The heart of Bali

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Jul 15, 2008

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Feb. 17, 2007
We have a big day planned today.  Gede, Made, and baby Dadis pick us up again at our hotel and we start out for the Lion King Monkey Forest in Kedaton.  [GPS 08. 37.029S 115 05.317E]  This is not the monkey forest in Ubad, which is probably bigger, but it is on our route. And monkeys are monkeys.  The Monkey Forest fee for all of us is 35,000Rp.   The only reason we're going to see a bunch of monkeys is because it is one of Bali's tourist attractions.  And we want to be able to say we saw the sights in Bali.  (Arvid still feels guilty about missing Lombak)  We've seen lots of wild monkeys; some in Flores, Rinca and even in the mountains around here.  But the gimmick here is that you get to feed the monkeys.  They are accustomed to getting feed by the visitors and can get nasty if they think you have food but are holding out on them.  They will grab your legs and hold on to you until you feed them, or even climb up on you to search for food in you pockets.   Wherever there are tourist attractions there are tourist shops.  It's the same at the Monkey Forest.  Our guide around the park also has a tourist shop which, you guessed it, he guided us to.  He went on so about how slow the tourist trade was and his poor family, that we felt obligated to buy some little trinket.  And he had performed good service by saving Irina from a bullying male monkey.  So we poked around his shop and about the only thing we could find that interested us was another wooden sculpture.  The subject this time was a reclining female nude.  Our guide claimed his grandfather had made it and it was his favorite.  The shop also had those wooden penis you see in every tourist shop in Kuta so we were not fooled by that.  But Irina did like the carving, which we purchased for $100 US, and got the heck out of there.
We traveled to the sea and our next tourist destination is the seaside complex and island temple at Pura Tanah Lot.  A very impressive Hindu temple perched on a rock which is surrounded by water when the tide is high.  It's a very dramatic setting. 
Next we went to the spas at Espa which are fed by volcanic hot springs.  [GPS 08 26.348S 115 07.836E]   Gede, Made and Dadis  let us go off to enjoy the spas by ourselves in private.  The spa has very nice lodges shattered up the slopes of the mountain which you can rent for the whole day if you want.  It would be a very nice place for honeymooners.  Cost for the two of us to use one of the rooms to change in and a private spa for an hour was 200,000Rp.  The exchange rate is about 9,000Rp/$1.  So we thought that was a bit pricey.  But going to the volcanic hot springs in another must do Bali tourist thing. 
After an hour of playing around in one of the hot tub pools, we take off to Soka, our hosts' family village.  Soka has about 300 inhabitants, who are all related.  It's in an area of terraced red rice paddies.  Here Luhur and Yanti meet us at the family compound in the village  [GPS 08 21.745S 115 08.642E] which is quite large compared to some of the others in the village.  Every family has a walled compound with a gate at the front on the road.  Inside the walled area are several houses for different family members, a separate building for cooking and a small building up on posts where the rice is stored.  Each family compound has its own temple and burial grounds.  In Luhur's family compound there is a shelter called a bali which is only used a few times a year for special religious ceremonies.  There's also a smaller shelter where a traditional metal smith's forge and traditional hammering block are displayed only as symbols that the family comes from a line of metal smiths.  Another shelter is used for family business meetings, which only the men attend; and they will have one of their bi-annual meetings tonight to discuss the rebuilding their family temple.  After dark, Luhur takes us to a big ceremony at the village temple.  The ceremony has something to do with Hindu gods, animals and balance in nature.  The ceremony is occasioned by the new moon this night.  The family dresses us up in sarongs and sashes, because you must be wearing them to enter the temple.  No one seems upset that foreigners are present for the service.  But we can't participate in it.  In the dim light there are the sounds of chanting to the rhythm of cymbals and drums.  We watch as groups of worshipers kneel in line before a priest with their covered woven baskets of offerings, called canang.  The priest steps in front of each and performs a ritual, something like a Catholic priest, sprinkling water on their heads and shoulders with what looks like a long sheaf of reeds.  And with a thumb gesture, like a catholic priest at an Ash Sunday service, the Hindu priest sticks something white that looks like rice grains on their foreheads and on each side of the head.  So each worshiper stands up with a little cluster of white spots in the center of their forehead.  Luhur comes to us afterwards with his offering basket and gives us sweets from the basket.  He explains that now that the offering has been blessed he must share it.  When he gets to his brother-in-law, Gede, he digs down to something hidden in the bottom of his basket and hands him a can of beer.  We returned to the family home and sat on the porch, with the children playing about, talking with Luhur about what we had seen.  The family meeting was still going on at the front of the compound and the enchanting sound of the kekidung or kakali songs came from the temple and continued long after we had gone to bed. 
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