Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bird Parks and Bird Strikes

Tuesday, January 6th.

Sadly, this is our last day in Bali. We check our e-mail, call Alisha and John walks up to the laundry to retrieve our clean clothes. The manager of our bungalow comes to collect the money for our 6 nights. I was under the impression that I had already paid so there are a few awkward moments while we decide if we will pay in dollars or will need to go to an ATM for more rupiah. I will need to double check my credit card statement when I am back home but when I go to pull out the receipt for our bungalow, I find that I have misplaced our flight itinerary.  I imagine that I have left it at Tabra’s workshop but there is another moment of angst until we have a chance to retrieve it. 

Good Bye Tabra
At 11:45 Dedi and Tabra arrive, we load our luggage for our drive to the airport, but first we will go  go to the bird and reptile park. The bird park is remarkable. The grounds are a botanical paradise and impressive macaws and cockatoos of all sizes and colors sit uncaged on sheltered thatched perches. Several employees assist visitors to put the birds onto their arms and the parrots are extremely tame, sweet natured and well cared for. The highlight for me is a black Palm Cockatoo from Papua New  Guinea, the Hornbills and the watermelon shaped bird carving that adorns Tabra’s lemonade.

John with Hornbills
John with Blue and Gold Macaw

Marty with Black Palm Cockatoo

John and Tabra, African Grey

We walk next door to the reptile park, not nearly as good as the bird park but there is a large walk in enclosure where the Iguana’s roam free. I hold several big iguanas, loving the feel of their solid weight against my body. An Indonesian family comes into the park sized enclosure and the attendant offers their teen age boy the chance to hold an iguana.  He cringes and literally jumps backs in horror, as do the other members of his family.  I step forward and take the beautiful and docile lizard in my arms again. 

John and Iguana
Marty holding Iguana

Lunch at the Bird Park

It is time to say goodbye and we drive Tabra back to Pennastanna and say our sad farewells. Dedi drives us to the airport via another temple stop (?) where the full moon celebration seems to be continuing. We arrive at 4:15 and are surprised and delighted that we have stumbled upon yet another festival.  Colorfully dressed Balinese women wearing their lace kabayas with basket offerings on their heads and the men mostly dressed in white parade the walkway and steps leading up to the temple. A full Gamelon group plays beneath a large thatched staging area.  We follow the parade of worshipers up to the ornate gate of their open air temple but are not dressed appropriately so we only peek in. 

Temple Celebration
Temple Celebration
Temple Celebration

On our way to the airport, we visit the Tanah Lot Temple to watch the sunset. Dedi parks and waits for us in a tourist bus clogged parking area and we push our way through a maze of souvenir shops towards the beach.  The temple sits out on a rock, mini Mount St. Michelle style and wading distance from the rocky beach. Last month two Japanese tourists were washed away and drowned here. Hundreds of visitors throng the black (iron sand) beach and many stand silhouetted on a large rock watching the surf beyond. The sea seems calm enough but that is probably what the unfortunate Japanese couple believed. 
Tanah Lot Temple
Art, John and I wade barefoot between the beach and the rocky base of the temple. The water is only up to our ankles and there are several venerable old men, trying to help the tourists cross but Art takes my arm firmly and we wade across the 20 foot stretch where the tide ebbs and flows from both sides of the island temple. There is a fresh water spring in a small cave below the temple steps and after anointing ourselves from the holy spring, a temple priest presses several grains of rice to each of our foreheads and places a flower behind our ears. We then wade the shallow water to the spiraling steps encircling the rocky base of the temple.  We can only ascend 20 or 30 steps before there is a gate blocking the way of the tourists but we have a view out to sea and the sun is low on the horizon.

Tanah Lot Temple
Art, Tanah Lot Temple

We stop in Simayat for dinner, a town adjoining Kuta. The upscale shops are very different from those in Ubud and this is not the Bali I have come to know and love.  We stop Mandy’s Restaurant, a touristy mega restaurant with a dance floor where Balinese dances are in progress for the benefit of the tourist (and for the benefit of keeping the Balinese culture.) A table of ten beautiful costumed girls (age 8 – 15) sit alongside the stage and I presume these young girls are being trained in the traditional Balinese dance, not much different than our American girls taking ballet or modern dance.  The youngest of the dancers leans up against her mother waiting for her time on stage.  We invite Dedi to join us for dinner and watch the performance as we dine.

Young Balinese Dancers and John
Dedi drops us off at the airport at 10:30 P.M.  Our plane will not leave until 1:00 A.M.  We are early for check in and sit drinking beer before checking in and proceeding through security.  The airport departing tax is $20 each and we pay that and proceed to our gate to wait.  At 12:00 A.M. there is an announcement that our plane will be delayed 30 minutes due to a mechanical problem. (not a comforting announcement.) We watch the mechanics through the large plate glass window, taking inspection photos of the engine. At 1:00 A.M. there is another announcement telling us that the plane has been further delayed and at 1:45, a final announcement telling us that the airport is closing and our flight will not be until 7:00 A.M. We are to meet Art’s brother Joe and Mark Anthony at 5:00 A.M. in Manila and our plane will not have even left let. I send face book messages and e-mail and briefly curl up on the stained carpeted floor of the terminal. The Philippine Airline gate agents are mobbed by the stranded passengers and I move in to listen to the explanation of the delay.  Previous to our plane landing, our plane struck a bird or birds that may have compromised the engine. The agents tell us that we will be taken to a hotel but this makes little sense. I wake Art and John who have been sleeping on the carpeted floor and we groggily follow the agents through the airport and to immigration.  I am stupid with sleep deprivation but John halts me at immigration and says he just wants to go back to the gate and sleep on the floor. By now it is 3:00 A.M. and he tells me that it is crazy to go to a hotel because we will have to return to the airport at 5:30 A.M. and check in again and go through security. We try to resist passing the immigration counters but are firmly instructed that we must exit and an agent stamps VOID on our boarding passes. Another 30 minutes of confusion unfolds and we decide that as nice as a shower might be, we do not want to go to the hotel. We walk back up the escalator to the Bintang Beer restaurant where we drank beer earlier and commandeer two of their couches. I try to sleep but Art, still uncertain of our situation continues to wander the airport, talking to other stranded passengers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Monday, January 26, 2015

Full Moon Ceremony

Monday, January 5th.

It is Monday, a work day and Art has arranged to meet with Tabra and Dekti to discuss e-commerce and Etsy.  We drop off another load of dirty laundry at the laundromat before going to Tabra’s work shop compound.  When we arrive, Tabra shows John two finalized arrangements of gemstone pendants with, jaguars, fish and sun faces and quotes John a very reasonable price. He is thrilled and  wants both of them and they discuss the details of the pendants; where tiny silver bead dots will go, the placement of an emerald, a ruby set as the jaguar’s third eye, the size of the bail and where the piece will hinge.  It is fun to watch the two of them design.
The business end of being an artist. 
Art and Dekti

We move from the design room to where Dekti runs the office and John brings in three chairs for our business meeting.  Art talks with Dekti and Tabra about the strategies of Etsy and e-commerce and I interject occasionally.  At noon we walked down the village road to Vespa for lunch.  John, Art and I have bowls of steamed vegetables; extremely healthy but not very exciting. After lunch, Art goes his own way and John and I tag along on business errands with Tabra and Dekti.  Their first stop is the tailor where Tabra expects to pick up fabric belts but they are unexpectedly closed.  We drive to Kutuk’s, Tabra’s caster for the past many years. We sit on the terrace inside their family compound and Tabra inspects a bag of her finished castings and bone carved jaguar faces.

We drive to a second casting compound where Tabra picks up a number of unfinished castings; moon faces, cuff bracelets and bead components.  The manager of the shop offers John and me a tour and we enthusiastically accept.  5 or 6 young women sit in one small room, shooting waxes and freeing them from their rubber molds.  In the second room, several other workers create the trees with the green waxes in preparation for investment and casting.  Behind these two rooms is an open air casting area and we are cautioned that the kiln is firing. We step carefully around the kiln and smile at a young man with his mask pulled down and his goggles on top of his head.  John and I return to the courtyard and wait for Tabra to finish her business.  A twitter of female voices and laughter floats from the open doorway where the young women continue to work and we presume that they are talking about the handsome young American man who just visited their workshop.

Our final stop is at a roadside hardware shop. Tabra is looking for display hooks and embellishments for her shop. The bronze hardware is cast in Java and I pick up a card. There are some interesting designs  and Tabra buys a series of 4” bronze cast shadow puppets for decorations and a number of simple hooks.

We have agreed to meet Art back at our bungalow at 4:30 P.M. to have time to dress for the full moon ceremony at the Penestanan Temple.  Dekti drives us home, battling rush hour traffic along the narrow roads of Ubud and drops John off at the village intersection to meet Art.  I go with Tabra to her home and she changes into a sarong and lends me one for the ceremony.  Sashes or belts are a requirement and she ties one around my waist using one of her new and innovative bronze belt closers. We walk to her work compound and find Art and John waiting and looking very handsome in their borrowed sarongs.

The Barong, Art and John
John and Marty

We go to Vespa again, for drinks and appetizers and to wait for the full moon temple ceremony to begin.  The Vespa Cafe is at the main intersection of Penestanan - Kaja and the villagers begin to gather. 

Women in Lace Kabayas
John, Marty, Tabra, Art

The women are dressed in beautiful kabayas, form fitting lace tunics, many quite seductive with lace cut outs and nude netting that reveals the skin. Many of the women carry baskets on their heads, food to offer at the temple ceremony. Most of the men are dressed in white sarongs, white shirts and white head-dresses (hats) with turned up corners. The entire village has turned out and the procession parades down the street, the odd Gamelon music reverberating in the air. 

Penestana Full Moon Procession 

Dekti walks in the procession,  lovely in her kabaya, her posture rod straight and her head supporting a basket offering for the temple.

Penestana Full Moon Procession

Penestana Village Boys
Marty and Village Girls

Penestana Full Moon Gathering

Dedi walks with a group of men, alongside his Barong Beast.  We follow the procession down the village street to the temple, mesmerized by the beauty of the villagers, the fading afternoon light and the music. There are only a handful of foreigners present and we are dressed appropriately and respectifully. We take many photos asking permission of the village girls and boys who smile and giggle with delight.  We are experiencing the real Bali.

Full Moon Temple Ceremony

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday in Ubud, Bali

Sunday, January 4th, Ubud, Bali

After yesterdays intense sightseeing we plan a relaxing day in Ubud.  A little before 11:00 A.M. we walk to Tabra’s work compound where John is immediately absorbed in her trays of stones, beads and cast components.  While Tabra, Art and I talk, John arranges abalone, a carnelian carved fish, a silver jaguar head,  bronze sun face and crescent shaped fire agate into a row. He shuffles his arrangement adding other castings and interchanging stones. Tabra takes interest and encourages his creativity. Just as in my studio, there are trays of oddities and pieces that need repair or are discontinued.  John hones in on a boulder opal and emerald bracelet connector and is admiring it. Tabra points out that the larger of the two boulder opals is cracked and that she will have to take the piece apart and redo it. John tells her it is beautiful just the way it is and she takes his hand in hers and folds his fingers around the piece, giving it to him.  John is thrilled and within a minute has engineered a cord to wear the piece as a necklace.

Tabra's Store on Hannamum Street
Arranging bead and stone components

It is Sunday and Dedi  has the day off so his father drives us to Hannamun street to drop us off in front of Tabra’s shop. I have been thinking about buying one of her gypsy skirts and slip into a rusty red and black skirt, sewn of printed Indian cotton that Tabra purchased on a recent trip to India.  I pay Tabra the family/friend price, exiting her shop feeling much prettier than when I entered in rolled up jeans. We exit and walk up Hannamum street, stopping into shops that interest us.  John and Art are usually a few shops ahead of Tabra and me but there is so much of interest that pace is easy and no one gets impatient.

We stop for lunch at a simple open air café. We order the usual, curried rice noodles with tofu, nasa goring, chicken curry, lime soda, lasses and special ice teas. My ice tea has two leeche fruits in it, is not too sweet and is oddly delicious. I order a second just so that I can have two more leeche fruits.

John, Bread Fruit, Ubud
Rock wall, Ubud Bali

After lunch we walk around the corner, up a side street and enter an upscale batik shirt shop. I remember being here 7 years ago. The shop is elegant and it is cool inside and the stacks of hand printed batik shirts are neatly folded and arranged by size. My fashion boy, John slips into several and preens in the mirror. He decides to buy a purple shirt and Tabra and I encourage Art to buy a more subtle, steel blue and brown shirt that will go well with both jeans and kaki brown pants. The shirts are about $35 each and I pass over my credit card and Art and John exit the shop wearing their new clothes.
Flower Mandala

We continue walking and shopping and cut along a side street to Monkey Forest Road where John remembers seeing a Barong Ring.  It is 4:30 and Tabra suggests a margarita and John and I concur.  It is happy hour and Art finds a café offering 2 for 1 margaritas and we sit down and order our drinks.  Service is “Bali time” and often frustratingly slow but we are eventually sipping on cool but smallish drinks.

At the bottom of Monkey Forest Road, John buy a high quality, sterling silver Garuda ring and bargains the price down from $10,000. to $8,000, or about $65.00. We take a taxi from Monkey Forest Road to the bottom of the stairs leading up to Penestanna.  Climbing the stairs gives Tabra and me a work out but we are rewarded by the Sunday night Bali buffet at the Yellow Flower Restaurant.  It is a full moon (or nearly one) and we sit at the edge of the terrace looking out over the valley and Ubud city below.  I am not thrilled with the banana leaf soup that is the first course and by the time we take our plates to the buffet, it is dark and difficult to see what I am spooning onto my plate. Nevertheless, it is a lovely balmy evening spent with our good friend Tabra underneath a full moon.  We walk the pathway back to our bungalow and say good night. Her walk from our bungalow to her house is less than 10 minutes and she tells us that she has no qualms walking alone at night; that Bali is safe. 

Elephant Caves, Holy Water and Rain

Saturday, January 3rd

I sit on our outdoor patio drinking coffee and writing until breakfast is delivered to us at 8:30 A.M.  Fresh fruit, scrambled eggs and toast is today’s menu. Promptly at 9:30 our driver, Dedi enters our gated garden compound and we briefly discuss our plans for the day. John has temples on his agenda and I inquire about visiting a batik village, kris making village and wood carving village along the way? Dedi carries a picture “menu” card in  his black Toyota minivan and John points to a variety of places that he would like to visit.  John’s and my mode of sightseeing, packing as much into a day as possible  is not Art’s style and he is in a sullen mood.  After changing money in Ubud we drive along one of the main “highways” connecting Ubud with Denpasar. I find the passing scenery fascinating and notice familiar landmarks that we passed several days earlier on our drive between Denpasar and Ubud. The road is lined with craft shops and workshops interspersed by family compounds. Steps rise to the ornate gated doorways of each compound and the ornate thatched and gilded cupolas of the family temples peek out above the walls. The traffic is heavy and scooters, often with three or four family members weave between the cars. The adults wear helmets but the children, sandwiched between are usually without. It is the rainy season and there are sudden bursts of heavy rain followed by shimmers of sunshine.  

Batik Factory Demonstration
Our first stop at a Batik factory is 45 minutes outside of Ubud. I was imagining a village with a number of small batik workshops and I am disappointed when we pull into the large parking lot of a mega store with tourists milling and keeping dry under a large covered outdoor reception area. There is a raised staging area where a dozen  of the workers demonstrate batik techniques. The store itself is cavernous with aisles of batik shirts, dresses, bags and reams of folded cloth. There is cloth of all quality and from printed cotton, batik cotton and fine silk batik.  Although much of the batik is lovely, the venue is overwhelming and unsatisfying and we stay only a few minutes.

Batuan Temple, Bali

Batuan Temple, Bali

We visit the Hindu, Batuan Temple, along the main road. After paying a modest entrance fee we are handed sarongs and belts so that we may enter the temple grounds respectfully dressed.

Our next stop is a Kris (Balinese knives and sword) workshop and showroom.  Dedi drives down a narrow side street to a family compound. The rain is torrential as we enter and I take off my shoes and “wade” barefoot up to the steps of the showroom. The wet tile and marble floor is slippery and I take care not to slip and fall.  A hundred or more Kris are for sale and John carefully examines them all but they are either not very pretty or extremely expensive and after 30 minutes we leave, wading back out to the car past two tethered birds, a Balinese Falcon and an Owl. They cock their heads and peer down from their perches.

Balinese Falcon

Tethered Owl at Kris Sword Shop

We stop at a wood carving factory, another cavernous showroom where we are shadowed by a polite but insistent young sales man, anxious to make a sale. Although some of the work is striking, there is no soul here and nothing interests us.  Seven years ago, we went to a Garuda wood carving village where a dozen separate workshops lined the street with rice paddies just beyond. We were inspired watching the men work and ultimately purchased one antique carved lion that we laboriously carried back home with us. We try to describe this village street to Dedi, but there has been so much growth in the last seven years that he does not know where this village is or if it still exists. We have lunch at a restaurant adjoining another wood carving shop.  The food is simple and we sit with Dedi on the covered marble terrace, eat and watch the torrential rain fall. 

Waiting for Lunch at a Woodcarving Shop

We arrive at Goa Gajah, the Elephant Cave and Dedi waits while Art, John and I pay the $1.50 entrance fee each, sarong included and walk down the pathway to the ruins below. 
Goa Gajah, the Elephant Cave
Water Temple Goddesses

Goa Gajah Water Temple

Goa Gajah was built in the 9th century as a sanctuary and the primary figure above the cave entrance is thought to be an elephant, thus the name. The bathing pools were not excavated until the 1950’s. There are a few visitors bathing in the pools, anointing themselves with the spring water spouting forth from the goddess’ urns. Down below the cave is the river and we hike down the stone stairs to where earthquakes have tumbled mammoth sized boulders into the river. The boulders are felted with green moss and roots of venerable banyan trees weave intricate patterns and vine tendrils hang low. It is a strikingly magical Utaki. (According to Okinwan folklore, an Utaki is a sacred and magical place.) 

Goa Gajah Grotto
Banyan Tree Roots

On the way back to the car we pass a group of craft stalls and stop to watch one man painting wooden eggs.  We buy three and he smiles graciously for a photo. 

Egg Painter, Goa Gajah

It’s mid afternoon when we arrive at the Gunung Kawi, an 11th century shrine.  Dedi cautions me that it is a long walk down and I cheerfully tell him that we will hurry. My legs are wobbly by the time I reach the bottom of the seemingly endless  path and stairway. The site is impressive with ten shrines, each 7 meters high,  carved into the cliff walls, five on either side of the river gorge. The shrines on one side of the river are thought to be dedicated to Anak Wungsu, his queens and concubines and the shrines on the other side of the river are believed to be dedicated to King Udayana and his queens and concubines. John climbs down into the river gorge but because of the long steep climb back to the parking area, I start my slow ascent. When we reconnect at the top, John excitedly tells us that he went on to explore other ruins and shrines along the river that were restricted to men only.

Gunung Kawi Shrine

Gunung Kawi Shrine

River below Gunung Kawi
It is late afternoon when we arrive at the Tirta Empul Water Temple. Dedicated to the Hindu God, Vishnu and built between the 10th and 14th century, the baths are famous for their holy water. The pools are crowded with devotees and John quickly finds a place to change into a sarong and is soon waist deep in the water, making the progression from one spout to the next, anointing his head with the holy spring water.  Art and I watch him with pride and delight, our son who embraces just about everything with wonder and an open mind.  

John Bathing at the Tirta Empul Water Temple
Tirta Empul Water Temple

Tirta Empul

It is 7:00 P.M. before we arrive back at our Topok House and the rain is torrential. We slosh through the mud and grass to our bungalow, clean up quickly and wait  on our front porch for Tabra, hoping that the rain will subside some so she can come to meet us as planned. She arrives graceful and unbothered by the rain, sheltered under an immense umbrella and we walk down the pathway in the direction of the stairs holding flashlights and umbrellas until we reach Laili Restaurant. The simple open air restaurant is lovely and I enjoy watching the rain fall from our sheltered seats. Since New Year’s John has stayed on a vegetarian regime and I am doing my best to follow suit, but this limits our options and stir fry rice and vegetables are becoming monotonous.