Monkeys, Barong Dancers, and the real Nasi Goreng
Trip Start Nov 15, 2012
25Trip End Jul 10, 2013
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The rain eventually stopped and the ground slowly but surely recovered from the flooding. The weekend after the floods was very much spent doing not much at all apart from chilling by the pool, chatting to friends at the bar and listening to various people's stories from different countries. On the Monday Chris played his first game of golf since we left the UK. There is a couple here who have built a large villa at the bottom of the garden at the hotel. It's stunningly beautiful, they are from Perth, and spend their time between Bali, Perth and Sri Lanka. We were told that if we were ever invited to their villa we HAD to say yes. About a week into staying here we were invited, said yes (of course) and so the golf came about.
Now this wasn't just any old golf course, it is one of the top golf courses in south east Asia, it's called Tannah Lot - look it up online, pics to follow on our dropbox folder so check them out too, they are stunning. Tannah Lot is one of the sea temples here in Bali, which can only be accessed when the tide is out. Chris had a wonderful day playing golf with Roger and I amused myself with a fabulous massage and flower bath experience - amazing!
Tuesday was another chill day by the pool, having to say good bye to some lovely people we had met from Australia and whom we will hook up with again when in Melbourne. As quickly as they had gone, so another fabulous couple arrived (in fact, the only couple our age to be staying at Bali Mystique since our arrival) from Washington DC and we were soon sharing stories and beers at the pool, inviting them along to our Uluwatu trip the following day.
Uluwatu is along the south east coast of Bali and the main reason for going there, if you are not a surfer, is to check out the temple along the cliff face of the ocean, watch the sunset and see a traditional Balinese dance called the Kekac or Fire Dance. Off we set from the hotel at 2pm with our new friends heading straight for the main beach for an hour or so before the real tourism stuff started. Padang Padang Beach is a tiny little beach which is accessed by a steep and very narrow stairway, cut through the side of a mountain. The water is beautifully clear, the sand is white and the bintang (beer) is flowing from every which way you look.
After our hour or so of hanging out and getting to know each other all a little better we jumped back into the car and made our way to the temple. Oh the monkeys, the millions of monkeys that hang out at these temples,lurking, waiting, watching...They are crazy little things and all the books and websites warn you to not have anything on you, like sunglasses (hard when watching a sun set across an ocean), flip flops (difficult when it's so damn hot they are the only thing your feet can cope with), camera (ah how do we take memories back with us) as the monkeys will, in one fell swoop, take anything off you and not give it back unless you have bananas or some kind of food to trade for it.
So we removed our glasses, hid our feet under sarongs, carefully stowed cameras in pockets and somewhat cautiously made our way into the temple grounds. In fact, the monkeys were not as bad as expected- I think the local guides, after may incidents, have now ensured the monkeys have enough food and "goodies" so they don't harass the tourists. We checked out the temple, with an awesome view of the ocean, set along the side of the cliff, dodged the monkeys leading up to the amphitheatre where the Fire Dance would take place.
Tourists in there hundreds flocked into the theatre not knowing quite what to expect apart from a bit of fire and chanting, however what followed was about an hour long play told through dance, chanting and offerings. It was quite spectacular. There are no musical instruments played, just the sound that comes from the men (who represent spirits) who make a cricket like noise, cak-cak, hence the name of the dance.
Kecak is an adaptation of an ancient traditional ritual ceremony called Sanghyang that was held to purify a village during an epidemic. In this ceremony two young girls would go into a trance and communicate with the spirits in order to find the cause and cure of the problem. Kecak also incorporates some of the episodes of the traditional Wayang Wong ceremony which deals parts of the ancient Hindu epic, Ramayana, a bit of a Balinese Romeo & Juliet. Just a little history, I won't go into it all here - read it online if you want to know more or this entire blog entry will be take up by the story of it.
Whilst the dance is taking place, so the sun is setting over the ocean and one is torn between watching the play and seeing the ever dipping sun as it sets. We didn't have the best sunset in the world, that was to come a few days later, but still totally worth it's weight in gold. Time to head back to our hotel and grab some dinner, which we dually did with our friends.
Finally our day out and about in Ubud had arrived, after having to be cancelled the following week due to the floods. Made picked us up from Bali Mystique at 8:30am and we went straight to another dance/play/performance, this time with music. It's called the Barong & Kris Dance. It represents an internal fight between good and evil spirits. A Barong (mythological animal) represents the good spirit and Rangda (mythological monster) represents the evil one. Again read up on it if you keen to know more. We were treated to a traditional Balinese breakfast whilst watching the play: ummm we haven't a clue what it was apart from pink, sticky and sweet, with sickly sweet Balinese coffee. When in Bali...
Off to Celuk which is the main silver making area in Bali. We only visited the one, main and most popular factory and shop, called Angel to Angel. Carla, if you are reading this blog at any stage, I thought about you lots. These guys sit there in the factory, in fact it's just two big rooms, working painfully for hours on end putting together the jewellery, from the tiniest of pieces to the most elaborate collections. The jewellery is then either exported in bulk or only two or three pieces are made and sold in the shop upstairs. A pretty cool fact I thought is that they use the glue from a tiny little fruit to stick the pieces together.
It was great to have the opportunity to do this but when you see how hard the guys work and how long it takes them to make something like a simple but beautiful solid silver bracelet with tiny design on (25 days in the making), but how little they get paid, it makes one sick seeing the price they go for. The most expensive piece we saw was for 127million rupee, which is about £11000!!
Next stop, the Elephant Cave temple...Goa Gajah. A wicked cave with surrounding temple and alters again for both Hindu and Buddha. Chris and I both received a blessing from a little old lady who happened to be sat at one of the alters, was awesome. We happened upon a pray mantis fighting a lizard - have a great video which will try and put on facebook, NatGeo here I come lol.
Lunch with Made, in his village, was next on the agenda. We trekked our way through the rice paddies (beautiful luscious fields that go on and on for as far as the eye can see), stopped off at the local shop and picked up a few sweets for the kids in the village. This was, and probably will continue to be throughout our travels, the most touching, heart wrenching, wonderful, sad, happy and every other emotion out there, experience for both Chris and I.
Made is a wonderful man with a wonderful family. His wife had prepared traditional Nasi Goreng for our lunch, with a bottle of water each, and a bunch of fried bananas for desert. We were made to feel like king and queen in a very un-palace like place. We were introduced to Made's wife, son and daughter and shown around his village.
Made's village "houses" all 50 members of his family,from tiny babies all the way through to his very old grand father, and they work together as a unit to keep the village and their temple sustainable. We handed the sweets out to all the kids and it was hysterical, they went crazy and their little faces lit up with joy. The whole experience of being invited for lunch, witnessing the way they all love, live and work together was incredibly humbling and one we will keep with us forever.
From village to villa, sublime to the ridiculous. Made took us for a quick peak of "The Palace", or "Chill out home" of the owner of our Bali Mystique hotel, Norman. Just a note here that we have met Norman and he is a fabulous man, whose staff adore him. It seems he does anything and everything he can to help them. His place up in the Ubud mountains is beautiful and we felt very lucky to get a little sneaky peak of it.
Off to the markets, where Made grabbed himself a coffee, Chris grabbed himself a beer and I grabbed myself a load of heckling! I didn't last long, bought nothing and quickly made my way back to the car feeling somewhat ridiculous as I am fecking useless at bartering - give me a price and ill pay it, don't ask me to barter with you, I haven't a clue how much a small wood carving of a penis is worth - yip that's right, they are everywhere! So back to Bali Mystique we go.
Friday 21st December 2012, somewhere in a parallel universe Chris and and I were getting married, oh and the world was ending. We spent the day chilling by the pool and had decided that if the world really was going to end then the best place to be was Potato Head, lounging on one of their many beds, sipping cocktails, watching the sunset and waiting for the end of the world tsunami...which thankfully didn't come.
We invited Biva and Allon (our friends from the states) to join us and they very kindly paid for our drinks, saying it was their un-wedding present to us, it was a wonderful surprise! The most stunning sunset we have ever seen, and we have seen some pretty spectacular ones in Seychelles, SA and Spain. The pics, which are beautiful, don't even do it justice - seriously people, I have never! Ok I'm boasting now but seriously!!
Finished off our un-wedding day with a couple of games of pool and a few drinks at the hotel bar, amongst newly formed friends and the Bali Mystique "family", celebrating the fact that the world hadn't ended but having an "end of the world party" anyway, thanks to Norman deciding that's what it was now officially being called.
Saturday (yesterday) was the day in the calendar that everybody here at Bali Mystique had been waiting for, for the last two weeks - it was Kiki's Purple Party. Kiki owns Kiki's Salon, which is a spa and salon here at the hotel. He opened it two years ago and this was the party to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of its opening. Kiki is gay and fabulous and loves purple, hence the Purple Party theme. The hotel staff worked tirelessly the whole day setting up for the evening and we felt very honoured to be invited as it really was only for the locals and ex pats who had been around for a good few years.
A fab evening was had by all, all donned in purple dresses/t-shirts etc, a dinner was laid on and drinks were flowing (all compliments of Kiki). There was entertainment in the form of a gay belly dancer - I have never seen a man move his stomach like that it was amazing and better than any women belly dancer we have ever seen. And there was cake, made by the master baker Andrew - bubblegum flavoured rainbow cake, how app ;-)
The evening continued until the wee hours of this morning, meeting many new people and me being commissioned to do gangham style at the Christmas lunch on Tuesday! For some strange reason, probably bought on my one too many bintang beers and Chris wanting a break from itchy bum dancing, I was doing gangham style way to well for my liking! Apparently if I learn the entire dance I get my Xmas lunch for free - any tips? Suffice to say today has been spent nursing hangovers by the pool!
And so here we are, up to date and getting ready for Christmas. We are off to a place on the east coast of Bali called Candidasa from the 2-4th Jan but between now and then I am sure there will be plenty more interesting and magical memories made so will update again in a week or so.
Wishing you all a wonderful festive time whatever you may be doing in whichever part of the world you are in - until the next time xx
P.S. I know I really need to find some more adjectives and superlatives for our blogs apart from amazing, awesome, fabulous and wonderful so any suggestions please feel free to throw them our way, I'm sounding far too American for my liking ;-) oh and, I am hoping one day soon Chris will jump on this bandwagon and write some blogs cause this one has taken me about five hours and you are probably all in need of a little more humour and a large drink, LOL!