On Sunday we took a day trip away from Sanur to a very different part of Bali. Our gardener Nyoman invited us to the place where he grew up, in the north. I didn’t realize quite *how* north it was but we’ll get to that. We rented a car and driver for the day, as it’s quite cheap and there’s no way we would drive in Bali. Because guess what? Their license laws are very lax.
I’m not convinced that everyone *has* a license, since you see kids about 10 years old driving scooters, and the license process itself is essentially money in the pocket of the corrupt local government to get a piece of paper saying you know how to drive. No test or anything, because why would you need one of those? We haven’t seen any accidents, and I have to admit that the Balinese, especially those on scooters, maintain this beautiful and seemingly dangerous ballet on the road where they weave, go through a red light, drive the wrong way on the highway, pull out in front of you while you’re trying to turn, and just generally do things that would send you straight to jail in America. So $45 for a nice air conditioned van, fuel and a driver all day who can double as a really good tour guide? Yes please. We made our way north and made some amazing stops. First was “do you guys want a coffee break?” – assuming this was a convenience store, we said sure as we’d be in the car for nearly two hours. It was totally overcast, we were in very hilly country and I assumed it would rain soon (it did). As such it felt amazing outside. We got out and found ourselves at a coffee plantation.
What luck! A very sweet girl took us on a long tour of the place where we saw and smelled plants and trees like vanilla, cardamom, coffee (and tasted the little berry that the bean comes in), cocoa, durian, and pandan.
They took us down the terraced fields to a little hut where she had prepared several flavors of coffee and tea that they make from the plants that they grow. Everything was delicious (except the durian tea, no THANKS). One of the coffees they made had ginseng powder in it from the ginseng they grew. This cute, petite 21 year old girl informed us that ginseng is good for couples – (to Matt) “if you drink it, you become like tiger!” Matt of course jokes around and thoroughly embarrasses me, and then we move onto their most proud offering – luwak coffee.
Have you heard of it before? It’s one of the most rare and expensive coffees in the world, and here’s why (it’s kind of gross): a civet is a cat like creature that lives in Southeast Asia and has a taste for the cherries that grow on the coffee bushes. I don’t blame him, they’re actually kind of sweet tasting. He eats these, and then poops them out. He has special enzymes in his stomach that digest several layers of it but leave the bean inside intact. Some lucky soul gets to collect the results and clean it off (thoroughly!). The roasting process also kills any bacteria, for all concerned. At that point, you have an extremely smooth low acid cup of coffee that tastes and smells different and better than most coffee. Okay, most coffee here. It’s very hard to find drip coffee that’s not espresso, so while I’m sure that it holds up nicely against something they make at Oddly Correct in KC, this was the best coffee we had in Asia so far. Because we tried it! And shockingly, I had to push Matt to. He wanted nothing to do with it. And normally he’s the adventurous one.
We got to meet a couple civets – they’re pretty weird looking! – purchased some coffee and left. Our next stop was Ulun Danu Bratan temple, which is in the middle of Lake Bratan.
Since it was still overcast and we were deep in the mountains, it felt *almost* chilly. Everyone was wearing long pants and sleeves and we were reveling in how good it felt as opposed to the oppressive heat and humidity of the beach area. The view was absolutely stunning, and as we wandered around and then drove through the mountains, stopping at beautiful vistas, I felt much more at home here than on the beach. I think because it reminded me of the deepest part of the Ozarks.
We stopped for lunch at a place with a lovely view there and got a chance to hang out with our driver and Nyoman more.
They were both really kind and had good sense of humor and we really enjoyed spending the day with them. The driver Komang was a wonderful source of information as we drove through various villages. We made our way up to the northern coast of Bali, which was much farther than we realized, to stop and look at the ocean at Lovina Beach before we went to Nyoman’s home. It’s said if you get up early enough and go out on a boat here you can see dolphins. As we wandered around the pier, a large group of middle schoolers encircled us and asked us if they could interview us for their English class. They asked us our names, our birthdays, our jobs, and how long we would be in Lovina. They were so sweet and wanted to take pictures with us.
Interesting side bar about Nyoman’s name- there are a limited number of names for the Balinese. They are named based on the order of birth: first born is Wayan, Putu, Gede, or Ni Luh (girl only). Second is Made, Kadek, Nengah or Ngurah. Third is Nyoman or Komang, fourth is Ketut. If you have a fifth kid, you start over. So literally if you had 12 kids you could have three Ketuts. They can also have given names/nicknames that are chosen after birth, perhaps resembling an attribute their parents want them to have: Ketut Santi means peaceful Ketut, and might just end up going by Santi. They don’t have family names.
We went to Nyoman’s home. I didn’t get many pictures here because much of his extended family lives here in a compound of several homes and it felt like it would have been an invasion of privacy. All I can say is that Nyoman was incredibly hospitable in bringing us into his life, and we are really grateful for it. I did get to take a picture of the little boys of the family making their own miniature version of an ogoh-ogoh.
This is a creature that symbolizes the evil spirits that must be expelled out of humans’ lives. The night before Nyepi, people who have made incredibly intricate ogoh-ogoh parade them around the streets making a ton of noise. After Nyepi, they are burned.
Nyepi was on Wednesday March 9th and commemorates the start of their new year (the Balinese have two calendars they follow besides the typical Gregorian one). Nyepi is called the Day of Silence because the Balinese believe it should be a day of self-reflection before starting the new year rightly. Therefore, no one goes to work, no one even leaves their home, makes much noise, or turns on lights, or lights fires, takes place in any entertainment – and some don’t speak at all and fast all day. It’s kind of wild, because everyone has to obey this, even tourists, who must remain confined in their hotels. There are security people wandering the streets to persuade anyone to return home who is caught outside from 6 am to 6 am. They even close the airport! All you could hear during the day were the birds singing, the neighbor’s roosters crowing, and an occasional dog bark. At night, because no one has their lights on (and there are barely any street lights in our neighborhood) it’s completely dark. The amount of stars we saw were amazing, considering we are staying in a metropolitan area of almost 1 million.
We leave in two days for Bangkok. I’ll probably post again after we get there!
One more thing. We’ve added another photo sphere to our page, so go check it out!