Before we went to the cremation, Judy, Surya, and staff members who happened by, helped us wrap our sarongs and temple scarves properly, rather than the slap-dash vacation-in-Hawaii-wrap-around style many of us had been sporting.It wasn’t very far to Munduk Village, but the road was narrow with no sidewalks, and we were all constrained by sarongs into taking small steps, so Surya got two vans to drive us ten minutes down the road into town. We stood in the shade waiting for the cremation procession to leave the family home and travel the 500 meters it would take to reach us. As we stood waiting with a number of locals who were also lining the street, Surya explained the ... [Continue Reading]
On our way to the waterfall today, our last hike of the trip, Surya pointed out this leaf, kasa, or as it called it, “traditional Balinese toilet paper.” When we stroked the incredibly soft underside of the leaf, we could easily see why.Along the path, we came across this dead green snake. Judy said it’s the most poisonous snake it Bali—one that she has rarely seen. Without treatment, you have about four hours after it bites you to live. We came across several small booths right by the side of the trail by enterprising locals selling small packets of spice: saffron, nutmeg, curry, coriander, galangal, anise, ... [Continue Reading]
Last night after dinner, Karyn and I got to spend a few special minutes with Putu Metta Sustrawan, the 15-year-old boy whose education we’ve been sponsoring for the past year. When we met him with his father last year, Putu was shy and deferential and spoke very little English. This year, his voice had dropped and his English had improved. Putu brought us lovely gifts—a handwritten thank you note, a pencil drawing he had made, a sack of special fruit from his village, and a large bag of local coffee. He told us his favorite subjects in school were still Indonesian, math and science, and that he has continued to play in the local young people’s gamelan group. Putu shook our hands and thanked us for helping him stay to school, and we in turn, thanked him. It’s such a small way for us to give ... [Continue Reading]
We’ve all happily settled into our cottages at Puri Lumbung in Munduk Village in North Bali. The temperature here is at least 20 degrees cooler than it has been during the rest of our trip; the air is cool. Some of us have even pulled out our sweatshirts in the evening. I slept with socks on last night—something I never would have dreamed of in Candidasa and Ubud. The vision of the Puri Lumbung Cottages is to create a “sensitive” tourism project that “creates a partnership between the people of Munduk with those who are concerned about environmental, cultural preservation and are dedicated to the discovery, conservation, and enhancement of the unspoiled area around Munduk.” This hotel provides employment for the local people of Munduk and also enables them to do work that helps ... [Continue Reading]
This morning, I had one hour before I had to be back in the lobby of my hotel to get in the vans to head to Munduk, up north in the mountain country, the final stop of our three-part tour of Bali. I set out, walking fast and determined, knowing exactly where I wanted to go. I’d heard about an exhibit at the Agung Rai Museum of Art, just five minutes down the street from our hotel. “Irony in Paradise” is a temporary exhibit by 65 contemporary Balinese artists about the invasion of outside corporations, the impact of first-world development, and the impact modernization and tourism are having on the ancient culture of the ... [Continue Reading]
Today was our free day in Ubud. Everyone was free to choose whatever activities they wanted for the day. Choices included: time to write and wander, time to shop, bike trips down from the top of a mountain, white water rafting, cooking classes, visiting a healer (a real one, not one of the Eat, Pray, Love hype healers), salon or spa treatments, body work, going to the art museum, and a number of other suggestions handed out yesterday. Karyn and I (and two others in our group—Abby and Mary) opted for the bike excursion. We were picked up at 8:00. On the way up to Mount Batur and our drop off point for biking, we stopped at a little tourist farm that demonstrated how Luwak coffee was made. We saw what the beans look like when they come out of the civet cat: [Continue Reading]
One of the things I love about using Judy and Surya as our tour guides is that they everything they show us and teach us is deeply grounded in their love and respect for Balinese people and culture. The other day over lunch, Judy taught us how to avoid insulting or alienating the Balinese by doing something they would find offensive. Judy said the Balinese are incredibly forgiving, and that most Westerners visiting Bali and continually making social or cultural faux pas. In order to avoid some of the most glaring, Judy advised:
- Don’t express anger in public.
- No public displays of affections between couples in public
- Don’t call out in public when you want to get someone’s attention; clap instead.
- Don’t blow your nose in public. Bali is a ... [Continue Reading]
We moved to Ubud yesterday. As we drove into town, the constant juxtaposition of the ancient and modern worlds of Bali increased exponentially. To my left, out the car window, I saw the “ice cream woman.” She was on a scooter with a cooler full of ice cream strapped to the back of her seat with plastic tie cords. Hanging from the cooler were individually wrapped ice cream wafer cones dangling in vertical rows from the top. We were passing through a village famous for wood carving. There were many shops full of beautiful handmade wooden objects and furniture. I watched a man sitting on the ground, honing a wooden sculpture, all with hand tools. Next door was an auto repair machine shop, and two blocks down the road, a tattoo parlor, advertising tattoos in angular black and white letters. A ... [Continue Reading]
In preparation for our visit to Tenganan Village today, where we’d be seeing the coming of age ritual and visiting some of Bali’s greatest artisans, Judy gave us a dramatic lesson in the art of bargaining. She began by saying, “Some of you may already be very good at bargaining from yard sales and flea markets. Others are terrified of bargaining, and think, ‘I’ll just pay the first price," but bargaining is expected in Bali. The basis of bargaining is not who wins. It’s getting to know the person you’re buying from and letting them get to know you, so that they decide to give you a good price. In between talking about price, you talk about your families and where you came from. Bargaining isn’t about a sale; it’s a way to make a new friend. Bargaining is a game; and it’s an above ... [Continue Reading]
Today, everyone on the trip had a free day until our 3:00 PM writing group. People were going off on scooter adventures, to tour a Balinese chocolate factory, and to see the silversmithing village. Someone told me she was getting another two-hour massage. I’m sure there were other plans afoot that I wasn’t privy to. But I’ll hear all about it later: they’ll be writing about their adventures, and a thing of beauty they saw, in writing group this afternoon. My risk for the day was to do none of these things, but to stay home (re: our air-conditioned room), to rest and relax and read with Karyn. I needed a break from adventure, activity and taking in more stimulation. So I gave myself a time out from exploring today. And if you’ve been following my adventures, you know that hasn’t been my ... [Continue Reading]