On a Bali High

Most people long for another island
  • DSC06732  Bali Ha'i may call you, Any night, any day,
  • DSC06733  In your heart, you'll hear it call you: "Come away...Come away."
  • DSC06730  So we came away from Hong Kong on - what else - Hongkong Airlines. Not a bad deal; comfortable seats and in-flight meals at no extra charge.
  • DSC06752  The first night was for relaxing in our Kuta Beach hotel
  • DSC06753  If you try, you'll find me Where the sky meets the sea. "Here am I your special island Come to me, Come to me." etc. etc.
  • DSC06759  Our itinerary for day one started with the Barong dance.
  • DSC06764  Lots of stamping feet, clacking teeth and clanging gamelan music. All very mystifying, but apparently it's about the eternal struggle between good and evil. The Barong represents good
  • DSC06848  and Rangda, the witch with the clawed fingers, is definitely one of the baddies
  • DSC06849  opposed by men wielding krises,
  • DSC06851  who are appararently hypnotised into turning the krises on themselves, falling about in self-immolation
  • DSC06853  until revived and healed by by the Barong and a friendly priest.
  • DSC06797  while the orchestra provides a disinterested and vaguely bored accompaniment to all this confusing stage business.
  • DSC06774  Lots of other players have their entrances and exits, including a monkey
  • DSC06776  who taunts the Barong
  • DSC06781  and gets it looking rather mad.
  • DSC06787  There are dancers,
  • DSC06801  comedians,
  • DSC06802  of the 'I say, I say, I say' school
  • DSC06818  struggles between the good and bad guys which leave you wondering who is what.
  • DSC06819  Now and then it seems as if some shoe shining is about to take place, except that nobody is wearing shoes,
  • DSC06823  not even the musicians.
  • DSC06827  And then a whole lot of other players arrive. And is that Rangda the witch again?
  • DSC06832  Further struggles take place between good and evil,
  • DSC06844  ending in the defeat of - are they the good guys or the bad guys? Bali remaining the only staunchly Hindu enclave in the predominantly Muslim Indonesian archipelago, all of these convoluted tales are evolved from the Ramayana or the Mahabharata.
  • DSC06856  Of course no Bali itinerary is complete without a visit to a batik factory to watch the spinners,
  • DSC06855  dyers
  • DSC06857  and seamstresses at work,
  • DSC06860  followed by a visit to a wood carving studio
  • DSC06859  where some of the prices, running into several millions of rupiahs, seem as unattainable as the prospect of an elephant scaling the moon.
  • DSC06861  Then a stop for lunch in a restaurant
  • DSC06862  overlooking the padi fields
  • DSC06867  and a temple under repair by a team of workers with wheelbarrows and yoked buckets.
  • DSC06870  Next stop a coffee shop with a view, where we are offered a free selection of coffees, herbal teas and a glass oif cocoa together with a coffee in cup and saucer, known as kopi luwak, which means coffee that has been evacuated from the other end of an animal; in this case a civet cat..
  • DSC06869  The mere thought of this is so repulsive that I leave it to Rino to satisfy his curiosity, but apparently not his taste buds.
  • DSC06873  The view, however,
  • DSC06872  is rather scenic.
  • DSC06877  as are the rice terraces,
  • DSC06885  though not as spectacular
  • DSC06889  as those of Banaue in Luzon, whre Rino comes from.
  • DSC06878  Little boys are looking for things
  • DSC06905  in irrigation streams
  • DSC06898  and we're taken to an art gallery,
  • DSC06896  where painters are working on the spot
  • DSC06897  amid seemingly endless rooms filled with canvasses
  • DSC06899  set out to dry
  • DSC06900  in pavilions and courtyards
  • DSC06901  that look as if
  • DSC06902  they belong
  • DSC06903  in a religious ashram.
  • DSC06907  The long day is rounded out with a ketjak dance
  • DSC06908  that narrates another tale
  • DSC06910  from the Ramayana..
  • DSC06914  I first saw this most distinctive of Balinese danes
  • DSC06915  performed on this island thirty years ago,
  • DSC06917  and for me it remains the twilight highlight
  • DSC06923  of a splendid day.
  • DSC06962  The sonorous voices of the ketjak performers encircling the stage are almost soporific.
  • DSC06927  Again there are the baddies
  • DSC06950  and the goodies, including Hanuman the monkey king
  • DSC06955  who flew with his monkey hordes to the aid of Rama in his search for Sita.
  • DSC06969  and rescued her from the wicked Ravana.
  • DSC06989  I am familiar with this part of the story but not with what follows, when a dancer dressed as a horse receives the priest's blessing
  • DSC06995  before hurling himself repeatedly on to a pile of blazing coconut husks
  • DSC06992  to the point where he becomes almost incandescent
  • DSC07004  arising each time like the fabled phoenix of western mythology.
  • DSC07009  Alas, all too soon it's over
  • DSC07007  and the players take their bows and quit the stage.
  • DSC06748  leaving us to return to Kuta in search of somewhere to dine.