When we arrived on Saturday we headed for Monkey Forest Road and checked out several places before settling on Nick’s Pension. This was because it nestled among rice terraces down the slope near a babbling brook which provided a pleasant aural backdrop.
That first day, we strolled down the (then undeveloped) road to the Monkey Forest, took a few photos and discovered the best eating places – Lilies and Otawaties (now long gone). We also bought our first souvenirs, a sarong for Sam and two temple scarves to be worn as belt sashes.
Day 2 was spent cycling, for Rp.5,000 each, which we thought a tad expensive when we could have hired a motorcycle for Rp.6,000.
Goa Gajah, with the cave entrance carved as a monster’s mouth, was impressive, not least for the snap-it-quick tourists. So we cycled on to Yeh Pulu through quiet country lanes lined with impressive, well kept courtyard houses.
Presently, Yeh Pulu is still a small village attraction, past a well used washing place with similar wall figures of stone women spouting water at at Goa Gajah, to a frieze of figures depicting life some nine centuries ago. Ganesh is still worshipped ~ donations please.
At the end of the lane is a small homestay where the old proprietor proudly displayed his guestbook: few people had stayed there. Was he dreaming of new found wealth because of the lane below being being paved to cater for the expected influx of tourists?
We later cycled on to the old state temple of the Kingdom of Pejeng with its large single-cast bronze drum, made donations at the Museum Arkeologi and ended up at Pura Kebo Edan (Crazy Buffalo Temple) with its four-metre high statue of Bima with six (or is it four?) penises.
[fr. this website: The legend of this Bima is very interesting. Bima falls in love with a certain woman, and the desire to her has risen. However, the penis of Bima was too big for her. And, she has found another lover at last. Bima has found them making love one day. Bima that trembles with anger tramples and killed them.]
Perhaps I lack a sense of spiritual need but so many temples seem dead, lacking a sense of daily use or need. Yet the Balinese can be seen placating the spirits everywhere with offerings at every entrance, gateway or door, and their character is very friendly as if secure within themselves and at peace with their world.
When we cut back to Ubud through a newly carved road – built by the army, as an enormous monument to their recent (March ’88) endeavours told every traveller – we were only once asked for money, by an adult, for cigarettes. Some children did ask for pens, but it seemed a world away from the main thoroughfares. “A pillion ride? What’s your name? Where you coming from? Where you go?” asked in a spirit of curiosity and friendliness.
I am saddened by my sense of cynicism, a feeling of déja vu as the evidence of the impact of unfeeling, uncaring and unseeing tourists is everywhere. Little good has come from the meeting-clash of cultures. When cremations are turned into circuses and dances to celebrate life are turned into photographic displays, then awareness, understanding and empathy are lost.
Somewhere, possibly everywhere, roots are intact and the culture, the community life continues. I would sooner be seen as a welcome guest than as a voyeur, yet inevitably this is how we are seen and labelled, the same as those who’ve passed by before us.