Well, it's been a couple of days since we visited Bali. Usually I try to write these entries pronto, right after we visit but I guess I was tired. And forgetful. Anyhow, I now have two days perspective and maybe that's a good thing. Of course maybe not since Russell tells me I have very poor short term memory!
Coming in to the port was quite an experience. Lots of exotic sights not the least of which was fishermen standing and fishing yards away from the channel in which the ship was traveling. Our tour was billed as an "All-Day Safari by Volkswagen Bug". Fortunately for us the vehicles were not actually Volkswagen Bugs but rather Volkswagen Things. You may not be familiar with the Volkswagen Thing; it wasn't very popular. The important thing is that it has four doors which meant that it was easier for us to get into and out of than a Bug would have been (which is not to say that it was easy to get into and out of because it was not). But it had windows in the back providing air flow for passengers (more about this later).
After meeting our guide (Wardi), our driver (whose name I never quite got) took us into the maelstrom that is Indonesian traffic. Most notable was the number of mopeds/small motorcycles. This was truly remarkable. Also of interest was the ingenuity of drivers (both of cars and motorbikes) in finding ways to continue to advance despite the presence of stopped traffic. Wardi told us that the law was pretty much "if you can do it, then it's legal" so up the side we would go, driving on the sidewalk or on what little shoulder there was to get in front of one more car while motorbikes wove their way around and between the drivers with less, shall we say, creativity. What a madhouse but honestly the driver was pretty good though I am sure some others would have been put off by his, uhm, ingenuity.
Our first stop was a small manufacturing facility which was producing traditional Indonesian musical instruments. As you may have guessed this process is done largely by hand. We watched as the craftsmen put together a bamboo pipe instrument and a different instrument reminiscent of a xylophone. We were able to play some of the finished pieces. Wardi said that a full set consists of something like thirty pieces (almost an orchestra really) and costs upwards of twelve thousand dollars (or about thirteen billion rupees -- only kidding but seriously the exchange rate is 13,000 rupees to one dollar!)
Our next stop was a large temple. Bali, I did not realize, is not Muslim but rather majority Hindu. So, this was a Hindu temple we were visiting. We had to wear sarongs to cover our bare knees because we were wearing shorts. The temple was arranged on a hillside, in levels, with many small "alters" or mini-shrines on each level. Each of the individual structures represented a different divine function or God. You can see that my understanding of what we were seeing was rather sketchy which I tend to accept as inevitable when visiting another culture that is so different and with only a brief period of time in which to do so.
Stop number three was a wonderful traditional Balinese village, the name of which now escapes me (perhaps Russell is right about my short term memory -- hah). Anyhow, the village has banned cars and motorized vehicles of any sort so it was mercifully peaceful and quiet. Each of the homes has to look like the others and be constructed in the traditional style and layout which I understand means several separate buildings (one for the kitchen, one for the family temple, one space for family rituals and another space for living/sleeping). We were able to walk right in to one of the homes and take pictures so I am not sure how that works with the people who live there but they didn't seem upset (and we did buy a couple of drinks) so there you have it. Speaking of photos, there was a young couple posing for wedding pictures while dressed in traditional costumes. That was fun (even if he did look really more like a she to me -- "not that there is anything wrong with that")
Volkswagen Things -- ready to roll!
On our way to lunch it started to pour. This was especially unfortunate given that the Thing either has windows or it does not (that is to say, they are windows one puts in place or lifts out; what one definitely can not do is roll the window up or down). Since it had been quite hot and humid obviously we had left the windows out but now as we headed into the hills and with the rain coming down windows began to seem a much better idea! We soldiered on, hoping -- I suppose -- for the weather to abate (which it did not) as Russell and I scrunched together in the middle of the backseat and tried to avoid (and then to accept) the errant streaks of rain now rushing in on a rather a cold breeze.
Fortunately, the weather broke briefly when we arrived at our luncheon spot. This was especially fortuitous given that the restaurant had a sensational view of a lake and a volcano (active). We also were served a large and thoughtfully prepared platter of vegan food -- a nice surprise. People who arrived later at the luncheon spot saw nothing but fog since the weather rolled back in and the rain began again.
After a quick (but painful) visit to a painting studio where we were followed from room to room by our very own salesperson who tried to convince us that we wanted one hideous painting after another (see previous entry from summer trip re. the downside of cruising), we experienced yet another hairy ride through the streets of Bali before gratefully returning to the ship's air conditioning. We were somewhat delayed in our departure from Bali owing to the late arrival of some guests (caught in traffic I presume) which prompted a further delay because the tide was then too low for the ship to leave but leave we did (eventually). On to the next port of call!