Our day out in Bali

In the previous post, we ended with our dinner at Jimbaran Beach. The seafood there was fabulous and although we didn't actually get to see the sunset, the weather was great and the scenery, splendid. We had dinner in a restaurant called DEWATA, which has a pretty unique way of billing its customers. You pay for the seafood and drinks, and the rest is on the house. Of course, I would like to emphasize that you shouldn't expect too much of the "rest". I won't elaborate further on that and let you experience it on your own. Prices at DEWATA are very reasonable and absolutely transparent (even by European standards). There is a proper price list and you are charged based on the weight of the seafood you order. You can choose from several different preparation styles (fried, grilled or steamed) and dressings (sweet and sour, black pepper or original Balinese). Feel free to try different combinations, but I'd strongly encourage you to give the Balinese-style grilled fish a go. It's suitable for the faint of heart as well.

We went to bed soon after we got home from dinner. After all, we had to prepare ourselves for the full-day tour ahead of us the next day. As you arrive in the Bali Airport, you'd notice lots of brochures and pamphlets advertising tours within and around Bali. We grabbed a few of those when we arrived. Most travel agencies have similar packages and prices, and I would expect that the quality of most is about the same. As we were not too sure about the quality of these agencies, we decided to go through our hotel's concierge. On the second day, we approached our hotel's front desk about joining a tour. The guy on duty was kind enough to bring out a few more brochures and explain a little bit about each place of interest. We discussed the many options we had and finally decided on a full-day tour that included the Barong dance, Ubut handicraft market, Elephant Cave Temple, Mount Batur (a volcano) in Kintamani and Tanah Lot Temple. After some bargaining on the phone, we agreed on 80 USD (800k Rp) for the both of us. We would have our own car, driver and tour guide (note that we had a separate driver and guide) for the day.

Our guide, Nyoman, picked us up from the hotel lobby at 8:30 am. We introduced ourselves, paid him and got on our way. First stop: Barong dance at Batu Bulan. The Barong dance is probably the best-known traditional Balinese dance. When we arrived at Batu Bulan, we were ushered into the hall where the dance was about to take place. There was a traditional band of musicians seated towards the left of the hall. Once everyone had taken their seats, the emcee jumped on stage, gave us an introduction about the Barong dance and kicked off the show. From more information about the Barong dance, read the Wikipedia article here.

Instead of elaborating on the dance further, here's a short video we took.



Here are links to a couple of more videos we took: video 2, video 3. This was our first experience with the Barong dance. It was pretty impressive and definitely something new if you're not from the East. I would recommend seeing it once but I personally wouldn't be keen to see it again.

After the Barong dance, we went over to the Ubut area. Ubut is famous for handicrafts and we got to see first hand how some of these were actually made. First, we visited a silver factory. We were greeted by a Balinese lady who then explained to us the process of turning silver into jewelry. Bali doesn't actually have its own silver, but imports it from the neighboring island of Jawa. The raw material is then processed in Bali and turned into silver jewelry that is sold handsomely. While silver jewelry is pretty common nowadays, the articulate workmanship of the Balinese, which is evident in their products, is exquisitely rare. Jessi got a pair of earrings and a necklace from the factory shop (Duhhh! Big surprise!). They were hand-made and very well finished. I really had to haggle to bring the price down to a reasonable level. Be prepared to do so if you plan to get something from these places (a bottle of water to wet your throat is a good start). I had no doubt that Jessi would be making some ladies green when we got back.

After the silver factory, we went over to see some paintings that were being sold in a traditional Balinese house. Nyoman first took us through the house compound and explained the intricacies of a Balinese house. The most important is probably the home temple. There is a shrine for everyone or every couple (couples have bigger shrines than singles). The shrines are treated like people and even clothed with traditional sarongs. Next, we had a look at the traditional Balinese kitchen where cooking was still being done over charcoal. It was quite impressive to see such a traditional kitchen still fully functional and utilized.

After that, a guide took us through the collection of paintings that they had there. They had a very mixed collection. There were traditional, contemporary, religious and even some "playboy-style" paintings. From my rather brute description, you can probably guess that I'm no art enthusiast. We would have loved to bring back a piece or two but after the last bargaining session we had (for the silver jewelry), I just didn't feel up to it. So, we left the place empty handed and I don't think our hosts were too happy about it. Well, it isn't our fault that they've made haggling part of the purchasing process.

Our last stop in the Ubut area was a woodcraft factory. Here, we did actually buy some things. Once again, when we arrived, we had a guide talk us through the wood crafting process. According to her, the craftsmen are typically men although women do work on some smaller, simpler pieces. After the short intro, we made our way into their showroom. Some of the pieces they had on display were phenomenal. I could imagine a big market for these things in Europe although there are probably trade restrictions in place to prevent them from swarming the international market and choking the local industries. Imagine having these guys make cuckoo clocks for a quarter the price and exporting them back to Germany to be sold there! Anyway, just like the painting factory, there were traditional, contemporary, religious and even some "playboy-style" pieces. Finally, we walked out of the shop with two pieces - a wooden owl and a wooden elephant. Both pieces are solely for decoration.

We were done with Ubut at about 1 pm or so, I believe, and Jessi started feeling hungry. We stopped in a mini market along the way to get some snacks. Our next stop was the Elephant Cave Temple. The temple, which is about a thousand years old is set in a cave and built in the shape of an elephant. Before entering the temple premises, Jessi and I had to rent and put on sarongs (I bet some of you would love to see a photo of that!). This is required in all temples and the rental fee is modest, so no concern there. In the temple yard is a pond surrounded by statues with water gushing through their bellies. The pond represents a Spring of Life. Next, we entered the cave temple itself. There are large holes built into the walls for meditation purposes. Apparently,devotees would sit or lie down in these holes to meditate. We spent about half an hour walking around and taking photos in the temple premises. After that, we went towards our car and returned our sarongs along the way.

Next stop: Mount Batur in Kintamani. Nyoman told us that the drive would take us about two hours. Jessi was starting to get a headache. She popped in a couple of pills and then we both pushed our seats back to take a nap. Suddenly, we crashed...

joel@jjsolomon.com

3 comments:

arya said...

Thanks for visiting Bali. And make a review about it. Come back some day

J.J.S. said...

Glad you liked it, Arya. We had a wonderful time in Bali.

Jacob said...

Most Bali resort hotels serve Balinese-style grilled fish. Believe me, it's a topper.....absolutely delicious.