We are now in a new part of our trip – Asia. And our first two ports are in Indonesia. This is a part of the world that is new to us.
A few quick facts about Indonesia as a whole. It consists of about 13,500 islands, 6,000 of which are inhabited to some degree. It lies between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. It is the 4th most populated country in the world after China, India, and the USA with a population of about 245 million. It is a volatile land with 400 volcanoes, 130 of which are still active, as it is part of the Ring of Fire. There are over 300 languages and dialects. Islam is the major religion, with the exception of Bali, which is mostly Hindu. Jakarta is the capital.
Today we arrived in Bali at the port of Benoa. I woke up really early because I thought it would be a beautiful “sail in.” It was nice, but nothing extraordinary. The best thing I saw getting up so early was a beautiful sunrise! This is the first time this ship had docked in Bali – in the past it has always been a tender port. But due to recent storms, they could no longer bring the tenders to the same landing places.
We were late in arriving because we had to wait for a local ferry to leave our berth. We felt badly because so many of our crew are from this area and were eagerly waiting to meet with family members here – some having not been together for over six or more months. One of the finest things our passengers did today was put out notices on their cabin doors requesting “no cabin service” all day long so that the room stewards would have more time with their families.
There were many, many great tours offered today in Bali because of so many things to see and do. We chose the Barong Dance and Mt. Batur. One thing everyone saw on this island were so many Hindu temples and so many small offerings everywhere. We had a great guide who explained so much about this culture and its people. While the island is mainly Hindu, Balinese Hinduism differs from the Indian version. Balinese people recognize not only he Hindu Gods, but a special set of deities all their own.
We drove from Benoa through the town of Sunut. There was sooo much traffic it took us a long time. We passed a McDonald’s and our guide said it was new to the island – and a real treat for families to go there. The $5 meal was too expensive for people to go there on a regular basis – had to be a special occasion. Most of the people are very poor here. Our guide said that growing up (in the 1980s) he and his siblings had to go out in the fields and catch grasshoppers that would then be used for soup – that was their entire meal. Bad weather had ruined their rice paddies, so they had nothing to fall back on. An egg once a week, and a chicken for the whole family to share – once a month – these were the splurges.
Our first stop was an open air amphitheater to see the Barong Dance. This is a traditional dance depicting good versus evil with background music using gongs, and specialized percussion instruments. The costumes were extremely colorful and ornate. This picture shows part of the “band” with their colorful costumes as well. The Barong is a mythical creature that is “good” and protects the people from evil. It is the god Shiva in another form. Its face is particularly interesting and unique. We later bought a wood carving depicting this same mask face. There are many colorful characters in this story that unfolded on the stage including the important monkey. The dance lasted almost an hour, and we took many pictures. However, there is so much more to share about Bali, this picture of the witch, representing evil will be the last for this Blog. We also later bought a painting of both the Barong and Witch together. It was a very colorful painting as well.
We continued our drive through many small villages and rice fields. This was one of my favorite pictures of a rice field with a shirt drying in the breeze. We were heading toward the mountains and the town of Kintamani where we would have lunch over looking Mt. Batur. We learned along the way that each village has its own entrance “gate” on either side of the road – unique for that particular village. Also, the houses were mostly compounds comprised of several smaller homes together for the extended families. In each one there was always a family temple where each member of the family started his day. These were central to family life. We saw these all along the roads where we saw houses.
The actual place we dined was called Lakeview. It was a hotel and restaurant. The view was amazing. It rained while we drove here and it was still misty while we ate lunch, but that seemed to add to its beauty. This is Mt. Batur, a still active volcano. Its last eruption was in 2000 and you can still see where part of the side is still black – and if you look carefully you can still see some of the steam on one side of it. It is a relatively small volcano nested within a larger 8 1/2 mile crater. The crater is now filled with water and the whole area is just beautiful and green. We had a wonderful lunch, mainly a Balinese menu, but mostly just enjoyed sitting outside on a covered deck looking at the scenery.
By the time we got back in our bus it was starting to really rain hard, so it was hard to take pictures of the passing countryside. Our next stop was to a Temple – the temple of the holy springs. This 1,000 year old temple complex is built around a sacred spring, and the Balinese people journey from around the island to bathe in its protective waters. Our guide explained you must have “good and happy thoughts” to get in the water. It is like a cleansing or purifying of your body and soul. We were allowed to put our hands in and touch it “for good luck!” It was raining so hard, some of the people on our tour felt they had had enough water for one day. But the brave ones of us, all wrapped in colorful blue and green ponchos, walked around (sloshed around) the rest of the complex to see all the different sacred areas.
Our next stop was the village of Mas, most famous for its teak wood used for fine wood sculpture and masks. We visited a wood carving gallery called Marka. We saw a few people carving by hand (no machines) but mainly it was a huge gallery of completed wood carvings for sale. This man was carving a Ganesh, the elephant headed Hindu god. The large and intricate carving on the left was made from one huge tree and took four years to complete. We only had about 30 minutes here, so we had to hurry to purchase our Barong mask and a snake shaped walking stick.
Our last stop was an art gallery in Ubud. Ubud is the main art colony in Bali and has many galleries. We went to one called Semarkunng. There were no artists here showing us how these intricate paintings are made – could be because it was so late in the day. We only had 30 minutes here, so there was no time to really make a purchase – too many paintings in too many rooms. But we did walk around the outside where there were little temples and a huge entrance gate.
It was a long tour, but there was still so many more things to see in Bali. There were many large temples in beautiful settings that would have been wonderful to see. There were terraced rice paddies and a monkey forest. Just to see more of the crafts would have taken a whole day. Batik fabrics are also made here using the complex and time consuming process with wax. I hope to be able to return to Bali to see what we weren’t able to do on this one day trip – and also purchase some of the artwork we didn’t have time for – not even a postcard!
Our guide shared so many other stories about the importance of a baby’s birth (and the huge importance of the placenta!), how villagers work together and celebrate marriages and mourn the dead. We learned how karma affects almost all the aspects of how the Bali people live and how the “ugly doll” is used on their Holy Day in March followed by the Silent Day. It is a fascinating culture. While the island is not what I had thought it would be (more 3rd world than I had expected instead of a tropical paradise), in some ways, it was more than I thought it would be.
We didn’t get back to the ship until after 6 p.m. This was the afternoon and evening of the World Voyage’s premier event. This is usually the culmination of the CEO’s visit. Well, Mr. Stein Kruse had to leave early this morning due to an emergency meeting back in Seattle, so he missed the whole thing. But that didn’t keep the ship from being transformed from the Lido deck with its pool and sun deck to an upscale Pasar Malam or Night Market. And it was quite the extravaganza. There were local artists and musicians performing as well as a shadow puppet show and abbreviated Barong Dance. There were stalls selling wares of all kinds. The food was delicious Indonesian fare, and there was a huge variety as well as a huge quantity. And the actual deck itself decorated as an Indonesian area, complete with a rice paddy instead of a swimming pool. It was a feast of the senses – and a fun Indonesian experience. Here are a few sample pictures.
Bali was a wonderful place to visit and where the people were warm and welcoming and happy.