Posted by: aitzko | December 2, 2009

A monkey tries to eat my glasses.

Well, yesterday evening was certainly interesting.  I asked at the hotel desk about a driver, and the girl got her friend to take me – a young Balinese guy.  I have no idea how to write his name, but honestly, it sounded closest to the Australian greeting, “G’day”, so that’s what we’ll call him.  G’day was awesome, really nice, but his English is really limited, and so is my Bahasa Indonesia (the only thing I can say is Terima kasih – thank you), so we attempted to make conversation.  He’s originally from a village about three hours from Kuta, and he said he doesn’t get to see his family that often – only when he goes home for a ceremony.  He’s got 3 brothers.

So he drove me to Pura Luhur Ulu Watu, a temple on the southern coast of Bali.  It’s set really high up on these cliffs – the view is utterly gorgeous.  G’day had warned me about the monkeys, and I swear I was listening, but I just wanted to take a picture of the cliffs.  I had been wearing my glasses – my contact solution thingy had tipped over in the night, and therefore, when I tried to put my contacts in, my eyes were burning – not a great feeling.  so i was wearing my glasses, and G’day had warned me that the monkeys would steal them, so I was trying to be as careful as possible.

I apparently was nowhere near careful enough.

I went to take a picture, stopped paying attention to the damn monkeys for one second, and the stupid thing took my glasses!  He jumped on my back and snatched them right off my face.  I had no idea what happened.  That little @%$#^!  G’day tried to take them back, but the monkey bared his teeth and hissed.  Whoah.  A guy who worked at the temple eventually managed to get them back by giving the monkey peanuts or some treat it wanted.  I thanked him profusely, but this is when things get a little weird.

After I thanked him, there were a couple seconds where about twenty people were staring at us.  I didn’t really know what to do next, until this teensy Balinese lady literally yelled, “MONEY!”


So they wanted me to give the guy money for saving my glasses.  Honestly, if I worked at a temple and had to spend most of my day rescuing stupid tourists’ glasses from vicious monkeys, I’d expect a little payment for my services too.  So obviously,  because I am awkward, I fumbled for my bag and pulled out the first bill I came across – 10,000 Rp.  But the guy refused to take it.  He held up two fingers, and it took me a few entirely too long seconds of staring at him blankly to realize that he wanted 20,000 Rp.  Oooookay.  For a second I was irritated – there was a set price?  How much if it was my camera?  But whatever- people were looking at me sort of irritatedly themselves – so I just handed him the money and moved on.

The whole thing left me feeling kind of weird and awkward, but I guess it’s just one of those things.  It’s not like it was a lot of money – I just hated feeling so embarrassed and unsure of myself.

Anyway, the sunset was still beautiful.  There was a Kechak performance at sunset, so I bought a ticket to watch.  The Kechak is a dance – it tells the story of Rama and his consort, Sita, and it was super cool.  There’s a group of maybe twenty five men who are like the “chorus,” and the entire time they chant “kechak,” but it’s in this sort of alternating way, and it sounds kind of like someone shaking a maraca (sp?).  It was really entertaining to watch, and the costumes were gorgeous and elaborate.  All of this is going on as the sun is setting over the cliffs – I took so many pictures it’s obscene.  One awesome thing about the dance is how much is going on in the dancers’ faces – when Sita thinks Rama is dead, she really looks like she’s about to cry.

Toward the end is the fire-dance part – which would have been super cool if a giant gust of wind hadn’t blown all the hot cinders directly into the crowd.  Ooops.

During the dance, I sat down amidst a tour group of French tourists.  They were loud and boisterous and fun, and they were talking about the monkeys.  I told them a monkey had tried to eat my glasses, and they were delighted that I spoke French!  Hooray practicing!  They assumed I was Canadian, and acted totally floored when I told them I was American.  They were a fun group, all in their 50s and older, but joking with each other like a bunch of teenagers.  They were from a town southwest of Paris, and they said there were 18 of them in their tour group – they were going home today.  I chatted with them for a while, and one was excited to hear about my trip.  He told  me how important it was to do your traveling while you’re young.  “Sans enfants… on est libre,” he said pretty wistfully.  Haha, his kids must have been a handful.

Anyway, the French tour group was fantastic, and it was nice to make some “friends.”   When it was over, they wished me luck on my travels.

When I finally got back to my hotel in Kuta, I still was feeling a little weird from the Monkey Incident, so I went to The Balcony (the restaurant attached to my hotel, where I get free and delicious breakfast every day) and had a frozen margarita, which cleared things up right away. 🙂  I chatted with the bartender – I think he felt kind of bad that I was by myself, but he was really cool!  His name was Made (mah- day) and we chatted about life in Bali.

Interesting factoid – pretty much everyone in Bali has one of four names, depending upon their birth order.  Wayan for the firstborn, Made for the second, Nyoman for the third, and Ketut for the fourth.  Same name, boy or girl.  When you get to the fifth kid, you start over at Wayan.  Naturally, this can cause a lot of confusion, so nicknames are common.  Mostly parents give nicknames, but sometimes as you get older, your name will change to include something about your appearance or something that you’ve done.  For instance, Wayan Cafe might be the person who owns the cafe down the street.  There’s a lot more detailed information on this really interesting practice, but this is the brief-overview-by-Amanda.

One more interesting factoid before I pack up my stuff and head to Ubud – approximately 8 out of 10 people, when they hear that I am from the US, go, “Barack Obama?” 🙂  Most people here are pretty proud that he went to school in Indonesia.  Haha, Made from the Balcony asked me if I liked him, and said, “No Bush?”  I told him not to get me started. 🙂

Okay, I’m off to Ubud this afternoon! More later.  Missing everybody!!

Posted by: aitzko | December 1, 2009

I’m in Bali!

Hello!  This will be my blog while I’m on my crazy trip, to fill in family and friends on my whereabouts.  Enjoy!

Just a brief rundown on what’s been going on so far:

My plane trip here was LOOOONNNGGGG.  A 12 hour flight to Doha, Qatar, then a 7 hour layover in the airport, 6.5 hours to Kuala Lumpur, an hour on the runway, and then another 3 hours to Bali.  Whew.  By the time I got here, it was around sunset.  When I got to my hotel, I pretty much crashed immediately, after a much-needed shower.  Blech.

My hotel here in Kuta is adorable.  My room is actually pretty big, with a gigantic, king-sized bed.  I’ve got a fan, which cools you off more than you’d think.  There’s a beautiful courtyard with a pool, and it’s a less-than-ten-minute walk to the beach.  It sounds weird, but my favorite part of my room is the door – it’s this ornately carved dark wood – it’s a floral kind of motif, with two birds.  I can’t wait to post a picture of it.  I feel like a lot of things are like that here – beautiful attention to detail in random places.

Yesterday was my first day, so I pretty much took it easy.  Kuta is overwhelming! It’s pretty much the tourist center – a zillion surfers, lots of nightclubs, and a TON of traffic!  Motorbikes far outnumber cars – people go zipping by on them all day long, and all night.  The streets are narrow, and the motorbikes share the road with cars and pedestrians.  Honking is more like a “hey, what’s up, I’m here!” sort of gesture, and happens frequently.

One of the greatest sights I’ve seen here is the entire-family-rides-the-motorbike phenomenon.  Dad will drive, with the little one in front holding the handlebars.  Mom sits on the back, balancing the baby in one hand and the groceries in the other.  No joke!

Another thing that you notice immediately here is the offerings.  Offerings are everywhere.  It’s a part of Balinese daily life that you make your offerings to the gods.  They’re typically in little square baskets made out of palm (?) leaves, and filled with flower petals and other odds and ends.  From what I understand, you make these several times a day.  They are everywhere – in front of stores, in front of houses, on the beach, in the middle of the street.  You have to be careful not to step on them – although from what I understand, as long as you’re not intentionally stomping on them, it’s kind of expected that they’ll get trampled.  This morning, I saw a man stop to make an offering in the middle of an intersection, the mopeds swerving around him.  While I was in the internet cafe earlier, they started their offerings – the incense kept making my eyes tear up!

Also, it appears that the gods enjoy Ritz crackers.  Who knew?

Yesterday was mostly beach, and exploring Kuta.  I walked aallll over – every two feet or so, someone tries to sell you something.  From the ubiquitous cries of “Transport?” to “Yes, massage?” everyone is offering something.  At first, it’s a bit disconcerting – do you reply?  Then, it starts to get kind of annoying.  But once you just accept that these people are just doing their jobs and feeding their families, it starts to bother you less.

I got sunburned my first day – despite the copious amounts of sunblock and spending most of my time on the beach under an umbrella.  It’s nuts!  the sun is brutal here, and I learned that you really need to reapply, and frequently.  Luckily it’s not too bad – just my shoulders.  Not nearly as bad as that time in the Bahamas!  *shudder*

Today I lounged by the pool, booked a hotel for Ubud, and wandered some more.  I had lunch at a warung, which is just a little food joint.  You can find one about every two feet here, so I looked around for one that looked like it had an okay crowd of people.  It was AMAZING.  It was my first foray into a warung, and it was delicious.  It was just chicken fried rice, but it beat anything I had back home.  It was so much food I couldn’t finish it, and it (along with a Coke) cost under $2.  Awesome, Bali!

Sadly, there’s one reason why I’d never be able to live here – I can’t bargain.  I just can’t do it.  It’s sort of expected at a lot of establishments, and esp with anyone trying to sell you anything on the beach.  It makes me incredibly uncomfortable, especially since I can’t help thinking that the prices are cheaper than anything at home anyway, and these people have families to take care of… so I can’t do it.  I try my best, and of course if they were charging something ridiculous I’d say no, but if it sounds reasonable… what can I say, I’m a sucker.

Tonight I’m off to Pura Luhur Ulu Watu, a temple on the southern coast – I hear the sunset is spectacular.  More later!

« Newer Posts