kBali: First Impression II

On my third day visit in Bali, I took a full-day sightseeing in the northern part of Bali, passing by Celuk Village, which is famous for its silver and gold jewelry (I saw the silversmith in action too); Mas Village, which is well known as the center of wood carving in Bali; and Mount and Lake Batur, which is my first time to see a live volcano—it is said Mount Batur, whose current eruption was three years ago, is the second tallest mountain in Bali after Gunung Agung. I could still see the pitch-black volcanic soils on the mountainside. I began the day trip with a famous Balinese dance—Barong Dance which signifies the eternal fight between good and evil spirit. And a visit to Sebatu—a holly spring water temple ended my wonderful full-day sightseeing. Before entering the local temple, my tour guide helped me fasten a ribbon belt around my waist. I guess it’s a ritual way for non-hindus not to bring bad spirits into the holy temple. It was raining when I was touring Sebatu, which made it more sacred and clean for this religious visit. My tour guide even explained to me that the Hindus bathed in the springs here to purify themselves and what do local people put into their offerings. There are several fresh springs inside Sebatu and the local villagers believe the crystal clear spring in Sebatu as the fountain of youth. Although I haven’t been to Cambodia, I found a slight similarity in architectural style between Sebatu and Angkor Wat.

 

I didn’t waste a second to sightsee as much as possible while I was in Bali. After a totally new experience of spa, I visited the closest tour spot to my hotel—Tanah Lot. When tides in, the temple is separated from the bank by sea water. Balinese rituals are governed by a complex calendar system. My visit in Bali somehow encountered a Hindu festival Galungan. Penjor (decorated bamboo poles) hung over the streets of Bali during that time. It is said the celebration, which falls every six months and showcases good over evil, is followed ten days later by another religious day, Kuningan. I was amazed at Balinese’s devoutness to their belief.
 

Last but not least, I savored the authentic Balinese cooking in Bali as a guest of a hospital family. My first impression of Balinese food was fantastic. It’s a precious experience to taste home-made cuisines when you are traveling. Fruits are abundant in Bali. I got to know a tropical fruit called “sala” (not sure about its spelling) in Ubud. It’s so tasty, especially the ones in Jakarta. Check out my brief journal in Jakarta for “sala.”

 

There’re so much to write about my Bali visit. I thought to myself that time could be a good filter–the longer I wait to write this travel journal, fewer words I would say. However, three weeks has past from my Bali visit, the memory still stays very fresh and grows even fonder. I’m sure my first impression of Bali will always be in my mind.

 

Bali, I’ll be back!!!

 

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Brief Stop @ Jakarta: New Meets Old

 

(May 2006)

 

I only stayed in Jakarta for no more than 36 hours. With the kind help of a friend Warief, who is a veteran journalist in Jakarta, I was very fortunate not just sightsee what I could see but also get to know the history background of every place he showed around in Jakarta. I was amazed and admired Warief’s knowledge of his country—so professional and thorough! It’s almost like hearing story behind story. Anyway, the downtown of Jakarta is quite modern. Skyscrapers one after another, create the skyline of the hub of commerce in Jakarta. I first thought that was the modernization of Jakarta, no different from well-developed Hong Kong or Singapore. We passed by the landmark of Jakarta, the national monument, the statue of Arjuna and Khrisna and quite a few important government offices which every country’s capital should have. Indeed, passing by these important government buildings, it gave me a feeling like driving along Chang’an Street in Beijing.

 

Warief took us to Jakarta’s Chinatown—Glodok. The old part of Chinatown is quite different from the new part. I was shocked to see the dilapidated Old Chinatown. I felt like I went back to a lifestyle of fifty years ago. According to Warief, Old Chinatown used to be a heaven of vendors. In order to drive away the obnoxious vendors, a beautiful square for pastime with wide open pavement became the sacrifice, now they were like a dump with iron fences around the whole area, attracting only flies and rats. Many Chinese here are running family business like Chinese medicine stores, clinics or stores selling all kinds of goodies in the wet market. The only Chinese characters I could see were the old forms Chinese read from right to left on the dusty plaque of the drugstores. It was my first time to get such a close look at the overseas Chinese’s life. Obviously, in the old days Chinese had a tough life in Jakarta. My dad told me in the old days only those whose life were really miserable in China would think about going overseas for a better living. I guess my dad is right based on what I saw in Jakarta. I suddenly sympathized for those Chinese in Old Chinatown. We also went to a temple in Chinatown. Gosh! Never had I been in such a smoky and heated temple. All I could see were familiar Chinese faces and the lit-up incense and huge candles—they were tall enough to reach my chin! I assumed they could burn for an entire year.

 

Warief then showed us around the Museum Wayang (Java Puppet Museum). Although I couldn’t see a live puppet show during my visit, I felt pleased to see puppets with all kinds of expressions and costumes. Then we went to Jakarta History Museum which was housed in a Dutch style building. I learned a lot of history from Warief in this section of the city. Plus there were so much to see inside the museum. Chinese history is complicated to foreigners, likewise the Indonesian history to Chinese. Warief took us to a fancy restaurant opposite the museum for lunch, where I tried Cantonese Dim Sum like chicken feet. They served so many that I couldn’t finish them. A brief stop at the fish market and Jakarta port gave me a better understanding of the lower life in Jakarta. My heart was heavy and what I saw was thought-provoking. Like in China’s big cities, the contrast between poverty and wealth in Jakarta is sharp too.

 

We were invited to a party at a local friend’s house. I had another amazing experience with the Jakarta home-made dishes. If I said I liked the home-made Balinese chicken dish, then I liked the home-made Jakarta grilled whole fish. That was my last dinner in Indonesia. Our host and hostess were friendly to introduce me to the tropical fruit “sala”, a better taste from Java than in Bali in my opinion. If not because they get spoiled quickly, I’d have brought some back home.

 

A memorable trip with lots of things to share but it’s nothing better than you adventure it by yourself. Thanks to all who helped me on the way to complete such a fun trip in Indonesia; and thank you for paying attention to my travel journal!

 

Miss ya all!!!

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