So I was able to reach the Denpasar Badung Traditional Market this week thanks to our host here in Bali. The market is housed in a large two story building in the middle of Denpasar and spills into the surrounding area, winding through the streets and alleyways like the root system of a palm tree: spreading wide, twisting and turning in a seemingly chaotic manner. In reality, the market is very well organized. Each vendor has a specialty- meats, produce, flowers, livestock, jewelry, housewares, ready-to-eat foods, and fabrics are all here. Each of these items has a specific street or area where they are sold, making navigating the market a little easier. The streets were clogged primarily with locals, I did not see another Westerner. The markets here in Bali are a social hub for those who live here. This particular market is one of the largest in Bali and is open for morning market from 5am to 5pm...the night market begins at 5pm and goes throughout the night- pretty much a 24 hour operation.
Just a mini update of mostly photos. Sundays are a day of rest for the local Balinese, spent with family at the market or at the beach. Here are some images of this past Sunday in Sanur. I have included descriptions at bottom left..
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!
Sanur is a nice change of pace from hectic Kuta, with its narrow congested streets and consistent hawkers selling everything from hats and sunglasses (no matter if you already have both of these items on at the time) to "the best massage". At times, I felt it would be easier to wear a sign, "NO THANK YOU" than answer them, but most are very polite about it and do so with a smile. The village of Sanur is a good mix of locals, expats, backpackers, and tourists from all over the world (unlike Kuta, which mostly caters to Australians). We arrived here last Saturday and were happy to plunk our bags down in a small but well furnished apartment, as we prefer to have our own space versus staying in a hotel. The first thing I did was a load of laundry! Our hosts Karine and Lauren have lived in Bali for over 10 years and are originally from France. They live in the home next to us and have been very helpful in getting us aquatinted to the area.
Not surprisingly, we couldn't wait to find the beach near our new home. Mertasari Beach is only a couple hundred yards from our apartment (yes, everything is now in metric, we are adjusting to that), so we headed in that direction. Along the way we found a fantastic local restaurant Mama Putu's, who also sells gasoline for motor bikes and rents bicycles. She is truly a full service establishment! Walking into the beach entrance I was immediately reminded of Charlotte Beach in Rochester, NY.-not a bad thing, there is a park area for community events and some food stalls. The locals frequent this part of the beach after work and weekends, taking advantage of the ocean breezes and calm waters to cool down and enjoy visiting with family and friends. The waters off Mertasari is protected by a reef and this creates a very shallow harbor with enough wind for the kite surfers, which dot the sky with their colorful sails. There are many "warung's" (small restaurants) along the boardwalk but one in particular drew us in. A small beach bar with a Rasta theme. In fact, I think it was just called "Beach Bar"...perfect. We sat and were taking in the new views when a couple local guys arrived and offered us a swig of Balinese Whiskey. What can I say, it was delicious!
Just like in Kuta, the Krishna movement is strong here. Sunday was a holiday (don't recall which one, there are many) and the community grounds at the beach was taken over by a large celebration. They reenacted the arrival of their religious leader from boat to of all places, NY! When I told them I was from NY they invited me to stay and even to eat with them. The celebration started with a boat beaching on the shore and a life-like statue of their former leader being carried on a throne up to the stage area. There was a lot of singing, dancing, and theater throughout the day with one song being repeated over and over...Hare Krishna! Hare Krishna! I drove MJ crazy singing that the rest of the day, but don't worry- they haven't converted me yet.
Monday was a busy day. We started by finding the immigration office in order to extend our visa. This was visit 2 of 4 and it is very reminiscent of the DMV. The process is a little weird because you have to give up your passport for a couple days, but this is how they do it here. We decided to take a day trip while we had a driver and saw how traditional Batik fabric and silver jewelry is produced. My mother will be happy to know I purchased two new Balinese earnings and she can't get to me to rip them out! We ended the day at Tegenungan Falls or "The Hidden Waterfall". We plan on returning there for a full day of exploring.
One last note for those of you who were worried I might starve to death while traveling (as I am a famously picky eater). The food here is awesome and very diverse. The traditional Balinese cuisine is cheap and delicious and I could survive on this alone. My new favorite is Nasi Goreng, which is a fried rice dish served with satay (grilled skewers of chicken, beef, or seafood) and a fried egg.
Till next time!!
So this is Bali. We made it to Sanur, which is on the east coast of the southern peninsula of Bali, and have found paradise. More on this later though, lets get you caught up on last week. We spent our first 12 days here in Kuta due to its proximity to the airport and good hotel selection. We wanted to get our bearings and be able to rest up and make our plans for the rest of this leg of our journey. Since my last post, a lot has happened. First off, let me say that the Balinese people are some of the most genuine and friendly hosts I have ever encountered in my travels. Even in Kuta, which is a very chaotic place, the locals are willing to go out of their way to talk to you and help in any way. Quick to flash a smile and a "selamat pagi" - good morning, or "selamat siang" - good afternoon. I have never felt so welcome in a place that is foreign to me. The crime rate is extremely low here due to the belief in karma...a great way to lead ones life and something I try to follow on a daily basis.
A couple days after arriving in Bali the super moon was happening (which I had forgotten about), MJ and I were lucky enough to witness a beach procession of Krishna's (Hare Krishna) celebrating the event. They marched and danced and sang their way down the beach inviting anybody to join them as they went. It was easy to get caught up in the moment. The Krishna movement sometimes gets a bad rap, but I have found them to be pretty cool. They know who they are and are unapologetic about their beliefs which may seem foreign to most. They are welcoming of outsiders, but not aggressive. They have massive amounts of love for each other and those not part of the movement.
While at Kuta beach, MJ and I of course went searching for a bar to hang out at and enjoy the company of others- we found that the small bars that dot the beaches to be perfect. They are nothing more than a cooler full of beer, a couple chairs and some umbrellas. Each "bar" is run by a local who has licensed their spot so you can always count on your bar to be in the same place, which is good because there are so many and they tend to blend together. Teo was the owner of the one we found. The first night there we were short on cash (still getting accustomed to the values of money there, as the US dollar is worth 14 times as much as their currency). He graciously told us to pay next time, trusting us to come back- which we did for the rest of our time in Kuta.
As I am writing this post, it is 730 am in Sanur. I know this not because we have a clock in the house (we do not), but because the students are arriving at the elementary school right next door to us. This is amusing because we also had a elementary school next door at the hotel in Kuta. So far the schools seem very different. The One in Kuta was a constant source of noise, so much so that i wondered if it was a daycare or a school, If they weren't singing they were screaming. The school here in Sanur is much more sedate, as if actual instruction is being delivered. I wonder if the other school was government vs private? Could the government schools focus more on social skills to prepare students for the largest job sector? (hospitality accounts for 80% of employment in Bali).
MJ and I were able to explore some of the southern peninsula this week, and I really wanted to visit Pandang Padang in Uluwatu. In addition to having some of the worlds greatest surf breaks, the area is home to one of the largest and most important temples, Pura Luhur (the Sea Temple). It stands on the edge of a cliff that drops 300 feet to the sea. The temple is dedicated to Sang Hyang Widhi Was in his manifestation as Rudra (a storm god and embodiment of wildness and unpredictable danger). The site is also home to thousands of monkeys, notorious for snatching visitors belongings. They typically can be persuaded to give up their find for fruit or candy but not always. While we were there we saw one steal the sandals from a visitor...when they tried to trade for a candy bar the monkey took both and ran! The temple was a truly beautiful place and a nice stop off on our way to Padang Padang, where we will be spending our last two weeks in Bali. I am hoping the ocean swell lives up to its legend when we come back as the waves were pretty tame on the day we visited. The town is small and quirky though, just the way we like it!