Order and Chaos, Monkeys and Sheep

Trip Start Jun 17, 2008
Trip End Aug 31, 2009

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Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wake up.  Comment on the beautiful weather.  Go for a swim.  Have a poolside breakfast.  Work on homeschooling.  Eat lunch.  Enjoy a $0.50 McDonald's Caramel Crunch McFlurry.  Play at the beach.  Write in journals.  Swim.  Watch the sun set.  Go out for dinner.  Read.  Sleep.  Repeat.

Yes, we have settled into a nice routine in Bali.  Granted there are some exceptions: like planning for my victory in the annual hockey playoff pool instead of home schooling, and surfing the web for updated Master's scores instead of journal writing.  By the way, these are my exceptions, not Tracy's.  And I guess there are also variations at McDonald's, such as ordering the ChocoTop or the Warna Warni McFlurry. 

We are back in the beachside town of Kuta, staying once again at Fat Yogi's Cottages, which the children have voted "2nd Best Hotel on our Trip" (falling slightly behind my brother's house in Seattle.  Now if Fat Yogi's only had an indoor basketball court and an Xbox with Rockband...).   We returned to Kuta after spending a week inland in Ubud.  We mentioned in the last blog that Ubud is considered the cultural center of Bali.  If the measuring stick is the number of art galleries, craft stores, Balinese healing shops, and local dance exhibitions, per capita, then Ubud should be declared the cultural center of the universe.

Anyone who has read the enjoyable autobiographical book, "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert will recognize Ubud.  It is the city where the recently divorced, depressed, and basically messed-up author hung out with Wayan, a traditional Balinese healer, and Ketut, the medicine man, while "looking for meaning and balance in her life".  We thought it might be interesting to check out Wayan's store and, in fact, it was interesting.  Not for her traditional Balinese healing, but for the number of middle-aged Western women milling about like sheep.  I'm guessing they were recently divorced, depressed and messed-up (and had read the aforementioned book).  Since I forbid Tracy to be depressed or messed-up (or to wander aimlessly around bleating about finding herself), we just moved on.  Another combination art gallery/handicraft store/massage parlour awaited us.

Other highlights of Ubud included:

    Visiting the 300 inhabitants at the local Monkey Sanctuary.  It was amusing to watch the tour bus drop-offs buy dozens of overpriced bananas, only to have them literally ripped from their hands in seconds by the much smarter (and more aggressive) monkeys.  It was a great spectator sport watching the ladies scream as monkey's climbed up their skirts.  Equally amusing were the smiling (and entrepreneurial) vendors who were quick to offer up additional bunches of bananas for sale;

    Being provided with an "innocence of youth" moment.  As we walked through the Monkey Sanctuary, Laura laughed and said, "Look!  That monkey is riding the other one!"  Monkey #301, coming up!

    Having two of the children throwing up for a day.  No, scratch that, it wasn't such a highlight (but, boy, those Ziploc bags come in handy!);

    And speaking of bodily fluids, [Editor's note:  Don't you just cringe when Kevin starts a sentence that way?] Hindu beliefs prohibit women who are menstruating from entering any of the Balinese temples.  Apparently the women are considered "unclean" during this time of the month.  I'm no theology expert, but I'd recommend broadening the prohibition to include women whose husbands have just made an inappropriate  "pre-menstrual" joke...trust me, there's some bad karma (and dirty language!) emanating there;

    Watching some of the local dance exhibitions, of which there were at least seven to choose from every night.  Our first performance was the enjoyable Barong and Keris dance, whose storyline included, "the dark, chaotic forces of death and black magic embodied by Rangda being discharged and subdued while the Barong enlivens and realigns the light, thus bringing a dynamic balance between order and chaos".   Tracy seemed to really understand the performance and gave a running commentary to the kids of what was happening.  Then again, she was bright enough to have read the storyline before the show started.  I, on the other hand spent the pre-show time trying to erase the copulating monkey scene from my mind.  As a result I could have sworn the dance was an Indonesian version of the classic Bambi meets Godzilla;

    Equally entertaining was the Fire and Trance Dance, with the haunting "chanting choir" of 64 men providing the background music (and filling the "walk-on extra" roles).  It ended with a pile of coconut husks being lit ablaze (with the help of a generous dousing of lighter fluid).  A man riding a broomstick hobby horse then danced barefoot throughout the pyre, kicking the burning shells with his feet.  The 30 centimetre retaining wall probably should have been a little higher, as some of the kicked fireballs actually landed in the crowd...oops (although I suppose you can't blame the fire walker/kicker since he was, after all, in a trance).  Some recently divorced, messed-up, middle-aged women in the crowd lustily bleated their approval for the manly equestrian (who had apparently become their new love target).  The dances will be remembered fondly; if not for their entertainment value and colour, then for the stories that were being acted out;

    Spending the day seeing all the sights in the vicinity of Ubud...caves, temples, holy springs, volcanoes, snakes, wood carving and batik factories, and a driver whose English was good enough that he could swear clearly when he missed a turnoff.  He also regaled us with stories of Balinese black magic (which he swore to be true), and of restaurants that would add marijuana to their dishes to "keep customers come back...they really like food!....!@%&!, Me missed Crazy Buffalo Temple turn!";

    Our "bungalow" hotel was interesting.  It was good enough (except for the day that the pool turned green) but there was an obvious problem with our unit.  Power outages were a daily problem.  Every morning without fail, however, the manager informed us with a big smile, "Power problem gone, bye bye!  All feexed!"  Then with a wink and a lower voice, "You no tell what you pay for room, yes?"  I took that to mean that we had negotiated a good deal.  Even if we hadn't, the entertainment value of watching the "electricians" risk electrocution while "fixing" the problem in the rain, was worth the price;

    Completing a nine kilometer "rice paddy" hike through some surrounding villages.  It was very scenic, and it was interesting to see everyday Balinese life outside the tourist area.  It was also interesting to see what a rice plant actually looks like.  The kids picked and peeled a few grains, and, I don't know why, but it surprised me to see that it looked just like the rice we buy at Zehrs.  Also, I consider myself officially native as I completed the walk in my flip-flops;

    Seeing the shop advertising "Organic Body Piercings".  Could someone please enlighten us...does this mean the person doing the piercing only eats pesticide-free foods?;

    Going to the local library/bookstore and seeing the sign warning against shoplifting.  Instead of the North American standard of "Shoplifters will be Prosecuted", it read, "Shoplifting will Result in Bad Karma!  Think About What You Will Come Back as in Your Next Life".  Based on the strong beliefs of the Balinese, I bet that warning works mighty fine with the locals.  Thankfully, it didn't stop us and we absconded with the mother-load!*;

So it was an interesting and enjoyable week in Ubud.  In addition to the sights and culture, we continued to experience the everyday living that makes this trip so memorable.  For whatever reason, many of these memories-in-the-making revolve around food.  Specifically:

    Watching Michael continue his adventurous eating.  After having worked his way through every type of fish imaginable (including those dishes that contain the whole fish), he is now choosing items with "neat foreign names".  One of his recent "blind" orders was for something that later was translated for us as "fried bean curds".  Even if he doesn't eat these things (which hasn't been a problem so far) it wouldn't be a big deal, as many of the main courses are less than CAD$2;

    Being mocked by my family for ordering the same item for lunch every day.  It's a noodle dish called Bak Mie Goreng Special.  If it tastes great, and doesn't make you run to the toilet in the middle of the night, I say stick with it!  I had previously assumed that "special" referred to the fried egg on top, but after listening to the "marijuana in the food" tales of our Ubud driver, I wonder...  By the way, this dish only costs CAD$1.10;

    Sarah providing another "innocence of youth" moment after seeing the calamari Michael was eating.  She yelled out (in a crowded restaurant, no less), "Testicles!  You're eating testicles!"  That's "tentacles", honey...oops;

    Having the most disgusting, sludge and grit-filled, coffee in my life...I'll let the picture tell the story on this one;

    Introducing kids to more new fruit.  This time it was lychee fruit (or locally known as rambutan)...two thumbs up from everyone for this sweet tasting treat;

    Finding out that there is actually an international market for those sandwich making machines that press, toast, cut and seal two pieces of bread together with some sort of filling.  In Indonesia, the resultant sandwiches are called "jaffles" and they have been on every menu we have seen.  They even come as part of our breakfast!  The "Baked Bean Jaffle" seems to be a family favourite;

    Watching the waiter's eyes (and Tracy's and mine for that matter) bug out when Sarah unexpectedly ordered the Filet Mignon one night.  No issues however, as the two big hunks of beef, potatoes and veggies were methodically demolished by our littlest one.  Sarah, on more than one occasion, has informed us that she has absolutely no intention of becoming a vegetarian.  At CAD$9 we had to chastise her a little for going outside of our price range, but Michael's order of Ayam Bumbu Bali (huh?) sufficiently brought down the average;

That's it for now.  In looking at our daily itinerary I see that it is time for a swim.  I was considering reading instead but I'm wondering whether Barong and Rangda would see that as introducing too much chaos into an otherwise orderly schedule.  What I'd really like to do, however, is satisfy my somewhat unnatural craving for more Bak Mie Goreng Special...

Join us next time for a description of how Easter is celebrated on a predominately Hindu island within a predominately Muslim country (by a bunch of drunken atheist tourists**).  Happy Easter!!
* Relax Mom, I'm just kidding!
** For clarity, I'm not referring to us.
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dlpopowich on

Happy Easter Elop Family...
Just wanted to take a second to wish you all a Happy Easter!!!!!!

We are about to rush out the door to my mom's but had to read another chapter from the Elop World Adventure Guide before departing...

Glad to hear all is well with you all...

fran on

i'm enjoying your photos. my hobby is reading travel blogs. esp. bali. very enjoyable thanks

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