaganan Rice Terraces, Bali

Small home in the Rice Terraces.

My Unofficial Guide

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