Search This Blog

Thursday, October 11, 2012

September 28, 2012 – Driving Tour of North Bali – Temples, Kopi Luwak and More...

Friday morning we met our driver at 8 AM. I had gone online to do a bit of day-trip research out of Lovina Beach, and highlighted the items of interest and places we wanted to see. Apparently he had another agenda and although when we spoke to him to book the tour he had a firm command of the English language his English speech and comprehension seemed to come and go when we asked him questions he did not want to answer or when I asked to go somewhere other than what he already had in mind. Based on this I am not sure why our French friends were so impressed with him. Our first destination was to a small village where we walked between narrow alleyways and through what appeared to be people's homes. It felt very intrusive! He didn't seem to know where he was going, and when I asked he said we were going to see the Ikat weaving. Apparently the weavers were not where they were supposed to be. OK. Eventually we literally walked into a house where a group of ladies were preparing food, flowers and gifts to be placed into the little temples about. It was quite an impressive sight. This apparently was the home of the weaver. Ah ha! One of the ladies stood up, motioned for us to follow her and then led us down yet another alleyway where she opened a large garage door to reveal a room full of weaving machines already set with cloth and thread, in various stages of works in progress. She gently uncovered them to show us each of the varieties of weavings and then placed herself into one of the machines. We watched her with stupefied looks on our faces. She worked so nimbly and the process appeared so complex that we couldn't get our heads around how she knew what to do and how to place those threads, and further, when she banged down the pieces of wood and bamboo to tighten each row, how she didn't damage a body part. It was a truly impressive process. We learned that these particular machines are hand made and over 200 years ago. The art of weaving is passed down through the family generation after generation. This young woman began learning almost as soon as she could walk and talk.
It is a dying art with the introduction of automation and because young women are not so interested in carrying on the ancestral traditions so much anymore. Watching her made it all that much more special to us and I motioned to Frank that we must buy something. These particular weavers work mostly in silk and use quite a lot of silver and gold threads as well. Their work is truly impressive. After watching the young lady weave for approximately 15 minutes and noting that she had completed about two-inches of cloth I was even more determined to make a purchase just to show our appreciation if for no other reason. We were shown several masterful pieces that were enormously expensive before Frank and I settled on a deep purple table runner for 500,000 IDR, (approx $50).

Leaving there our driver took us into a remote village to watch the silversmith at work. But when we arrived there was no silversmith. He was away at a festival somewhere. So we drove a bit further to see the glass painter. According to our driver (whose English was now very articulate), this man is the only glass painter in all of Bali. He creates beautiful paintings on glass. What is so amazing is that he paints the backside of the glass. This is difficult to explain but here goes: He first sketches the entire piece onto the back of the glass and then paints layers upon layers somehow working his way backward through the painting so that the back of the glass looks like a 2-year old's handiwork instead of that of a master artist. The front of the glass, however, reveals an incredibly intricate 3-D scene. Although extremely impressed, we did not buy a glass painting – wouldn't do for our yacht.

Next stop was a waterfall, and yet not the waterfall we thought we were going to. The one we had anticipated seeing was very high up, quite impressive with a hot spring pool in which we could swim. This was I think my biggest disappointment. We got out of the car and suddenly our driver could hardly speak English. He handed us over to a guide who simply walked us across the street and down a long path absolutely crammed with booths and stalls of vendors selling everything from clothing to spices, jewelry, pottery, paintings, carvings  - my gosh so much junk! As we were walking, the guide informed us that we owed him 100,000 IDR for his services. I noted dozens of other tourists walking to the waterfall without guides and so I asked him why no one else had a guide. He smiled and carried on about some silly nonsense and I realized we had been rooked because there was no "guiding" to be done and he offered no information or services he just walked with us and encouraged me to browse the shops along the way. I really don't like being played but there was nothing to be done about it. Eventually we came to a waterfall that was just a waterfall. I can't really say what was special about it other than that there was a small open temple at the bottom decorated with white and yellow silk drapes and scarves. OK, that done I needed a toilet. We stopped at a small café where I saw a sign for "toilet". I squatted over a filthy hole in the floor, nearly losing my balance. Thank goodness I had a tissue with me b/c there is no toilet paper to be had in most toilets around Indonesia (at least where we have been). I nearly gagged before I got out of there. When I emerged a woman stood there holding her had out telling me I had to pay her 2,000 IDR to use the toilet. That's it – we were ready to blow this popsicle stand. By the time we got back over to our driver I was fuming. Frank put a hand on my arm to keep me from giving our driver an earful. I don't know why because we are paying $50 for his services to take us on a tour that so far had only included one of the items on our list. I bit my tongue as we drove to a temple in the mountains.

We passed by a magnificent outdoor market and as we passed it I exclaimed – "Oh, I want to stop there!" It was the big market we had heard about that surpassed all others yet. The driver somehow did not hear me and we continued on. Coming to the temple we were astounded to see hundreds and hundreds of cars and large tourist coaches lining up to get into the parking lot. I again bit my tongue before saying that I had no interest in this overly crowded place.  The driver walked us up to a ticket window and then disappeared among the other guides and drivers around the corner. We paid our $10 each to enter and walked around pretty much looking at ruins and some pretty buildings over by a large lake. People swarmed about us and after about 5 minutes, Frank looked and me and asked "Are we done here?" I nodded as we searched for the exit. We had driven nearly half a day already just to get here and weren't the happiest of campers. Returning to the parking lot our driver was nowhere in sight. We located him after about 15 minutes of searching finding him shocked that we were back so soon. On the way out we approached the magnificent market once again, and once again, I called out to stop. The driver completely ignored me and rushed on past. As the day wore on, our driver became more uncommunicative. Sitting behind him I wanted to thump him in the head and ask him whose tour was this anyway? Frank, being the peacemaker just winked at me. OK, now I wanted to smack him in the head!

It was by now well after noon and the driver issued promises of a good stop for lunch, yet the next stop was a Buddhist temple. So far removed from the craziness of the Hindu temple we truly did enjoy this tranquility. We quietly and serenely strolled the grounds and gardens, stealing peeks inside the prayer areas. I felt such peace and serenity wash over me. Peering over at Frank I noted the same state of respect and awe. Clearly there is Divine presence here. We stayed much longer here than at the other stops. I was in no hurry to leave, and when we did I quite contentedly placed an offering in the donation box. Returning to the van I wasn't quite as angry with our driver.

Next stop was definitely on my list – the coffee plantation where the very expensive and rare Kopi Luwak is found. On arrival we were given an excellent tour of the plantation, beginning with a peek at the Luwak animal, otherwise known as a Civet (looks like a beautiful black cat with a long snout). Although the animals roam the coffee plantation this one was on display in a cage for us to have a look at one. The Luwak eats coffee berries and only chooses the very best ones to eat but cannot digest the bean inside the fruit and so it evacuates the intact bean in its feces. Piles of Luwak excrement were drying on a nearby canvas. They looked like little Baby Ruth bars! These very best beans have been carefully chosen by the Luwak so that the process of choosing the finest coffee beans falls to the animal rather than to the humans to hand pick them from the tree. Fascinating really. The beans are well cleaned, dried and roasted into an excellent tasting final product.

We continued our tour through the plantation where the process of growing, harvesting and preparing the coffee fruit was explained in great detail. There were also many other agricultural trees and plants about such as cloves, vanilla beans, cashews, and cinnamon. Again, no inch of fertile land is wasted. After the tour we had a seat in the small café. By now it was 2:00 and we were starving. The only foods available were "Bali Cakes", a variety of rice flour baked goods. We ordered that and then I had to try this Kopi Luwak so I ordered a cup. They actually brought me a small pot. The coffee was quite delicious! Very mild and aromatic (not from poop), I thoroughly enjoyed it. Frank opted for a Bintang, but did taste my coffee and agreed it was nice. We made some purchases in the gift shop, although I didn't buy the Kopi Luwak. It was tasty but not really worth the price for us.

Leaving the coffee plantation we had a long drive back to town where our driver dropped us at the traditional outdoor market. We picked up some fruits and veggies and then returned to Lovina Beach. It was now 5 PM and the gang was gathering for sundowners at 6:00. We hurried back to the boat, stowed our purchases and returned to shore where we enjoyed first drinks and then a traditional Balinese dinner and dance show. 


Judy & Bill Rouse aboard S/V BeBe said...

So sorry you did not enjoy your tour of Bali! We absolutely loved Bali. Our guide was man who was soon to be the village priest, as had been his recently deceased father. He doesn't often do guides but I could have given you his email info. We did 2 days of touring with him and learned so many interesting tidbits about the temples and other things. You would have enjoyed his tour much more than the rip-off you described. Hope your upcoming tour of Kumai is better than your Bali experience.

Gillie Davies said...

Wow! Brilliant Barb, I have just enjoyed almost an hour of reading and re-reading your blog. Really getting excited about moving on now. thanks so much for sharing. miss Ya'll. xxx