Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bali High with Gede*

I am thinking about easing back into life in the Western and Northern hemispheres after an extended visit to the opposite side of the world.  For my loyal readers, here's a bit of a travelogue as a warm-up.  Health care issues may start up in a few days.  (My Facebook friends have been watching pictures come in over the last two weeks.  Friend me, and you can see more there.) 

After conducting some negotiation workshops with my colleague Jim Sebenius in Kuala Lumpur for business and government executives, it was time leave him behind for some R&R in Bali.  Our superb guide and driver, Gede Suardana (more about him below), led us through some great places, including Klungkung.  Here we viewed the Kertha Gose (Hall of Justice), which served as a kind of Supreme Court in the old days.  If I were a guilty defendant, I might be pretty nervous in viewing the artwork in the frieze of the building.  No, these are not photos of political life in Washington, DC.  They are scenes from Bima's travels in the afterlife, witnessing the torment of evildoers.

At the nearby Museum Semarajayan, we found an unexpected treat, painting and scultpures from the Italian artist Emilio Ambron, who spent many years in Bali.  After he died, his wife followed his wishes and sent his entire personal collection to be housed in Klungkung.  The artwork is lovely.  Here are two samples:

But the highlight had to be a mountain bike ride with Gede from the top of a mountain near Mt. Agung (above) through the forest and then down through rice paddies.  We started with a breakfast of local treats.

Counterclockwise from lower left: laipes, klopon, lak-lak, banana, lak-lak, pisang rae.  They are all variants on panang leaf, palm syrup, coconut, and other local ingredient.  This was accompanied by local coffee made with ginger-infused water.  Raring to go, we headed down the mountain.

After a few kilometers on the winding roadway, we branched off into the woods, only to discover farms interespersed throughout the forest.  People were friendly, talkative, and good-humored.  We also discovered, as had Emilio Ambron, that there is no self-conciousness about portaits.  "The portrait does not exist in Bali," he noted.  The woman at left was carrying wood branches on her head and spent some time talking with us.

Shortly afterwards, we passed by another farm and Gede asked the man to cut us down some coconuts so we could get a drink.  He did so cheerfully, as though welcoming us into the neighborhood.

After some time, the forest opened up and we found ourselves riding along the terraces of the rice paddies, heading downhill from field to field.  The serenity of the place is tangible as you pause along very still scenes.  Finally, full-scale vistas open up.

We were rewarded at the end with a home-cooked lunch with Gede and his family, including his lovely niece and nephew.

If you are planning a trip to Bali, you can get in touch with Gede Suardana by email at culik_driver [at] yahoo [dot] com.  His mobile phone is +62-81-2391-8247.  Address is Rai Pasti Tailor, Monkey Forest Street, Ubud, Bali.

* With apologies to Rogers and Hammerstein, in the musical South Pacific!


Pam said...

The paintings of the afterlife remind me of the Allegory of Good and Bad Government in the Pallazo Pubblico. Fra Angelico did something almost identical with the boiling pots and fire.
Your trip to Bali pushed me over the edge of envy. I officially request to be your secretary of travel. That is my dream vacation spot. Have a wonderful time!

Paul Levy said...

It's a deal, Pam!