bits about bali

October 21, 2008

The last post from Indonesia, and No. 4 in myyearonline’s continuing country series.

1. Balinese are given gender-independent names based on their birth order: the first born child is called Wayan, the second Made, the third Nyoman and the fourth Ketut. Subsequent children are not a problem, simply start at the beginning again!

2. More men than women wear fresh flowers behind their ears as accessories.

3. Offerings are made daily to the gods, little woven leaf pockets of rice, flowers, incense sticks and even the odd Ritz biscuit. These are placed in entryways to homes and shops, at shrines and temples. Mr. Snow spent our entire trip almost stepping on them.

4. Balinese New Year, Nyepi, is a day for self-reflection and quiet. So no lights, tvs, or radios, no driving, no flights or beach going, even for tourists.

5. Despite the authorities’ best efforts, cockfighting is well and alive in Bali. If you ever pass a temple or dirt track with dozens of motorbikes parked, but not a soul in sight, take a look around. The action is not far off!

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surf school bali

October 13, 2008

In celebration of absolutely the most fun new thing I’ve tried for a long time, here’s a rare picture of Mr. Snow and me. Surf school was Mr. Snow’s only request for Bali, and what a great idea it was.

A look online led us to ProSurf, who were brilliant from start to finish. Information was clear both from the website and from phoning to enquire, and booking us into beginners’ classes over the phone was quick and efficient. Pick up and drop off from our hotel was included in the price, and at the school on Kuta we got long boards matched to our heights, surf shirts and shorts, and even sunscreen.

Class times were chosen according to the tide, so the waves were just right in size for us. Frank, the main instructor, started us off with a theory class on land. Once out in the water, a great team of smiley instructors helped him out to get us standing, with no more than 3 students per instructor.

After all that, how did the actual surfing go? On the first day, brilliantly! I managed to get up on the board after several tries, and with Komang’s help. Riding even those few metres to the shore, no matter how unsteadily and generally with wiping out before too long was enough to put a giant smile on my face for the rest of the day. Unfortunately my board mojo temporarily deserted me on the second day, returning only towards the end of our session. Kadek didn’t even want to let Mr. Snow leave, going out with him for one last wave after time was up. No matter, I’m hooked, and dreaming of my next go. Thanks to Frank, Komang, Kadek, Freddie… and of course the Balinese waves for that. When’s the next time?

kecak at uluwatu

October 4, 2008

My favourite of the Balinese traditional dances is also the youngest. Kecak tells stories from the Ramayana. It is performed by up to 100 men in a chorus rhythmically chanting ‘cak’ to accompany the main players, Rama, Sita, Ravana and Hanuman. It is derived from a trance-inducing exorcism dance.

I discovered on my previous trip that the dance is also performed at sunset at Uluwatu, atop the cliffs, and close to the temple.

A spectacular location for what is, despite commercialization, a very atmospheric performance.

Not sure Hanuman’s fire antics were health and safety approved.

Go here and here for more stunning shots, and here to listen to how catchy kecak is. Not to be missed if you ever visit Bali. Even Mr. Snow enjoyed it thoroughly, against his expectations.

selamat pasar dari ubud!

October 2, 2008

‘Selamat pasar!’ said Mr. Snow to the receptionist as we left to our lovely jungly room at Tjampuhan Hotel in Ubud. ‘Selamat malam’, smile the receptionist back. I think someone’s a little bit too hung up on pasar malams…

While the rooms weren’t the newest, the setting of the Tjampuhan was gorgeous, spilling down the valleyside. Their spa, set in a series of river-side caves and nooks, was extra special. This photo was taken from the reception. Can you spot the blue patch of pool among the green?

Of course being Bali, the hotel had its own little shrine.

Mr. Snow liked Ubud best of everything we did in Bali, and with architecture like this at the Royal Palace,

and this temple in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary, who can blame him?

Our hotel was a little outside the town centre, in Campuhan (which means) where two rivers meet, or mix.

It was also the starting point for a ridge walk with views across the deep valley.

with great terraced rice paddy views.

It was also on this walk that we met our little friends with their fish.

And we barely scratched the surface of all the delicious places to eat! We made the obligatory lunchtime stop at Ibu Oka‘s for roast suckling pig, Naughty Nuri‘s for fresh lime juice (far too early for ribs, though they smelt delicious!), and Janet and Ketut’s shrine to Balinese food (and mouthwatering cakes), Casa Luna.

Something tells me we might be back again sometime…

uma sapna

September 29, 2008

After the wedding, we jetted off for a few glorious days on magical Bali, the Isle of the Gods. Our home away from home was a villa at Uma Sapna, thanks to a great recommendation from Miss M’s mum (and the rest of the meenahs!). Warm and friendly staff, spotless, wide open spaces and a pool to swim in.

Given the facilities, the prices were very reasonable, as borne out by their full occupancy rates all year round. Good location down a quiet street in Seminyak if you are thinking of staying in the area, walking distance to restaurants and bars, and the beach.

batak wedding

September 29, 2008

Remember this invitation? Well, here’s the full report!

In our limited experience, a Batak wedding consists first of a civil ceremony at the registrar’s office at the church. Mr and Mrs T-to-be were the stars of the day.

But not to worry if you get confused as there’s always one or two people on hand to ask if you get confused, or perhaps need a witness.

Everyone in the Batak congregation was beautifully turned out in stunning traditional dress and hairdos for the ladies and suits for the men.

Mr T even beat the new Mrs T in reciting his vows in Bahasa Indonesia, very impressive! Then it was off to the function hall for lunch, but not before a dancing delegation of guests with offerings of rice balanced on their heads were welcomed into the hall by the families of the newly weds, with rhythmic hand movements and dancing.

Good thing too, as now I suppose Mr and Mrs T won’t have to worry about running out of rice for the next couple of years. I’m only sorry I didn’t get any photos of the water buffalo head and bones that were presented to various families from the hosts. Each family was allocated a long table with their own name plate, but after a delicious lunch of traditional Batak food people didn’t seem too keen on staying seated. Why?

As Agus said, the great thing about Batak weddings is that they have beer and music! Mr. Snow wowed the ladies with his joget skills.

The colours at the wedding were riotous, and the dresses stunning.

One of the most important ceremonies at a Batak wedding is ulos giving. Each family attending presents the newlyweds with one or more traditional woven cloths by draping it (while jogeting of course) around both their shoulders.

A speech is also usually first made, conveying their best wishes and hopes for the couple’s happy future together. In fact speeches seem to be a big thing in Batak wedding tradition…

As it turned out, all the foreign guests were also presented with ulos in a mass ulos giving ceremony, thus welcoming us all formally into the Batak community. In fact, all through the wedding other guests would smile, or come by to exchange a couple of words of welcome, and to ask how we liked it all. Very much, thank you!

jakarta dreaming

September 26, 2008

On our free day, we decided to go sightseeing. Sounds reasonable enough, but finding a little bit of old Jakarta (that doesn’t include malls) involved some perseverance on our part. But in the midst of all the traffic chaos, we managed to catch a glimpse of a Jakarta that is otherwise long gone.

We started in Kota and the old Dutch town square. The Jakarta History Museum, housed in the former Dutch town hall from 1707, does its best with the resources it has to pull together a slightly random assortment of artifacts and relics, ranging from prehistoricl to colonial eras. This 19th century Dutch filing cabinet impressed both Mr. Snow and me.

Deciding for a drink and a spot of lunch took us fortuitously to Cafe Batavia for colonial-style sipping and supping, before walking on to Jakarta’s old port of Sunda Kelapa. No pinisi in port unfortunately, but some smaller fishing boats were visible from a bridge at the Fish Market.

Then, a wander along the Kali Besar, or Main Canal, which used to be lined with grand houses. A few still remain from the early 18th century, and some rehabilitation work seemed to be going on, but for the most part the glory days of this street seem long gone. I caught a glimpse of them with these old balconied shophouses.

We finished by walking through Glodok, Jakarta’s Chinatown and by asking the way repeatedly, managed to find our way to two 17th century Chinese temples, smoky with incense at dusk.

It’s a little more than a month since I was here. It feels like I am miles away, yet at the same time I left a little piece of myself there, so at the back of my mind I’m always there. Not only the swimming in the sea while eating getes, but the seafood barbeque afterwards and strolling back over the walkway with the waves lapping gently alongside. As I believe someone once said, I’ll be back. And hopefully bring Mr. Snow with me too!

The best part of my trip home this time was a week’s visit with my family (and various hangers-on) to Indonesia. Our main goal was to celebrate Cheng Meng with extended family on my mum’s ancestral island of Bangka. Bangka formed a new Indonesian province with neighbouring Belitung in 2000, where the latter is the namesake of mining giant BHP Billiton which was involved in tin mining there in the last century.

After a couple of days’ stay in Bogor and Jakarta we boarded the flight to Bangka, helpfully signposted by the smiling gentleman above. Unlikely that we would have missed it though, as the flight was packed with family, friends and acquaintances (not that we were able to identify them all, though they could us!). All aboard!

happiness in a glass

March 31, 2008

alpukat heaven

Blended iced avocado with palm sugar, here shown in Puncak. Sounds weird, and I know it’s green, but tastes so good that I have had to get a daily shot for the week we were in Indonesia. More travellers tales coming up, including a special rare report from the province that gave BHP Billiton part of its name!