Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bali: The Beginning

In two days I am driving to North Dakota to spend a week at my cabin and celebrate my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary.  As I will once again be removed from any internet connections, I have decided to regale you all with a series of posts about my time in Bali that will be able to provide blog fodder while I'm gone and allow me to document my trip in more detail.  I hope you don't mind.  Feel free to simply scroll through and look at pictures if you'd rather do that.

I have to say, I was very nervous about my flights to Bali.  I had never been out of the United States and had no idea what to expect in terms of Customs, Immigration, obtaining a Visa, or anything else related to international travel that shouldn't have made me nervous.  Of course, everything was just fine and I made it to Bali as expected, but the stress was there.  Upon arrival I was greeted by nice men who helped me through Customs and then demanded 100,000 rupiah for their efforts (that's about US $10, but it's also a LOT of money in Bali).  I'm glad I got ripped off right at the beginning of my trip so I could get it over with and move on.

Day 0:

 I didn't arrive at my hotel until 1:30am, but it was still absolutely gorgeous!

It looked even better in the morning, too.

I really considered my hotel to be a little haven off from what I began to consider the "other" Bali, which one was able to find at the end of the driveway - crumbling sidewalks, stray dogs, congested roads, etc.  This was a hidden gem, unseen from the road and unexpected when looking at its surroundings.  From the journal:  "The rain is falling harder now and I have chosen to sit and listen to the sound of the rain on the palm trees, with birds conversing in the background as a stream noisily tumbles its way past the balcony.  I am certain I could sit here forever and be at peace."

I did eventually leave the hotel and promptly got lost for two hours wandering the streets of Pengosekan and Ubud.  On that first day, I also saw a mindblowing gamelan performance and on the way stopped at the Ubud market across the street from the Water Palace.  The market was a bit overwhelming, but it was exciting to simply throw my whole self into it to see how I fared.  With my minimal Indonesian I was able to come out with some proper temple attire and a better ability to haggle.  That was, as it turns out, my one and only time at the Ubud market.

Day 1:

This was the first day of the Cudamani Summer Institute and I finally met all of the people I would be spending the next three weeks with.  I could not believe that I was meeting some of the most incredible, amazing and groundbreaking musicians, dancers, and choreographers in Bali and I was so humbled that they were willing to put in the time and dedication towards teaching foreigners their arts.

We didn't have rehearsal that day because we loaded onto a bus and drove down to Denpasar to see the Bali Arts Festival (or PKB - Pesta Kesenian Bali), as the Cudamani (pronounced soo-da-ma-ni) girls' gamelan was performing. 

This was a really important event because until only recently, women weren't allowed to play gamelan.  Several women's groups have been organized in Bali in the past couple of decades, but as far as I know this girl's ensemble is one of the few (if not the only) gamelan made up of girls and not grown women.  This was also, if I remember correctly, the first time they had been invited to perform at this island-wide event, so it was an absolutely honor for them to perform and I was so excited that I had the opportunity to be there.

Performance venue - seriously
Their performance was absolutely incredible and they all looked unbelievable in their tailor-made, hand-painted costumes.  

Pre-performance picture
I couldn't believe all the work that went into preparing for this performance and I felt so proud of all of them as I listened to them perform.  Two of the three pieces they performed were new compositions, and two of them also featured dancers.  Unbelievable!  (This word is going to pop up a lot in my posts.)  
I should mention that somehow we found ourselves sitting in the front two rows of a huge sea of people.  What an opportunity!

Check back tomorrow for more!


  1. I think it's possible to do quite well as a con artist taking in unsuspecting foreigners. It's definitely one of those things you tend to learn pretty quickly.

    So lovely. Did you make an offering to Lord Ganesha?

  2. Can't wait to see more photos! What an amazing trip!

  3. I'm glad you got the con part out of the way quickly, and a pretty harmless con at that! THe performance looks amazing. Enjoy your second vacation / family reunion!

  4. What a beautiful place! Your photos are amazing Peter.....can't wait to see and read more about your trip.

  5. WOW! That hotel looks amazing. I love the architecture and the sculptures; they are just fascinating.

    I wonder, are we going to get to see you dressed in this temple garb?