Jakarta and Bali

Instead of writing updates, I have devoted untold hours to preparing the oft-
promised, content-laden, photo-illustrated, new, improved website.  Actually,
it is ready to publish… except I can’t get it to go live.  Some combination of
low bandwidth, large graphic images, and my own ineptitude has thwarted
my many attempts to make the new site available to you, the (largely
disinterested) public.  So I’ll ask you to settle for a page at a time and the
occasional image until I can get over my resurgent technophobia.
Editor's note: This, perhaps obviously, has been overcome.]
But we have been busying ourselves with other things, I promise.  Just
yesterday I returned to the dread Carrefoure department store.  Carrefoure
is the home of volume buying – there are many bulk items to be had, among
which are the banks of televisions and stereos all tuned to different stations
at maximal blare.  While quick to supply the necessities to our staff, we have
gradually learned that we’ve been remiss in supplying some of the comforts
they expect when working for an “expat” household.  So I picked up a small
refrigerator, a rice cooker, a double-burner gas cookstove, a hot-and-cold
water dispenser, and a few other items for the staff area.  Some of these
were already here, but they were part of our “survival package” – a selection
of essentials the company provided to tide us over until we get situated.  
When our ship comes in we are to return the non-food items to the company
warehouse.  (Our shipment from Houston is expected on the 15th of August;
I don’t know whether it’s come ’round Tierra del Fuego or if it was shipped
from the west coast of the U.S.)  So it was like Christmas for the staff
yesterday as we unloaded all these various new appliances.

That was just yesterday, 3 August.  I should reach a little further back since I
haven’t written anything since 21 July.  That was the day we flew to Bali.  Our
departure was reminiscent of some British manor on Masterpiece Theatre.  
Nani equipped us with a hamper of traveling food, the bags were carried to
the car, and the staff gathered on the front drive to see us off.
We arrived in Bali at about 10:30p (it’s an hour later there) and were snug in
our beds in the Bali Hilton International by midnight.  Over the next few days
Arianna took scores of pictures of the lovely hotel grounds, some of which I
hope to one day put on the ding-dang new site.  We spent Friday lounging
and lazing at the pool or on the white-sand beach.  This grueling schedule
was interrupted by a quick parasailing venture.  We went up individually for
rather brief circuits of a small inlet – maybe five minutes each.  It was the first
time any of us had been airborne with a parachute, and we’ll do it again, I’m
The hotel grounds are dotted with statues, small to huge, incorporating the
classical Balinese characters – fierce bird-beaked creatures, priapic monkey
gods, and the occasional elephant-headed Ganesh.  Some of the smaller of
these are used as shrines by the hotel staff, who are often seen
replenishing the small woven baskets at the foot of the statues with
foodstuffs and incense.  I skeptically took this to be a Hilton mandate to bring
artificial local flavor to their hotel.  But when we got out to the rest of the
island and away from the concentration of five-star hotels, we saw the same
types of offerings scattered everywhere.  In fact, the taxi we booked for the
day on Saturday had one such 4”x4”woven basket on the dashboard,
another tucked under the windshield wiper, and another wedged into the
“Teksi” sign on the roof.
Although we had hoped to have a guide take us around, we were there on
Saraswati, so the gentleman with whom we’d made very loose plans was too
involved with his family to introduce us to the island.  Saraswati is one of
many Balinese days of homage — this one, we’re told, celebrating
cleverness and book-learning.  As such, we’re not sure which things we saw
in our day of exploration were standard daily Balinese life and which were
altered somewhat by the day of celebration and meditation.  Folks have told
us there is almost always some sort of celebration, festival, or special day
underway there.
En route to Ubud, a larger, inland town known as a center of the arts, we
stopped off and signed up for a river rafting tour on the Ayung River.  The
tour operator’s office was close to Denpasar (Bali’s main town).  Ubud and,
beyond that, the starting point of our rafting trip are about an hour inland.  I
offer this information only so you’ll understand the logistics involved when I
realized that I’d left my bag in the tour operator’s offices.  About $350 in
cash and traveler’s cheques, our digital camera, a post-rafting change of
clothes for Alissa and me… all sitting on a bench in a small office by then 50
minutes behind us.  The people at the rafting office ended up keeping the
bag behind the desk and we picked it up afterward, but our shopping in the
open market in Ubud was necessarily limited, and we have no digital photos
of our day exploring interior Bali.

The market was packed with colorful stalls stacked with bargains.  We
bought only a few trinkets, a sari or three, a couple of shirts, and such.  
Rafting was a real treat; we wound through deep, green gorges, shot
through some minor but fun rapids, and passed among the picturesque,
terraced rice paddies we’ve all seen in elementary school social studies
textbooks.  What we hadn’t bargained for (and what was curiously
overlooked in the brochure description of the rafting trip) was the total of
maybe 800 steps required to descend into and ascend from the
valley/gorge.  Some of us – no names please – felt the after-effects for
days.  I would have clipped a few photos of our rafting adventure to this write-
up, but, you’ll recall, our digital camera was tucked under someone’s desk
back at the rafting office.  They had a cameraman in a kayak racing ahead
of our three rafts and capturing our trip on video, but they wanted $40 for a
copy of the film.  We’ll make do with the memories (although we did buy a
still photo of us plunging down a little four-foot drop).
As we’d been told, Bali was a very suitable antidote to several weeks in
Jakarta; we are already booking our next trip.  This time we’ll not stay in a
big-name, five-star international hotel on the beach but rather a smaller,
perhaps villa-style inn of the sort we saw along the river in the interior.  And
when we go, we’ll make time to visit the volcano, more terraced rice paddies,
and, of course, the sacred monkey forest.
Javalogue 6: 21-24 July 2005
Door, Fence, Prow, Bushes
Not necessarily in that order.  
On the hotel grounds in Bali.
The Main Arcade / Lobby
They were pretty heavily into
the massive sculpture.  As you
can see, all the "public areas" at
the hotel are open-air.
the Javalogue
Balinese Hindu Shrine
Also on the hotel grounds.  
Small bits of fruit and incense
were continuously being placed
in the small, woven baskets you
see in the figure's lap.  The
black and white cloth is
ubiquitous and, we were told, is
simple symbolism for the
juxtaposition of good and evil.