Friday, June 4
Pura Tanah Lot, Bali, Indonesia
Last night, as I looked at my map, I couldn't decide where to venture next. Although I typed up a rough itinerary before the trip started, I've pretty much been freestyling it. When I woke up, I decided to take a bemo down to Pura Tanah Lot, one of Bali's main sea temples. I snapped some photos of the mountains and other random stuff on the way back down. After about 15 miles, I had to change bemos at Mengwi. The total cost of the first ride: two dollars.
For some reason, the next bemo dropped me off about three miles away in Kedri, at a cost of 5o cents. I stood around a big intersection there utterly confused and sunbaked until I asked some locals how to get to Pura Tanah Lot. A funny little parking officer chatted with me for a while. I wish I would have shot a photo of him! His job is to collect money from folks who park their motorbikes and cars around there. A bit later, I found a bemo that would drive me the remaining six miles for one dollar.
The ride down to Purah Tanah Lot was really scenic. I took a bunch of snaps of some really nice rice terraces, rustic farm houses, etc. After I got dropped off, I threw on my heavy-ass backpack and trudged through a long maze of stalls that sell trinkets and food to tourists. I finally stepped up to the beach, where a pretty good batch of tourists snapped photos of each other as the sea crashed into the rocks.
The heat finally took its toll on me, so I relaxed in a shady spot with a bottle of water at a restaurant overlooking the temple. Then I decided to head back to Ubud. Much to my dismay, bemos don't run from this area, so I was forced to take a private transport about eight miles to Denpasar for 10 dollars.
That's a lot of money in Bali, and I'm trying to stay on a budget, but it was totally worth it, because the car was really nice and it blasted air conditioning in my face the whole way. The traffic going both ways to and from Denpasar was amazingly harrowing. I cracked up as I shot photos the whole way. So many Balinese drivers will not hesitate to pass as oncoming traffic screams forward terrifyingly close.
From the Ubung station in Denpasar, I caught another bemo for a five-mile, one-dollar ride to Batubulan terminal, where I had to transfer to one final bemo to Ubud. This driver decided to charge me four dollars for a seven-mile ride, which I accepted because there were some other drivers vibing me big time and trying to charge me 10 dollars, so I just wanted to get out of there.
You can take a shuttle bus from Ubud to Kuta, which is twice as far, for five dollars. The reason I mentioned all of these prices is to illustrate the wildly different amounts bemo drivers charge you. When I arrived in Ubud, I asked the driver how much a local would have paid, he said one dollar--a quarter of what I paid. We both just laughed about it.
As soon as I climbed out of the bemo, a tout showed me a room at Pelangi Bungalows that turned out to be better than the one I rented at the Frog Pond Inn for 20% less, so I was pretty stoked. A Jebog bamboo gamelan performance was scheduled for tonight and I've always wanted to see that, so I climbed on board a free shuttle to Bentuyung village, a few minutes outside of Ubud.
The program opened with Truntungan, a long instrumental in which all of the bamboo--both small and large, short and long--produced a full range of sound, from high to really low-pitched. Some kind of huge organ also added in a fat, somewhat homely melody. Five beautiful women entranced the audience with the second number called Tari Panyembrama, a welcome dance that gives offerings to the Gods. Next up, four young boys performed Tari Gopola, a farmer's dance that gives thanks for good crops.
Another deep instrumental called Tabuh Kreasi Jegog Campur came next, followed by Tari Belibis, in which the women twirled about and extended their long dresses like the movements of teals. Ornate costumes were deployed for the Mekepung, which depicts the water buffalo race from Negara, Bali. Another instrumental called Tabuh Surya Nyalantare put some new Jegog music on display.
For the grand finale, Tabuh Mebarung, the giant bamboo gamelan called Surya Agung (Great Sun) was unveiled. This thing is so huge, four men have to stand in front of it to strike it with huge mallets. During this song, the audience was invited to step forward to feel the heavy, low pitched vibrations emanate through the stage. This amazing show drew to a close with an instrumental finale called Penutup.