in IndonesiaComments Off on Bali


It was a fast day passage across the strait from Lombok to Bali. For most of the way we had a good breeze, we also had a current assisting us, up to 4 knots as we approached Bali

it was great sailing, our only concern was that we knew we would have to leave Bali by the same route; would we be fighting the same current and wind?

We anchored inside the reef at Serangan, just down from Sanur Beach.

It was a big, secure anchorage with many other yachts, excursion vessels and fishing huts, just a dinghy ride from Sanur, but handy to anywhere in the lower part of Bali as there was always a taxi ready in the village ashore.

It was 11 years since we had been to Bali. We had stayed in a hotel in Sanur Beach, the Tanjung Sari, we fell in love with it then and were keen to see how it had fared since then, we were expecting it to have lost it’s appeal…we paid it a visit for lunch on the first day.

The menu had changed, but by no means for the worse, otherwise the place seemed the same. It was still just as tasteful, an understated elegance;, if anything the more mature gardens and aging had made it better.

It is the sort of hotel you could stay in and not feel like a guest, it feels like home, there are no restrictions,it’s just quiet and personal; surrounded by delightful Bali culture, with just a touch of old Dutch influence.

The beach is just through the door,

it has been much improved by ‘sandscaping’, building retaining walls and the persistant hawkers have been ‘discouraged’ (?). It’s clean and beautiful for swimming… -if the tide is in.

There’s now a walkway from one end of the beach to other, about 7 kilometres, it’s good to walk on as much of it is shaded and there are still plenty of stalls with hawkers, selling food, massages, T shirts and other tourist junk to make it interesting.

The constant breeze makes it cooler, the Balinese kites play in it, the wind turbines flutter and whistle, but they’re only there for show…

Even the main street of Sanur beach doesn’t seem the mayhem it was when we were here last, the traffic is tolerable, the shops a better class, and even the touts are not nearly as persistent…or are better humoured. There are still the money changers and the ‘dodgy deals’ to be had however…

Balinese culture is so different from the rest of Indonesia where there’s less of the decorative, more of the practical, any attempt at ornamentation verges on the ‘tacky’… Apart from western Lombok which has fallen heavily under its influence, Bali is on its own in the way that everything is done with artistic flair, they’re clever artists and not restrained. Decoration is fussy, ornate, precise…and tasteful
It comes from a combination of the Hindu faith and the innate Balinese love for art and it is reflected through the whole Balinese lifestyle; It’s very very attractive!
I can walk for hours through the tiny back-streets of Sanur or Denpasar, away from the mainstreet crowds and the tourist beat, looking over fences and through gateways, admiring the way the Bali people live.

The homes are based on extended family, usually a house with smaller outbuildings or shelters in a walled compound

often with an ornate gateway, the size and level of decoration of which might be quite out of proportion to the more humble buildings behind! With the seclusion of the wall and a meaningful gate the home becomes a peaceful sanctuary, it keeps out the evil spirits, -buton a more practical note, it must also make living in very close proximity to the neighbours possible.

There’s not a lot of room for gardens, but nature, plants and flowers are important

and plenty of places selling them…

and also caged birds.

Religion is all important,the Balinese practice a form of Hindu where they worship the Hindu gods, but also some of those dating back to pre-Hindu days. Most homes have a family temple; partly of the Hindu faith but also to commune with spirits of long gone family;

and as a result of restricted space,

the temple may be in the most unlikely of places!
That doesn’t detract from their reverence. The daily offerings are made to the good spirits; just a few flowers and a little food in a woven bamboo tray; a burning joss stick, placed on the altar, but other offerings are made to appease the bad spirits too, they are equally artistically put together, but just left carelessly lying on the pavement…

Denpasar is a big and busy town, the ‘capital’ city of Bali,

and although the order and lines of parked ojeks in these pictures don’t suggest it, the traffic is a nightmare.
After experiencing both, I was unsure which was the safest way to get about, on foot, or as pillion on one of the thousands of motorcycles. Both seemed equally life-threatening experiences!

The city has a less attractive view from the river.
In the middle is a massive multi-story market,it sells everything from meat and fish on the ground floor through vegetables and clothing, to the religious ‘supplies’ on the upper levels.

It’s a maze of tiny dark corridors, an easy place to get lost in.

Outside is the market shrine

where the vendors make their daily contribution to the dieties to ensure a good day’s takings.

At a bigger temple down the road, the Hindu elephants get their share too,

and on the streets there are people who live by making and selling those little offertories for the people who haven’t got time to make their own…

Every day is a religious day for the Hindu Balinese, but some are more so than others…

One evening walking back along the Sanur Beach walkway, at various of the seaside shrines there were people gathering and waiting

while others were still coming bearing ornate arrangements of fruit and food

to add to that already there.

As the evening went on, I found that all along the beach of Sanur and the island of Serangan where we were anchored these ‘services’ gifting to the gods went on. We were told that it was a night to appease a particular diety of the sea.I never learned any more than that, but it did explain why earlier in the Makro supermarket there had been a lot of women chosing carefully and buying big bags of fresh fruit!

We took a car and driver for a day trip to Ubud, the art and culture centre of Bali. It’s a town up in the hills, about 30 km from Denpasar. It was once quite separate but the ribbon development growth between has ensured that it’s almost continuous now and with busy traffic all the way.
However, there are discernible villages or localities and like elsewhere, each has it’s specialty craft, its ‘reason for being’…

There’s the village where they make the stone carving, from blocks of sandstone or in some cases now, a cement mix. It’s precise and beautifully done.

In a nearby area where they do the same with wood. Thousands of identical pieces all hand made by local craftsmen, finished off and sold through the street outlets.
(There can’t possibly be enough passing buyers, most of us just stop and look, much of it must be ordered by the container load and shipped overseas to supply the gift shops and furniture outlets of the world).

In the centre of Ubud is a big craft market

selling work of all sorts from around the area. There’s some that’s very good, there’s some that’s trashy, but with bargaining and keeping a good sense of humour there are great deals to be had.

The traders here too ask for that help from above at the market shrine…

The main road of Ubud is a street of small hotels, restaurants and shops selling the best of all the crafts at suitably ‘best’ prices.

like these beautiful presented ikats from all around Indonesia.

At the bottom of the town is the ‘Monkey Forest’,

a patch of parkland jungle where for a fee and the price of a few bananas the monkeys are allowed to be fed…

but as Katherine found, they’ll take liberties… She was ‘mugged’ and robbed of her new cocnut shell lightshade by an aggressive old man macaque, it took the help of a ranger to retrieve it!

At the other end of town is the King of Ubud’s palace, -he still exists we’re told, a wealthy man, but now a figurehead only. Through the impressive gateway

his palace is a collection of open, but richly ornate and gilt buildings…

It rivals the best decorated chateaus of Europe…

but the atmosphere is uniquely Balinese; it’s made by the sounds of the gamelan, played here effectively, (but maybe not well) by these children.

When we emerged outside there was a procession

of over-dressed people with musicians; they stopped for a ritual entry to a nearby closed courtyard

and soon after there began a performance of high drama.

Who know’s what it was about, we couldn’t understand it but the audience were enthusiastic, we didn’t gate-crash further.

Instead we visited one of the many nearby painting galleries,

a collection of Balinese art and the various forms that it is taking;

from the traditional themes done in intricate detail with limited colour (such as the calendar above)

through modern interpretations of similar themes but using more colours, to the completely non-Balinese western abstract.

There were young ‘developing’ artists working on site.
All the work is all for sale but we were shown the displays courteously, without any pressure to buy; perhaps it was obvious from the outset we were unlikely customers…?

In a village close by we visited a centre for doing Batik art.

It was the first opportunity to really understand the ‘lost wax’ way in which the dyeing
is done

and to see an example of it happening.

Here we were not only ‘tyre-kickers’, as several pieces came away with us…

Clearly Batik art doesn’t just have to be of flowers and birds!

At the back of the batik ‘shop’ was another irresistible example of Balinese courtyard style…they really do get it altogether ‘right’.

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