Monkeying around...

Trip Start May 31, 2008
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Trip End Jul 14, 2008


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Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Monday, June 9, 2008

Up to Ubud.   I'm expecting a small town in the mountains...a little cooler, with lots of artists...also lots of ex-pats...plus a monkey sanctuary.  Well, small it is not.  Apparently Ubud has grown and grown and now has more shops than you could ever take in...and in fact, there are lots of artists...but TOO MANY PEOPLE - both locals and foreigners...and it's not cool at all, just as hot as anywhere.  
 
My favorite place here is the monkey forest...a sanctuary right on the edge of town where you can go hang out with the macaque monkeys.  They accost you before you even get into the sanctuary...I guess they don't realize there are boundaries around their territory...and Lisa has to give up her ice cream cone to a demanding monkey who is not about to be shaken off without some treat.  Have you ever tried to shake a monkey off of you?  With those four limbs and a tail...and a very persistent attitude, they always have their way
 
There are a few vendors at the entrance to the monkey preserve, and there is a whole troop of monkeys waiting to see who the next person will be to bring them food... I really don't want to walk in with food because they'll know I have it and be right on me.   So the monkeys greet you at the gate...it seems a little formidable when a whole streetload full of monkeys walk in your direction all at once...but once you figure out you have to keep your eyes peeled all around you, and you really can't sit still for too long, then the monkey are totally delightful to hang out with.  And what an opportunity!  To look up close into their monkey faces full of expression, to watch the wrinkled-faced babies cling to their mothers and the mothers pull them back by the tail if they try to stray...then there are the independent and feisty teenagers who are frolicking around together, wrestling and screeching at each other.  And then something happens in the forest to draw everybody's attention and all the monkeys and monkey families race off to the action, running across the ground, swinging thru the trees, carrying on and making all sorts of screechy monkey sounds.  I'm way more into this than the shopping and the town scene.  But once you get used to the fact that it's not at all a quiet little artsy town, then it's manageable. 
 
I'm still into getting out around the countryside of Bali and we hire a driver Dewa, to spend a few days with us.  This hiring a driver thing may sound somewhat extravagant but here's the deal.  You can rent a car pretty cheap but the driving is crazy...opposite side of the road, motorbikes weaving in and around you...and if you hit get in an accident you know it's going to be the foreigners fault...so why bother.  A car and driver can be hired for between 30 and 35 dollars a day...and all you have to do is sit and look out the window - my favorite.  So not only are you contributing to the local economy but it's way less stressful for you...plus they know the roads, where to go, and tell you all sorts of stuff about Bali as you travel. 
 
Dewa is delightful and enthusiastic...his English is OK but his gentle nature and consideration more than make up for a little precise communication. He is a 'Made' which means he is second-born in his family.  The first is Wayan, the second is Made, the third is Comang, and the fourth is Kutuut.  And then it turns right around again if a fifth should arrive.  These names very somewhat by class.  But because of this numbering thing, you meet lots of people named Wayan.  And most will use that identifier for themselves rather than any other part of their name...makes it easy to remember names. 
 
A couple of things...because of the overpopulation of Bali, one of the earlier presidents, I think Sukarno, said that families could only have four children, now they can only have two (or it may be the other way around but I don't think so).   Children are certainly very much embraced by the culture and if you were to have more than two the consequences involve a lack of funding and support for the beyond two child(ren).  Which means their health care is the responsibility of the family, the schooling must be paid for...it's not like they scorn the third and on, they simply don't offer state resources to support those children.  Seems somewhat reasonable to me.  Of course, then it offers the ability to have lots of kids to the people with money, even though that will still add to the increasing population in an area of finite resources. 
 
Another thing, there is an active caste system here.  Similar to India.  Except here there are four levels, the fourth being the lowest caste and there are no 'untouchables' as elsewhere.  When two people marry, the children take on the caste of the father, even if he is fourth and she is first.  People are very aware of what level they are, where they belong in the system.  It can dictate which temple you go to and I'm sure a whole lot of other things as well. 
 
So, back to traveling with Dewa.  He takes us to this magnificent temple, on the side of a volcano...it's the most important temple to the Balinese and has a bunch of smaller temples within (divided by class)...there are a bunch of photos you can check out.  And we end the day in Padangbai, a little town on the eastern coast...time to chill out from the hustle and bustle of our first week in Bali. 
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