Day #10,654: On our first full day in Ubud, the central mountain village of Bali, we hired a driver to take us around the island. It’s really not as bougie as it sounds, promise. Because Balinese streets either don’t have names or have multiple different names, it’s kinda impossible to drive yourself around. Plus, it’d be terrifying… lanes are more friendly suggestion than rule. On our drive to Ubud the day before, we learned that it was not at all uncommon to drive on the sidewalk or in the middle of two lanes. Fast.
But I’m already skipping ahead of one of the yummiest parts of the day. At 7:30am sharp, a very bubbly, morning person of a girl brought in a huge tray overflowing with our breakfast (included in the price, yo!) and set it all up on our patio: banana pancakes, mango smoothies, fresh passionfruit and watermelon, strong Balinese coffee, and toast with homemade kaya, which is Indonesian jam.
Getting to spend the day with Karthikbudi was more than worth the discomfort of feeling like an elitist with our own personal driver. Budi is a natural-born extrovert and never ran out of stories to tell us about his island home.
Our first stop was Tegalalang, the quintessential Balinese view of terraced rice paddies.
Because it was drizzling, we had the place all to ourselves. (Well… almost all to ourselves… the sarong peddlers were out with a vengeance, and one literally threw fabric into Budi’s car to make me pay for it.) Nonetheless, it was impossibly magical.
Next, Budi took us to a local farm that grew & sold coffee, tea, and various spices.
Balinese coffee is very strong, and its most famous variety is the Kopi Luwak. Asian palm civets- beautiful cat-like creatures- like to eat the yummiest coffee berries on the tree; the beans that the civets poop out are …ahem… harvested (?)…. to make Luwak coffee, and foodies pay $30 for a cup of this Cat Crap coffee back in the states. A good friend of ours had been raving about it right before we left on our trip, and I was excited to see that the farm offered tastings of five different varieties of tea & coffee- including a cup of Luwak- for a grand total of $5. Done.
My ex-barista, coffee connoisseur sister would kill me for this, but I prefer Starbucks to the Luwak and await your angry hate mail. My uncultured taste buds shame the family name.
Before we left, Budi offered to roll us Balinese tobacco. Everyone- I repeat, everyone– in Indonesia hard-core chain smokes, and while you can purchase cigarettes, it’s a sociable tradition to roll up tobacco ciggies amongst friends. Mr. M & I are both staunch non-smokers, but it did make me oddly sad to pass on such a pervasive cultural tradition.
While we drove through the lush landscape, Budi told us all about Balinese Hinduism, which is the most visible aspect of Balinese culture and differs from Indian Hinduism. I’m fascinated by religion in general, and I kept him busy answering all my questions. 99% of Balinese people are Hindu, and every house in Bali has its own temple. The Balinese spend all their extra time and money on their religion, and evidence of this was everywhere.Every day, intricate offerings of woven bamboo, flowers, fruits, and incense are placed on doorsteps and taken to the temples.
Also, each temple hosts at least three ceremonies per year, with 240 major, Bali-wide religious holidays per year. For these celebrations, there are even more offerings- huge bamboo poles line every street and hoist intricately woven flower arrangements into the sky, towards the heavens.
Mr. M & I could not fathom the time it took to create these offerings or to put on the processions that we had seen the day before.
Budi explained that ‘travel’ is a foreign concept to the Balinese. Instead of saving up for travel, most Balinese put any extra resources toward more lavish religious ceremonies and offerings, hoping to be rewarded in future lives.
Is it carpe diem, Hindu-style? Such a fascinating alternate perspective on my (perhaps Western) desire to seize this day in front of me.
To explore the rest of the day’s adventures getting schooled on karma, click here!