Too Hot to Shop

Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
Trip End Dec 29, 2006

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Monday, November 13, 2006

We hooked up with Adam and packed ourselves into a modern air-conditioned minivan to the mountain town of Ubud.

Once there we checked into a "hotel". Our amiable host, who always lingered around after doing any errand to chat in cryptic English, dropped off some tea. After ten minutes we deciphered that he was describing a local Balinese dance show scheduled for that night. We bought our tickets from him and showed the brochure to Collette, "Look Collette it has a horse and it's a fire dance". Some retro hippies had been doing a fire dance in the main square in Poland and this had made a large and lasting impression on her tiny mind. She would often twirl a sock in each hand and gleefully shout, "Fire dance!"

The show consisted of about forty men in concentric circles who would recreate Gamelan music with their voices by a series of abrupt chants and songs. Their arms would shoot straight out and their outspread fingers would flutter while they chanted in short outbursts,"ticka ticka ticka" In the center of the circle a few dancers with wide staring eyes and jerky exact finger movements portrayed the classical Balinese dance. This part of the show ended with the bad monkey being defeated in an epic battle with the good king (Christy remembers it exactly opposite). Collette was not impressed.

Next, some workers brought out some knee high metal barricades and unceremoniously lit a moderate pile of coconuts on fire. The choir continued to emit the combination of singing and noises while a man in bare feet holding a colorful and wildly adorned horse head began a horse dance. With the combination of fire and a horse Collette's posture improved significantly and her eyes were as big as mine while crossing the street in Rome. Suddenly, the horseman kicked the pile and sent streaming pieces of flaming coconut into the barrier with a metallic bang. Each coconut looked like a meteor leaving a tail of sparks and fire. After the pile was spread he would gallop through the embers until three sweepers reassembled the pile. Collette was thoroughly entertained. The horse man did it two more times and on the third try a coconut cleared the barrier and skidded to a stop with a burst of sparks in front of two young Japanese girls. They remained completely rigid until the sweepers got the coconut back into its pen. One of the girls then proceeded to cover her mouth with a tissue and gave a few feminine coughs. The horse fire dance gained another half tourist star just for that. The show was exotic and entertaining and it wasn't too hard to pick out my and Collette's favorite part.

Monkey Forest Sanctuary. We had to take Collette to the Monkey Forest. How could we not? Walking up the road that lead into the Monkey Forest we could see a few of the Beagle-sized monkeys either running around or sprawled out on the road with their limbs spread out and occasionally yawning. It seemed like a good idea so we bought a bushel of bananas from a nice woman and her kid and proceeded to feed the monkeys. Suddenly monkeys started coming out of the jungle and from the trees. Big monkeys, fast monkeys, aggressive monkeys.

There is major difference between seeing one or two wild animals in a cage to seeing twenty or thirty wild animals within grabbing distance. The bigger ones began to demand bananas and would drive off the little ones with a sound between a snarl and a cat hiss. The trickier ones would come up behind you and pull on your clothes so you would suddenly feel the pressure of a little hand on you and in self-defense would fling the banana hoping that it would run after it. At one point I hid the bushel behind my back. This was before reading the sign that explicit ably read," Do not hide the food. Monkeys will find it." My favorite part of the sign read, "if a monkey jumps on you drop your food and walk away slowly." Holy crap, I don't know what I would do if a monkey jumped on me but it wouldn't be slowly.

We ran into an Australian woman by herself and she was starting to freak out. When she saw us feeding the monkeys she said in a cracking voice," You guys are brave." She tagged along with us for comfort and moral support. She even tried to get her boyfriend on her cell phone. When she saw the amount of attention the bananas was getting us she had a real dilemma. Stay with people but the people are bringing more monkeys, agitated monkeys. In the end she jittered off. Within five minutes our bushel was gone and Collette was very happy. As soon as she saw that the bananas were gone she started to demand more. Very similar to the simian behavior we had just witnessed.

We trudged through the humid rain forest that made up the animal park and came upon a few "Indiana Jones" temples. One had statues of demon like creatures eating children with long cow like tongues. At the highest temple we bought more bananas. I did not hide them and they were gone in three minutes.

Collette could not get enough of handing the monkeys the food and I am constantly reminded of her fanatical fascination with animals. At the center of the park was a small pool. The monkeys were swimming in it and jumping off of the overhanging braches to splash their friends and then play with them. When the monkeys jumped they would relax their limbs but not move them. Collette at this time is very into swimming and she had the exact same style of leaping into the pool. Once again I could see distinct and identical play and feeding patterns between the monkeys and our three year old. Monkey Forest. Had to do it. Great fun.

It's hot. Bali is hot. Bali is hot and humid. Especially Ubud. The heat makes it difficult and irritating to walk around over the crumbled sidewalks in the middle of the day. It's not uncommon to walk into a store and not see the sales clerk. Once you start looking around at the carvings or t-shirts the sales clerk pops up and then depending on their personality launches into an aggressive or moderate sales pitch. Before this they were lying on the floor of the shop like dogs do on sweltering days. One lady arose to tell us "it's hot". She seemed a little subconscious and stammered it like it was an excuse for her midday nap. Announcing that it was hot was completely unnecessary. We knew very well it was hot and every person in the city knew it was hot. My damp shirt reminded me it was hot and Christy's erratic behavior and sluggish movements told me it was hot.

Ubud is known for its paintings, woodcarving, and general arty souvenirs. The streets are lined with these stores and everybody is a part time artist. The taxi driver or the hotel clerk will go into great details about his prowess with a paintbrush. And then ask you if you would like to buy an original painting. We felt obligated to buy something so we bought a carving of an elephant, which we packed, with some of our clothes. If the many arms of the elephant gods are good to us it should show up in late January. There is an interesting ritual tied to buying things in Bali. First everything is associated with luck. "My friend if you buy this on Tuesday (fill in the blank with any day) it will bring good luck" or "If you buy this in the morning it will bring good luck". Then once the sale is complete the owner will take the handful of money and smack it on the surrounding merchandise like swatting flies. The baffled look on my face gave me away because he explained," This will bring good luck and more customers." That's funny because money has brought us nothing but bad luck; please don't smack me.

After two days we discovered that the hotel right down the street had air conditioning, a larger room, a swimming pool, and the bathroom was moderately cockroach free. Against all intuition it was also less expensive. We packed up our bags and moved down the street to live in more comfort and Christy had a refuge from the infernal heat.

I expected the mountain town of Ubud to be an idyllic hillside sanctuary, with open rice fields and thatched huts perched on bamboo stilts. What we found was a moderate sized town with streets and a fair amount of "excuse me sirs". It was fun to browse but the heat and the absence of the ocean made it less appealing.

We packed and made plans to visit the holy sight of surfing, the spiritual center of soul surfing, the famed and mysterious break of Uluwatu.
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