Thursday, 18 August 2011

Bali Tour

I had a great day today, I saw a lot and ate a lot of new things. I hired a car for the day, not a bad price for what I got. My drivers name was Made (mad-ay) which means second son in Balinese. They have no surnames or family names, the first child always has the same name, then the second then third. If you have more then 5 children then the cycle starts again so everyone has their number then a nickname but on passports and documents they all have their number. As the first born girl my name is Wayan. Made took me north to a village where they make traditional Batik fabrics. A woman showed me around and talked about the traditional methods then took me to the shop and tried to sell me things, but not in an aggressive hard selling sort of way. After that we went to another village where they process gold and silver. Most of it comes from Borneo or maybe Sumatra, can't remember exactly but somewhere in Indonesia. It was the same thing as the last place, a woman talked to me about the process of making the jewelry as I watched the women work then took me to the shop. The silver is alloyed with about 5% copper to make it strong then made into jewelry. Its hard to say no when they follow you around giving trying to haggle with you but I did see a ring I really liked and managed to talk the girl down to a reasonable price.

After that he took me to a traditional house, where where they make and sell paintings (of course, they are all selling things. In the city people live in Western houses but in the country side they are different. Behind the wall there are many buildings, one is a sort of platform where they have family gatherings and shows. There is a temple in the corner. One building is the kitchen and another in the bathroom. The rest are bedrooms, one for each part of the extended family. The whole clan lives together and when a woman gets married she mves to her husbands house and they get their own room within the complex for their immediate family. The temple at the back has welcom statues before the gate then the gate itself has two sides, one for good and one for bad. After that we went to a larger village temple, very big and elaborate. We were given a sarong to wear before we went in the Made explained a little more about Hindu temples. They have 3 levels the first for the legs, the second for the body, and the third for the head. There are 4 kinds of temples, Public temples for everything, village temples, family temples and then a temple for a particular thing, like the god of the market, or the god of the river, or the god of the restaurant.

After the we went to another village which is the centre of the wood carving industry. Same thing as before, I was given a talk and then taken to the shop. This guy told me it was a family run business with the carving knowledge passed from generation to generation. He also told me how to spot fake ebony at the markets so i don't get conned. The carvings were all very nice, using ebony, teak, mahogany and local wood, but I couldn't help thinking off all the forests being destroyed to make the carvings.

We stopped for lunch and I got some sort of suckling pig dish with rice, vegtables, 3 types of pig meat and some skin. The skin was nothing like crackling, it was much much thinner then older pig skin. I could taste lots of chili and galangal (thai ginger) and it was very good! After that we headed up to the Ubud region, and went to see the monkey forest. Monkeys are sacred to the Hindus and guard the temples. I asked (just jokingly) if the monkeys had rabies and he said probably not but don't touch them, just to be safe, and don't buy the bananas to feed them with. They were wild monkeys but had no fear of humans so they were walking along and playing on the paths, hoping for food. One was sitting in front of me so I unzipped my bag to get my camera but he assumed I had food and came right up to me and grabbed my bag. I tried to pull it away and he pulled harder, it was pretty funny and I tried to get my camera again, then he stuck his had in my bag so I stood up and moved away, I didn't want him stealing my purse! It was pretty cool though, to have a monkey interacting with you!

Then to the coffee and spice plantation. In Bali they make the most expensive coffee in the world, cat poo coffee. Animals similar to possums or mongoose that look a little like a cat eat the fruit of the coffee trees. Then the poo is collected and cleaned off, with the bean in the middle surviving. After that the bean is removed from the husk, so it never actually touches the poo, and then is roasted. He showed me the difference is the  beans, with the poo one a pale green colour and the normal ones a more pale beige colour. Then I saw them roasting the beans, on a frying pan over a fire, then they are ground by hand. I got to try the different drinks, jinsing, chocolate, and vanilla coffee as well as plain, then ginger tea and lemon tea. After that the man got out a jar of the poo coffee and said it would be 50,000rp if I wanted to try that one, it is the most expensive after all. Well I'd come all this way so I couldn't really say no. I had a shot of the normal first, then the poo one. It was much smoother and stronger then the plain one. This is because as the coffee is being digested it ferments a little bit. It was very good, and I could drink it plain. Again I was taken to the shop where they tried to sell me the drinks and some spices. However I just paid for my coffee and left.

After that we stopped to see some rice terraces which looked stunning, then drove up to the volcano. I think it last went off in 1995, and there was a lake below it. People leave at 3:30 to climb it and watch the sunrise from the top over the lake but there is now way I would do that! After that I had a very long drive to another temple, Tanah Lot. We put some music on, most of it Western. God Bless the USA by Beyonce came on and I was very surprised, as Indonesia is mostly Muslim and that song was released after the Iraq war. Made said he had no idea what the lyrics were and with most western music he couldn't understand anything. It made him laugh when I explained about the song. Anyway on the way to the temple we stopped at a fruit sand on the side of the road. I tried snakeskin fruit (looks like a fig with brown snake skin and has has very hard flesh, like a dried out apple), mangosteen (purple skin with things that looked like garlic cloves in the middle) and passion fruit but much better then the ones at home. This one was large and yellow with white pulp instead of yellow. The flavor was much more sweet and mellow then the passionfruit we get at home. I even tried durian fruit. Thats the one that smells really bad and is banned from public transport. It did smell bad, but not as bad as I expected, just like a rubbish bin that needed emptying. It tasted ok, sort of like a banana and a pineapple mixed together. The after taste wasn't great, a bit like the smell but I don't see what the big deal is, it wasn't to bad.

Then we got to the temple which is very special as it is build on rock in the sea and you can only walk to it at low tide. The view of the Indian ocean was stunning, and there were tourist everywhere. We stayed till sunset and there are lots of bars on top of the cliff, overlooking the temple. However drinks were about double or triple what you would pay in a restaurant so we sat a little lower down, I refused to pay that much just for a view. While waiting for the sunset I asked what Bali is like during Diwali, the Hindu festival of light. He had never heard of it and said Indian Hinduism and Balinese Hinduism are very different. He also told me about the cast system. The highest class is the priest class, then the second is the army and third is business man. This is also part of your name, so it goes cast, number, nickname. Unless your are in the 4th and bottom cast, then you have no extra name. That one is for farmers and tradesman. You used to not be allowed to marry outside your cast, but its not as strict now and it seems to be the more money, the more upper class you are. But this is a recent thing.

Got back to the hotel at about 7 am very tired. It was a very long way and I have done a lot!