Balinese Culture – A Motorcycle Adventure
I jumped on my Honda Tiger, 200CC motorcycle and left the area of Kuta today. I had a strong “itch” to get out of dodge and find the real real hidden gems of Bali. My adventure took 3 days and included one mishap.
Leaving Kuta, I headed North West towards the Hindu temple of Tanah Lot. Driving there is nothing more than a single lane going in each direction but it feels great to be on the open road. I had to stop many times to take some beautiful photos of the rice fields next to the road; some of them were quite grand with beautiful flowers on the perimeter and small pools of water at varying elevations leading down to a panoramic view of their village.
On one occasion, I pulled my bike to the side of the road and placed both feet on the ground, my right foot on the edge of the roads pavement and my left on what I thought was solid dirt. Pulling out my camera to snap a photo, I could feel my left foot slowly sinking into the dirt on my left side. Mind you, there is no real shoulder on these roads, just to the left of my foot was a small drop off (2 feet down) which had a small stream of dirty rice patty watter flowing. As my whole body and the motorcycle I was still sitting on began to lurch left, I quickly tried to reposition my foot onto solid ground. No luck, the problem got worse and in a flash I was upside down taking a swim along with my bike, my camera and my backpack containing my laptop in the most wretched, nasty and dirty rice patty water you can imagine. The smell was horrendous and I was now covered, head to toe with watery muck. What a mess!
I quickly but gingerly threw my camera and backpack containing my laptop up to the safety of the road while I wrestled with my enourmously heavy and now upside down Honda Tiger. With the help of a passerby I was able to lift the bike back up onto the road but not first without scourching my leg on the hot, flesh burning exhaust pipe. It took me about 1 full minute to get my bearings back, remove the water from myself, my bags and my camera.
I was most worried about the electronics; if you ever get them wet the best course of action is to pull the battery as quickly as you can and then clean the internals if possible or let them dry with force fed air. Wait a good 24 hours and then hope for the best.
Now covered in dirty filth I wanted to get cleaned up and hopefully fix my electronics. I quickly blazed a trail in high gear to Tanah Lot to find lodging. Upon arrival I found a small hotel in the center of town less than 200 meters from the Hindu Temple. For $30 USD a night I checked in, took a quick shower and prepared my drying setup for my clothes, my camera and my now completely soaked shoes.
After, I got dressed in my spare clothes and made my way to the temple which is located on an island, 200 meters from the shorline.
It was low tide so I was able to walk out to the temple and was greeted by Hindu’s that doused me in holy water, gave me a flower for my hair and a white chandan mark (sort of like a chalk mark on the forehead) that signifies purity so that I could go up to the main ceremonial room. Lucky for me I didn’t get the red chalk mark; that would have meant I was possessed by the devil! I walked up 50 or so steps to a beautiful Hindu ceremony taking place. I respectfully hung out in the back of the ceremony and only took a few pictures to maintain my low profile. I could tell this was a big and exciting event for these people but beyond that it was mostly foreign to me. I did snap some awesome night photos outside and then a photo of some sort of Hindu beauty pageant or something before heading to bed.
On to Day 2:
Leaving Tanah Lot I headed North to Pupuan where I had an amazing lunch of pumpkin soup and some tender and spicy Balinese chicken. Continuing on the trail I stopped to snap some photos of the local people along the road and some of the large swastikas they had displayed. As you know, the swastika was used by the Nazi’s as their official symbol and often projects a negative emotion in Westerners but for all Hindus today, it is still considered extremely holy and auspicious and is regularly used to decorate items related to Hindu culture.
Next I arrived in Lovina, a beach city near the Northern most point in Bali. There wasn’t too much to do or see but I did snap some photos of the ocean and a monument while there. I did have one funny thing happen right before I got to Lovina. I was in the hills heading down and saw two rather large channels of water flowing next to the road. I snapped a photo just as I realized that there were nude people taking bathes in the flowing water and now they were smiling and waiving at me! After a short stop in Singaraja I looked at my watch to see it was quickly approaching night time but I really wanted to get to Kintamani where the Batur Volcano is, so I hit the road.
The trip South East towards Kintamani was longer than my iPhone GPS thought it was and a lot cooler than I ever thought a tropical island could be. Imagine me, riding my bike at 60-80 KM an hour through the mountains wearing nothing more than a t-shirt and swim trunks while the Balinese were outfitted with thick jackets and full length warm pants to overcome the cold. I arrived into town feeling frozen, like my bones were brittle and could break with the slightest injury, quite like metal that’s been tempered too many times.
I stayed in a small and cozy homestay villa for $20 that night at Batur Bagus Cottages and had their free breakfast of toast and coffee in the morning. The owner of the villa (pictured on the left) is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I asked him where I should get dinner and he said, if you’d like I can show you a nice place for medium price or a very good place for cheap price. He jumped on the back of my bike and waited for me the entire time while I finished my $3.50 meal. He hadn’t had much education but I could tell he was an intelligent guy and he spoke English quite well. The next day he tried to arrange a boat trip for me but was unsuccessful due to a lack of additional tourists willing to go in a group.
I decided to go visit Trunyan and that’s when my “cultural trip” got really exciting and took a turn towards the unusual. Trunyan is a native Balinese village where the people have the unique practice of burying their dead ABOVE ground and then after decomposition, they collect the bones for display. To get to their sacred burial ground I had to cross the lake and enlisted the help of two locals and a small boat.
Walking up to their burial ground was like a scene straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. This was my first time seeing, touching and even holding real human bones and human skulls while at the same time looking at other humans in varying levels of decomposition in bamboo cages. The dead bodies don’t produce bad smells because of the perfumed scents from a huge Taru Menyan tree growing nearby. Taru means “tree” and Menyan means “nice smell”.
After seeing what amounted to be the “climax” of my journey, I headed back to the Trunyan village by boat and then hung around for a while. I snapped many photos of the locals and even got to see a cock fight! In America this practice is banned but here in Trunyan, everyone enjoyed it, the men, the women, teenagers and even kids all loved it. Then I took some more photos of the locals including school children and a very old woman and hit the road for Sanur, where I could get some sun and relax.
Along the road I stopped to try some fresh durian fruit. Durian looks like a spikey coconut but contains some really strong smelling fruit that I didn’t care for. Hey at least I can say I tried it. Now please go check out the photos of my Bali motorcycle and cultural adventure and leave me a comment!