Random Solitary Thoughts

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

The Land of Crazy Terrorists and Babi Guling (no offense)...

Upon arriving at the airport, I felt like I had stepped into the past. Everything looked so 70's... It did bring back old memories of Penang airport before they made it into a KLIA spinoff.

After doing the necessary stuff, I had to wait for Kotak and her entourage to arrive from Malaysia (they took a different flight). So I walked around and checked out the Dunkin Donuts outlet. The prices were still the same.. bummer...

A few minutes later, Kotak and gang arrived and we were whisked away to our hotel by a guide person. Along the way we observed the vast Balinese culture which was embedded in every corner in the forms of flower offerings and religious and cultural engravings. On most road junctions, whenever traffic lights were absent, statues of hindu gods and legendary figures took their place. It was a sight to behold.

We passed by numerous shops selling touristsy stuff and happened to chance upon a shop with the words.. 'Babi Guling'!!! (no offense to Muslim readers here...) And here I thought Indonesia was a Muslim country, but according to the guide Bali is pretty much a Hindu island with 95% of the popultion being Hindus. Aaahhhh... now the Babi Guling makes sense...

We checked into our hotel and found out that the air conditioning in the room was pathetic. Overall the room was nice and after a quick change of clothes, we were on our way to a half day tour of Bali.

For some reason, although it was lunchtime, we didn't eat anything and I had to rely on my stale bread as a source of nourishment until dinner...

So onwards we went, through the narrow streets of Bali. The streets are a far cry from those in Malaysia. The roads are narrow, and both sides are flanked with houses and buildings, so there's no way you can veer off the road without hitting some form of residence and overtaking takes plenty of skill and even more luck!

It was pretty straight forward. Our main program... shopping! First stop was a nice view of the outskirts (we didn't go near the city until the third day) before arriving at a batik gallery where all sorts of batik were sold. There were a few cool looking items, but the more experienced travellers told us that we could get it cheaper elsewhere, so we refrained from buying too much. the handicraft was nice and it was our first taste of Balinese culture.

Then, we went to this silver/jewelry factory thinghy where we saw the locals being paid a meagre wage to put together pieces of gem stones and silver to produce silver handicraft and jewelry which will later be sold at exorbitant prices! This seems to be the norm here in Malaysia too where we work our @$$es off so that our company can profit and give us all little or no bonuses year after year. Oh, and I forgot to mention, for a meagre salary as well... Anyhow, some of the silverworks were simply amazing, and they came accompanied by an amazing price as well... something on par with the quality of workmanship, but seeing that it's pointless to pay money for something pretty that does nothing to someone who makes it so that someone with money can buy it to display and do nothing, we decided to proceed to our next stop.

This next stop is probably the highlight of the day! An art gallery cum studio thinghy! Here, local talents produce magnificent artwork, rendered in true Balinese style to look like patchwork. You could almost feel the shapes as you run your fingers through the surface of the canvas. There were beautiful. Besides those, they had a huge mix of traditional and contemporary fine art pieces, all in various harmonious blends of colours. But as things were all priced in US dollars, we could only stare and drool! We wanted to stay longer, but time and the guide didn't allow it. So onwards we went to a wood carving gallery.

The pieces displayed here we definitely as good as the other handicraft that we have seen throughout the day. The carvings were of good workmanship and priced at US dollars... which seems to be the national currency for buying really nice products. They used all sorts of wood including hibiscus and anything else that washed to shore. Some of the more interesting works include Garuda, the noble flying steed of Vishnu (please excuse my lack of knowledge if I'm wrong, and please correct me as well), a Komodo dragon, (life sized, with textures covering the whole body... definitely took a while to complete) and a glass table with a wooden carving of a naked man holding it up. No doubt it was obscene... but it could double up as more than just a table... (women take note... no offense... peace... =))

After that, the women wanted to go see the infamous rice fields of tegalalang, so off we went, all the way to the infamous rice fields of tegalalang. The padi fields were slightly different from the ones here. In Bali, they grew them on hill slopes, so the padi were planted on man made steps along the hill slope. Other than that, they still look like padi plants.

Finally, then all was done and we didn't have anything else to see, we headed back towards our hotel and for some dinner. Among the suggestions were local delicacies, ayam bertutu, bebek, and babi guling. In the end we settled for babi guling.

The shop was simple, there was no babi guling in sight except for a pile of meat which we assumed was the cut up babi. So we ordered a bit of everything (choices were limited) and had milkless tea (they don't drink tea with anything and even sugar is considered weird...weird people...).

The soup was good... but the rest wasn't so... The babi was tough, and the satay was terrible... crude and thick, but not well cooked and no one would know what it was if we weren't sitting in a babi guling shop. The pork skin can outlast even the toughest chewing gum and the fried pork can outlast the skin. The piece of deep fried lard was okay, as well as the mixed veggie. Overall, dinner wasn't as good as expected and we walked back to the hotel, bargaining and shopping all the way.

Later that night, we took a walk to the Kuta beach area in a bid to find the place which some idiot terrorist blew up a couple of years ago. We didn't find it but we saw a sample of the night life in Bali. We because we went out quite late, there wasn't so much to see except for the clubs. We had a drink at McD's before walking back to the hotel.

And so ends our first night in Bali.


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