Sunday, September 6, 2009

Last Post from Kuta, Bali

Tomorrow we head up to Ubud which is up in the hills, a little cooler, a little quieter. Will spend a week there. Before leaving I'm going to do a "cleanup" blog post. All the things I forgot to mention in the order they occurred and just general thoughts and impressions of our first days in Bali.

Garden Life: The gardens at Poppies are beautiful and full of life. There must be at least 10 different types of butterflies of many sizes. Fish in the ponds. Dark green frogs under the bridges and in the lily pads. Cooing doves, warbling shrikes, soaring swallows. Orange Red Dragonflies and the occasional white one. And our mystery night caller. Somewhere on the thatch roof of our cottage there is a creature that I can’t figure out if it’s a bird or a mammal or what. But once in a long while it will first chatter: chitchitchitterchitchit and then it goes uhoh uhoh uhoh uhoh uhoh uhoh ooooh. Silence. Its quite comical, even when it does it in the middle of night…I know I’m nuts…but I love the sound. More research.

Pura Uluwatu. I’m afraid that I gave this lovely temple very short shrift in my “Tale of the Monkey” blog post. Uluwatu temple (Pura is the Balinese word for temple) is located on the western tip of “the Bukit”, an arid peninsula that just out from the mainland. Once considered primarily a no man’s land (due mostly because there is little to no water there) it is now developing considerable tourist facilities and resorts due largely to the fantastic surf breaks located around the Bukit.

Pura Luhur Uluwatu (its full name) is one of the holiest temples in Bali. It sits atop a sheer rocky promontory with cliffs extending down to the surf. It is considered a “directional” temple that has significance in the lives of all Balinese not just local villages. It is the guardian of the southwest and dedicated to the spirits of the sea. It is relatively modest and unadorned but quite pretty. The innermost courtyard is for Hindu worshippers only, but you can see much of the area through the gates.

When we arrived there were only a few tourists (and of course the ubiquitous monkeys) and we enjoyed wandering the outer courtyards and grounds in quiet. As we started to leave we saw a large crowd of people coming down the path to the temple. All dressed in sarongs and sashes, mostly in white. The women mostly had on beautiful lace dresses or blouses. And all carried some form of offering, flowers, food, carvings, even a live duck. And there were hundreds of them (temple goers not ducks), then we realized there would be several thousand if not more. We chose not to stay knowing that the ceremony could be long and would mostly be beyond our sight (although frankly there were so many people there would not be room for all in the inner courtyards. It was VERY festive feeling. I’m glad we got to see it, because it changed our impression of the temple from something ancient and historic and perhaps static to something very modern and a live.

Discovery mall

As part of The Tale of the Monkey I mentioned getting my glasses fixed at Optik Tinggal. It is located in a modern multi storied shopping mall in Tuban (south of Kuta). The mall is large, modern, air conditioned…quite nice. And it opens onto a promenade that goes along the beach lined with open air restaurants and cafes. We bought a few sarongs, some incense, sandlewood soap, and some bread. Yes, bread…from a wonderful place called Bread Talk. Kind of like the Starbucks of the Bread and Pastry world. Fresh made pastries and bread in the middle of the mall. Flaky pastries, puffy pastries, cakey pastries and really good French baguettes, who knew?

We had a juice and fresh lime juice soda at a promenade-side Baroque CafĂ© that looked out onto the sea. It had big misting fans and shade. It was lovely to sit and rehydrate after the long walk to the mall. After that we attempted to walk to an area that was supposed to have a “night market”. We went where the map said, but either it wasn’t “night enough” or its well hidden. We were tired and hungry and gave up the pursuit. Opted for taking a nap instead.

Later that night we had dinner at a restaurant Jl Kartika Sawa and for the life of me I can’t remember its name. Will have to search through the receipts tomorrow. It was a LARGE open sided restaurant with corrugated roof, exposed piping, BIG fans, and Stone flooring. They served an extensive Chinese menu, international dishes, and what we came for: grilled fish. I had grilled GIANT prawns, jerry had the fish sampler. It was very good, very fresh.

On the way back to our hotel, we walked along the very trendy, “lit like it was day” Kuta Square. Big stores, lots of restaurants and bars on broad sidewalks. We stopped at the Haagen Dazs which had sit down service and a menu of chocolate fondue, crepes, and sundaes. I had the monte carlo…coffee icecream chocolate sliced toasted almonds, waffle cone crumbles and whipped cream…yum!

Interesting and Odd sights today. 1) Siamese Twin dogs conjoined at the hip, kind of: strangest thing I’ve seen in a long time. They seemed to be strays but looked in good health. Gives a whole new meaning to chasing your own tail! 2) Kites. Sunday must be kite day because all over the area, anytime you looked in the sky there would be kites of all shapes and sizes and colors. This afternoon there was a HUGE one made to look like a big black bird while close to it was a small squirmy orange one that look like a Koi fish. 3) Temple Procession. Today we turned a corner (in a taxi) onto a street in Kuta and were faced by a large procession of people in temple garb walking down the street (taking up half of it). The man in the front was carrying a baby, so it probably had to do with one of many ceremonies that takes place in the early months of a baby’s life. This is not a rare occurrence giving another interesting aspect to traffic in Bali.

And finally: Two Comments on Proper Restaurant Attire

I’ve just got to say it. I know this is a resort and surfer town but there really are somethings that one should NOT wear to a nice Balinese restaurant. First of all, Balinese people are relatively conservative in dress and manner. They put up with a lot to have all the skimpily clad beach goers walking up and down the streets all day. Second when it comes to dining in the evening at a restaurant as lovely and romantic as Poppies, there really should be some standards. We sat near a table of 10 suntanned, happy, easy going Australians. They seemed quite nice and friendly. But I have two observations. In no case should a bright blue “wife beater” tank top t-shirt be appropriate attire for a nice restaurant and this is especially the case if you are big, barrel chested middle aged guy with a beer gut. I don’t care how nice you are… put on a shirt for gods sake. Second, if you are really busty or otherwise big enough that you have to wear a bra under a spaghetti strapped dress, then you probably shouldn’t be wearing a spaghetti strapped dress. When did we start this trend that makes it okay to have your bra straps showing next to the spaghetti straps. It’s bad enough on teens, but really on women my age with the pounds to go with the age??? Just say No!

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