Travels with V
Indonesia & Singapore
Among tourists and tempels
From Banda Aceh we travel via Jakarta to Bali, really just because the little island is difficult to ignore. This Hindu enclave in the middle of the world’s biggest Islamic country is a gem with both shine and dirt spots. The tourism is so developed that the streets in Ubud, where we’re staying, look like streets in coastal Thailand or Goa in India, or even the playas in the Canary Islands. Lots of westerners, sandy beaches with deck chairs, Italian restaurants and a multitude of taxis.
In Ubud you’ll also find the “tourist trap” Monkey Forest, absolutely worth a visit, just to see how incredibly the naughty makaks, the lively and bold little monkeys can adapt to humans and human situations. Totally without fear for us they approach expecting a food gift, or try to steal fruit or water bottles from human’s backpacks or carried bags.
In Monkey Forest there’s also a bizarre Hindu temple with grotesque statues portraying evil spirits.
We tour around Bali to see the sights you’re supposed to see. Terraced rice paddies, the Ulun Danu Bratan temple on an inland lake, and Tanah Lot, another temple perched on a cliff in the ocean.
We also drop by a coffe- and tea center, a rather nasty place where Palm Civets are held in small cages. They eat coffee fruits and the actual beans go unspoiled through their intestines. It is picked out from their poo and and used for so called “Luwak” coffee. It’s a cynical and cruel business, totally unacceptable. We never drink it.
One evening in Ubud we find our way to a temple yard where a group of men, all with hibiscus flowers behind their ears, sit in concentric circles and sing, often with a staccato that sounds like monkeys chatting. This is ketchak, a fascinating Balinese tradition not heard elsewhere. Tonight singers and dancers tell the story of Ramayana, how the evil demon king kidnaps Lord Rama’s wife Shinta and how Rama wins her back with the help of Hanuman, the monkey God.
One thing that clearly separates Bali from other major charter tourist goals is that after 22:30 its towns are quiet, at least in Ubud. The bars close, people go to their hotels. No noisy night life!
PS. In Bali You can find scarecrows created by truly gifted people. Here’s a collection:
Next we travel further east, to the green and mysterious island of Flores, where not many tourists go. Yet.