Ubud, about twenty miles north in the hill country, is the cultural and artistic center of Bali, surrounded by rice paddies and temples (as we saw in the previous post).
Every Monday night at 7:30, the Ubud Town Hall, right next to the soccer field, is taken over by the Luh Luwih Balinese Women's Gamelan and Dance Troupe. The gamelan music is easily recogniseable (go to my video about my accommodations to hear some) but the Balinese dance style brings to mind classical Thai dancing for all the emphasis placed on finger positions, the use of ornate masks, etc. The biggest difference to me was the stories seemed easier to follow.
Alas, when set on video, my camera did not pick up the dances well in the dark hall, so I'll just include a few stills for flavor. The Gabor, adapted from a ceremony in which young women distribute flowers among the temple's shrines; the Baris, in which a dauntless warrior prepares for battle; and the Oleg Tumulilingham, the hummingbird love dance.
In the Ubud area, and scattered around the mountainous region, are numerous coffee plantations which prepare the thick and strong Bali coffee, as well as the even more well-known "Luwak" coffee. The coffee starts as beans, of course, on a coffee bush:
The beans are fed to a "luwak", or Asian palm civet, a variety of cat:
After passing through the civet's digestive tract, the coffee beans (technically, they're not beans, they're fruit) are gathered and cleaned:
... Roasted and ground:
... then served, along with several other specialty coffees of the plantation, to visitors for 50,000 Rp (USD 5). Needless to say, there is a gift shop.
One of the most enjoyable days I spent in Ubud, and perhaps the most cultural of activities, was taking a one-day batik course, at Nirvana Batik studio. Instruction, all materials and lunch for the 10 AM to 2 PM session was 485,000 Rp. (less than USD 50).
This was awesome fun. First Nyoman explains the method to you. It's not like the batik I did in high school, where there's one color palette and you stain and wax over a period of days in successively darker hues. Instead, Nyoman has fabric dyes that more or less stay where you put them, especially if you stay inside the lines.
Okay, so you start by sketching with a pencil onto the fabric; my inspiration was this snap I took of some plants outside my hotel room window. Then if you're Joan, my only classmate, you go to the next step; if you're me, Nyoman fixes it up for you. He also provides a real life plant from the extensive property. You outline the project in beeswax using this really cool, but hard to work, pen thing, which you dip in the molten wax.
Then you paint in the different areas with colored dyes and let them dry. You fill in the parts you want to stand out with beeswax, and fill in the parts you want to "crinkle" with paraffin, using ordinary paint brushes.
Then you dye it with the background color (or actually have the assistant do it):
Then you boil it to melt off all the wax.
Then you let it dry, iron it, and take a picture for your blog:
I admit I'm no artist, but I like it and I had a great time doing it. Someday it will be framed and hang on a wall in my home--probably a little used guest bedroom.