So we are 26 days into our journey. I don't know if its possible to drink more water than I have here...its amazing how quickly a 5 gallon jug is drained. We have had perfect weather here in Bali, as expected. Sunny, hot, and humid everyday. The heat begins to build early, usually by 9 am, and stays hot until sundown. Most afternoons are spent at either at the beach reading under a tree or home fixing lunch and catching up on emails, editing images, and updating the blog...sometimes a mid-day siesta is required.
So much has happened since the last update. We have experienced a lot of local culture and taken several day trips to sites around the island. I visited the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces in Northern Bali, which is one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites here. The fields are enormous and I was only able to trek through a small portion of it. The terraces are difficult to get to due to being situated on the side of a mountain (hence the need for terraces). There are narrow switchback roads that wind through dusty little towns which limits the large tour buses access...a major bonus as many of the must see sights around Bali are swarming with tourists. The terraces have been in use for over 500 years and I took my time wandering around talking to locals as I went. Because of the sheer size of the fields, I used the mountain to keep oriented...it would be easy to get turned around and lost out there.
MJ and I also visited Tanah Lot, one of the seven sea temples around the Balinese coastline. The seven temples are situated within eyesight of each other on the western coast of the island forming a long chain. Tanah Lot was built around the 16th century and is said to be protected by sea snakes...nice. Who doesn't love sea snakes? We will definitely go back to Tanah Lot, it was beautiful. The black sand beach is very quiet as most visitors spend their time above the cliff at the temple, on the grounds eating a picnic lunch, or shopping at the large art market.
I also visted a couple other sites myself while MJ stayed around Sanur for a day. First to another waterfall, Air Terjun Munduk, then to Pura Ulun Danu Beratan or the Temple on the Lake. Munduk was a good hike down a gorge so few people were around...great for a quick dip to cool down before hiking the several hundred steps back to the top. The Lake Temple was a bust- full of tourists and gimmicks to rid you of your cash. The worst were the swan/duck paddle boats, I hate those things.
We found the Sanur night market which is similar to a food truck rodeo (Rochester, NY folks know what Im talking about). The market is open every night from 6 until late night, usually 12 or 1. Traditional Balinese foods are the staple, with other small shops selling everything from soap to sarongs. You can eat there for literally under $1. We met the only other American so far on the trip. A nurse traveling alone, in her early 30s. It was good to talk to someone from home, she even shared her desert with us, a coconut cake that fed all three of us that was also under $1. We will visit the night market more as our budget gets smaller. We were also lucky enough to witness a cremation ceremony while at breakfast. Traditional Balinese cremations are more celebration than funeral. It starts with a public cremation and then a parade to carry the ashes to the resting place. Onlookers are encouraged to join in the parade and it can grow much larger from beginning to end.
In our time here, we have talked with locals, expats, and other tourists to help round out our knowledge of Balinese culture.
Here are a few things I learned:
Balinese coffee (kopi luwak) tastes like shit- actually harvested from the droppings of the civet (a small asian cat). It is said you can both eat and drink your coffee with kopi luwak as it is very thick and has a chocolate aftertaste. It is a apparently very expensive coffee outside Indonesia.
Bali still has a caste system. I had no idea until talking with our hosts. There are 4 castes (unlike India's 5), SHUDRAS or peasants, consists of 93% of the population, WESIAS or merchants and administrative officials, KSATRIAS or warrior caste, also includes some nobility, and BRAMINS or holy men and priests. The use different dialects to address members of different castes. There have been several conflicts over the years between the castes and now it is mostly used in religious settings. The differences in the economic roles of caste members is slowly eroding as the government prohibits differential treatments.
Most Balinese citizens never leave Bali. This is mostly due to religious beliefs and strong family connections. I also believe lack of extra money makes it difficult to leave, most extra money in a family unit (usually extended family) is used for trips to religious sites and for other important celebrations. If they do leave Bali, most will return in order to be close to deceased family and to ensure their karma is intact.
Enjoy the images!