Sunday, January 4, 2009

Asses of Fire

Day 299
Balinese culture is quite different from the rest of Indonesia. This is mostly due to religion. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, however Bali is mostly Hindu. Ubud is the cultural center of Bali. I would have felt like I didn't do it justice if all I did was hang out at the beach.

I was picked up at my hotel at 8 am. Just minutes out of town we stopped at the most picturesque rice terrices that I have seen yet. There were two sides of it, only one having a look out. The family with the lookout used to get all of the money. The family on the otherside covered their fields in foil in protest. In the end the look out family decided to give them some of the money.

Our next stop was breakfast at a place overlooking a volcano. It was spectacular even if it was a bit cloudy. The banana pancakes weren't so bad either. I even liked the crazy looking spiky fruit that I had been putting off tryping.

Next up was a coffee plantation, this wasn't just any coffee though. Kuwak coffee was made here. Kuwaks are housecat sized wildcats that like coffee beans. After the beans pass through their digestive systems they are collected, washed and made into coffee. This is meant to be the best coffee in the world and is very expensive anywhere but here. I don't like coffee much myself, but I felt like it was my duty to try it. It was a bit granular, but other than that it was pretty good.

While at the coffee plantation we also had a fruit tasting. I liked the snakeskin fruit the best. We also learned that cows are kept as life insurance. Selling one can bring in about $9000, the same amount a funeral costs.

Next up was a bamboo weaving compound. The Balanese live in family compounds. Learning about this is much more interesting than learning about weaving. The Balanese live in an extended family situation. Each family has a walled compound. There are several small buildings inside, these consist of homes, workshops and even a temple. Our guide told us that his family was too poor to pay for education so he left home when he was 14 and went to Java. This was the first time he had been on a bus. He ended up working for a family in the morning and going to school in the afternoons. He had thought he was part of the family, but soon realized that he was little more than a slave. When he was finished highschool he took out a loan and worked at a hotel to pay for college. 17 years after he left Bal i he returned home. He has more brothers that our off studying, but there is no more room in the family compound and they are struggling to find a way to fit everyone in. Interestingly tv didn't come to Bali until 1981!

Besides weaving the family also raised chickens, some for cock fighting, pigs and ducks. The pigs were really cute.

By the time we had reached the compound we were riding bikes. Before our next stop a naked man went streaking across the street and waved to us. Our next stop was a wood working places. This is where all the cheezy tourist gifts are made as well as fake antiques to be sold to dummies. Next up was a temple that happened to be locked. Anyone can visit a temple as long as they are not unclean. Unclean people anyone with a recenlty and not yet burried family member, an open sore, or a woman on her period. The last one is annoying. I want to be culturaly sensitive, but if all I have is one chance to see something I won't let something that no one else can confirm stop me.

After a brief stop at a tree known as the rasta tree for its odd looking roots the ride got a bit hairy. It was almost all downhill and some of it was very downhill. The last part of the ride was optional and it was all incline, I opted to stay in the van. I was the only one at first, but one by one people began to drop out and join me in the van.

Lunch wasn't until almost 3 pm and I was famished. There were all sorts os Balanese foods to try. Duck, chicken, rice, curries and noodles. It was fabulous! The surrounding rice fields weren't too bad to look at either.

The last stop of the day was the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. This place if full of Balanese Macaques. There were about 300 here. People were feeding them bananas but I declined. I didn't want monkeys climbing on me. The other people in my group didn't mind though and I managed to get some good closeups.

After saying good bye and exchangeing info I headed back to my hotel. It was a bit of a walk and I was exhusted and in desperate need of a shower. When this was done I spent a couple of hours uploading photos before heading to the Jazz Cafe. This is apparently the only thing going on in town here. It's a pity I hadn't found it the night before. I spend the evening writing in my journal and listening to live music.

Even though the walk back to my hotel wasn't far it was rather hairy. There were a lot of dogs and they all wanted to bar very loudly at me. I was sure one of them would bite me, but they all kept their distance. I guess their bark was worse than their bite!

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