Let’s get it on! This is going to be a long post. Just so you know and you’re warned. But I’ll do my best to make it entertaining for you. I hope I’m entertaining. Hahaha.
Tourist Spot 4: Kuta Beach
After an emotional roller coaster, we decided to stay in for our second day. Our hotel though is a good ten minute walk from Kuta Beach, so we decided to give Bali sunsets another try and walked there come the afternoon.
This is a public beach, and the first thing that welcomed us when we stepped through the gates was vendors with bottles of ice cold Bintang. As much as I want a cold bottle while lounging, the girls and I were just relaxed to submission to even mull over it. We found a good spot at the beach and started watching other tourists, including the most charming dog we’ve ever met.
What was so weird though was when a handful of people came in and started taking pictures of women in swimsuits. Now, you’d think it was flattering to an extent, but no. It was downright freaky. One of them even hung around our area, taking our videos and photos, snooping around. IT WAS FREAKY AS HELL. It came to a point when we just started looking for local police because it really was scary. The man even followed us as we went out, so we had to take the long route back to our hotel.
We immediately informed Dodi of what had happened, and he was quick to say that the man is probably not Balinese. He said it is not in their culture to be so invasive. Should any stranger approach us with an attempt to endanger, all we had to do was scream for help and everyone will take care of the rest.
Safe to say, while we did catch the sunset by Kuta beach, we were not as enthused to come back to it.
Tourist Spot 5: Batubulan, Barong and Kris Dance
Day 3 and we are back under Dodi’s care. As we are first timers in the island, he recommended the Ubud Kintamani Tour, and the day started with the Barong and Kris Dance.
In a small amphitheater, we were entertained by a beautiful interpretative dance about the god Barong and his enemy Rangda. The entire dance showed the struggle between the good and the evil, and it was not short of entertaining. I think this was the crash course to Bali’s mythology.
When you enter the amphitheater, you will be given a guide to understand the whole performance. Bear with their English and other translations, but the fact that it came with more than five translated languages is quite impressive. Bali truly knows how to accommodate their visitors.
Of course, we took pictures with Barong after. We had to. He’s just so cute. And pretty. And shiny. And nice. Barong was a lot of things.
Tip: pick a seat at the elevated part of the amphitheater, preferably in the middle. The place is not air conditioned and there are a couple of posts that hold electric fans, but trust me when I say you can bear the lack of air for a while. Do not let anything obstruct your view.
Apparently, not everyone operates with the mindset of having the majority enjoy the performance as this silverfox sat right in the front row and the middle. Good thing we were flexible enough to maneuver around him and not have him on frame.
Tourist Spot 6 and 7: Tohpati, the traditional batik village and Mas, the wood carving village
Dodi gave us a choice as we cannot hit all the villages given the time we had for the day. All these villages are right after the other. We are after all in the art center of Bali. We chose the wood carving and the traditional batik villages because why wouldn’t you? HAHAHAHA. This is how the elimination process went:
Celuk, gold and silversmith village: NO MONEY TO BUY GOLD.
Batuan, the home of painters: NO MONEY TO BUY PAINTINGS.
Tampakspring, holy spring water temple: NO CHANGE OF UNDERWEAR.
Kintamani, active volcano and lake Batur: BAD WEATHER = BAD VIEW
Mas, wood carving village: WE LOVE WOOD *wink wink*
Tohpati, traditional batik: WE LOVE CLOTH
That’s the perk of travelling on a budget. Your money is limited so choices are easier to make. HAHAHAHA.
Tohpati, Traditional Batik Village
We visited the batik village almost immediately after the performance. For those of you who may not know, batik is a technique of wax-resist dyeing on an entire piece of cloth. This is all made by hand, so each design is quite unique from the other. The parts with wax resist the dye, so they retain their original color.
We didn’t really know what happens with the cloth, so imagine our surprise seeing these women, tediously and carefully waxing the designs on textile. There was a certain sense of calm in their routine; it almost made me envious. I can barely recall the last time I was calm at work.
After the wax, the cloth is then treated to heat-reacting chemicals. This man “colors” them well. It may seem like dirty doodles at first, but the sun knows how to work its magic.
He said he’s been doing this for 37 years. We asked him if he’s tired. He smiled and said, a vacation is okay, but this work, I don’t mind.
We browsed around the gift shop, where you are not allowed to take pictures. Finished batik artwork may be bought – either as a wrap, clothing or a picture to be framed – and it’s worth every penny.
(Needless to say, we only bought enough to take home, within the allowable budget for souvenirs of course.)
Remember this: good work is not cheap, and cheap work is not good. Seeing what these people do for one particular output will make you feel like a dick when you try to lowball them in your haggling.
Mas, Wood Carving Village
I had every intention to buy our ring box for the wedding in this village, but I repeatedly reminded myself that this is a budget trip. This is my way of telling you this part of the trip can get expensive.
We went to Dodi’s most recommended wood shop, and right of the bat, we were blown away. Outside the store were men working – one, presently carving a fresh piece of wood; one, sanding what appears to be finished work; and the third, coating his work with varnish.
The smell is almost intoxicating and your eyes just take in the beauty of their work. It was quite majestic. Wood pieces big and small adorn the entire place – floor to ceiling. We kept touching everything, as if validating in our mind that it truly is wood and not something poured in a mold and fashioned carefully.
Dodi encouraged us to haggle so we can bring home at least one piece, but sadly, even with our newly-found haggling skills, the items are still beyond our budget. That didn’t stop us though from exploring every nook and cranny of the place.
Six-foot-tall pieces take as long as nine months to make, according to the salesman, sometimes even a year, as some designs were quite intricate. You just want to take everything home. And then we stumbled upon this:
We love wood, but not enough to make it our center table.
Tourist Spot 8: Kopi Luwak
After lunch, Dodi drove us to experience the only must we have on our list: a taste of kopi luwak.
If you’ve seen The Bucket List (Morgan Freeman, Jack Nicholson), you’ll know it’s one of the most expensive coffees in the world. It’s also the shit. A nocturnal animal, the luwak (Asian pal civet) eats the coffee cherries and poops them out. The magic happens inside the animal. After some research:
The civet eats the cherries for the fleshy pulp, then in the digestive tract, fermentation occurs. The civet’s Protease enzymes seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Passing through a civet’s intestines the cherries are then defecated with other fecal matter and collected (Marcone, 2007).
Our guide showed us how the coffee is made. First, they collect the droppings and wash them all. Then they remove the shell-like around the bean before roasting it over coal. Then, pound away to grind the bean and prepare it for consumption or sale.
They first had us sample the wide variety of teas that they also make. It was amazing. I never thought I’d enjoy drinking hot drinks during hot weather this much. But when we requested for kopi luwak, they brought it out alongside Bali coffee.
It is a must, he said. You’ll definitely see the difference when they’re consumed side by side.
IT. WAS. DIVINE.
The flavor was full and bold, with its taste swirling a bit in your mouth as it slowly goes down. The acidity is just right, if any at all. And it is best taken black. Bali coffee tasted like water next to it. Seriously. Surprisingly though, this has very low caffeine.
And it’s amazingly pricey. I got a 60g bottle of the ground coffee and it already costs Rp.295,000. That’s roughly Php1,010. It truly is an indulgence. I believe I have stowed this bottle in a dark and cool place.
It was divine. Really. For someone who has a fondness for coffee, this was perfect.
Tatay would have loved it.
Tourist Spot 9: Ubud Rice Terraces
Now that we’re all pumped with much needed liquid energy, we’re off to see the famed Ubud rice terraces. It’s almost embarrassing to have seen this part of the world, and yet I haven’t seen our own in Banawe. I should make an appointment to do that.
Anyway, it was pretty dry when we got there. It has to do mostly with August being the hottest month of the year for Bali. But it was still beautiful.
Our stop was quick, because Dodi said we have to catch the monkey forest before it closes at 6. A couple of snaps and we’re back in his car.
Tourist Spot 10: Ubud Monkey Forest
You can really tell that the girls are missing their kids as we are always attracted to monkeys. HAHAHAHA.
Unlike Uluwatu, the Ubud Monkey Forest seem to have friendlier monkeys. Dodi told us to leave the usual shiny belongings, especially plastic bottles, because surely the monkeys will take them. In every corner of the forest, there were small stalls with bananas that you can purchase for Rp.20,000, something to feed the monkeys. They were very entertaining.
What attracted me most to this place is this humongous tree. From this perspective, it looked like it owned the bridge and the bridge didn’t mind. I can’t quite put it into words. I admire how the walkways and bridges didn’t want to interrupt the organic growth of the place. Nothing was interfering nature, just a little trinket here and there.
We also saw deer in the monkey forest. (That was an odd sentence.) A deer who peed on Marga. But the guide said it’s lucky to be peed on by a monkey. But it was a deer. HAHAHA.
Also, make note: when there’s a tree, pose.
When there are stairs, pose.
Never hesitate to strike a pose.
It was the longest day.
It was also the best day.
All these spots we hit in one day. That’s what I was saying about Dodi. He makes sure you get your fill of Bali. It was the longest and most tiring day. It was also a very good one.