Monkey Fireman

Trip Start Aug 22, 2005
Trip End Feb 06, 2006

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Thursday, December 1, 2005

I was definitely hesitant to go back to Bali. I didn't want to spend any time there. It was actually nothing to do with the bombs. They didn't bother me at all (should they have?). It was more to do with the fact that I spent a month there when I was 18 with my girlfriends and that I felt it was too touristy (without having been back... new year's resolution = no prejudgment...)

I'm glad I went back to Ubud. I didn't remember a lot and what I remembered was all good so we plunged straight in. The place we stayed was incredible. The family so friendly, the breakfast amazing and the room so peaceful (apart from the outside toilet!! Which the next door builders could see into...)

We only meant to stay 2 days and ended up there for 5. We didn't do much to be honest, walked around some paddy fields, went on a ridiculous tour of a 'cave temple', sat about, went to a pretty good art museum and ate... a lot; Steak (oh sweet red meat), Balinese smoked duck (couldn't move after) and some HORRIBLE health food (keep away from the place on the main road...). It's the perfect place to do as little or as much as you like! Oh actually yes, I did get two massages, a body scrub and floral bath. Didn't bank on Marcus joining me! Ho hum, I've feminized him... I thought I'd be the last person to be able to do something like that!! And I think it only cost about 6 quid each for the lot if I'm not mistaken.

We bought tickets on two nights to see the Balinese dances. We saw the Kecak Fire Dance (Pronounced 'kejak') and a Legong Dance. The first had a monkey army (in the form of humanoids) waving arms around and chanting, plus an old dude making monkey noises. Then a trance dance, where two 8 yr old girls came out and performed a whole synchronized dance with their eyes closed (I gave them shit for not being in time..). It was actually quite hypnotic. Finally a pile of coconut husks were set on fire and a guy with a panto horse rode out and stomped all over them! It was great! The whole thing was great. The guy keep sweeping them back into a pile and stomping on them over and over again, whilst we marveled at the apparent skill of Ubud's first aiders. The second dance was far more elegant and upper class; beautiful girls, beautiful dresses and graceful dances recreating a scene from the Ramayana? (Err.. Marcus help me out?!). The orchestra accompanying were superb, I was totally absorbed. At points the mythical Barong would appear. The half-lion half dragon was a big shaggy, bulbous eyed monster controlled by two guys inside the costume.

I saw the costume in the National Museum in Jakarta and got flashbacks to watching ethnographic films in anthropology, so it was great to see it again in front of me. Although I did have to get over my typical scoffing comment of "but all these dances are just for tourists"! Well, they may be, but they were fantastic, plus they bring in much needed revenue. Who knows, perhaps dances like this wouldn't be kept alive so voraciously without tourism, albeit in a shortened form. I used to think they were inauthentic because of a course I took on anthropology and tourism at SOAS. It made me jaded just before I went to Cuba, and although the sex tourism bits were useful, I think it doesn't matter if academics believe nothing in the world is now 'authentic' culture. It has become postmodern enough for the inauthenticity to become today's culture, and it will always be subjective as to whether this was better or worse than before tourism had it's impact. I realise now that a lot of things I learnt at uni I accepted because I was na´ve and because it was common for us to accept things that were against a system (in this case tourism). It probably explains why people have a prejudice towards law, because it's seen as conforming to a system and 'selling out', when in fact the discrimination stems from ignorance of the discipline's multifaceted nature. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED my degree, but I guess I can only start to complete my view of the world when I see it with my own eyes.

Anyway, mustn't forget Monkey Forest. Absolutely hilarious, don't miss it for the world (Especially if monkey decides to mount Marcus and pick holes in his t-shirt). I actually objected to Marcus elbowing monkey in the head to get him off, although in retrospect the little bugger deserved it. We watched them go crazy after some temple guards whacked open a jackfruit. Jackfruit has a very strong and distinct taste, unlike anything else really, and its flesh is firm, rubbery and crunchy. Funnily enough I used to like it, now I can't stand it. Very peaceful place... Except if you put your hands in your pockets... monkeys think you have something and will scarily advance on you!! Learnt that pretty quickly!!

After Ubud we went to Kuta; yuck yuck yuck. It was a neon, desperate mess of a place, totally devastated by the bombs and a ghost town feel that will take a while to get rid of (sorry yes not helping I am?). It will get better but at times I felt like I was being solicited rather than being on holiday!! I felt intensely sad when looking at the memorial for the 2001 bombs, the Balinese have done a really good job with this and it is very poignant. It really hit home when I looked at the list of names and saw brothers and sisters, entire families just wiped out. There are a few good things though... especially the surfing. Worth ignoring the touts alone, the surf is real and VERY good. The pros mix with beginners in the town, but separate on the range of waves! A brilliant Hawaiian guy called David taught us for a hush hush fraction of the surf school price (no work visa!). Wow he was good! I even managed to turn in the few hours I was out there!

At the end of Bali it was bye bye Marcus (again!). I was very sad and felt extra bad, seeing as I was going off to my huge family, living in the lap of luxury and Marcus was going to China in the dead of winter and doesn't speak Mandarin!! I somehow got the feeling however that he was going to be A-Ok....

Don't worry Marcus, if I get on TV again (forgot to put that on my Mumbai post you know!!?) I'll hold up a plaque that says "Miss you beanface".
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