After millions and millions of words and boring the sheep, the rabbits and all the living beasties we approach the end of the Singapobalinese story.
For the last working day of our holidays we had hired a tour (a tour for only the two of us, all day with driver and food included for around 85 euros, we were so rich in this country…). The reason we chose this tour is that it had it all. The royal family’s temple, the monkey sanctuary forest, the majestic Tanah Lot, the impressive Uluwatu, a spectacular dance and dinner on Jimbaran beach. It was so perfect that it was as if I’d planned it myself (modesty aside).
Our first stop was the royal family’s temple (that I think is called Taman Ayun, or maybe not) that in truth no longer belongs to the royal family because the Balinese have noticed that keeping these people with expensive tastes that don’t do anything isn’t the best thing for the country’s economy and in its place they have a democratic presidential republic, so the temple is public now (see, another advantage). Well, public but like almost everything else there are restricted areas because at the end of the day it’s a temple and the strictly religious area isn’t accessible to tourists. This made me think about how much religion means in Bali because they don’t often create obstacles for tourists… we put on our sarongs and went for a wander around enjoying not only the beauty of the temple but also the blue of the sky, that we were already missing…
The following adventure was the sacred monkey forest of Alas Kedaton that, as you might have guessed if you’re paying attention, is a forest, and has monkeys. Many, many monkeys. Of the monkey species ‘Balinese monkeys’ (if there’s an expert in the room I retract that… ok, I’ve done a little reasearch and in reality they were Macacos fascicularis, which sounds even more made up but is the truth). And what did we see there? Well as I said, monkeys. Big monkeys, little monkeys, tribal chiefs, bottom-feeders, introverts, groups, monkeys wth babies hanging from them, little frightened monkeys, monkeys eating sweet potatos, monkeys jumping through the trees… well that’s it, monkeys (Translator’s Note: Also at least one cheeky monkey). All very, very close to us but behaving themselves, which is apparently unusual because they have dubious morals and long agile hands for taking shining objects like glasses, mobile phones, etc. So I guess we were lucky we arrived at food time, when the sweet potatoes drew more attention than some prescription glasses.
Aside the monkeys, just before the end we saw a group of fruit bats, and the girl that guided us around the Kedaton tried to encourage us taking a photo holding them but I have seen plenty of bats at my parents’ house and they are the size of a swallow: cute wee things that would fit in your pocket…they are not frightening and it’s hard to imagine them as the merciless monsters from vampire stories, whereas it is a lot easier to imagine the fruit bats tearing out your jugular with their teeth…my god what monstruous beasties… Now at last I understand why Batman was scared of them, if one of those creatures struck you with its wings it’d kill you. So I took a little photo but from a safe sensible distance.
On top of that you’d have to pay to take the photo. Yep. I’m still not quite sure how much they’d have to pay me to get close to one of those monsters…
After spending the morning with the wee monkeys we went to Tanah Lot, a temple in a beautiful beautiful enclave (but really beautiful) to which you can only cross when the tide is low (at least on foot, maybe swimming when the tide is high, but seeing the energy with which the waves struck the rocky foundations of the temple I wouldn’t dream of it…). Only photos could do it justice, so here are the photos:
The crown in glory of the day was when our driver told us that the day was quite important in Balinese religion so we had the chance to see a pilgrimage. In my head, I compare it with the “Virgen de la Cabeza” pilgrimage in Sierra Morena, which it’s the one I know: the people of the nearby towns and cities (and not so nearby) come to the temple that day wearing their Sunday best, all the family and friends gathered to spend a good day eating, drinking and buying things in the wee stalls that are set up for the occasion. When the time comes, the procession in honor to the deity leaves the temple on the day accompanied by a band and followed by the attendees who have left their offerings in the temple…clearly we’re not so different. And however, and here is what makes it all worthy, there are also many differences that make a truly unique celebration: the type of music, the style of dressing (the men all wearing sarong and purple head piece and the women with yellow skirt and white bonnet, both with flip-flops and white shirts, young girls with beautiful yellow outfits) or the procession itself where they carry and enormous white fabric.
Despite being a beautiful spectacle, as good atheist/agnostic-lovers of good food-people with a schedule we abandoned the procession to go and eat. Sadly my memory starts to fail here but I remember we ate very well and here is a photo to prove it:
With our stomach content we went to anothe temple, Uluwatu, that certainly has no need to envy Tanah Lot. Situated on the edge of a cliff with impressive views, it was obviously a paradise for instagrammers and the beauty of the place fell a little disturbed by the hordes of “photographers” and “models” that didn’t hesitate to hog the best spots until they managed to get a photo worth 10000 likes. It would have been so easy to give a little push and just like that they go for instagrammers to being viral on Youtube…before you think I am a psycopath for writing that here, to be honest it doesn’t bother me that people take pretty photos (although maybe it makes me a little envious) but really there were some particularly annoying ones that didn’t hesitate to get up on stage where the show was being prepared, although they were clearly bothering the organisers.
And talking about the show, I’m going to stop complaining about teenage instagraamers like the old lady I am becoming and I’m going to speak about the show: Kecak Dance.
I don’t know how to describe it to truly do it justice…because if I said it started with a group of half-naked man sitting on the floor and moving their hands to the rythm of their own throats repeating incessantly the same syllabe…that doesn’t sound very good. So I’m going to try another way.
This traditional balinese dance is called Kecak because of the sound the dancers make which imitates the cacophony of a group of monkeys, acting as a backgroung to the story that develops during the dance: the legend of the lovers Rama and Sita, that to give a very short summary is about Sita getting lost and Rama rescuing her in a confrontation with the kidnapper (a guy called Rhawana) with the help of the red monkey king and his army. Characters of indescribable beauty and delicate movements outlined against the sunset over the sea, epic jumps with bare feet, humor and drama, and an absolute and total lack of respect for health and safety make this a unique show that you could never see for example in the UK. Try telling your risk assessor here that the plan is to sit the audience in a circle, pour gasoline on a pile of straw in the middle and set it on fire so that later you can jump and dance barefeet over the flames until they go out. What if there is a little wind? Well, it’d be even more impressive.
The dance seemed incredible to me and I spent the hour or however long it lasted with my mouth open and with a tremendous rush…now, I’m very grateful than in my traditional dance class we learn “sevillanas”, without burning embers beneath us or anything like that…
Before finishing this brilliant day we still had one stop left in the peninsula of Nusa Dua (it seems to be a collection of resorts, an over exploited Costa del Sol so to speak…). Our tour included a dinner in Jimbaran, a fishing village converted into a tourist town famous for its fish and seafood restaurants at the foot of the beach, where the idea is that you point out a creature from the aquarium and they cook it for you.
And that explains why the idea didn’t appeal to me at all.
I have to say it was one of the reasons why I didn’t enjoy the dinner in Jimbaran too much. The second reason was the cold (at night and sitting facing the sea can be a bit nippy), thirdly the menu (seafood for me, oh yeaah…at least there was a little soup, fruit and peanuts) and fourthly was that uncomfortable tourist feeling of no wanting to be part of this scheme where we are the rich posh tourists that take advantage of the differences in economic development of other countries and make me feel a hypocrite. I know that sometimes I overthink things but in my defense I’d say it’s easy to feel unconfortable when a band comes to your table to sing to you (sing to us, the two of us personally) Robbie Williams’ song Angel (is there anything more cheese, my friends?)
An so ended a spectacular day and the last of our adventures. Technically, the second last, but the thing is we spent the last morning in the hotel swimming pool like two sloths, or what it seems to be the ideal guiri holiday: eating, drinking and sunbathing. Ay, how I miss those 25 degrees, that fresh fruit that didn’t require a mortgage, that fruit punch that was rainbows made water,…those delayed flights…I have added the last bit mainly to help me return to reality. I’ve already left Bali. I’m in Scotland, drinking tea, watching the rain, and using my lunch hour to reminisce about those magic moments on the other side of the world…
I will return…