Monday, March 19, 2018

Monday, Mar 19th, Candidasa, Bali, Indonesia


We're glad the trip design lands in Bali last.  There are places with better food, stranger animals, older ruins, bigger jungles, and more challenging politics.  But few places have a more humane intersection of social, religious, cultural, artistic, and sensual experience.   

We headed out early this morning for the first of a series of days visiting parts of the island of Bali.  The awe of this place can be found in the villages, representing extended families which have fought for their identities, authority, and security for five hundred years.  And as we learn more about how they express themselves, and what traditions and customs have survived, we see the beauty of their lives.

Tenganan is a four-walled Bali Aga village of original, pre-Hindu inhabitants who we were privileged to visit.

We continued to a central moat-surrounded facility in Klung Kung, where a table and chairs beneath a wooden ceiling decorated with elaborate murals depicting punishment in hell and rewards on earth.

We ate lunch looking across rice fields to Mt. Agung, the most active volcano on Bali.  Fortunately, it was quiet today.

Quiet enough for us to ascend to Besakih, Bali's most important temple.  On the slopes of Bali's equivalent of Mount Olympus, this structure is reached by many long flights of 1,000 year old stairways passing many levels of lava stone terraces and pagodas which contain family compounds with courtyards and shrines.  This site incorporates the holy triad of temples venerating the Hindu trinity. 

To see all of the photos taken today, click on Monday, Mar 19th, Candidasa, Bali, Indonesia. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday, March 18th, Candidasa, Bali, Indonesia


Today was a flying day - from Java to Bali.  In the morning, however, we had time to walk down  Marioboro Street to do some shopping.  Pat has consistently questioned whether I should get a small backpack to carry the stuff needed to make it through these daily jaunts outside of the hotel ad bus (water, umbrella, camera accessories, maps, etc.). 

I usually stuff them in my jungle fatigue pockets, but the pants have been dropping a little low with the thin plastic belts I wear to more easily pass through the x-ray machines at airports. 

We found one at a store at least a mile down the street, making crossing three main intersections necessary twice.  Pedestrians aren't given much respect here, and you just have to use timing and a bit of bravado to make it across. 

On the way to our resort hotel tonight (Ramacandidasa Resort), we had dinner at Warung Smiley, a well-known and liked local stop run by a couple who also sponsor the local chapter of Trash Hero Candidasa.  They are great chefs, supportive community activists, and they deserve all the help we can give to them to help the young residents of Bali protect their island's environment.

To see all of the photos taken today, click on Sunday, Mar 18th, Candidasa, Bali, Indonesia.

Saturday, Mar 17th, Yogyakarta, West Java, Indonesia


Last day in Java was spent at Borobudur.  What a great treasure.  Built 300 years before Ankor Wat in Cambodia, the 2 million stones it contains result in a very impressive structure.  The stupa surrounding the top contain buddhas that visitors try to reach though the holes and touch for good luck.  Monks and dedicated worshipers perform ritual clockwise circling of the four layers past story reliefs.

Because I got lost trying to reunite with the group at the rendezvous point after reaching the summit, I had to climb down the exit stairs, walk all the way around to the entrance stairs, and climb up again to try to find them.  What work and panic!  They were worried too when I didn't show up.  Sorry guys!

On the way back, we had coffee at the Original Powan Luwak Coffee Store.  Some of you who know the story of civet digestive enzymes, and how coffee beans are transformed in the pass through the intestines of this cute little creature.  I'm told it moderates the acidity, and is a highly prized taste.

  This evening, we attended a performance of the Ramayana Ballet in a large open-air theater.   The dancers were beautiful, the gamelan orchestra was superb, the story was complex and well-presented.  After 41 years of daily shows, I think they've got it together.  Don't miss it.

To see all of the photos taken today, click on Saturday, Mar 17th, Yogyakarta, West Java, Indonesia.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday, Mar 16th, Yogyakarta, West Java, Indonesia


Three weeks into our travels, we're still excited.  Of course, getting up early each morning to a wonderful continental breakfast, being driven to unusual and spectacular places, having lunch at local restaurants (often at resorts in the mountains and along coasts), visiting more exciting places until late in the afternoon, returning to the hotel to freshen up and answer emails, and then heading out to dinner at another choice restaurant - isn't hard to find exciting.  But it can be exhausting too.

Prambanan is a 9th century Hindu temple compound in outside of Yogyakarta.  It is the largest in Indonesia, and one of the largest in Southeast Asia.  It is the only temple dedicated to the Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva), and it's content far surpass most other Hindu structures.

To see all of the photos taken today, click on Friday, Mar 16th, Yogyakarta, West Java, Indonesia.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Thursday, Mar 15th, Yogyakarta, West Java, Indonesia


Today, we drove to Taman Alum Lumbini, where a replica of the Shwedagon Pagoda (Yangon, Myanmar) was built.  The second highest pagoda outside of Myanmar, it was finished in 2010 by local Chinese buddhists who visit it on holidays. 

Our drive to the Medan Airport also included a stop along the road to see caged bats.  Some stretching three feet at wingtips, they are consumed at local dinner tables.

From Medan in Northern Sumatra, we flew across the equator to Yogyakarta, West Java, where we will be staying at the Phoenix Hotel.  A five-star hotel in the heart of the city, we'll be here for three nights while we visit Prambanan (largest Hindu compound in Indonesia), the Sultan's Golden Pavillion and private Water Castle, Borobudur (largest stuppa-style Buddhist monument in the world), and a Ramayana ballet.

To see all of the photos taken today, click on Thursday, Mar 15th, Yogyakarta, West Java, Indonesia.

Wednesday, Mar 14th, Berestagi, North Sumatra, Indonesia


Driving away from Lake Toba can’t be done quickly.  It's a huge island, and the road around it too our bus by lots of interesting views.  With my Google Pixel up against the window, I tried to assemble a collection of Batak architectural styles, and of their people.  We circled a major portion of the island to get to the bridge that connects it to the mainland.  Then, it took us three more hours to get to the northern end of the caldera.  Aop a very large volcanic plug, we had lunch at an exclusive resort.

Indonesia has more volcanos than any other country, and is fourth in population density.  Combine that with the fact that it ranks just behind the Amazon in vegetation density, and you get lots of people living amidst lots of greenery, a little worried about their futures.  We sped down poorly maintained, winding roads, filled with motorcycles, cars, and trucks passing each other next to houses, businesses, agricultural fields, and every type of sign imaginable.

We stopped at Si Piso Piso, a 394 ft waterfall with a spectacular view of the lake.  We visited several villages, and walked uninvited into them to talk to the residents.  All were very receptive, and allowed us to poke through some of the traditional houses.  The Batak tribe is trying to hold onto their ethnic identity against the usual factors influencing the attitudes of their young, and in the face of serious economic woes.  But they seemed happy, and were certainly appreciative of the chance to meet some foreign travelers.

Berastagi (rice store) is our destination tonight, and we had some time to walk around it before dinner.  The market was crowded, and full of vegetables, fruits, spices, and fish.  It's an old city in the mountains, that the Dutch built in 1920 to get away from the heat.

After dinner, we drove up to an abandoned town on the slopes of Mount Sinabung.  It looked like this last October, but wasn't cooking anything up tonight.

To see all of the photo taken today, click on Wednesday, Mar 14th, Berestagi, North Sumatra, Indonesia.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tuesday, Mar 13th, Samosir Island, Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia


We chartered a boat today, and went about a third of the way around Samosir island to visit Batak villages.  The Bataks constitute the fourth largest ethnic group in Indonesia, and dominate this area.  We're finding indonesia very different from Malaysia.  Although containing similar groups, they appear to be more geographically separate.

Batak villages are easily recognized from the distinct shapes of their longhouses.  Lined up in a row, and surrounded by walls, the lifestyles and beliefs of the villages are incorporated into the design of the structures and their uses.  Extremely patrilineal and centered around local kings, the family social and marriage rules emphasize strong kinship allegiance and respect for ancestry.

We were invited into a dance ceremony demonstrating prayers to a sky god to among other things: encourage good behavior from the tied water buffalo; grant good health to participants' sons and daughters; witness a marriage proposal; and the visit of an ancestor blessing all with holy water sprinkling.  I got it all on video, and will post it when I get time.

 At the finish, we were invited to join the dancers, and that too is recorded.  We'll see if that makes it to the public realm.

Traveling around the island to a few more villages, we watched a village council in their weekly meeting in front of the longhouses, heard the history of another village's kingships from a  descendant, and saw the ceremonial execution location and instruments for use in it for serious community crimes and prisoner of war.

To see all of the photos taken today, click on Tuesday, Mar 13th, Samosir Island, Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia.