The original plan was to get up super early and head to Ubud. However, this plan was scuppered when my alarm when off…and my brain screamed several profanities and turned it off. Turns out that one nights good sleep after a 20 hour trip followed by a 1am day slog the very next day is not conductive to a functioning mind. I ended up staying in bed a good hour more than intended and only dragged myself up because I didn’t want to waste the day.
As it turns out, I shouldn’t have worried – the guys at the desk warned me that today was not a day I wanted to be travelling, as there are several ceremonies happening today in preparation for Nyepi and I wouldn’t get anywhere. Looks like I’ll be leaving it till Sunday instead.
Nyepi, FYI, is the Balinese New Year, this time hitting on Saturday 21st. There are several ceremonies beforehand, although the most famous is the parades they perform on Friday where dozens of hand crafted demons and idol statues are paraded down the streets of each village (made from paper mache – I’ve seen several young children attacking cardboard shapes and figures on my travels) before setting them alight to rid the island of demons. What follows is Nyepi, or ‘The Day of Silence’ which I hadn’t prepared for. On this day, the island shuts down. It’s believed that if the island appears abandoned, demons wont settle hear and will leave – so from 6am Saturday to 6am Sunday all shops shut, ATM’s aren’t functioning, cable companies wont broadcast, and the only people allowed out on the street are emergency services. Even the airport closes. The tourists are no exception – you will be expected to remain in the hotel/hostel for the duration.
With this in mind, I’m transferring from the Downtown Hostel to Kayun’s original hostel 10 minutes up the road on the grounds that it has a pool (if I have to be trapped inside for 24 hours, I need the assurance that I can cool down if required. A plan that sadly gets scuppered come the 20th). Its slightly cheaper than my hostel, and sharing a 16 bed dorm room now, but its pretty much exactly the same as my current hostel.
I wander around with Jo, Sandra and a guy from our room for a while, but break off after a time to head back to the Beachwalk shopping centre to try my luck at the Museum Kain. Its open, and the 100,000 rupiah entrance fee comes with a gentleman who can answer any questions (though his main job is to make sure nobody is touching any of the non-touch fabrics).
I believe the museum changes its exhibition regularly, showing different fabrics from Indonesia (Museum Kain more or less translates to ‘Museum of Cloth’). At the moment, the exhibition is Batik, the unique hand drawn ink designs found on traditional Indonesian clothing. The museum starts with showing the step by step process – first the design is drawn (or for common designs such as phoenixes or bushels of flowers, stamped) on in wax. Then certain parts of the design are filled in with wax to protect them from the first dye – usually a dark blue or navy. Once that’s done additional parts of the the wax are removed, and certain parts have the wax scratched and chipped, so that on the next dye colour, the batik creates the unique tie-dye/ripple colouration. This process is continued until all the wax is removed and every colour has been added to create a beautiful line of fabric, which depending on its size and design, can be used as a skirt/dress/top/scarf/headdress or even a simple sash).
The collection shows off the different designs that were developed in different ports over Java – where designs where often inspired by what to the local people saw and did every day. Fish and flowers are regular themes, although there were many designs that could only be worn by royalty. Some batiks were even sold half complete – you would have a large design in one third, along with a border – and leave the remainder blank to put in any design the owner desired. As such you get many batiks that have several designers – clear in the style or art and the colouration of the dyes used (different reds in different ports to show both designs were created at different times). As you get into the last century, you get even more unique designs – including one piece of work that was created in honour of Indonesia’s badminton champions – hosting a design filled with racquets and shuttle cocks.
In the final part of the museum, there’s an opportunity to wear some quality batik – and I learned I’ve been wearing sarongs wrong pretty much my entire life (although to be fair, don’t think I’ve ever owned one that can wrap around me twice) and have you can wear shorter scarves as tops (seriously, how did I get through life this long without figuring it out?), as well as a small section showing modern batik and what the designers have achieved in recent times. Most impressive is the batik dyed on cashmere wool – up until the last decade, batik was impossible on wool as it couldn’t survive the wax process. It took 12 years of experimenting before they developed a technique to pull in off in the mid 2000’s.
No clue if this fixture will be leaving in the near future (or leaving at all – I’ve found Indonesian to be frustratingly easy to misunderstand), but its well worth the entry fee if you have any interest in clothing or its history.
I migrated back to my hotel and decided to give the previously mentioned pool a shot. Its a little dirty and the water frightfully warm in this heat, but its certainly tolerable. I eventually end up back in my dorm room for several hours before getting ready for my evening entertainment. On my google hunts I’d found a show called Devdan at the Bali Nusa Dua Theatre that was all about traditional dances and performances representing Indonesia. It looked a lot like the show I’d seen in Thailand which I’d loved, so reserved a cheap ticket and booked a taxi.
Didn’t quite realise just how far away Nusa Dua was – google maps said it was 20 minutes away, but that’s not a really accurate description. The taxi took me through several streets and some really interesting neighbourhoods before entering the giant bridge that towers over the water space that seperates chunks of Bali. Its actually a pretty spectacular piece of construction – The bridge twists and spirals in some pretty incredible turns – its almost worth the toll just to drive along it.
The show itself is held in a very touristy compound and is set up similar to the one in Thailand, only without the excess entertainment outside. I was sitting in the cheapest seats, sitting to the far right of the stage, but still had a great view as the place was maybe a quarter full.
The performance itself? Well…
The first half was great – some pretty great choreography and scenes put together with a fantastic score. Unfortunately half way though, it seems to lose a lot of its gusto. There’s an over reliance on acrobatics rather than dance, 2 modern dances (and really, if I wanted to see people dressed as monkeys grinding to a Western singers pop song I’d go down to a Kuta nightclub for free) and very little in scenery dressing – even the costumes started to look cheap.
Sadly, its biggest problem is that it’s chosen to add a plot in order to explain WHY you are seeing all the dances of the Indonesian continent – and this is in the form of 2 children who break away from a tour group, climb a mountain and start digging through a treasure chest to find relics from different cultures. Its hideously bad – gives serious mood whiplash and frankly detracts from the entire thing. The kids are doing the best they can, but the fact is they’re relying on a bad voice over and a really bad script – and there’s really no need for their role at all.
Its sad, because the first half proves there’s potential here, and the show in Thailand proved to me what a show like this can do when money and proper planning are given to it. At the moment, although I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Especially not the very expensive seats.
My taxi driver had remained in Nusa Dua and was just waiting for me to call so I could get back. This was a big boon as in Bali, finding a decent taxi driver is a nightmare – especially if you can’t haggle. The only company known for reliability is Blue Bird Taxi’s, who always use the meter. Other companies actually try to imitate their cars in order to confuse tourists, so its great to know how to tell them apart.
When I got back, fell into a conversation with one roommate wanting to go out for food. Ended up joining Seretha, although our quick jaunt out did take us to the beach, walking along the front on the lookout for open stores before migrating back to Legian Street and buying burgers. Best option as unlike most of the food we saw on the streets, these were cooked fresh. Nice, if a very weird mix of flavours (very spicy sauce, and the Balinese apparently have an obsession with sweet bread cause the bun would have felt more comfortable on a dessert tray) and dirt cheap.
Unfortunately, was out at least an hour longer than I intended, and since I have no intention of sleeping in again since I actually have a pickup tomorrow, crash and try to grab as much sleep as possible.