Virtual Vacation: Markets, Temples, and The Secret of Balinese Cooking, Day 8

I woke up early this morning to the sound of torrential rain and thunder. It was a huge storm. By early morning it was still raining, but more a drizzle. Since some of our plans today were outdoors, we weren’t sure what would happen, but ever since I lived in Ketchikan, Alaska, where it rains 137 feet a year (twice the precipitation of Seattle), doing things in the rain doesn’t bother me. All that happens is that you get wet. What’s the big deal?

Allison and I signed on to take a Balinese cooking class this afternoon; in fine print at the bottom of the menu of our favorite restaurant was a little statement about being able to take a cooking class for $35 each (and a trip to the market was included.) We told them what dishes we wanted to learn to make and the next step was going to the morning market to buy what we needed.

We were picked up at 7 AM to go to the market and the roads were flooded all the way to the market. Sometimes it was like driving through a small lake:

I love outdoor markets. And this one was no exception. Once again, we were the only tourists there, as our guide chose the ingredients we would need for our cooking this afternoon.

Here’s a bit of what the market looked like:

We were dropped back at our hotel and had breakfast. We asked for extra cut up chilis because Allison and I both like spicy food. But I poured the whole thing on my mie goring (noodle breakfast) and I felt like my mouth was on fire. I needed to eat a whole cup of white rice, but I didn’t have one. I settled on the sliced watermelon on Allison’s plate:

At 9 AM the two Kadeks picked us up for another scooter adventure. We told them we only wanted to do what was local, nothing for tourists. And that we wanted to see some beautiful countryside and some rice fields. The first stop on our tour was the Sumberkima Village Primary School, where they were having an end of school performance. It took a long time to get started (I get the distinct feeling the sense of time in Bali is very different than mine at home). The kids who were waiting were gorgeous, full of big smiles for us. Here’s a few who said I could take their pictures:

The “auditorium” was an open-walled pavilion with a stage at the front. The room was full of enough wooden benches to accommodate a few hundred people. After a very long wait, three Balinese came out and did a traditional dance. They were dressed in brilliant pink and lime green clothes flecked with gold patterns. They had on a ton of eye makeup to accentuate their eyes since the movement of the eyes (as well as the fingers) is an essential part of Balinese dance. I loved seeing the head wiggles, eye movements and precise movements of the fingers.

This was one of the dancers:

After the dance, a girl got up and made a very long speech. She was followed by a man who had the school principal vibe, and he gave a welcome speech that went on and on and on and on. Of course we couldn’t understand any of it. At one point everyone stood, so we stood, had a moment of silent meditation and a prayer. We all chanted Om Shanti Shanti Om—at least that much was familiar. And then we sat back down.

After the first man spoke, another man, who is the older Kadek’s teacher, started giving his speech. I kept waiting for the change in inflection that might indicate, “And so now, without further ado, let’s turn it over to your children so you can see how well they perform for you…” But that never came. Kadek said it was a motivational speech, but we had no idea what this man was saying so passionately and for so long.

After we’d sat there for an hour listening to speeches in a language we didn’t know, and still the children’s dances didn’t come, we gave Kadek the signal that we wanted to move on. Luckily we were sitting at the far end of bench and it was easy to slip off, though of course, as the only white people in the room, I’m sure our quiet departure created a spectacle.

On our way to our next stop, my Kadek had to get gas in his scooter. He pulled up at a station and handed over a 10000 rupiah note—the gas cost a dollar and we peeled out of there in a minute.

From there we went on a long ride through rainforest on a narrow road, past community gardens, rice fields, and people working by the side of the road. Chickens were both running loose and being held under wicker cages waiting to be sold at tiny stands along the road.

We finally ended up at Melanting Temple, one of many Hindu temples in the area. Hindus outnumber Muslims in Bali; it’s the only province in Indonesia that isn’t Muslim.

Once we got there, we had to put on proper temple attire. This meant wrapping ourselves up with sarongs (bought on our last trip to Bali) and temple scarves and covering our shoulders.

Once we climbed up into the temple itself, we removed our shoes and observed for a while.

The older Kadek told us we, too, could make an offering, and he proceeded to show us what to do. We bought small little offerings, the kind you see everywhere in Bali, for 50 cents, and then sat cross-legged on the ground in from of the temple. An older man was playing bells. Beside him were two bottles with ornate dragon tops—one black and one white—to represent the need to balance good forces with evil forces. He sprinkled water from those two bottles on the offering at his feet.

I took my cues from Kadek who was praying beside me. My silent prayer was as follows: “Help me move from my heart and my belly, instead of my head.” Then I did as he did—smashing one flower petal at a time and putting it behind my ears. Then a woman came by and poured rosewater on our heads and into our waiting palms and we drank it. Finally, she brought some grains of rice and these we pressed into our forehead. And then the prayer was done.

This is the walkway out of the temple:

It was sad saying goodbye to our Kadeks.

After a rest, we went to the restaurant for our cooking class. I’d taken a cooking class with Lizzy and couple of my students last year, in Ubud. It was a westernized cooking class for tourists taught by a native English speaker. It was great fun and Rosemary, who taken the class, and I cooked a Balinese reunion feast a few months after our return.

This cooking class was nothing like that one. It was in the restaurant’s kitchen and all those helping out, including the children all seemed to belong to one family. There was very little English spoken by anyone and although we got to chop and stir and use a huge mortar and pestle to create ‘basic spice paste,” we realized right away that we weren’t really going to learn how to cook. Once we got that, we looked at each other and decided to enjoy the experience.

These are the ingredients of basic spice paste

We learned through observation—like the fact that these two young people were spending an amazing amount of time separating the “heads” from the “tails” of bean sprouts—they said the “tails”—my term, not theirs—were no good, so they were discarding them.

Each time we made a new course, they’d plate up the food for us and send us out to a table to eat each new dish.

Everything was delicious: the curry paste which is the foundational spice used in most Balinese cooking, Urab (vegetable salad), Jukut Mesanten (curry-coconut soup with mahi mahi), sate lilit (minced fish satay cooked on lemongrass spears), our favorite tofu/tempeh dish which featured this beautiful freshly made tempeh, wrapped in banana leaves, and our favorite dessert, Bubh Injin, black rice pudding.

The best part of the cooking “class” was the food-yum! But more than that, the loving family who we palled around with in the kitchen. This is Komang Enix (16) and her little sister, Komang Lia (10). Aren’t they lovely?

The other thing I found delightful was the father of the family (who also took us to the market—I can’t remember his name) made the most exquisite little arrangements to decorate our food. Here he is at work:

And here’s what our dessert looked like with his beautiful handiwork.

Oh, and I’ve been meaning to tell you, I finally decided where I’m going next—to a small fishing village called Amed, about an hour north of Candidasa. This was the part of my trip I was nervous about—being on my own and making things up as I went along. But I found a highly recommended small guest house and made a reservation starting tomorrow night for three days. It’s a part of Bali I’ve never been to and it looks fantastic.

However, just as we were booking a car for tomorrow to take us to our (separate) destinations, the woman at the front desk informed us that we were actually booked to stay here one more night! And here I was all geared up to move on.

I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to do. I feel kind of “done” with this area, though Allison and I are both sad to be going our separate ways. We’ve been very compatible travel buddies—we both like spicy food and adventure and are up for pretty much anything. Yet we also give each other space.

I have a night dive tonight—my favorite—diving in the dark when all kinds of new creatures.

Wayan, taking a dip in the sinks used to rinse out our dive equipment.

Maybe when I’m down there underwater in the dark, I’ll decide whether to stay another day here with Allison or if I want to move on, on my own, to Amed.

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