Tropical Punch Tour: Bali Part 3
Featuring Sekehe Gong Panca Artha at Ubud Palace.
Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

As I sat outside my room finishing breakfast, a man named I Wayan Santika suddenly appeared selling artwork.I bought a nice, small drawing of two dancers for $18, then spent the early afternoon at the Museum Puri Lukisan, a three-building art museum that is chock-full of modern-traditiional Balinese art spanning in time from 1930 up to the present. All of the work on display details everyday Balinese life and their Hindu religious beliefs.The amazing intricacy and attention to detail in these paintings and sculptures is overwhelming. (And standing around in art museums is hard enough work as it is!)

While I was inside, a torrential downpour appeared out of the blue. Actually, I guess grey would be the more accurate word. The monsoon season didn't hesitate to make itself known on this day. When the water droplets subsided, I moseyed on down the block to a tourist info center to find out if any temple festivals were coming up. I was informed that there was one happening today and tomorrow at Purah Tana Lot, about an hour's drive away.

Lo and behold, as I sat there contemplating if I should go tomorrow, the clangorous sound of a gamelan outfit appeared out of nowhere, propelling a full-blown procession through the streets of Ubud. The parade ended a half block away at Pura Marajan Agung, the private temple of Ubud's royal family. No outsiders allowed! I hung around on the street for a while, admiring the music and sneaking an occasional peek through the side door, which was wide open. A few other people stopped by and shot photos through he opening. Even though no one stopped them, I wouldn't feel right intruding like that, so I held back.

While I waited for the temple ceremony to end, I got a bite to eat down the street at Bumbu Bali. I ordered a veggie burger and fries that put an unbelievably yummy Balinese twist on an old favorite. As I waited for my check, the temple ceremony ended and the return procession spilled out of the front gate and down the big stone steps.

I joined in and walked down the sidewalk to snap a few more photos. The air was totally charged with so much excitement and raw energy. To catch this event by sheer chance was such a wonderful experience. The procession finally ended on the outskirts of Peliatan village, where the participants all climbed onto buses and trucks to go home. Every day without fail, I find myself completely bombarded by novelty coming in from all sides.

I moseyed back over to Ubud Palace for another show by Sekehe Gong Panca Artha. The Legong Trance is a little more lithe and delicate than the dance I saw last night. After a man blesses the two Legongs’ crowns with holy water and puts them into a trance state, they tell a story in dance about how the Gods give blessings and mercy to humankind for peace and prosperity on this troubled Earth. This jaw-dropping, moving performance represents the apex of ritual theater. Jauk is a solo dance in which a demon cavorts through the jungle, joking with insects, admiring the scenery, and so on. The Lencana Agung Ubud is a full-blown ensemble piece that celebrates the spiritual and peaceful way of life of the locals in Ubud.

Kebyar Trompong features the long Trompong instrument, which is expertly played by a woman who dances at the same time. Her facial expressions, which range from a deer-caught-in-the-headlights stare one second to a flirtatious smile the next, perfectly match the explosive gamelan gong kebyar music, which developed on Bali in the 1930s. The set finished in grand fashion with The Ballet of Bimanlu, which tells the tale of prince Bimaniu and all of the adventures he experiences battling various evil forces on his journey to win the heart of princess Situ Sunari.

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All words and photos ©2010 Arcane Candy.