Monday, September 06, 2010

2 Sept. 2010 - Bali, Indonesia

The passage to Bali from Darwin was easy – no wind for the first half, light wind for the second. There was an unanticipated stop for fuel at a small town en route – without going first to the official port of entry for a 2 – 4 day clearance process. We were, after all, trying to beat Amy to Bali – which we accomplished with 2 days to spare.
Our crew was great. We hope Richie returns to “his castle” on Rasa Manis after hitching rides on fish boats and cargo ships to outer islands. His budget is $10/day. His backpack contains a sleeping hammock, a change of clothes, antimalarials, and a couple of Indonesian phrasebooks.
We are all excited to be in Indonesia. Tom spent the better part of a year studying music in Central Java in 1977 and we travelled here together in 1990. Amy grew up on and studied gamelan. We all have all been boning up on our Bahasa Indonesia. With Amy, we are pretty much retracing our steps – staying in the same places, visiting old friends. It’s fortunate she was a history major and doesn’t seem to mind hearing , “33 (or 20) years ago, it was like this…”
We left the boat at anchor at “Royal Bali Yacht Club” to land travel. The marina – one of three in this 3000 mile long island chain with 225 million people – was a sea of garbage. Not a pretty sight.
Bali is still a place of tremendous beauty both natural and man-made. It’s just that the ricefields and farmers in “coolie” hats are now hidden behind the hotels and huge craft showrooms that line the roads. The temples are nestled in between luxury boutiques. The market for Balinese opens at 5 am, by 9am it disappears and is replaced by tourist stalls.
Tourism has made many Balinese wealthy. Stone masonry buildings – a luxury 20 years ago – are everywhere. The roads are filled with brand new private cars and hordes of motorbikes which have largely replaced the old mode of transportation, the bemo, a rusty, dirty, tiny, crowded, sweltering minivan. In 1990, the average woman spent one-third of her waking hours producing beautiful offerings of rattan, fruit, flowers and rice. She still spends a lot of time at it, but now she can buy the raw materials and premade containers from others.
In 1990, Bali was for the Balinese and tourists. Now 10% of the population is from other islands, drawn here by work opportunities. Where there was no Muslim culture to be seen in 1990 (it was virtually all Balinese Hindu), there is a fair amount of it in 2010 – halal restaurants, mosque loudspeakers, women in veils. There is also a fair amount of resentment about the newcomers – the Bali bombers were Javanese fundamentalists. The movie “Eat Pray Love” has not yet opened in Bali, but everyone is talking about it. “My grandfather is the healer”. “I was on my motorbike wearing a red leather jacket. I hope I didn’t get cut”. Everyone hopes the film will attract more tourism, which plummeted in the wake of the bombings.
We based ourselves in the village of Peliatan, near the arts center of Ubud in Bali, at the same “homestay” we lived in 20 years ago. The big change there was electricity and running water. Our hosts Ketut and Wayan gave us a warm welcome. Ketut, a talented painter, dancer and musician, led us to fabulous cultural events night after night after night. Wayan cooked up beautiful breakfasts that we still remembered after 20 years. We were thrilled to be able to attend a cremation ceremony in a nearby village. The event – which happens once every 5 or 6 years - was a massive celebration involving hundreds of people stuffing a colorful parade of animal floats with offerings which are set on fire with the bodies of the deceased (temporarily buried).


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