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Bali Day 2: Sunday, August 6, 2017

A funeral procession in Ubud. To support the large coffin, bamboo poles are strapped together to distribute the weight to eight or more pall bearers.

On my second day in Bali, I arranged for a tour of several places that weren’t the ordinary tourist destinations. I figured that I could save the Monkey Forest, the Kawai Temple, Tanah Lot, and other places for another time. I was here to see the culture and biodiversity of this island, so my tours would include a chance to see endangered Sumatran elephants, a coffee and cacao plantation, an active volcano, and the mother temple of all temples in Bali.

Daily offerings of frangipani, marigold, and other flowers with fresh fruit are placed in small baskets woven of banana leaves and placed in the doorways of houses and around shrines. The fragrance of the flowers will drive away the evil spirits and invite in the good spirits.

There was a light rain this morning that was to clear off later on. I showered and got dressed and ready to go. My host provided a delicious breakfast of fruit, a smoothie, and banana pancakes on a bed of shredded coconut.

My breakfast at the Ubud Wins Bungalows. The fruit bowl includes dragon fruit (the purple pieces), papaya, and pineapple. There was a fruit smoothie, and incredible banana pancakes over a bed of shredded coconut with syrup.

I waited at Kajeng Lane for my ride, knowing that they might have some trouble finding me. There was a bamboo hut built as a shelter by the side of my bungalows. Several other cars came and went, picking up peoples staying at other bungalows in the area (Ubud is packed with these places).

My room at the Ubud Wins Bungalow in Ubud, Bali. It had a large bed and open floor. I could draw the curtains for privacy.

About 9:00 my ride came, and I was surprised to see that I would have both a driver and a tour guide all to myself for an entire day. I had paid 50% extra for being a single tourist. I didn’t learn the driver’s name, but my guide was Gusti, who had excellent English and wore a traditional Balinese man’s outfit with silk shirt, sarong, and hat.

These baskets woven of banana leaves are prepared fresh each morning and contain herbs and flowers that drive away evil spirits and invite good spirits into the house or business.

The mother of the owner of my bungalow is shown here placing the daily offerings around the family shrine. The shrines are usually statues of a god, such as Ganesha, or are a small temple. The ashes of the family ancestors are placed in the shrine.

We drove back up the lane and joined the main road, which was less crowded this morning. It seems that school drop off and pick up times are the worst, and that other times once you get past the knot of traffic in the main area of Ubud, it thins out. We soon left the main road and wound out into the countryside headed for our first destination.

Marigold blossoms placed on the stairs leading to a hotel to drive away evil spirits.

Since Gusti had such good English, I asked him about the Hindu practices of the people in Bali, and he was eager to explain. He told me that each household has its own shrine, and if it is a larger extended family and lives in a traditional family compound, then the shrine is placed in a small courtyard just beyond the main gate. The shape of the gates are reminiscent of the sacred mountains of Bali, and the split through the middle is the pathway to heaven. This is also why all gates require several stairs – it symbolizes climbing the sacred mountain to heaven.

Courtyard of Saraswati Temple

The inner courtyard of the Saraswati Temple, a large neighborhood temple. One must wear a sarong to enter the gate.

Each morning, in a traditional household, the female head of the house (usually the grandmother) prepares the offerings in a small kitchen just to the side of the main entrance. Baskets are woven of banana leaves and small amounts of food (usually fruit and rice) are placed inside along with frangipani or marigold flowers. Their aroma invites in the good spirits while driving away the bad. The food is for the ancestors of the house to consume. Their ashes are inside the figurines, and the baskets are placed around them and on the ground before the gate.

This is a small neighborhood temple, seen as we traveled  near Ubud. There are different levels of temples. Each family has its shrine, often in the courtyard or entrance to the family compound. There are also small neighborhood temples, each village having three, one for each of the Trimurti gods of Brahma, VIshnu, and Shiva. Some larger temples are dedicated to specific gods such as the Temple of Saraswati in Ubud. Then there are the four large regional temples, which include Tanah Lot near Denpasar. All of these are under the mother temple of all Bali, called Besakih. I would be visiting it today.

There are several main gods worshipped here. In Hindu philosophy, there are three main male gods: Brahma the Creator (not worshipped very much now, possibly because his work is done), Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer. In the wheel of reincarnation, Shiva has an essential role as what comes before must be destroyed to make way for that which is to come. Each of these gods has consorts or wives. Vishnu’s is Lakshmi, and Shiva has at least two, although the ones most revered here is Parawati, Goddess of Wisdom (and revered by students especially before a test), and Saraswati, who is the mother of Ganesha the Elephant God. I visited the main temple to Saraswati the day before.

Shrines inside of a local temple are draped with golden cloth to represent prosperity.

It is a Balinese tradition to put clothing on the statues of the gods in their shrines. A black and white checkered cloth represents the good and bad inherent in everyday Balinese life. White cloth is for wisdom, and gold cloth is for prosperity. You see gold very often around the rice fields – each individually owned field has its own shrine with a gold cloth to ensure a bountiful harvest.

Guardian of the Kajeng Temple

This is the view out my bungalow window of the temple across the street. This is a neighborhood temple, and you can see the tiled inner courtyard used as a community center for dance practices and performances. I don’t know what the orange color represents, but is common on household gates and temples.

Gusti explained further that each village has three main community temples, but since there can be many smaller villages inside own town, such as in Ubud, so there can be more than three in a larger town. These three are for the main gods, but they are also places of gathering and cultural centers for the community. I was to see a group of ladies practicing a dance at the temple across the lane from my room that night, and there was the gamelon orchestra the day before and the young girls practicing their dance. All of these were using the community space/courtyard of the temples.

A brass figurine of Shiva as the Lord of the Dance. Although the God of destruction, Shiva is revered as an essential part of the natural order of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

Each major household also has its shrines, which is why I thought there were many temples the day before. There were shrines everywhere, and the statue carving shops due a brisk business. The community temples are under the jurisdiction of larger regional temples at the four corners of the compass, such as Tanah Lot in the south of Bali. These regional temples are in turn under the jurisdiction of the central temple called Besakih, which we would be visiting that afternoon.

In addition to baskets of flowers, garlands are also placed around the necks of statues such as at this shrine at a local restaurant.

Just the Buddhism I had seen in Taiwan was adapted and changed from the original teachings of Buddha, so has Hinduism been adapted here. I don’t know if the offerings done each morning are common throughout Hindu culture worldwide or are only done here. It seems to have much in common with the ancestor worship I saw in Taiwan, with small shrines inside each home with photos or spirit tablets for the deceased, daily food and money offerings, and incense burning. The daily offerings here often get trampled and scattered as the day progresses, so they must have efficacy only in the morning.

Frangipani trees grow here in profusion, and the blossoms are collected and placed as offerings to attract good spirits.

I thanked Gusti for his descriptions. It helped me to make some sense of what I was seeing. I know this is a very simplified outline of beliefs and practices here. I would need to spend much more time to see exactly how Hinduism works in their everyday lives, but at least I have a small taste of it given the short time I have here.

Larger temples, family compounds, and even many businesses are built so that one must climb a stairway that passed through a gate shaped like a mountain split in two. This represents the journey through the Sacred Mountain at death.

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Bali Day 1: Saturday, August 5, 2017

Bali sunset

Twilight in Bali Hai. I had a small role in my high school production of South Pacific, and this was as close to Bali Hai as I would ever get. At least, it was Bali.

On my first day in Bali, I had traveled from the airport to Ubud via taxi, put my bags in my room at the Ubud Wins Bungalow, and set out to explore the area and find lunch. When I returned, I was extremely tired and needed a nap.

I slept for at least two hours – I was more tired than I thought, and the air conditioning felt really good. By the time I woke up and got going again, it was just past sunset, which comes early in the tropics. I don’t have a clock in my room and my cell phone is turned off because I can’t get a network here, so I was guessing it was about 6:00. I decided to explore in the other direction of Kajeng Lane, heading away from the main part of town.

Flooded fields at evening

Twilight over the rice paddies in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

The lane takes a sharp left just at the entrance to the Ubud Wins Bungalows and passes around the temple across the street. About 20 yards further, it narrows into a motorcycle trail and travels up a hill to come out into an area of rice paddies. There is a well-known trail that leads up from Ubud into these paddies, but this is not that trail. It is lesser known, and just as nice, so it suited my purposes better.

Evening reflection

The twilight skies reflected in the rice paddies above Kajeng Lane in Ubud, Bali.

The twilight glow was deepening as I took some photos. It reminded me of the song “Bali Hai” from the musical South Pacific, which I performed in as a senior in high school. This is Bali, after all, and as for the Hai – well, at least it’s sunset and I could feel a Technicolor moment coming on. It truly was beautiful, and I took quite a few photos.

If there had been more light I would have pressed on and come back around the other, better known trail. But it was getting quite dark. There were streetlights out and a half-full moon, so I was able to walk back without difficulty. I continued on up the lane, because I could hear a gamelon orchestra playing up ahead. I wondered if it was the kacek flame dancers they were selling tickets to. But it was a group of men practicing in the community temple part way up the lane. I tried to get some video of them without their seeing, but they soon ended their practice.

Balinese sunset

Sunset over the rice paddies in Ubud, Bali.

I walked to the main street again and got some extra water at an Indomaret store, as I didn’t want to use the non-complimentary water in the mini-fridge in my room. I also got a Happy Cow ice cream bar, as I’m quite fond of them. I ate it sitting on a cement block while watching the tourists go by. Then I walked back to my bungalow and uploaded photos. I did a Google Hangout with my family and told them I had arrived safely, then I tried to read a book but fell asleep instead.

Neighborhood temple at night

I heard a gamelon orchestra practicing, so I followed the sound up Kajeng Lane to another neighborhood temple. It had towers lit up with interesting designs. The orchestra was finished practicing by the time I got there.

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Bali Day 1: Saturday, August 5, 2017

Stairs and papaya tree

The Ubud Wins Bungalows at the end of Kajeng Lane. This is a papaya tree growing in the courtyard. My bungalow overlooked the street and was above and to the right of this photo.

It was around noon that I arrived at my bungalow in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. I tried lying down for a bit to rest but had some trouble getting the air conditioner to work, which ran off of a remote control that wasn’t very intuitive. Not wanting to waste the day, and getting hungrier by the minute, I decided to walk into the main part of town and explore.

Temple out the window

The community temple across the street from my bungalow on Kajeng Lane.

Right across from my bungalow is a community temple with an inner courtyard for meetings and small statues lining the roof. The humidity and frequent rains have left the gray volcanic stone covered in lichens and green moss, with just a bit of color where gold or red paint has been applied or cloth tied around the statues of the gods. Everything here is green.

Dude, I can't believe your tongue

“Dude, I can’t believe your tongue!” An interesting decoration on the temple across the street from my bungalow.

I walked along Kajeng Lane with its interesting inscriptions in the cement panels. There were Balinese doorways leading into the courtyards of houses, and another larger community temple. A few shops lined the road, a touring company selling local tours and taxis to Denpasar, a restaurant or two, and a place selling souvenirs made by disabled people. After a 15 minute walk I arrived at the main street in Ubud.

Kajeng Lane

Walking up Kajeng Lane from the Ubud Wins Bungalows, about 15 minute walk to the main street of Ubud.

This street was packed with cars and motorcycles driven by tourists. I had been hoping for a quiet getaway for two days while I explored the arts and crafts here, but this is a busy town. I suppose it has changed because of the Julia Roberts movie, “Eat, Pray, Love” which takes place here. Now lots of people have “discovered” Ubud and turned it into another Kuta. People in the know say the place for peace and quiet is now Lombok. At least my bungalow is out of the way and not on the main road. To make the congestion worse, a funeral procession passed by with a group of men in traditional Balinese clothing carrying an urn and memorial to the deceased on a series of bamboo poles on their shoulders.

Ganesha through gateway

A Ganesha statue with morning offerings inside a family courtyard in Ubud.

I walked right at random and found a promising place selling gelato. I got a cup with coconut and lime flavors, and it was delicious. I sat on a bench outside a restaurant to eat it, and talked with a lady and her husband from Australia who were here for ten days. I asked where a good place for lunch was, and she gestured to the restaurant behind us and said she had eaten an excellent tuna sandwich. I decided to try it out. Probably more expensive than some places, but the tuna sandwich was good. Instead of the usual tuna salad I’m used to, it was actually a grilled tuna steak. I also some pineapple juice. The best part was that it was just in front of the Saraswati Temple that I was looking for. My research into Ubud said the temple was a good place to visit and was behind the Starbucks, which I found was next door to the gelato place and I had missed it in the pleasure of eating the gelato.

David at Saraswati Temple Ubud

David Black at the Saraswati Temple in Ubud. I’m not sure what the lady on the stairs is doing. This temple is behind the Starbucks and is reached by a walkway through lilly ponds.

After the meal, I walked back to the temple and took photos. Two German ladies took my photo while I took theirs. So far, I haven’t met any Americans. The temple pathway lies between two lily ponds. I needed to wear a sarong to go inside the temple proper, so I walked further down the main street and found a beautiful blue-aqua sarong with gold highlights in a shop, again a bit more than I might have paid, but worth it. By the time I got back to the Saraswati Temple, it was closed. Oh well, I can use the sarong tomorrow for my trip to the Besakih Temple and it will be a nice gift for my wife.

Gate to Saraswati Temple

Gateway into the inner courtyard of the Saraswati Temple in Ubud. I wasn’t able to go inside because I didn’t have a sarong, so I went to find one and found a nice aqua sarong with gold accents. By the time I returned, the temple was closed.

I walked the other direction from Kajeng Lane and passed a large temple complex under construction, then a smaller community temple where people were gathering. I went inside and saw a group of young girls practicing a dance with metal plates (probably will be porcelain in the final performance). They are getting ready for Independence Day. I videotaped parts, because it was beautifully done.

Saraswati with lillies

The Saraswati Temple in Ubud, Bali as I saw it from the table where I ate lunch.

Girls practicing dance

Girls practicing a traditional Balinese dance in the courtyard of a neighborhood temple.

I crossed the main street and followed the flow of tourists into a shopping alley that paralleled the Monkey Temple road. Like Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta, this alleyway is lined with shops selling all sorts of tourist wares, everything from thumb organs to wooden male – uh – organs. Not sure what the appeal is there, but there were quite a few different styles available. I feel an obscure Star Trek reference coming on, about “maharong” and a wooden fertility figure. Win the prize (my appreciation) by telling me which of the 700+ episodes it is. The thumb organs were very nice, and I almost bought one but I am already out of room in my luggage.

Girls at end of dance

Girls at the end of their dance practice. Indonesian Independence Day was coming up in two weeks, and many groups were practicing in the local temples, which act as community centers.

But as I walked to the end of the alley I found a place selling rattan rice farmers’ hats. I looked at them, and the shop owner asked if I wanted to buy one. I said he probably didn’t have one in my size, but lo and behold he did. So I bought it. This will be the final Indonesian hat for my collection. He put it into a large plastic bag, and I figure I can tie it onto the outside of my TGC carry-on bag on the way home. At least I hope so.

Ubud traffic

Traffic and pedestrians mixing on the main street of Ubud. This was supposedly a quiet artist center, but the book and movie “Eat, Pray, Love” was based in Ubud and has turned it into a tourist destination. Traffic can be snarled, with all the tourists riding mopeds, especially when school gets out.

I walked back through a side alley to Monkey Temple Road, then back to the main drag. By this time I was tired and footsore, so I walked across the street and back to my bungalow for a nap. The humidity here is very high and it saps the energy right out of someone. I wanted to have enough left to go out at sunset.

Market lane and tourists

A lane to the east of Monkey Lane Road is a kind of open air market, similar to Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta but not as long or busy. I took a walk along it and found a rice farmer’s hat to buy.

Captain America puppets

Wooden puppets for sale on the market lane in Ubud. I like the Captain Americas. There were other interesting wooden items for sale as well, such as thumb pianos.

Durian and bananas

Yep. More durian fruit. I smelled it before I saw it. Notice the stubby bananas which are common here in Indonesia. If I hadn’t been repulsed by the durian, I would have bought some mangos even though they aren’t in season yet.

Checkered guardians

Guardians of the temple, wearing the checkered cloth that denotes wisdom. They also have parasols to ward off the sun and rain.

Stairs to pathway

A pathway to explore along Kajeng Lane. It’s hard to explain the feeling of Bali – it rains almost every day, and everything, even the stones and concrete, are covered in green lichen. Even newly built houses have the feel of ancient ruins because of the vivid jungle growth. Notice the yellow frangipani blossoms that have dropped from the trees above.

Balinese house gate 2

A gate into a household compound along Kajeng Lane.

Household gate

Gate into the inner courtyard of the Saraswati Temple in Ubud.

Statue at stairtop

All of the statues are covered with clothing, and small woven baskets with fruit and frangipani flowers are left each morning. This statue was at the top of stairways leading down into a deep canyon running through Ubud. One of the gelato shops I ate at is to the right.

Down stairs in Ubud

A stairway led down from the Ubud main street to this canyon running through the town. It gives you a feel for the depth of the terrain here.

Green lane

A view of Kajeng Lane in Ubud. The blocks of concrete have been signed by businesses and people as a promotional program when this lane was paved.

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Bali Day 1: Saturday, August 5, 2017

Prambanan from air

Prambanan temple complex as seen from the air on my flight to Bali from Yogyakarta.

My flight to Bali was fairly early, so I arranged for a taxi to pick me up at the Hotel Jambuluwuk at 6:15, giving me just enough time to eat breakfast. There wasn’t any of the excellent bread pudding this time, and I didn’t really eat much, but it was enough to tide me over. I checked out of the hotel and had to pay $25 for the Stroberi Fanta I had spilled on the carpet. I must have knocked it over in the middle of the previous night, and the lid wasn’t on as securely as it should have been. Their efforts to clean it had only been partly successful, and they would have to bring in some professionals to clean the spot. Mine wasn’t the only spot on the carpet, but it was the most obvious.

Ratu Boko from air

The hilltop palace of Ratu Boko, which I had visited the night before, as seen from my airplane on my flight to Bali.

The taxi drove me to the airport and I unloaded my bags and found a baggage cart to help me carry them inside. This airport is small and crowded and it took a few minutes to make it to the Garuda Indonesia counter, where my two checked bags were 11 kg overweight, total. I had to pay about $30 for the extra baggage fees, then worked my way through security. It was divided into three lines, but still took some time. I was glad I had given myself some extra time.

Jambuluwuk patio breakfast

My breakfast on the patio of the Jambuluwuk Hotel on my last morning in Yogyakarta.

I waited in the main lounge and wrote entries for these blogs on my computer. I almost failed to hear the final boarding call for my flight, and hurried to hand my boarding pass to the gate attendant and walked out onto the tarmac. My flight was a small jet and I was the second to the last person to board. I was located on the right side by a window with a good view.

Other temple from air

Prambanan isn’t the only temple complex in the area. This set of temples, called Candi Sewu, is a bit further northeast, as seen from my airplane window.

We taxied a short distance and turned around to face into the wind and revved up for take-off. We bounded off the tarmac and were airborne. I knew from seeing jets flying over Prambanan and Ratu Boko yesterday that I might be able to see both from this side of the airplane, so I watched carefully. I could see the Ratu Boko hilltop, and then we passed just to the left of Prambanan, so I had an excellent view out my window and took some photos. I also saw other temple complexes in the area; Prambanan is not alone. One temple that I saw below me is called the Candi Sewu.

Smoking volcanoes

We took off to the northeast and once we passed the line of volcanoes that form the spine of Java, we turned east-southeast and flew to the north of more volcanoes, a perfect view from my right side window.

But I have to admit some jealousy to the people on the left side of the plane, who got excellent views of Mt. Merapi as we passed by. We crossed the line of volcanoes that form the spine of Java, then turned east. I could see rice fields and roads below showing patterns of settlement; the houses and businesses lined the roads, then as smaller side roads were paved, the businesses and houses followed, with rice paddies just beyond. As we gained altitude, volcanoes showed their heads above the scattered clouds. Now I wasn’t jealous anymore, because I could now see each volcano clearly out my window as we passed it.

Mt. Bromo caldera

I had an amazing view of the Gunung Bromo caldera with its smoking fumerole in the center. This would have produced more ash and dust than several Tambora-class explosions combined. The composite volcano cone in the background is Gunung Semeru .

The mountains form a chain, some giving off puffs of smoke. We approached a larger volcano than the others, lying behind a large circular caldera with a central column of smoke. This must be Gunung Bromo. I took several good photos of it as we passed.

We then came to the eastern coast of Java. Beaches and headlands stretched below. In the center of one island there was a narrow strait bisecting the island. I could see pulses of waves entering the strait and traveling along it, emerging out the other side of the island. It would be quite a view to be down there overlooking the thin passage.

Bromo Caldera and Semeru

This is the same view as my flight from Google Earth, only without clouds. The caldera is rather squarish, with a no-man’s land of fumeroles and barren plains surrounding the active vents. Mt. Semeru in the background.

Fluffy white cumulus clouds gathered as we crossed the strait between Java and Bali. I saw a small jet below us turning before the banks of clouds as it started its approach into Denpasar Airport. We turned and followed it in. I took some videos of the amazing clouds as we dropped toward the island.

Java coastline

The southeastern coastline of Java as we crossed to Bali. This area is a Taman Nasional (national park).

On our approach to the airport I could see the beaches and resorts here on the southeastern flank of the island. Inland, there was a large structure under construction; I learned later that it was a huge statue of Buddha, which will be the largest statue in the world when it is done. If it is ever done. They’ve been building it for twenty years, and there’s been a great deal of cost overruns and possibly some corruption along the way. Supposedly that has all been smoothed over and the statue is scheduled to be completed next year.

Coastal islands slit

The thin strait through the center of the island to the left was interesting – the waves coming from the south (top in this photo) traveled slowly through the strait. It would be fun to be down there and see it – no doubt very beautiful. There are so many places in this world to explore!

The plane landed smoothly and we taxied to the main terminal. We climbed down the small stairway built into the plane and walked across the tarmac to the building, passing through an ornate gateway colored orange and white. A sign said, “Welcome to the last paradise on Earth.” I hoped it was right.

Clouds over Bali

We flew through some incredibly fluffy cumulus, following another plane down to the airport at Denpasar on Bali.

In the main terminal I found a baggage cart (wheels are a wonderful thing) and claimed my bags at the luggage carousel. Everything went smoothly, and I walked outside to look for a taxi to take me to Ubud.

Bali airport

After landing at Denpasar, we taxied to the terminal and climbed down the stairs to walk into the main building. This airport is more modern than the one in Yogyakarta and serves as an international hub.

I negotiated a bit with the driver, who said it would take two hours to get there because the traffic is bad. I settled for 400,000 rupiah as the fee, or about $30 US. Maybe going on the meter would have been better, or maybe not, because he was right about the two hours. This is about what I would pay for a shuttle from Salt Lake to Orem, where I live, so even though high by Bali standards, I was OK with it. As it turned out, the driver earned every rupiah.

We drove out of the airport and headed north on one of the roads to Ubud, which is a cultural center further north from the busy, touristy southern beaches around Kuta and Denpasar. Although laying on a tropical beach sounds great, I didn’t come all this way to lay around. I wanted to learn about Bali, and Ubud sounded like the best headquarters from which to do that. I had found an inexpensive bungalow for only $26 per night, with excellent reviews.

Gate to paradise

We walked through this traditional Balinese gate to reach the terminal. It represents the path through the sacred mountain. Architecture is quite different here than on Java or Borneo.

The traffic up this road was slow. I found out later that there are wider and better roads, but this one was the most direct. As we crawled along, I dozed a bit, but eventually started paying more attention once we got out of the city proper. There were many small businesses along the road, many of them in this area carving stone statutes of Buddhas in various poses. I saw shrines clothed with gold or black and white checkered cloth. There seemed to be lots of small temples, and everything was covered in green moss, grasses, and lichens. There were also places carving large cross-sections of trees into wood sculptures, some making elaborate tables, others carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses.

Last Paradise

This sign welcomed us to the paradise of Bali. It may be a bit of an overstatement (there are still other paradises) but it was still nice to see that I had arrived.

The traffic was unrelenting until we finally took some narrow side roads. The driver was getting frustrated, as this was taking longer than he thought and he was missing out on other fares. There wasn’t anything I could do about it; apparently, tourism has reached Ubud because of the book and movie Eat, Pray, Love about a journalist that found love here. Julia Roberts starred in the movie. It sounds like a chick flick to me, but maybe I’ll have to watch it just to see the places I will recognize. Now everyone comes here. And I thought I was being smart about staying away from the party scene in Kuta.

Wooden faces

After getting my luggage at the baggage claim, I found a cart and wheeled everything outside, where I negotiated with a taxi to drive me to Ubud, about 40 miles away in the interior of Bali. I didn’t want to get stuck in the touristy parts of Kuta and Denpasar, as I was here to learn about history and culture, not hang out on the beaches. On the way to Ubud the traffic was slow and it took close to two hours to reach Ubud and find my bungalow. On the way, we passed many shops such as this one carving Hindu sculptures, or statues from volcanic ash, or many other types of souvenirs.

It turns out that Ubud isn’t just one compact town but is more of an area of interconnected villages with a network of winding roads that are little better than paths. It reminded me of Kota Gede. After some wandering around through hills and rice paddies and along narrow roads, we came to what appeared to be the main part of town, at least according to the many foreign tourists and motorcycle renters. We found the entrance to the lane my bungalow is on: Jalan Kajeng. It was barely wide enough for one car, but we squeezed in and traveled along it. My printout of the Ubud Wins Bungalow did not give a house number, so we kept driving up the alleyway. The driver finally stopped and asked someone, at the only place in the road wide enough to stop. The person said to keep going; the bungalow was at the end of the lane. We finally found a small sign on a wall just before the road took a sharp left turn.

Large statue at roundabout

Large statue inside a round about on the road leading north out of Denpasar.

The owner’s wife and son saw my taxi arrive and came down to take my larger bags. I paid my driver a good tip, and that brightened his expression. The Ubud Wins Bungalows are built on the side of a steep hill with tall stairs made of green-covered concrete leading up about 30 feet around a family shrine and a papaya tree, then over and down to my corner room. Just carrying my carry-on bags was very difficult up the slippery stairs. I don’t know how her son managed my large red bag.

Buddha statues

A workshop specializing in stone carvings of the Buddha. Most Balinese are Hindu or Buddhist, with Islam being a minority religion here.

My room had a porch in front with couch and chairs, then a large glass door and window into a big room with a bed and dresser and tiled floor. I brought in my bags and tried to figure out the air conditioner (I finally got it working later that night). I was tired and lay down to get some rest before venturing out to explore Ubud.

Reclining Buddha

More stone statues of the Buddha at a workshop on the road to Ubud, Bali.

I was in paradise, the legendary Bali of song and story. It just didn’t feel quite like it yet!

Rice farmer on bicycle

A rice farmer on a bicycle passes a family compound flying the red and white Indonesian flag. His conical hat is the traditional hat of rice farmers in Bali. I have to get me one of those!

Family shrine

A household shrine. Notice that shrines are wrapped in cloth. The gold represents prosperity, the white and black checked cloth represents wisdom and that there are good and bad aspects in all things.

Balinese side road

There were narrow side roads leading away which invited me to explore. I already knew that two days wouldn’t be nearly enough time here.

Bali paradise

The sign said that we were visiting paradise, and everything was green. Even the rocks and cement were growing green lichens on them.

Gate to household

A traditional gateway leading to a family compound in Bali.

Stairway to heaven

Arriving in Ubud, we passed this stairway leading up through a gateway that represents the path through the sacred mountain. The man is wearing traditional Balinese clothes: a white shirt, a sarong (wraparound skirt), and a turban style cap.

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Yogyakarta Day 3: Friday, August 4, 2017

David with actors

Actors in the Ramayana Ballet with David Black at Prambanan in Indonesia.

We returned to Prambanan after our excursion to the hilltop palace of Ratu Boko. It was almost dark as we parked in the lot near the Trimurti outdoor theater. Haru gave my tour ticket to the people at the gate for my regular admittance. There were performers in costume standing near the entrance and I took my photo with them. I also purchased a couple of snacks – a Happy Cow and another ice cream treat. I was starving, but didn’t want to buy a whole meal.

Gamelon players before show

Gamelon percussion orchestra playing before the show.

Haru had to return to the hotel and said another driver would meet me after the performance, so I went in. There was a small gamelon orchestra playing as I found my seat. It was on a stone bench, but we were given seat cushions. Even so, the bench was hard. There weren’t many people there, and some of the seats that were more expensive were vacant. I thought of moving, but I could see the stage well and the temple formed a perfect backdrop. I waited a few minutes for the show to begin.

Gamelon orchestra and temples

The main gamelon orchestra and stage with the Prambanan temples in the background. It was quite a setting, with the dramatic temples of Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu lit up behind the stage.

The Ramayana is an ancient Hindu epic and one of the longest pieces of literature ever written at 24,000 verses. It rivals the King James Bible and the Complete Works of William Shakespeare in sheer size. But the Mahabharata is still longer. Take the Bible, the Illiad and the Odyssey, and the works of Shakespeare and put them together, and that is still short of the size of the Mahabharata. When I had researched this ballet, I had seen that this night’s performance would not be the whole story but only the first half. I figured that would be about right.

Gamelon instruments close

The main orchestra, consisting of gamelon percussion instruments including gongs, cymbals, and drums.

A large gamelon orchestra with many gongs and bells and xylophones was located behind the stage on both sides of a central staircase. They began to play and a group of singers acted as a backup band. Two people came out to introduce the performance, and then it began.

Cheap seats

Most of the audience sat in the more expensive seats in the middle. I took a seat in the moderately cheap seats, but the view was really all the same. The benches were stone with pads to sit on and became a bit uncomfortable after two hours. And they only performed half of the Ramayana.

The Ramayana tells of the romance of Rama with Sita and his struggle to rescue her after her kidnapping by the demon king Ravana. The ballet began with Ravana and his demons and demonesses (is that a word? The spell checker liked it, so it must be) plotting to overthrow the goodness of Rama, his mortal enemy. Rama was the seventh avatar, or incarnation, of the god Vishnu, which is why Ravana hated him. I didn’t understand the singing, but the dancing was easy enough to follow, although very stylized. Then Rama, while hunting, spied the beautiful princess Sita (an avatar of Lakhsmi) walking with her father and fell in love. Their love was mutual, although her father was against the idea. To convince the father to let him marry Sita, Rama took him hunting.

Demon dance

The ballet began with the dance of demons as their king, Ravana revealed his desire to destroy Prince Rama, who is really an avatar of Vishnu.

Ravana spied on all of this and saw a chance for his revenge. He transformed into an old man walking with difficulty leaning on his cane, and when Sita was alone she saw him stubble and fall down. Rushing to his aid, the fake old man tied her wrists and led her away. Garuda, the vahana (vehicle) of Vishnu, spied all of this with his eagle’s eyes.

Hatching an evil plot

Ravana, the Demon King, hatches his evil plot.

Meanwhile, Rama and Sita’s father were out hunting and encountered a herd of deer (the dancers had deer horns on their heads). After an encounter with the Queen of the Deer (what was said here I don’t know but there appeared to be some disagreement going on), Sita’s father relented to have Rama marry his daughter. I think. At least their dancing appeared more friendly.

Good vs evil

Rama arrives in a confrontation of good versus evil.

I was growing tired about this time and lost the thread of the story a bit during the dancing deer. Somehow Garuda was shot by an arrow but managed to tell Rama and Sita’s father that Sita had been kidnapped before dying and ascending into heaven in a blue fog.

Rama and Sita

Rama falls for the beautiful Sita, but her father isn’t so sure about this.

Somewhere in here Hanuman, the Monkey God, and all of his monkeys did a dance – I think Rama tried to fight Ravana but was defeated, so he enlisted the aid of the monkeys. Then the ballet ended rather abruptly. That was when I remembered that tonight’s performance was only the first half of the story. Probably a good thing, as I was falling asleep even on the hard stone bench.

Kidnapping Sita

Ravana pretends to be an old man who stumbles, and when Sita tries to help him, he kidnaps her and binds her with cords. Garuda the eagle tried to warn her, but he was shot down.

It was an interesting spectacle to watch but it was difficult to stay up on the story since it was sung in stilted Javanese with the performers only dancing. This is a ballet, after all. It is a classic tale, going back over 2000 years and was probably first written as early as 400 BCE by the sage Valmiki Muni. It is carved into the walls of Prambanan temple itself. The gamelon instruments were a bit loud to handle for the two hours of tonight’s performance, but it was a fascinating experience until my exhaustion got the better of me. I took some great photos from my vantage point with the temple lit up behind. I also got some good videos of it.

Back, evil temptress

Meanwhile, Rama is attempting some male bonding time by going hunting with his future father-in-law, but they are warned of Sita’s kidnapping by the Queen of the Deer. Notice the little horns.

Afterwards, we went down on the stage to take photos with the performers and I got some close ups of the gamelon instruments. My replacement driver met me at the gate as I exited and we drove back to the Hotel Jambuluwuk. I was tired and slept in the car much of the way back, then woke myself up enough to get my bags packed as much as possible for my flight to Bali the next day. I had arranged for a cab to pick me up at 6:15 so that I would have 15 minutes for breakfast.

A little bird told us

Garuda is revived just long enough to tell Rama where Ravana has taken Sita before departing into a blue fog.

This had been quite a day. There are still more things to see and do in Yogyakarta, but in three days I’ve done many things and gotten a feel for the city and its surroundings. I’ve done as much as could possibly be expected without driving myself to complete exhaustion, and I pretty much did that today. I kept thinking that my wife would love it here, since she was a humanities major in college. I hope some day to return here with her.

Monkey dance

They enlist the help of Haruman the Monkey God and his army of monkeys. This is where the performance ended for tonight, only half way through the Ramayana. The whole performance takes four hours.

Posing after

Posing with the audience after the show.

Gamelon cymbals

Gamelon cymbals. Each brass kettle creates a unique tone, like a bell.

Temples at night

The dramatic backdrop of the Prambanan temples at night, with the temples of Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu from left to right.

 

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Yogyakarta Day 3: Friday, August 4, 2017

Stairs and moon

Stairway at Ratu Boko, a palace or monastery on a hill overlooking the area of Prambanan near Yogyakarta.

We had some time before nightfall and the start of the Ramayana Ballet, so our ticket purchase also included a tour of the hilltop palace of Ratu Boko. Haru and I drove away from Prambanan through rice fields and wound our way up on to a hill nearby as the afternoon was shading toward evening.

Evening rice field

A rice field in late evening as we drove to the hillside palace of Ratu Boko.

Haru waited in the parking lot while I climbed the stairs on to a plateau overlooking the plains around Yogyakarta and Prambanan. The rice paddies below made for excellent photos. There was a grassy area with bougainvillea and chickens as I walked toward the main stairway and gate.

New rice from hilltop

Rice fields as seen from the hilltop at Ratu Boko.

This complex was built sometime in the 9th Century CE based on inscriptions found here. There are also artifacts showing it included both Buddhist Sailendra and Hindu Mataram influences. No one knows exactly what it was used for – was it a palace? A monastery? A vacation spa? A fort? Maybe all of these at one time or another.

Outer gate

Stairways and paths lead through gates and a large grassy hilltop dotted with the ruins of temples and palaces at Ratu Boko.

Local legend say this was the palace of King Boko of the popular tale of Loro Janggrang. According to the story, Prince Bandung Bondowoso was a powerful man who fell in love with the daughter of King Boko. She did not love him, especially since he had killed her father in battle before falling in love with her. But he insisted, and she finally agreed on one condition: that he would build 1000 temples in one night. He agreed, and enlisted the aid of demons and giants to build 999 temples (which is the legend of how Pramabanan came to be). Fearing that he would succeed in her impossible request, she woke up her servants and told them to start pounding rice. The noise woke up the roosters, who started to crow. Fearing that morning was coming, the demons and giants fled back to the underworld and the final temple was never built. In a rage, the Prince Bandung cursed the princess and she was turned into stone, the actual statue of Durga in the Shiva temple at Prambanan. Loro Janggrang literally means “slender maiden,” the maiden of stone.

Ruined walls of stone

Ruined walls of stone at Ratu Boko.

There is a main double gateway at the top of the stairway that leads to an upper plateau with the ruins of temples, pools, and crematoriums. I wandered around the site and took photos, then walked back on a pathway to some ancient stairs and artificial caves used for meditation. It was peaceful there as the sun moved behind clouds on the horizon to the west. I captured some airplanes taking off from the Yogyakarta airport against the sunset.

Sunset at Ratu Boko

The sun setting behind the western mountains beyond Yogyakarta, as seen from the hilltop of Ratu Boko.

I took more photos of the rice paddies below the hill on my way back to the car. It was almost dark as we drove back down the hill and returned to Prambanan for the Ramayana Ballet.

Valley below

A view south from the hilltop palace of Ratu Boko.

Variable color bougainvillea

Variegated bougainvillea blossoms on the plateau leading to the Ratu Boko complex.

Worn with time

Worn with time, this stairway is at least 1100 years old.

New and old stairs

Pathways to the hilltop chambers behind the main plaza at Ratu Boko.

Ruins of Ratu Boko

Ruins of Ratu Boko.

Ratu Boko gate toward sunset

Sunset through the main gate at the Ratu Boko palace complex.

Jet against sunset

A jet taking off from the Yogyakarta airport, framed against the sunset at Ratu Boko.

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Yogyakarta Day 3: Friday, August 5, 2017

Prambanan from distance

The Hindu Temples of Prambanan near Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

After our abortive attempt to find a true chocolate factory, Haru drove me out of Kota Gede, which is a more difficult task than one might imagine. This being an ancient city, the roads were not built to accommodate modern traffic and are narrow, winding, and labyrinthine. After winding around through some small lanes we finally reconnected with the main highway out of Jogja and headed east past the airport.

Temple complex gate

Gateway to the Prambanan temple complex.

We stopped at a place where we could get a discount, and I paid 600,000 (about $50) for admittance to both Prambanan and the mountain temple of Ratu Boko. We then drove the short distance to Prambanan and parked in the large parking lot.

Temple of Shiva with tree

The largest of the temples at Prambanan is dedicated to Shiva, the Lord of Destruction and an essential part of the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

Haru showed me to the entrance and I walked through, and I could finally see the temples peeking through the park’s trees. Some of the trees were massively tall, bigger than anything in America except redwoods and sequoias.

Corner temple

A smaller corner temple at Prambanan, this one dedicated to Garuda. Beyond the central complex lie a series of four rings of small pervara temples which are still mostly in ruins following an earthquake in 2006.

I explored the temple complex, which was built by the Hindu dynasties of Sanjaya and Mataram in the mid 9th Century. It was started with one temple to Shiva built by Rakai Pikatan, then extensively expanded by successive Mataram kings, who diverted a river to enlarge the temple complex, then built a series of smaller pervara temples ringing the main complex. Most of these are still in ruins, but a few have been restored.

Statue of Chandra

A statue to Chandra, one of the Hindu pantheon of gods. The Chandra X-Ray space telescope is named after this god.

Building Prambanan here signifies that the central Javanese kingdom had shifted from the Mahayana Buddhism of Borobudur to Hinduism. The main court and central government center were nearby, and all the important religious ceremonies took place here. As many as 200 monks or brahmins lived and worked in the complex and its surroundings. Yet within about 100 years the kingdom shifted its capital further east in Java, perhaps because of an eruption of Mt. Merapi nearby. Prambanan was slowly abandoned and fell into ruin, just as Borobudur was.

Huge temple

The central Shiva temple and flanking side temples are truly huge. These photos don’t really give an accurate sense of scale.

Local people forgot its origins, although they knew about the complex. Parts of it were used for constructing houses. An earthquake in the 16th Century further damaged the structures. A legend called the Rara Jonggrang grew up that the temple had been designed and built by demons and giants. During the British occupation of Indonesia, Colin Mackenzie, a surveyor for Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, came across the ruins by accident in 1811. A complete survey was undertaken, but the site remained in ruins for decades before restoration efforts began by the Dutch in the 1930s and continue to this day. A major earthquake in 2006 damaged the buildings again, and the surrounding pervara temples are still largely in ruins.

Prambanan Map

A map of Prambanan. The pervara temples form four concentric rings around the central complex, which contains the large Shiva temple (which has separate chambers for his children and wives, including Durga and Ganesha) and two flanking temples to Vishnu and Brahma (the three major trimurti Hindu gods). Three smaller temples are dedicated to the vahana or mounts of the trimurti gods: Garuda, Hamsa, and Nandi. There are also two small temples tucked in for Lakhsmi and Sarasvati and four gates to the cardinal directions and a number of small shrines.

Prambanan centers around a large, ornate building dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. Stairways on each side of the main temple lead up to chambers housing statues of Shiva and gods or goddesses associated with him, including Durga and Ganesha. A porch rings the building. Friezes are carved into the walls of the porch showing the stories of the Hindu gods, including Haruman, the Monkey God. Many of these scenes are from the Ramayana, which I will see later tonight. It tells of the romance of Rama with Sita and his struggle to rescue her after her kidnapping by the demon king Ravana.

Durga

Durga, a consort of Shiva. Her statue is in a separate chamber on the north side of the Shiva temple. This statue is also the origin of the legend of Loro Janggrang, the “maiden of stone.” When Prince Bandung Bondowoso’s attempt to build 1000 temples in one night was foiled by King Boko’s daughter, he turned her into stone with the help of his demon army.

On either side of the Shiva temple stand two smaller but still large temples dedicated to Vishnu and Brahma. In front of these are three slightly smaller temples dedicated to the vahana (vehicle or animal mount) of each of the trimurti gods: Nandi, Garuda, and Hamsa. Still smaller temples were built at each of the four cardinal direction gates, and four more at the corners of the inner complex, as well as two even smaller shrines. Beyond all of these lie a quadruple ring of 224 small pervara temples for individuals and kings. Altogether, the complex is laid out with precise symmetry and planning like a giant mandala, the product of an advanced civilization.

Kidnapping of Sita

Friezes carved into the walls of the walkways show scenes from the Ramayana. In this case, Sita is being kidnapped by the Demon King.

I spent about an hour and a half exploring the complex and taking photos and videos from many angles. I asked several people to take my photo, something I have a hard time remembering to do. One lady was from Hamburg, Germany and spoke excellent English. She had lived for a year in Evanston, Illinois.

Arjuna and Monkey King

In order to free the kidnapped Sita, Rama and Sita’s father make an arrangement with Haruman the Monkey King.

The path to the exit (keluar) took me way out around the temple but did offer nice views framed by trees of the entire complex. On the way out, the exit takes you through a phalanx of coconut, concessions, and souvenir stalls, but I have enough of those and will have a hard time fitting what I have in my suitcases anyway.

Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva, god of death and destruction, as portrayed on the walls of his temple at Prambanan, Indonesia.

This is the first Hindu temple I’ve seen. I studied Hinduism as part of a World Religions class at Brigham Young University, and know that there are three central gods: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. Each has his consort or wife, such as Parawata (Parvati) for Shiva, Lakshmi for Vishnu, etc. There are also lesser gods, such as Ganesha the Elephant God (son of Shiva and Parvati), Saraswati the Goddess of Wisdom, and Haruman the Monkey God. Each god can have different avatars or incarnations. For example, Vishnu has ten, of which nine have already existed, including Buddha (according to Hindus, Buddha is a form of Vishnu), and Krishna. The tenth avatar of Vishnu (Kalki) is yet to come at the end of the world. As a major research paper required of all students at BYU, I researched the recurrence of Messiah figures in various religions, and was astonished at the similarities between the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, Kalki, and the Hidden Imam.

Water spout

A waterspout at the corner of a temple at Prambanan. The planning involved in just creating a water drainage system for the torrential tropical rains is amazing to me.

My impressions and feelings about Prambanan are mostly awe at the central planning and architecture needed to carry out such a coordinated project. This whole complex, like Borobudur, had to be planned in advance, cleared out of the jungle, with blocks quarried from andesite rock (the only type available locally, given this is a region of composite volcanoes). Those rocks had to be transported, shaped at the site, and fitted in place. It is a huge complex, requiring advanced construction techniques using hand tools. Even the water drainage system was carefully thought out. I have no idea how many people worked on this, or the power of the leaders who commanded it, or the devotion of the people who worked, prayed, and sacrificed here. It is a monument to faith, which I can understand, as my own people build monuments to their faith around the world in the form of our temples.

Many temples

Many temples at Prambanan.

All of this and within a century the government moved to another location and allowed this incredible site to be forgotten. The feeling of history is palpable here, as it is in places like Jerusalem and Rome that I have visited. Americans have no idea of the depth of history that surrounds so many places in the world. Now our modern civilization overlies and surrounds all of this, with a mosque just across the main road to Prambanan.

Temples and moon

The moon rising over the temple complex at Prambanan.

Indonesia sits on major trade routes between the Indian Ocean and East Asia, and its history is a long tale of cultural influences, migration, and conquest. One of my most important goals is to see how these influences and religions shape the daily life of the Indonesian people. I saw how Islam affected the lives of Nazar and his family and the students at his school. Yesterday I saw how Buddhism was practiced here, and today I saw ancient Hinduism. Tomorrow I will begin to explore Bali to see the daily actions of Hindus there.

David with Prambanan complex

David Black with the Prambanan temple complex behind.

David at Prambanan

David Black at Prambanan near Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Juxtaposition

An airplane takes off from the Yogyakarta airport, juxtaposed with the temples of Prambanan. I was to see this exact view the next morning, but from the airplane looking down.

Prambanan through trees

Prambanan temples through the trees.

Wood carver and shop

On my way exiting the Prambanan complex, I had to pass through a phalanx of souvenir shops including this woodcarving shop.

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Yogyakarta Day 3: Friday, August 4, 2017

 

Silver flowers with red centers

My first stop for my custom tour was a silver jewelry workshop in Kota Gede, the old capital of the region. These intricate flowers are a good example of the style of jewelry made here.

My driver for the day was Haru, the concierge at the Hotel Jambuluwuk that I had made these arrangements with the day before. It was another private tour, but I was paying a good rate for it. I am grateful that the stipend I received from the Teachers for Global Classrooms program was generous enough to cover the costs for these extra five days. I am learning a great deal, and it is complimenting what I saw and did during the three weeks of the regular program so that I will have true expertise in several aspects of Indonesian culture that can enrich my teaching.

Making silver grains

My driver, Haru, knew this workshop where they do tours. This man was cutting exact lengths of silver wire, then heating to melting with the blow torch to cause the wire pieces to pool into beads of exactly the same size. The beads are glued onto the jewelry piece using a yellow paste made from red piling-piling seeds, then soldered onto the piece with a blowtorch.

My first stop was to travel to a nearby city called Kota Gede, which was the traditional capital of area. It is only a few kilometers away from the center of Yogyakarta, and the two cities have mostly merged together. The only way I knew we were there was that the streets narrowed and became more twisted, a sure sign that we had entered the heart of an old city.

Silver forge and quench

This forge is used to melt an alloy of about 92-95% silver with 8-5% copper (sterling silver), which is cast into bars and quenched.

Haru knew of a place that makes and sells silver jewelry and that could show me the process of how it is done. I had made my desires known, and there was no established tour that I could find online that did all that I wanted to see, so that is why I arranged this custom tour. There had been one tour that had tourists riding bicycles out to Prambanan, and that sounded nice, but given the traffic and tropical heat and humidity in Indonesia I decided it was best not to book that one.

Silver plate press

The sterling silver bars are passed through this press and squeezed down into silver plate, which is then drawn through a die to make silver wire of various gauges.

We pulled into the small parking area in front of the factory and walked in. Haru had called ahead, and a man was waiting to take me downstairs from the sales room and out the back door and across a courtyard to the workshop itself. Not a lot was going on – it depends on the day and the demand, so only a few people were working and they weren’t doing any melting or forging. But they did have photos and explanations of the whole process.

Butterfly ring

Making rings with butterfly mounts. The sterling silver has taken on a coppery color, but is finally cleaned and polished to provide the bright white silvery finish prized in the final jewelry.

The silversmiths of Kota Gede are known for their fine filigree silver work. They start by taking pure silver and alloying it with 7 to 9% copper (making it into sterling silver). This is done by melting them together in a crucible, then pouring the alloy into mold to form a thin rod.

Harley Indian silver

Some of the pieces are free-standing sculptures encased in plexiglass cases, such as this Harley-Davidson Indian motorcycle sculpture. It was a bit outside my price range.

The rod is then forced through a series of holes in a hard steel plate to make a wire of a specific gauge. This is done using a device with cranks and gears. The wire is forced through successively smaller holes to make thinner and thinner wire.

The wire is then cut into lengths and curled, or short, thin pieces are heated with an acetylene blowtorch on a ceramic plate to cause them to melt into small beads. The wires and beads are glued together using a paste made from red piling-piling seeds to form a piece such as an earring or broach, and the whole thing is heated with a torch to solder it together. The paste acts like a flux to melt the silver at a lower temperature. Then the piece is carefully cleaned and polished to get the white satiny sheen of silver.

Prambanan-Garuda-Wayong silver

Silver encased in lucite, showing Prambanan, the Garuda Pacasila symbol, and wayang figures.

After watching the workmen making the parts and preparing to make pieces, I walked back to the showroom with my guide and looked at the pieces there. I was surprised at their overall low cost for the quality of the workmanship. There were some more expensive works, of course, such as horse carriages or becak drivers or wayang puppets or even models of Borobudur. But there were also silver filigree flowers and butterflies, dragons and phoenixes, all with delicate traceries of silver wire. I found a section that showed silver plated pieces instead of sterling silver, and I found some I liked for a very reasonable price. I bought two pieces for my wife, knowing that she would love them.

Silver flowers

Silver wire filigree flowers on sale at the Kota Gede workshop showroom. I bought a flower broach similar to the large own second from the right, and another design with leaves and stems.

I have been through many silver mines in my explorations of the American West, including ones in Utah, Nevada, and Colorado. I certainly have documented how silver is mined and refined. But this was the first time I saw it turned into finished products, which completes the story of silver for my Elements Unearthed project and this website.

Silver filigree flowers

Silver filigree flowers, made from wire and beads glued together by piling-piling paste and soldered with a blow torch, then cleaned and polished. This was more in line with what I wanted, and I bought two silver-plated flower broaches for my wife. She really enjoys them.

My second stop for this day was to be at the Monggo Chocolate Factory where I hoped to see the whole process of chocolate making. First we stopped at a chocolatier next door to the silversmiths, and it was interesting but this wasn’t a factory. All they were doing was packaging the chocolate. They had several flavors, including durian fruit chocolate (what a terrible thing to do to chocolate!). I tried some mango flavored chocolate and bought a bar of it, but it couldn’t compare to Armano Artisan Chocolate in Orem, Utah where I live. I’ve been through their factory and have seen the whole process.

Silver dove

A beautiful silver filigree dove in a lucite case. This took some time to do, gluing in each wire with piling-piling paste, soldering the whole piece with a blowtorch, then polishing it to a white finish.

We wound up having difficulty finding the Monggo Chocolate Factory despite it being all over the Internet as a thing to do in Kota Gede. There wasn’t much to see: a store counter with samples and some people pouring and molding chocolates in a back room, but without good enough lighting to really get a decent photo through the window. They did have a timeline of chocolate history I found interesting.

Pink flower

A pink frangipani flower growing outside the silver workshop at Kota Gede. Many of the designs were based on these flowers.

After only a few minutes there, we loaded back into the car and took the twisty roads back out of the center of Kota Gede. Haru provided me with a small lunch and water, and I also ate my chocolate bar. We were heading now past the airport and out to the most important stop today: the Hindu temples of Prambanan.

Chocolate Monggo

We stopped next door at a chocolate outlet store, then did some searching to find the famous Monggo chocolate factory, which was a bit disappointing. There were no tours, despite claiming such on their website.

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Yogyakarta Day 3: Friday, August 4, 2017

David painting batik

David Black paiting a batik floral design at the Museum Batik Yogyakarta

Before going up to my room the day before, I sat down with the concierge at the front desk as they had a sign saying they could work out any tour we wanted. I had some specific things I wanted to still see and do in Yogyakarta, so I designed a custom tour. But knowing that I would need to take it easy in the morning due to the strenuous day I had the day before, I decided to start the tour at 1:00 and have the morning to do what I wanted.

Vine covered tree

I walked past this tree, covered in vines, on my way to the museum.

When I woke up after a nice sleep in, I showered and dressed and headed down to the lobby for breakfast. It had been too early the day before to eat the complimentary breakfast buffet, but I was hungry this morning. They had some good items, such as a delicious bread pudding, fruit, and different juices.

Types of canting

Canting (pronounced “chanting”) are pens that hold the batik wax (malam) and come in different styles and spout sizes depending on the types of lines or dots desired.

I looked over my computer to see what to do this morning. I hadn’t made it to the Kraton yet – they are supposed to have nice dancing and wayang puppet shows. I also wanted to learn more about batik and perhaps take a class, but was afraid that would take too long. One other place I had researched was the Museum Batik Yogyakarta. I discovered it was very near my hotel – only about two blocks away. So I grabbed my camera and a bottle of water and headed out.

Drawn cartoon

The first step is to draw a pencil line drawing or cartoon that is traced through the cloth.

I walked to the intersection near the hotel, then turned east and walked two blocks. I turned north for half a block, then took a smaller alleyway back west and around to the entrance to the museum (I had to follow the signs). I must have been early or before opening time, because they didn’t have anyone ready to purchase my ticket. But they got their act together and I paid a small fee to enter. The museum itself began with a display of different types of canting, some from various provinces or with various types of openings, for doing single and double dots or lines, etc. It had a display of how to make the wax for batik, called malam, and of different dye stuffs. It showed some small stoves designed by this museum to use a votive candle to melt the wax. It showed how patterns are drawn.

Waxed lines

The traced pencil lines on the cloth are then draw over with malam (wax) using a canting.

I wasn’t allowed to photograph the batik samples themselves, but they were OK with my photographing the process. The museum itself was rather dark without much lighting, so I hope I held still enough to get some photos in focus. A lady came to act as a guide for me by this time, and I photographed a variety of cap designs. They had a huge embroidered tapestry of the Last Supper (based on Da Vinci’s painting) and of Jerusalem (the lady who started this museum was a Christian).

Caps

Alternatively, a design can be stamped or printed onto the fabric by dipping these copper strip patterns, called “cap” (pronounced “chop”) into the malam wax and pressing it onto the cloth. The museum had many caps on display.

I also took photos of a woman doing some batik waxing and of their store. I bought some malam wax and the burner kits, and they gave me samples of bark used for dyes (possibly sandalwood). All of this was packaged into a nice bag.

Painting dyes

Samples of batik dyes. They are now made from synthetic materials, but the museum also had displays of natural dyestuffs. In this case, the dyes are painted on with a brush between the waxed lines, something like paint-by-numbers or watercolors. They had these samples so visitors could practice painting designs.

I was the only one touring the museum, and it was a bit out of the way, but I learned a lot and got some good photos of the procees. Combined with what I got at the workshop two days before, and my own class in Jakarta, I now have good footage to use for a video on batik.

I walked back to the hotel and laid down for a while to cool off in the air conditioning. Noon time prayer started, and two different mosques were calling out the salat. I recorded some video of it, because the stereophonic sound was quite compelling. The muezzins in these mosques are very good.

Hotel circles cap

A cap with circular patterns in the Hotel Jambuluwuk lobby.

Preparing for third color

To get multiple colors in batiks that are immersion dyed, the wax must be applied several times to different areas and on both sides of the cloth. Here, a lady is waxing an area to cover a color so that the batik can be dyed a third color.

Historic batik

I wasn’t allowed to take close up photos of most of the batik patterns, but my guide did allow me to take this photo showing the samples of batiks they had displayed at the museum.

Dutch and royal patterns

A combination of influences are seen in this batik, where the patterns in the background represent Indonesian royalty. The floral patterns are a Dutch influence.

Single color batik

A single-color batik, with the wax removed to leave white un-dyed cloth.

Styles of canting

Different styles of canting. Based on my trials at school, using a canting is tricky as the wax has to remain at just the right temperature; too hot, and it will be too thin and run or splatter. Too cool, and it will solidify and plug the spout of the canting.

Painted batik

A hand painted batik. The wax acts as a barrier to prevent colors from spilling or spreading, and it is then boiled out to leave white lines where the wax was.

David tracing cartoon

I am practicing tracing a cartoon design through the cloth.

Kit for sale

The museum had a gift shop with batik kits for sale, including a small folding paper stove with votive candle for melting the malam, wedge-shaped chunks of malam itself, cantings, dyes, and patterns. I didn’t buy entire kits, as I figured we already had the dyes from our tie dye experiments and I can get embroidery hoops easily in America. So I purchased several stoves, more malam, and more cantings for my students. They through in a bag of the reddish bark in the jar, which I believe is sandalwood.

 

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Yogyakarta Day 2: Thursday, August 3, 2017

David with jeep on Merapi

David Black on a jeep tour of Mt. Merapi near Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

After visiting Mendut Temple I was famished, so we stopped at a restaurant that had its own shrimp ponds and I ordered some honey roasted shrimp on skewers with the usual rice. It was a bit more expensive than other meals I’ve had in Indonesia, at about $15 US, but was delicious. I shouldn’t have had the smoothie to go with it, as it put me over the top on how much money I had left to spend.

Honey grilled shrimp

Honey glazed shrimp, one of the more delicious dishes I ate in Indonesia.

We traveled on toward Gunung Merapi, one of the most active and dangerous mountains in Indonesia. We gradually climbed up the mountain slope, passing through towns and smaller villages. It had been clear earlier, but clouds were beginning to gather again as the day wore on and sea breezes blew in moisture which rose up over the mountain and formed clouds. I dozed off a bit, but the rough road made sleeping difficult.

Charred furniture

Charred furniture, burnt by the pyroclastic flows of Mt. Merapi in the 2010 eruption.

After about 40 minutes of driving, we reached a series of dirt parking lots with jeeps pulling in and out. We parked and my driver took the rest of my money to pay for the ticket. I didn’t have any left for a tip for my jeep driver.

Charred motorcycles

Ruined and charred motorcycles, found under the volcanic ash after the eruption of Mt. Merapi in 2010.

I was the only one in my jeep. There is something to be said for traveling with other people, as this traveling alone can get tiresome. I wanted to share these experiences with others in the moment, not just later through these blog posts. I climbed into the back and we drove off, leaving the oiled road onto smaller trails that were barely trails at all. I tried to take some video but was knocked around so much it was impossible, so I simply tried to take photos.

Ruined bike in window

There’s not much left of this bicycle, or this house, after Gunung Merapi erupted. Artifacts from around the village have been collected for display here, a kind of impromptu museum to the eruption, which was only seven years ago.

We were heading through the jungle to a village that had been destroyed by the last eruption of Mt. Merapi in 2010. Over 350,000 people were evacuated, but the ash and fumes caused many problems with the local population and rescue workers alike. Some people either refused to leave or snuck back in before the alert was lifted, and 353 people died. The eruptions began with seismic activity in September, then pyroclastic flows and major eruptions from October to the end of November, 2010. By the start of December, the mountain quieted down again and people were allowed back to what was left of their homes.

Artifacts in ruined house

Pots, pans, and cooking stove destroyed by the 2010 eruption of Mt. Merapi in Indonesia. It felt like visiting Pompeii, but these items are only seven years old, a testament to the powerful forces that continue to shape our planet. Merapi is even more dangerous that Vesuvius in Italy.

We parked in a small lot and entered what had been a home. Artifacts of burnt out furniture, motorcycles and bicycles, and other everyday items were on display inside the charred remains of the house. It was a sobering reminder of the power of this mountain. Now it is a tourist destination.

Ruined motorcycle

Another melted and ruined motorcycle, on display at village that was destroyed by the 2010 eruption of Mt. Merapi in Indonesia.

We drove on along roads barely laid out in the volcanic ash of the eruption and parked next to a large boulder. This rock is the size of a minivan or small truck and was ejected from the volcano, traveling miles through the air to land here. I posed by it, of course. We could also look out over the lava flow itself, which issued through a small cleft in the lower reaches of the mountain.

Ruined road

Roads in the area were destroyed by the pyroclastic flows, and are now only barely passable by jeeps and motorcycles. I finally figured out to just let my body go with the bouncing, rather than trying to fight it.

Unfortunately, the mountain itself was shrouded in clouds, just as Mt. St. Helens had been when I visited there with my two oldest children in 2000. I am 0 for 2 with viewing active composite volcanoes. I’ll have one more chance with Mt. Batur in Bali.

David by alien rock

This rock was blasted out of the volcano and landed here, several miles away. From this location, one can see the main pyroclastic flow and how it is now being mined and used for concrete.

We drove higher up the mountain on a road that had been wrecked by the eruption and now was one of the roughest roads I’ve ever been on. Some sections still had asphalt on them, others were eroded and ruined, cut down to the underlying dirt and filled with huge potholes. A group of motorcyclists were having a rough go of it behind us, and I was thrown from side to side. I finally figured out it was better just to let my body go with the flow instead of trying to resist the violent motion. My hat is off to my driver for his skillful handling of the jeep.

Lava cleft

The main flow erupted through this cleft in the side of Mt. Merapi, then spread out to clog river channels and obliterate entire villages. Unfortunately, because I spent a bit too much time at Mendut Temple, the clouds had collected around Mt. Merapi itself and I wasn’t able to see it (except from the air the day before).

We came up to the end of the road at a parking lot next to the main pyroclastic flow from the eruption. Two people sought shelter in a bunker at this location as the flow came down the mountain at nearly the speed of sound. But their choice of refuge was ill advised, as the flow traveled over the top, burying the bunker underneath. They died inside. It was a bit strange that this has also been turned into a tourist destination. I took some photos of what I could see of the mountain (not much beyond the first ridge line) and the driver took photos of me by the jeep.

Plants on lava flow

The main pyroclastic flow, now turned to volcanic ash. It is already being reclaimed by plants. The main flanks of Mt. Merapi lie in the mist beyond.

Then I loaded back aboard and we traveled a short way down, then out onto the flow itself for some very dramatic photos. Then we returned to our original parking lot.

Lava flow

Another view of the lava flow from further down. We pulled the jeep over to get a better view. If the clouds hadn’t come in, the view of the mountain from here would be spectacular. Maybe some other time. This is the second andesitic volcano I’ve visited and I’m 0 for 2. The other was Mt. St. Helens.

Even though the mountain was obscured, I still enjoyed this excursion and learning about the power of this mountain and the destruction it caused only seven years ago. The area is still trying to recover, and these tourist jeep rides are helping the economy here to come back after the devastation. Already green plants are colonizing the lava flow, and soon all evidence will be erased by the jungle. That is, until next time. I don’t know if I would want to live with such a dangerous neighbor in my back yard.

Rice paddies

Rice paddies on our way down Mt. Merapi. If this mountain is so dangerous, then why do people live so close to it (even on it)? Because the volcanic ash creates very rich soil for farming, and the eruptions are infrequent enough that most people can live an entire life without experiencing one. Humans don’t have very good institutional memory.

I got back into my car and my tour guide drove me back down the mountain on the main road, a welcome relief to my jostled spine. We passed rice fields and groves growing in profusion in the rich volcanic soil. Our ride back to Yogyakarta was about 30 minutes, and he dropped me off at the hotel. It was about 4:00 and I could have gone out to explore some more, but I was very tired from such an early start, so I relaxed in my room, uploaded photos, took a nap, and watched some of the third Terminator movie and the end of Mystery Men. It had been a long but incredible day.

Rice field

Maturing rice fields and coconut palms. The soils on the slopes of this mountain are very fertile, so people continue to live here despite the danger.

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