Tropical Punch Tour: Bali Part 6
Featuring Seke Werdha Arma, also known as The Peliatan Masters, supported by the Semarandhana gamelan at ARMA.
Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010
Goa Gajah, Bali, Indonesia

I rented a bicycle today and rode a few miles down the road to Goa Gajah, also known as the Elephant Cave. There are no elephants there, and it's really not much of a cave. In fact, your average, everyday walk-in closet is just about as big. It's the first thing in Bali that kind of disappointed me. I wasn't really expecting the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico or anything, but come on, Goa Gajah is just a T-shaped tunnel a few yards long in each direction. It should be demoted from cave status and officially designated as a nook instead. The huge demon face carved into the entrance is nice, though, and there's also a huge bathing pool and some nice, curved paths and stairs that wind a little way down into a lush jungle.

Next, I rode a little further down to Yeh Pulu, a small cliff carving featuring scenes from everyday Balinese life that dates from the 14th century. There was a local at the entrance who charged me a small entry fee. Right after I paid him, he started walking with me and gave me a really short guided tour. Although it was only a few hundred yards down to the cliff, he tried to charge me five bucks when we returned a few minutes later, which was ridiculous. He claimed the entrance fee went to the government and that I needed to pay him, too. Just to get him off my back, I ended up giving him 40,000 rupiah (four bucks), which is worth a lot more to the Baliinese because of the exchange rate. I wouldn't have minded giving the guy a few bucks if he was up front about it at the beginning, but he kind of tricked me, which was annoying.

On the way back to Ubud, I stopped and ate corn on the cob that I bought from a street vendor. It was kind of funny that was the only thing he was selling. For the Sunday night show, I headed over to ARMA at the Agung Rai art museum. The program was chock-full of a whole slew of dances performed by Seke Werdha Arma, also known as The Peliatan Masters, supported by a gamelan named Semarandhana that was super tight, thunderously loud and powerful. First up was the very graceful Pendet dance, a prelude of offerings to purify the theater with bowls of water, flowers and incense, and welcome the audience and spirits. Second in line came the Baris dance, am action-packed war dance that celebrates the manhood of the brave Balinese warrior.

Next was the Legong Lasem, performed by three females--two of them grown women, which is unusual. They employ subtle hand and facial expressions and body movements to tell the tale of a tragic royal love triangle. Following that was the the Kebyar Duduk dance, which "progresses through a sequence of moods of an idealized Balinese youth who is just at the point of reaching full maturity. He expresses a gamut of emotions, ranging from sweet flirtatiousness to bashfulness, melancholy and angry bravado."--99 Bali. The dynamic Taruna Jaya dance came next, featuring a woman in a man's costume, followed by the ender: Jauk, a solo dance in which a demon cavorts through the jungle, joking with insects, admiring the scenery, and so on. On the way back to my room, I admired the scenery at Shiva Lounge, where I enjoyed a veggie wrap, fries and garlic bread.

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All words and photos ©2010 Arcane Candy.