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A bit on Bali and the trip there

having lots of trouble adding photos and very slow too so here’s one of my favorite photos I’ve taken so far

this was taken in the monkey forest of Ubud

door to door over 24 hours though only 16 actual flying time. An interesting wall of art in
the Alaska gate since I’ve been to PDX

have  a bunch of photos I’d like to upload of the Taipei airport but will wait as I’m having computer issues. Two days before I left I took out my little ‘travel’ netbook and discovered the screen was going but it was too late to make the decision for a new one–tablet or netbook–much less get it, so here I am limping along with a screen that looks like this:

additionally, I’m having trouble uploading pictures. hope to have this issue fixed soon and will fill in with pictures when I can.

Three and a half hours in Taipei. Walked for most of it which felt good after 10 hours
sitting. Among the usual shops are scattered play rooms, prayer rooms – both Muslim
and Buddhist–art galleries, a room to rest in with such comfortable recliners I was afraid
I’d miss my plane if I stayed, a year of the dragon area where you could write a wish for the year and hang it with others and even this orchid display.  Lots of free computers with
internet access. Not a mention of China–it Taiwan. And flights even do directly to
China. Oh that time could somehow calm the Middle East the way it has this conflict.

Heat. It was near freezing when I left Portland and in the 80s when I arrive in Denpasar.
Airport. I am met by Rudi, a driver with the tour–very low stress arrival. I didn’t even get
any money, that will wait until tomorrow.

It’s 4pm by the time we pull out of the airport. Rush hour. My first wow was the
motorcycle parking lot: acres of motorcycles. I’ve never seen anything like it and now
the road is full of them, of course, weaving among the cars, buses and trucks. The road
is two lane but often the cars are three abreast, weaving and cutting each other off
along with the cycles.

The road is lined with workshops as well as the occasional temple. How much furniture
can the world absorb? And carvings both wood and stone (though many look like they
are just cast concrete too). Lovely curving bamboo objects sprout along the road. Rudi
tells me they are ‘decorations’ but soon I realize they are shrines. No photos from the
car but I shall get some to put here soon.

It takes us an hour and a half to get to Ubud. I wait until the last few minutes for the
‘countryside’ to appear. A few rice paddies. ‘Progress’ has made it all this way.

I’ve been reading accounts of Bali from the 30s and 60s going all the way back to the
turn of the 20th century. I long to see the world described there. Doubtful I will find it.

The hotel, Alam Indah, is a garden paradise, however. My room–and I got the
wonderful surprise of a single because someone else paid for a single supplement and
left me sans roommate–is tree house-like with a veranda. Shame I won’t have enough
time to hang out in it. The walls are covered with woven bamboo. Modern bathroom
with a Toto toilet, just like home. First dinner is buffet and delicious. Dessert is fruit and
a coconut covered sticky rice? goodie with a liquid brown sugar center. We are warned
to just pop it into our mouths whole so the filling can spurt out. Yum.

my veranda

The noises: birds, frogs, crickets. We are warned not to leave things in the bathroom
(there is no glass in the window) that might attract monkeys–a guest last year lost her
retainers! I carefully put my hearing aids away in their box in the cupboard.

An amazing nest next to the hotel veranda–sunbird, an ancestor of hummingbird, of which they have none.

March 3
awoke way too early but wonderful sounds of birds and others, then about 6 rain.
In the morning we had a lecture demonstration on the 100 uses of the coconut palm
from making things from the leaves to how to make coconut oil and palm sugar. While
the speaker talked two others made things–a man wove a mat and a woman made all
kinds of decorative and useful objects. Fascinating. Speaker also talked about customs
especially about issues of families wanting a son and birth control etc. then we had a
sarong tying lesson.

grating young coconut

the grater, tiny spikes coming thru the wood

Lunch in Ubud with a walk around in the afternoon. First impression on a Sunday, awful place, overrun with tourists, tourist shops and traffic, noisy and unpleasant, but a good base for our exploring. Returned  on Monday and not nearly so noisy and  traffic bearable, while still busy was not bumper to bumper.  Of course, there are still wonderful buildings, shrines, offerings, lots of lovely things to look at.

Told in the 80s it was just one street with small shops. Now many blocks of nothing but businesses catering to tourism. Everyone speaks English, of course. The food is excellent and some of the shops very nice goods. Martha showed us good shops and a little shopping was done. So glad our hotel is away from Ubud, walking distance but out of the bustle–a sanctuary

Walked home thru the monkey forest of which I was a bit nervous because I’d heard so
many stories of the aggressiveness of the monkeys but I was without food and they did
not bother me. Especially glad because there is rabies in Bali.

After dinner at the hotel we went to dance performance, kecak and fire. Kecak: story is
from the Mahabarati, as are many, but the gamelan voices, not instruments. The
singers sat around the dance area in their black & white sarongs. For the fire dance an
actual bonfire was built in the center of the stage and a dancer came out barefooted
and destroyed it, spread it around, then another came out and swept the fire back
together, repeated this again and again because he is in a trance induced by the repetitive nature of the gamelan. the dance’s function is to protect society from evil forces and epidemics

March 4

A wonderful but exhausting day. First we went to Gunung Kawi Mt Temple down in a
gorge. We put on our sarongs and descended many steps (371?) Very old, believed to
be tomb of kind and his 9 wives. Very beautiful setting. Then we went to the very holy
Tirta Empul Temple of the holy springs. Many people there praying and going into a
pool to douse themselves in the water. They lined up before different spouts, each
spout for a different ailment. One spout had only young men before it and we wondered
what it was for

Before lunch a visit to a carving workshop in Pakoe Dul, a wood carving village. Visited
just one workshop that mostly made carving of one god. Lunch in a good restaurant
then visited a private mask and puppet museum on the owners estate. Free. Seems
he’s just a collector who now is showing his things, what else to do with such an
extensive collections. Did wonder where the money comes from. He has thousands of
puppets, only one-third on display, all kinds from all over Asia, different materials,
styles. Very wonderful. The buildings housing them (2 for masks and tow for puppets)
were themselves historic–one was an old Dutch governor’s house dismantled and
brought here from Java, I believe. Even the display cases were antiques. Wonderful
masks, some contemporary. There were two by the mask maker we then visited, Ida
Bagus Anom.

We sat in Anom’s workshop, just a room with some chairs and mats–he say on a mat
and demonstrated his carving, all simple hand tools. He gave an excellent presentation
showing and explaining not only how he makes his masks but how he measures, how
he was trained by his father, how learning to dance was part of the training since he
was to make masks for the dance, how he has to sing the song the mask wearer will
sing so he knows is the mask features are right. Afterwards we went up to his display
room where we tried on masks and many of us bought them. For such works of art by
the best contemporary B,so doesn’t paint these because they are made from a wood that is light in its top layers and then darkens as he carves in; makes a lovely effect.

So busy it’s hard to keep up with this journal. On the 5th we visited Threads of Life, a project started by a Brit to help preserve the textile traditions. They buy textiles from women all over Indonesia made using natural dyes and in traditional patterns. They help them set up cooperatives and sell the goods in their shop in Ubud. The work is gorgeous and expensive and for now is working but I wonder how long the model is sustainable given that one could saturate the market–are there enough collectors and wealthy tourists to support it?

the founder, William Ingram, talked to us for a long time, showing us examples of the work, explaining how the dyes work, the meaning of various patterns in the weaving, and the different traditions from various islands.

After lunch we visited a batik studio also using natural dyes, including indigo–did you know there are several different natural sources of indigo? We were shown two that they had going in their vats. the founder of this project, Corkorda Agung Pemayun, worked with Threads of Life initially.

March 6th was a rice patty walk led by a local priest and painter who is also knowledgeable about herbal medicines so he showed us various plants and explained their uses. I chewed several leafs of a plant good for the stomach. Seeing how the irrigation system works was also fascinating. Entirely gravity fed. The paddies are lovely with their shrines and swaying grasses. Only unlovely thing was a Canadian house, entirely out-of-place and disrespectively hanging laundry on their top terrace above the level of the surrounding shrines.

Walk followed by lunch in the priest’s family compound. Very lovely garden, birds, 15 people living there. He pays young boys to come learn painting to not only encourage them to learn but he says it is a better way for them to spend their times than video games. They are learning traditional style painting. After lunch he showed us his paintings and those of his advanced students. Buying was enjoyed by all.

Later in the afternoon we went to a couple of silver workshops. Had an explanation of how filigree is done. In the evening a gamelan performance by the best troupe in town with wonderful dancers.

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