Juni in Bali
Our birthdays bookend June, and this year Erica and I had the great gift of getting to spend most of June with my folks in Bali. Here’s a day by day account of our birthday month:
5: Checked into Ketut’s Place in Ubud, which was lovely enough when I was last there in 1998 but has now gone all flash, complete with a swimming pool and some deluxe rooms built on the side of a ravine. Everywhere you look, there’s some carved god or other, poking his head around an orchid blossom.
6: My birthday. We went to the Monkey Forest, where a thuggish monkey stole a bar of soap from us and gnawed on it til his mouth foamed. Later we went to Ketut’s Balinese feast and gorged on smoked duck, sates, roast pig, jackfruit and bean soups, and lots of vegetable dishes.
7: Saw the Petulu herons come home to roost.
8: Chak-chak-chak-chaka-chaka-chaka-chaka-chak-chak-chak: a kecak dance!
9: Nosed around the local library and some of Ubud’s 10,000 shops (At least, it feels like 10,000 when you’re walking back up the hill to Ketut’s Place).
10: Cremation in Gianyar. The shrouded body of a Brahman was placed in a 30 or 40-foot high tower that was festooned with a suckling pig on a stick and a live bird in a cage, among other more prosaic decorations. While a gamela played, this tower was carried, Giglio-style, down to the cemetary, where the body was transferred to a giant bull effigy, which was then set ablaze. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I missed the first seconds of the conflagration, as I was enjoying some tasty bakso ayam from a roadside cart at the time.
11: Took a ride to see the Bali Botanic Gardens, which was pleasant, although there are more orchids at Ketut’s Place, and if you can make any link between the map and the labels on the plants, you deserve the Anandaroop Roy cartography award.
12: Erica and I drank coffee all day at Tutmak, but the folks were invited to a Balinese wedding ceremony and came back with little gift boxes of peanuts, green cake, and a little cup of water.
13: Utterly amazing Legong dance in Peliatan. The condong (Erica calls her “red angel”) pops her eyes and flutters her fingers and you don’t know whether she’s scary or sexy, or if it’s scary to think she’s sexy (she looks about twelve).
14: Saw the kick-off of the Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar – a parade of marching gamelan, legong majorettes, and even Megawati herself.
15: Another kecak. At the end of this one, a barefoot fellow riding a broomstick horse dances through blazing coconut husks.
16: Very cool Threads of Life textile museum.
17: Women and Children’s Gamelan, the highlight of which was a tiny boy dancing the baris. Erica calls him the Snowman Emperor.
18: Galungan. Every 210 days, everybody makes the gorgeous bamboo penjor and dress up in their finest finery and decorate their temples and invite God to inhabit these little God-boxes at the base of the penjor. We’re awfully lucky.
19: Restaurant in the rice fields.
20: Goodbye Ubud, hello Padangbai.
21: We’re introduced to bergedel, the tasty potato and/or corn pancake dish.
22: Snorkeling: idols and grouper and snapper, oh my!
23: Lovely winding rice-terrace drive from Padangbai to Sanur.
24: Busloads of Javanese schoolkids come to Sanur to gawk at the Grand Beach Hotel (which we can’t afford even at a 50% discount) and get their photos taken with Western tourists. Where’s all this anti-American sentiment I kept reading about?
25: There’s no other blue like the blue at Uluwatu.
26: Poked around the pools at low tide: brittle starfish, hermit crabs, cowrie, urchins, scary silly string creature, flowery sea slugs, little boys treasure-hunting.
27: I never liked birds until I visited the Bali Bird Park.
28: Kuningan. This is the festival following Galungan, when the gods are cordially invited to go on home. We spent it on Turtle Island, watching everybody mill around in their fancy sarongs making offerings.
29: Erica’s birthday. We feasted on Korean ribs and leg of lamb at the Jazz cafe, had a spa treatment, and saw a great Barong (think Snuffalupagus) dance in Batubulan.
30: Goodbye mom and dad, and thanks for a great month in Bali…