Asia | South East Asia | Indonesia | Nusa Tenggara | Bali – Culture Shock Bali!
Day 1 – Ubud
Where I am now literally defies explanation. This is one of those experiences that will rock in retrospect but right now I’m suffering serious culture shock. I wanted to kick it native style but didn’t realize what I was in for regarding sleep and bathroom accomodations. Ketut’s Homestay is well located, especially for the dance performances each night at Ubud Palace. I wish it wasn’t quite so far up Jalan Suweta, but that only presents a problem at night walking back up after performances because I can’t get my flashlight to work. There are no street lights.
I smartly changed all my money in Singapore this morning. Changi is an incredible airpor. It even has a ‘sports complex’ with video screens and satellite TV to view sporting events. There’s also posh shopping and a lot of American fast food. I’m not sure why people rave about Singapore airlines other than their cool sari-like uniforms. I didn’t find it particularly roomy, I was next to a fidgety 18-month old and there was lots of turbulence.
My luggage arrived with me at the destination this time, always a nice touch. I avoided what I thought were the luggage warriors only to get taken in by one because I thought he was a cab driver. However, for all I heard about DPS airport, I find it placid. The [actual] cab driver was a 26-year-old guy who lives near the airport. He’s married with 2 sons. I know this because one of the first questions he asked me was about my marital status and if I have kids. I find it hard to talk understand the Indonesian accent so conversation is very labored. This cab driver told me that most couples get married around 20 after the man has made sure his wife-to-be can have children; I’m curous what’s up if it’s the male who’s infertile. Is this woman ostracized until her former boyfriend fails to impregnate another woman? He also told me there’s now a government program (which I knew about) to restrict family size called ‘Two is Enough’… ‘unless you are rich,’ he added. He then opened a bottle of water, took a swig, and asked me if I wanted some. I’m never sure of protocol in thse situations so I declined. We also discussed where tourists come from and my fictional ‘husband.’ Really, if I want to answer questions about why I’m not married, I can stay in New Jersey and talk to my grandma.
The road the my homestay is on was being paved, and you cannot connect to it from the top due to rice fields. Ubud consists only of a few ‘main’ roads that are narrow, permitting only 1-way traffic in spots. Lots of ojek traffic and clusters of worshippers/ religious processions. Worshippers have right of way. I wasn’t sure how far up the hill my accomodation was. People asked me if I needed transport or a place to stay as I trudged up with my backpack. I had to watch where I stepped to avoid squashing offerings left in front of people’s houes. Many houses look like temple entrances in that they have the stone gateways with multi-headed sculpture. House numbering is inconsistent so it took me a while to find Ketut’s Homestay.
K’s property is … well I’m not sure how to describe it. Each room, guest and otherwise, is it’s own small brick structure within a lush green jungly enclave of structures. Tehre’s also a small shrine inisde the house where incense is lit. The incense here in the homestay, and in all of Ubud, is heavy in the air and smells like dope. There’s a pond in the living room. There’s a half-naked grandmother wandering around, there’s a series of dogs, stray or not, in and out. In the midst of this Ketut set up an office area and labelled it ‘tour desk.’ He does self-made tours based on guest requests, in my opinion the best of both worlds between hiring a driver (pricy) and a packaged bus tour.
In general the tours from Ubud operators are cheap, a fraction of the price as from the beach areas. The food and restaurants here are stupendous. My room has a giant gecko that likes the ceiling above the bed and stares at me constantly and shits all over the place. There’s both a shower (cold water) and a mandi in the bathroom. At night there’s lots of animal noise, mostly dogs howling and what I’m assuming are ciccadas. At dawn the roosters chime in. I didn’t sleep well.
Ubud is charming and there’s so so so much to do. I went to the bookstore to get a map first thing. I did a lot of browsing, ate a **wonderful** meal and for some reason people were asking me for directions.
I went to the Gabor dance performance. It seems to be an overview of elements from the most popular (or accessible) Balinese styles. What costumes!!! Very colorful indeed and the way the performers use their eyes in the performance is unique and incredibly descriptive.
The guy who sold me my ticket asked where I was from. When I said United States (more commonly recognized if you say ‘America’) he asked me if I knew George Bush. I said that wasn’t my fault and he laughed.
Going back up the hill to the homestay was dark and easy to get tripped up and there are packs of dogs growling and barking. Ketut has assured me they ‘no bite.’ There are 2 dogs here, whether they belong to him I don’t know. One is always unconscious on the threshhold all the time so you have to climb over it to get in. The other is young and fairly frisky and follows me to my room.
There’s a big temple near my accomodation. It’s very active. There was a cremation yesterday and Ketut is going to some shindig there later. A lot of the statues near the temple have regular sarongs wrapped around them, being dressed like they are giant stone barbie dolls.
One thing odd is that as the religous procession marched into the cremation, travelers are photographing them. I think it’s a huge testament to the Balinese that they don’t turn and deck someone.