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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

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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