Bali, Indonesia: Delightful Dances & Wonderful Wildlife – by Barb

Since Clay’s parents had heard about how much we’d loved our “rice farming” experience in Laos, they suggested we visit some places in Bali where we could learn about the local products and processes, such as coffee making, Batik making, and silver jewelry making. Clay’s dad chatted with our driver and he assured us that knew exactly where we should go. Off we headed!

Our first stop was at the silver jewelry making facility. In a large warehouse, each worker sat at a station polishing, cutting, or setting jewelry pieces. The gentleman who welcomed us when we entered did not provide us with much commentary about the process, but he was quick to escort us “upstairs” to the two-story shop with thousands of pieces of jewelry for sale. The contrast between the “showiness” and coolness of the shop area, compared to the hot and dusty workplace was quite evident but beyond that I’m not sure the boys learned too much about making jewelry!

DSCF0504 DSCF0510 DSCF0514 DSCF0517 DSCF0519 DSCF0529Next, we zoomed on (as much as you can “zoom” in Balinese traffic!) to the coffee “plantation”. Again, we were greeted warmly as soon as we pulled into the parking lot – as though they were expecting us; even though we’d just driven in off the street! Clearly, this was yet another common tourist stop! A young lady walked us along a pathway that led through a series of cages housing birds, luwacs, and other local animals. She told us a little bit about coffee making on the way but she spoke quickly and softly so only those of us standing close to her were able to pick it up. She explained how the luwak eats the coffee beans and they pass through its system and out the other end. Their digestive tract contains certain enzymes that help to break down the coffee beans and make them usable for human consumption. Luwak coffee is considered a specialty coffee and runs for up to $100/cup in places like New York City. Animal rights activists have waged campaigns against the coffee because they feel that the luwaks are housed in poor conditions, rather than allowed to roam freely through the coffee plantations, as the coffee producers claim.

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Our next stop was at a Batik making shop. This consisted of a large shopping area and outside of it there was a sheltered spot where you could watch some of the locals making the batik fabrics, using the original wax technique. The boys found this quite interesting, and marveled at the detail that went into the designs. I think they would have been interested in giving it a try but that was not an option at this location.

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The following day we decided to head to Uluwatu. It is a place on the south-western tip of the Bukit Peninsula of Bali, Indonesia. It is home to the Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple and is the number four surf destination in the world for surfers of all abilities. We were able to walk around the coastline for about a km for so, admiring the absolutely gorgeous views of the ocean and the cliffs. The boys were mesmerized by the waves crashing on the shore and Caleb commented that he could “sit there all day watching the waves come in.” At about 5:15 pm we went to get tickets for the Kecak dance that was to be shown in an amphitheater overlooking the ocean. At about 6:15 pm the dance began, just as the sun slipped below the horizon. What a beautiful sight. Yet another day when we counted our blessings.

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DSCF0518 DSCF0528 DSCF0529 (1) DSCF0538 DSCF0564On Wednesday, after Clay visited the chiropractor to adjust his ailing back, we all headed back to the Green School for a tour of the campus with the Schools owner, John Hardy as our guide. Since we had arrived late to the Green Camp, we had missed the tour of the school and I really wanted to learn more about it. The rest of the family was quite interested as well so we all decided to take part in one of their daily tours. Touring the Green School has become quite a popular family activity in Bali, so we were part of a large group of about 60, all keen on hearing what John had to say. Fortunately, the school was accustomed to a large group size and we were each given a headset to wear so we could hear the commentary as we walked along. John Hardy, as you might expect, came across as quite an eccentric, out of the box thinker, and incredibly proud his Green School creation. Being an educator I was really hoping he would delve a little more into the running of the school itself: the daily routine, the curriculum, and the goals of the program. Instead the tour was really focused around his anecdotes about the building of the school and the reactions he received when putting forth his innovative ideas. We did walk through the Green Camp area as well, so the boys enjoyed showing Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie and Uncle where we had stayed and where we had completed some of our activities.

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The Green School is only about a ½ hour drive outside of Ubud, so at the completion of our tour we drove into Ubud for dinner and got tickets for one of the dances at the Ubud palace.

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For our final full day in Bali, we decided to visit the Bali Safari and Marine Park. Originally I had strayed away from the safari, thinking that it seemed unwise to pay money to go and see African animals in Bali, when we would be seeing them in Africa in a few month’s time. After reading more about the park, however, it looked as though there was a major focus on Asian animals, and I was interested in seeing the show that took place at the theatre every day in the centre of the park. The Safari park was expensive, but I was quite impressed with the layout and care that had been put into the park. To get our “money’s worth” I noted down all of the keeper talks that took place throughout the day so that we could visit as many as possible. I find that when I ask the boys about their experience afterward, they can usually remember things that they have heard about far better than the things they just read about on their own.

Our first keeper talk took place at the piranha tank where a hunk of chicken was thrown in for the fish to eat. The boys’ eyes popped out of their heads as they watched the piranhas aggressively attack the meat, water splashing right out of the tank and all over them. I don’t think they’ll be swimming with any piranha any time soon!

Next, we ventured off to see the general animal show which gave an overview of all of the Asian animals featured at the park. The girl did an excellent job of commentating in both Indonesian and English and the show was well choreographed, with birds flying in from various directions, guinea pigs marching across the very front of the stage, snakes appearing in the crowd, and orangutans waving at us. Definitely not the same as seeing these animals in their natural habitat but we did learn a lot.

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Following the animal show, we boarded the Safari bus that took you through 3 different areas: Asian animals, Indian animals, and African animals. The animals were all easily visible from the bus and appeared very active (considering it was the middle of the day). Some great photos were taken by all!

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Unfortunately Connor came own with a fever at this point and we had to slow our pace a little and give him some medicine, but he is a real trooper when he is not well and insisted on continuing on to see the rest of the park.

After lunch we all went to see the “Bali in the Park” show.  I was not sure what to expect but had read some great reviews about this presentation, which was supposed to tell us about the history of Bali. The theatre was incredible. You walked through a cave-like entrance filled with vines and then entered the main seating area. In front of the stage there was a water feature which looked like a small lake. A live band played off to the side of the stage where we could see them.

DSCF0898The show began with a lively overture during which all of the performers and animals (elephants, monkeys, snakes…) in the show paraded in front of us. I was absolutely amazed at how the show flowed and the incredible sets that they used. The lake in the front served as a place for boats and ducks at one point. Shadow puppets told part of the story on the big screen. It was a real cultural production and all of us came away very impressed.

The next day we had to say farewell to Clay’s sister and brother-in-law. We were all sad to see them go. It was fun sharing our travels with family. But we were also excited about our next stop: Australia.

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