Yesterday, we awoke at our lovely and cheap hotel in Ubud with tea and boiling water waiting outside our room. What a nice surprise! As soon as we popped out of our hole, the guy at the front desk came up and asked us what we’d like for breakfast, as that was included, again, a really nice touch. A great day to start the long day we had ahead.
At promptly 8:30, the driver we had hired the day before showed up and took our bags. He wasn’t quite as friendly as before, but it was also early. He took us on a long trip, almost all the way back to Denpasar (about a 25 km drive) and we got out at a what looked like a fairly touristy place to see some dancing – tour busses adorned the parking lot. However, when we got inside, we were the only white people. Apparently, the tourists were actually Indonesian tourists from Java! We thought that was pretty cool. We waited patiently in our seats waiting for the traditional Balinese dance to start, and listened to traditional music being played by a 15-person symphony, with only interesting instruments like xylophones, finger bells and gongs. This is in itself was pretty cool.
The “dancing” was actually more of a play. They had handed out a description of each act, and the story was weird – something about two guys in a forest getting attacked by a tiger, then something about a monster trying to kill a girl, and then God appears and gives the girl immortality, and then she spends the rest of the time fighting the monster and turning into different animals. We’re not sure where the tiger fit in at all. But when it came to the actual play, it was even weirder. Very violent. There was a scene where they killed a monkey, then cut off its head, then started playing with its penis, so strange. And at the end, the immortal girl couldn’t kill the monster, so all her “followers” came out (we’re not sure where they came from) and killed the monster, and then spent five minutes stabbing themselves in the chest, I presume committing violent suicide. So odd. The crowd, too, was different. Everybody was standing up, taking photos in the middle of the performance, and lots of people were very interested in having pictures taken of the crowd, or them in the crowd, and not so interested in the play itself. And a few people answered cell phones in the middle of the performance too – apparently cell phone etiquette hasn’t made it here quite as fast as cell phones themselves. But all in all, the dance was something else, and I’d highly recommend seeing it.
Next, our driver took us to a silver manufacturer, which just happened to be on the way to the next stop. They took us into their shop and showed us how they made the jewellery, which was really cool. But what wasn’t cool was the forthcoming hard sell, and how our driver seemed to be irritated that we didn’t buy anything. He obviously was hoping for a commission for bringing us there.
Next, was a temple called Goa Gajah. This temple was built in 9th century A.D, and was actually forgotten and buried until archaeologists discovered it in 1920, and another portion in 1950. It was really unique, having both a Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple right beside each other. We were greeted at the front by a really nice guide who had done an exchange in Montreal, so his English was very good. He also said he lived in the village right beside the temple, and that the temple was very important to his people and they used it to pray in. He took us into the Elephant temple, and explained all the various spots at which you pray based on your desired outcome. He also explained to us all the intricacies of the different types of Buddhism and how they different between here and Tibetan Buddhism, and was very informative.
Unfortunately, when the tour was finished he started explaining to us how he was doing this out of the goodness of his heart, and how the temple relied on donations to keep going, yadda yadda, and please give me a donation. So I said, yeah, for sure, you gave us a 45 minute tour, I’ll give you 40,000 Rp ($4). “Come on, that’s it? What’s that for you, like $4?” So I gave him another $1. Still he wasn’t satisfied, and the nice guy that I am caved and gave the son of a bitch $10, which definitely satisfied him. I didn’t know this at the time, but a lot of guys here work 18 hour days, 7 days a week, for 400,000 Rp ($40) per month. So that tip was extremely generous, and I’m quite embarrassed that I caved. Lesson number one for the day – don’t let anybody make you feel bad about your donation.
So after much chastising from Kenna for the generous donation, we continued on to another nearby temple, Yeh Puluh. This one wasn’t nearly as massive as Goa Gajah, but one experience stuck out nicely. When we entered the temple, this little old lady who didn’t speak a lick of English greeted us, and sort of showed us around, then sprayed us with holy water. Then she grabbed Kenna and said “camera”, which was awesome because we were both thinking “would it be rude to take a picture of her?” So we both got a picture with the cute little old lady. Then she pointed to a little donation bowl, with a 10,000 Rp. bill sitting in it, so that was obviously a suggestion of how much of a donation was appropriate. I obliged, and on our way out, I saw her tuck my bill under the holy water, so she was obviously a bit of a con artist and didn’t want to show how many donations she got. But we didn’t mind so much.
The Worst Lunch Ever
By this time, it was almost 1 P.M, and we were hungry, so we asked our driver if he could take us to a restaurant. We were contemplating telling him to go someplace cheap and buying him lunch, but never did, and boy we wished we had. We pulled up at a restaurant, again filled with tour busses and SUVs that were obviously private taxis, and everybody in the restaurant was white or Chinese. And the prices were astronomical. It was obviously another one of those places that was going to give our driver a nice commission for taking us here. Without much choice, we ordered, and Kenna got a salad, which is usually a bad idea in these places, but the night before, I had ordered a really delicious salad and Kenna was craving raw vegetables. When it arrived, the lettuce looked a little wilted, like it had been left out in the sun for a while, but she started eating it anyway. Then she saw it. A white slug-like worm was inching across a piece of lettuce. Then she saw another one, and another, and the plate was covered in these worms. We called the waitress over, and she said “oh I’m sorry, free, free, order something else”. So, now having no appetite, she got a soup, which was also gross. All she could envision were small white worms swimming in the swamp-like soup. Every few minutes she’d pull out a mushroom and say “Is this a worm!?!” Finally, disgusted with the place, we left and got the bill, which was still the most expensive meal we’ve ever had in Indonesia. They hadn’t given the soup for free, or any discount whatsoever, and charged a 22% service charge. Please, never ever go to this restaurant called Imade Joni in Ubud. We should have not paid the bill, but being way too pacifist, we just grudgingly paid and left. I did reem out our driver for taking us there though. He didn’t really care – he probably got a nice cut from it, and who could blame him.
Next was Gunung Kawi, a massive and beautiful temple that featured some stunning archaeological features. The temple itself spanned over a river, connected by an ancient stone bridge. To get there, you had to descend about 200 steps through rice patty walls. Being in there, I felt a little like Indiana Jones, exploring a lost city (well, I guess it was a lost city). The walls of the temple were carved out of the stone, and featured intricate carvings of gods and things, it kind of reminded me of the temple in that lost city in Mecca. And then there were the aquaducts – it was raining so we could see them in action. The whole city was rigged with systems of aquaducts transporting water somewhere, but I couldn’t figure out where, as they all seemed to be leading to the river in the middle. We had seen ducts like that the fed rice patties, but there didn’t seem to be any patties that I could see being fed by the ducts. Anyways, super cool.
The Ride to Lovina
Finally, we started heading to Lovina (literally translated as ‘Love Indonesia’), stopping at another temple set on the water called Bedogul, and a spectacular waterfall called Git Git. On the way down to the waterfall, our driver’s friend, named Rolly, came with us. He was a really nice guy, 20, from Lombok (another island close to the Gili islands), and this was his first time in Bali. We chatted with him quite a bit, and he gave us tips on how to avoid street vendors, and taught us some local Balinese phrases, lots of cool stuff.
After a hectic day, we finally arrived in Lovina and our driver took us to a hotel he recommended. Initially, we were skeptical, given the commissions he received earlier in the day, but this hotel was really nice and cheap, with a pool. For anybody going to Lovina, I definitely recommend Hotel Angsoka.
After arriving at the hotel, we inquired about cooking classes. Our book said that there wasn’t much to do in Lovina besides chill out, which is what we were looking for, but they recommended doing some cooking classes. Our hotel told us that they’d look into it for us and get back to us the next morning.
So, the next morning, a guy named Putu came to our room to find us to tell us about his cooking class. He seemed really nice and the class seemed cool – the brochure said we’d hit the local market to buy our food, then head back to his house and cook Balinese food. We agreed and said we’d see him at noon.
Promptly at noon, he came and greeted us again and said to follow him to his motorbike. His 15-yr old son was also waiting on his bike, and both Kenna and I got on the backs of the bikes. I was OK with driving through the crazy lawless traffic from my previous experience in Kuta, but Kenna was a bit terrified of riding on the back of a 15 yr-old’s bike with no helmet.
Luckily we arrived at Putu’s no worse for wear. We didn’t ever see a market, but got right into the cooking class. We were literally cooking in his kitchen with his wife and kids, which was really cool. We made 4 meals: Gado-Gado (cooked spinach with peanut sauce), chicken curry, chicken satay, and Mie Goreng (fried noodles). The food was delicious, but it was a little scary watching the way they cooked – everything was washed in local water, Putu would stick his unwashed finger in to taste everything, even raw chicken, and nobody washed their hands, but we tried not to think about such things. I’m sure going in the back of any restaurant kitchen here, we’d be disgusted, so Putu was probably achieving a high level of cleanliness in comparison. No wonder our tummies aren’t feeling so hot.
After eating, and we were stuffed from eating 4 delicious meals, Putu struck up conversation. Kenna, what do you do? Kenna: Oh, market research. Oh? Marketing? How can I market my business better? Scott, what do you do? Scott: Programmer/Entrepreneur. Oh? Websites? Can you make me a website? Scott: uh… don’t you have people here that can make you a website? Putu: No. So we began bargaining for a website – he gives us the food for free, and a massage (he did herbal massage too), and some free massage oil, and I’d give him a really basic website. Eventually it came out that he had a website, but didn’t know how to access it. So, on our way back, we went to an internet cafe and Googled his website, which did exist and was about as good as I would have made him. We copied down his website address for him, which was all he really needed.
Then he handed us a page of hand-typed notes. “Can you type these for me, I can’t type?” We’re like, sure, why not. Odd that he doesn’t know anyone that can type, even his kids, but it shows the level of education here. More on that in a bit. In return for helping him out, we were promised a lunch the next day, as he had some guests coming for a cooking class and we could just eat their food.
Afterwards, we decided to relax by the pool. A masseuse came by and enticed Kenna to have a massage for 70,000 Rp., and given that it was Valentine’s Day, it was my gift to her. Then I got one. But we were a little disappointed – we were hoping for massages like in Thailand, but no such luck.
The following day, Putu came and picked us up at noon as promised, and we enjoyed another nice home-cooked meal along with another couple from Olympia, Washington. After eating, it began pouring outside, so we sat with Putu and his family and learned how to speak Balinese. We’ve been trying to learn Balinese, but it’s very confusing – every person we ask has a different word for everything. I think we’ve found 3 different words for “friend”, 3 different ways of saying “hello”, so there must be quite a few dialects, which makes it difficult to learn. After the language lesson, my bowels were anxious, and there was a break in the rain, so we decided we should go. Instead of driving us back though, Putu made us walk back in the rain, and our lunch wasn’t free, it was 100,000 Rp. ($10). We were like “What? But we gave you an hour of our highly educated time!” Ah well.
A Rant on Indonesia’s Education System
Incidentally, I’m going to go on a rant about Indonesia’s education and their general attitude. Our driver, Made, described Indonesians as “stupid”, and commented that the Dutch made his people stupid, and they were happy to stay that way, and he’s right. (Indonesia is a Dutch colony – they only got independence in 1949). From what we see, there are a lot of people that just sit around and do nothing. Not one person working for a travel company was reading a book or anything in their extensive down time, no one ever spoke about wanting to do something better than be in tourism, and at any given time you can see many people, young and old, lounging around doing absolutely nothing. Not only that, but it doesn’t seem that anybody wants to help them improve themselves. Putu had ambitions of owning a restaurant, and seemed to be fairly business savvy, asking about how to better market his business, yet his kids did not speak a word of English. Here he is, his cooking class and therefore his way of life, reliant on tourism, and he’s fairly literate in English and his writing was excellent, and he hadn’t passed that onto his kids. Children here get free elementary education until they’re 12, but Putu’s kids only went to school in the morning, and there wasn’t any homework or anything, so the quality of education was quite poor. Yet Putu could essentially have his kids knowing excellent English so that they could have a leg up in the major tourism industry, yet he didn’t. It saddens us to see the poverty in this place, but the people either don’t seem to care, or don’t know how to improve their education and economy. I expect to see the same all over developing countries, but when I think of India and China and how they’re rapidly developing, I’ll bet their education system is much better than here (well I know it is). Made even commented “The English made their colonies smart, the Dutch makes theirs stupid”.
Ok, that’s my rant.
Later that day, we bought a ticket for the long journey to Probolinggo in Java. We were supposed to be picked up outside an ATM at 6:10 p.m, and we couldn’t get a straight answer out of anybody as to when it would arrive – estimates ranged from 1:30 a.m to 7 a.m., but we hoped for the best. At exactly 6:10, a guy on a motorbike arrived, saying “this is your real ticket – the bus comes at 7”. What had I bought before? Weird – and this was only the first of a wonderful series of events yet to take place. By 6:45, while I was making a swift appearance at a nearby toilet, the bus arrived, nearly leaving without me and sending Kenna into an absolute panic. But we made it on, and we were on our way to Java.
More to come…