A quick, light breakfast (the Bali coffee is very good) and I met my tour pickup (Tour East), although they were a bit late, and headed off to the volcano for the day. Along for the ride were a couple from New Zealand, another couple from Australia, and two women traveling together, one from Kenya and the other from Nigeria. They met in Washington, D.C., where the Kenyan lives. The Nigerian lives in Jakarta. They sat in the seats in front of me so we talked a bit.
Of course, we had a guide and a driver, as well. We rode in a new 14-seat van. The low number of passengers meant that I had the back row to myself. In truth, that was all that was left for me, as I was the last one picked up. But it turned out OK. I could put my legs up and take up all three seats.
We had an aggressive schedule, with stops planned for a Balinese play, silver making, wood carving, coffee/cocoa plantation, two temples, lunch at the mountaintop, art gallery, rice paddies.
Our first stop was to view a four-act Balinese play. They had a large, covered amphitheater
and about 150 tourists were packed in. Outside, the vans lined the roads. All the tour operators and their customers were here.
The production including live music from a Balinese band and elaborately costumed actors. Unfortunately, the auto focus on my camera was not set properly, so all my shots were blurred. The play was about a tiger, money, god, woman, her son, and whatever – probably good fare for the women and children in the crowd. I took some pictures and started wandering outside, trying to get a sense of the neighborhood. Pre-arranged tourist productions are not my preference, exploring is.
Next, we visited a silver jewelry shop in Celuk. The silver comes from mines in other parts
of Indonesia. The country has many rich deposits of silver, gold and copper, including the largest gold mine in the world.
The villages here often specialize in one particular product. One may have mostly silver shops, another furniture and wood carvings, another stone carvings. We passed through one village, Batubulan, where stone carvings, some over six feet tall, lined the road.
The silver jewelry production is very primitive, with a person sitting at a small table first processing the silver to be made into jewelry. Then an artisan creates what turns out to be some amazingly intricate and beautiful bracelets, necklaces, earrings, broaches and other pieces. Many of the pieces are inlaid with gems.
The store had a wide selection of pieces offered in numerous glass enclosures. Two young women tracked me around the cases, they inside and me walking around at the perimeter. I had already decided to buy here if the prices were right, as I had some gifts I needed to find on this trip.
You are expected to haggle over the prices, but, in reality, they have a bottom line they will let you get to. They give you a price first, saying that is just the first, or asking, price, encouraging you to go lower so that you feel you have some control over the situation. After you make your bid, they come back with what they will sell the piece for, usually about 20% off the original price. While your negotiating with one girl, the other is likely to bring out another piece for you to consider. Kind of an intentional distraction.
While I’m not knowledgeable about jewelry, the prices seemed very low. I purchased two intricately-designed bracelets, earrings fashioned after sea fans and a butterfly necklace inlaid with a red garnet. The total came to 1.8 million rupiah, or about $200. I suspect that either of the bracelets would cost more than that in the States. They took credit cards.
Outside, as I was waiting for the others, I walked to the street and was immediately approached by a guy selling intricately crafted bone sculptures. I bought one for 200,000 rupiah and he almost ran me over trying to sell me two. A word of caution: The hawkers can be VERY aggressive, even annoying. It’s best to walk away if you’re not interested, although they will follow you even to your vehicle after you have entered.
Next we went to a wood-carving shop, where there were two men sculpting chucks of wood
outside. They were seated cross-legged and would position the wood in their feet and legs as they worked. Inside, there was some remarkable carvings – elephants, herons, masks, spirits, chess sets and more. I collect carved elephants so I asked the price for one about 10 inches high made of mahogany. Three million rupiah was far too much to pay, in my mind, however, although the salesman badgered me anyway. He followed me around trying to sell me everything I stopped to admire. The prices here were much too high and none of us bought anything.
Historical note: Fifteen years ago I had the opportunity to visit Thailand, where I purchased several teak elephants for about $8-10 each. $300 for the same item, made from a lesser wood, seemed too steep a price, even given the intervening years.
A note about negotiating prices – if you threaten to walk away, or say you will come back later, you will almost always get a lower price. Just saying.
It was now time to start climbing toward the volcano, Mount Kintamani, On the way, we stopped at an area overlooking a ravine filled with terraced rice paddies. They are between plantings here (they plant rice twice a year), so the paddies were empty. Water for the fields comes from a lake above them. This was one of the places on our tour that most of the tour operators stop.
A note about the tour stops – many are pre-arranged between the tour operator and the venues where you stop, with the tour operator earning a commission on sales.
Above the rice paddies, I asked our guide to take a picture of me with the two women from
Next, we stopped at a temple. Most of the 3.4 million people on Bali are Hindu (90%), as opposed to the 88% Muslim population of the whole of Indonesia. There are Hindu temples everywhere. In fact, a village cannot be considered a village unless it has at least three temples.
To enter the temple, we first had to don a sarong, wrapped around our waist and knotted for us. I almost tripped on mine climbing the steps. One section of the temple grounds is for healing baths and there were a number of people there. Another section was for prayers. There were several ponds with fish in them and a number of worship altars scattered about. The temple dates to the 16th century.
We then headed for Kintamini, and as we climbed in altitude, the farming changed from rice paddies and corn to mandarin oranges, cabbages, coffee and cocoa fields. Through the roadside vegetation, we could catch a glimpse of the highest peak on the island, Mount Agung, elevation 3,142 meters, an active volcano. One side was covered with clouds to the peak.
Our journey took a break at the Magu Sari restaurant overlooking the Mt. Kintamini valley. Quite spectacular. The volcano has two vents and sits in what looks like the giant caldera of a massive volcano. One side of the volcano shows a large area of black lava.
There is a large lake, Lake Batur, with a thin ridge rising above it like the rim of a glass. To the right are two more peaks, with Mt. Agung the highest, the clouds still masking part of it. The temperatures at this altitude were significantly lower than in Denpasar (that’s the main city of Bali, and where you fly in).
We had lunch at the restaurant overlooking the volcanoes and the valley. Lunch was buffet style, Indonesian food. It was quite a varied offering, with steamed and flavored rices, noodles, various fish dishes, several types of chicken, including sate, soups, vegetables, a large choice of fruits. I had some chicken and fish, noodles, chicken sate, vegetables, clear vegetable soup and fried banana – with a Bintang. Total was 152,000 rupiah, including tip and service charge. I thought the food was good but the Aussies and New Zealanders weren’t impressed, commenting that I was easily satisfied.
I’m not sure any of us were really enthralled with the rigidity of the tour, wanting to see more of the real Bali instead of the version packaged for tourists. Such is the nature of the Bali experience, I expect, however. Lots of souvenir shops, clothing stores, restaurants, hotels, massage parlors and vacation-related activities. Little of seeing what the culture and the people are really like. Having said that, the tour operator did a good job of execution and variety, although a visit to a bazaar would be a nice addition.
Back to the second half of our tour. Our first stop on the way down the mountain was at another temple, this one dating to the 11th century. Again with the sarong. Ken in a dress – twice in one day. Go figure. This one had a small cave guarded by a large wall carved as the face of a Bali tiger. Inside the cave were several altars.
Outside the temple were two rows of souvenir shops. This is where I completed my gift buying. I needed small gifts for all the Goodies waitresses, as well as something a little better for the Mawar, Sida, in the office (I had already purchased t-shirts for Sarijan and Hidayat at the volcano), and something a little special for Sumria and Risma. All the stalls sold basically the same things. I stopped at one for no reason in particular and started bargaining.
Negotiated for two pieces of Batik fabric, about 3 meters square, for Mawar and Sida.
These can be used to make clothing. Also bought wooden bracelets for the Goodies girls and a “I live Bali” shirt for Risma. Forgot to get something for Sumria, which I will do my last day here outside the hotel. Now I officially have too much to carry on the plane back.
Our next stop was at a “coffee plantation,” another multi-tour stop. This was more a coffee-tasting stop, and included a walk through a botanical garden of sorts. We sat down for a coffee and tea tasting. The local cocoa is very good, as is the ginseng coffee, which I’m going to have to find in Batam. They put six cups of tea and coffee in front of me to try.
Outside the gardens, as we waited to leave, the hawkers were very aggressive, but why they would think I need a toy motorcycle or collapsing salad bowl is beyond me.
We had one more stop on the itinerary, an art gallery, but everyone agreed we had had enough touring and were ready to head back. It was about an hour’s journey to the Kuta section of Denpasar, where the traffic was wall-to-wall. Luckily, I was let off second. Last to get on the van and second to get off is a good thing.
Back at the hotel, I went to the mini mart for beverages (note: you can buy relatively inexpensive alcohol at the mini marts, which are located everywhere) and then took a swim, although with the small pool it was more like a soak. Then went back to Posers for dinner, this time the wiener schnitzel, which was good. I tried to call James, who I motorbiked with the day before to go to that sales pitch, but the number on the card he gave me didn’t work. I was going to have him bring me to the bar district but decided I was too tired and stayed at the hotel. I still haven’t been to the bar district.