Monday, October 31, 2016

Negotiations in Mas

Exploring Bali

Bringing home a wood carving from Bali was one of my top priorities so one morning we had our driver take us to nearby Mas, a village just south of Ubud, that is renowned for its master carvers.

He dropped us off at Karya Mas Gallery where two carvers were seated in front, plying their craft.  I was, of course, immediately drawn in.  I recognized the quality of the art, having already spent time in Ubud.  As I walked through the store, there were several pieces I fell in love with--all different.  All wonderful.

"But don't you want to walk the streets first?" my travel buddy suggested.  "See the other galleries?  Maybe you'll see something you'll like even better."

I had to make a decision.  I recognized this gallery had a clear advantage over the other shops in town.  Karya Mas had a big lot where all the drivers and taxis parked.  Were they getting a cut of the sales?  I don't know.  Would prices be better a few blocks down?  I don't know.

I was confident in my bargaining abilities.  And my eye.  I had done my research.  I knew what I wanted and I knew what I should pay.  No one was going to scam me.

I also knew that the more shops I went into, the more overwhelmed I would become.  Possibly even unable to make a decision.  So I decided to stay put.
The young man who helped me recognized that I was a serious buyer.  He followed me throughout the store and informed me of the price and wood and style of each piece I picked up.  And then he wisely took them to a small adjoining room. Negotiations had begun!
It turned out to be a very enjoyable experience.  I took my time and examined each piece for cracks or flaws.  I bargained hard and ended up buying two very different pieces.  A traditional Balinese dancer finely carved from hibiscus.  And an abstract man carved from mahogany.

He wrapped them in newspaper and bubble wrap for the long journey home.

 Now that I have unwrapped each one and placed them in my living room, I love them even more.

No doubts.

No regrets.

I did good.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Walking Through Rice

Exploring Bali

The Nefatari Villas, where we were staying outside of Ubud, border the rice fields.  I had been itching for days to take a closer look at them so one morning our hostess pointed us in the right direction and off we went.  As we were walking, a local farmer approached us and asked if we would like a private tour.  I have learned to jump at these chances.  It's a win-win for both parties.  Our guide would make a little money and we would get an up-close personal view of a fascinating place.

Plus, we would have gotten completely lost without him.  And possibly fallen into a trench!
  Because green is my favorite color, I must have taken close to a hundred pictures of these grassy, verdant fields.  I could not get over the bright, almost phosphorescent color.  So rich.  Fresh.  So green!  In my opinion, Bali is in the running with Ireland for the title, "Emerald Isle."

Because our guide was a rice farmer, he was a fount of knowledge.  We couldn't help but comment on the ducks swimming in the water channels.  They provide fertilizer for the fields and help keep the weeds at bay.  They rarely use chemicals in their farming, he said.

He went on to explain the rice-growing process and the importance of crop rotation to keep the soil healthy.  I didn't know that potatoes and corn are alternate crops in Bali.

Being as I have only seen rice packaged in plastic bags, it was fun to see the grains up close.  He pulled some stalks for us and told us the rice in these fields aren't quite ready yet.  It's not white when it's ripe, but a golden yellow.  Later, we saw piles of rice drying in the sun.
We met other farmers along the way.   I love how the locals have been able to hold on to their land despite a trend towards large global agricultural conglomerations.  I know it's hard work but these men and women not only feed their families, but the people of their country and beyond.  Indonesia is the third largest producer of rice in the world. (China and India are the top two.)

We ended our tour with a walk through the village of Sayan.  Our guide took us to a lovely garden restaurant overlooking the Ayung River where we watched several rafts floating down the gentle rapids.  We called our driver at Nefatari to come pick us up and our guide (and neighbor) rode back with us.

I think we ate rice for dinner every night we were in Bali.  (And sometimes for breakfast.)  Because of this walk through the fields, I have gained a better appreciation and understanding of what it takes to grow this vital food source.  I am in awe.  And extremely thankful. 

Rice feeds the world.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hidden Ubud Part Two

Our driver had taken us across the Campuan bridge into Ubud's center several times, but one day we decided to walk there from our villa and explore an ancient temple--the Pura Gunung Lebah.  It was built in the 8th century and is a beautiful example of Balinese architecture. The temple is nestled in a gorge, overgrown with lush, tropical plants at the confluence of two rivers.  How perfect is that!

It is an easy walk from the center of Ubud, as well.  Simply go west from the Puri Lukisan Museum until you hit the bridge.  You will see the temple to the right.  Follow the driveway and it will take you there.  Then backtrack to the bridge and take the steps down to the river.  It's a lovely setting.  This is hidden Ubud.  Unspoiled.  And magical.

Just north of the temple is where you can start the Campuan Ridge Walk, but we were already overheated and tired so we only went a little ways up the slope to the ridge.  Heat stroke is a very real danger and I came close to collapse more than once on this trip.  Those tall Bintang beers saved me! 

Please trust me when I say walking in this hot, humid climate can take a toll on you very very quickly (especially if you come from a cool temperate climate like Oregon).  Take lots of water and go as early as possible to avoid the most intense heat.  But GO!  The Bali of Yore is still out there to explore.  And this beautiful temple is a prime example. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mimi Wears Elephants

I bought these elephant-print pants at the Ubud Central Market in Bali.  After a bit of haggling, I paid a whopping 50,000 rupiahs for them, which translates to $3.84!

Since it has turned chilly in Oregon, I will put them away for a summer day.

There were some fixed-price high end boutiques in Ubud.  I looked longingly at a long tiered maxi dress and a black tunic studded with gold beads, but I passed on both.  My search for beautiful (okay . . . expensive clothes) is officially over.

 But the search for funky, inexpensive ones is obviously still on!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Balinese Art

A visual diary

During the course of my travels, I have met a few fellow tourists who did not carry a camera.  This always shocks me. "I store my mental pictures up here," they claim, tapping their foreheads.  I can understand, perhaps, not wanting to be burdened by these cumbersome contraptions, and I find myself putting my camera away at times.  But only after taking thousands of pictures.  It is the only way I can remember everything I see.

Back home in the security and comfort of familiar surroundings, I sort through the images and start to make sense of what I saw.  I see things that I missed during the excitement of the moment.  When did I take that picture?  I don't remember that.  Wow!

In Bali, especially, all my senses were bombarded on a daily basis.  Would my memories be stronger if I hadn't recorded them?  Maybe.  But it's the details that would have been missed.  It's the details that I study after arriving home.

  Art is everywhere in Bali.  Inside.  Outside.  On Hindu temples.  In gardens and rice paddies.  On the walls of buildings. But in my mind, the individual images would have melded together.  I wouldn't have lingered on a hand gesture.  I wouldn't have noticed the hidden humor inside a painting.  Or the sensuous curvature of a spine.  The rich deep color of mahogany.  The horror.  Or the sweetness.

Only the study of photographs can provide such pleasure.  Long after the trip is over.