Friday, February 08, 2008

'Galungan' and Pants

Day 3 – Tuesday 22nd Jan 2008

The sun was already up by the time we reached the coffee house for breakfast. The omelettes and pancakes had become my favourite breakfast. As the previous day, the hotel had live Balinese music. Only this time, instead of a bamboo xylophone, it was a metal one.

While waiting for the breakfast to settle down, we let our little master played in the Balinese garden. Getting bored, I reluctantly went for some walks. Why was I reluctant? Unlike Italy where I was mostly ignored by the Italians on the streets, the ‘overly’ friendly Balinese men loitering on the side walk alarmed me. They seemed to be at every corner, sitting together, doing nothing, in a group of 3-4 men.

The side walks were surprisingly ‘deserted’. Balinese, being prominently Hindus, have mostly left for their hometown. It was the eve of what most Malaysians call ‘Thaipusam’. Balinese call this Hindu celebration as “Galungan”. In Malaysia, Thaipusam is synonym with kavadi and body piercing. I don’t think they perform such thing. But Balinese do offer something to their Hindu god, one is the daily offering (like the bowl I saw in the Taxi), and a specially weaver palm leaves that they hang at their door.

My first stop was to buy a hat. If you plan on doing serious walking in any Southeast Asian countries, it is best to have a good hat with you, along with a bottle of water. A towel to wipe your sweats is optional. The heat and humidity could get to you. I bought the hat from the first touristy shop I found. Looking very touristy, with ‘Bali’ embroidered on the hat, I continued walking.

I somehow found my way to ‘Pasar Adat Kuta’ (Traditional Kuta Market). The wooden-brick shopping complex housed a lot of small shops. There were mostly selling clothes. There’s a few shop selling woodcarving. I didn’t see much of Europeans in the area.

Around noon, after dropping off some things in the hotel room, we headed for lunch. To the disappointment of my little master, we didn’t stop at his favourite fast food restaurant. We continued walking to the “Nasi Padang” restaurant. He refused to eat anything at the shop. The best thing on the menu was the orange juice. It was sweet and at the same time a little bit sour. After the long walk in the hot sun, I couldn’t resist a refill! After the great lunch, we obliged our little master and went to the fast food restaurant.

Then I continued walking. I found Hindu temple facing the beach of Kuta. There were a few Balinese men doing some preparation for ‘Galungan’. Even though they were all wearing sarong, with knife at their waist, they did not look ‘feminine’ at all! In fact they look every inch like a traditional Balinese warriors but in modern setting. Another thing to point out is the statue in front of the temple wear checked sarong. Actually all the statues around Bali wear sarong!

It didn’t take long for me to realize that it’s too hot to be strolling on the beach of Kuta. So I decided to take refuge in the shadows of small lanes sandwiched between nearby buildings. I thought the little lanes would take me to dubious places. I was mistaken. The little lanes led me to a lane barely big enough for a car to pass by. The lane has a very dubious name – Jalan Poppies 1. But I found no dubious activities, other that lot’s of small cottage like hotels. It could be due to my decent appearance, no one came to me to sell any poppies.

Without realizing it, the walks has taken up my whole day. I returned to the hotel. A short rest and an instant noodle later, I was refreshed. We took a cab to a ‘spa’. I was told by dear friends who went Bali a few years back that for the full body spa thingy would required you to stripe. So I opted for foot massage. I thought it would be like the one I had in China – massaging only the foot. But no, the petite Balinese lady asked to take off my pants and wear their disposable underwear.

Wearing robes, I followed her to the corridor. There’s a pail of water with flower. “Cool!”, I thought to myself - still thinking that I would be getting a foot massage similar to the one in China. The lady washed my feet. Then she told me to go into a room and lie down on the massage bed. I was baffled. Wasn’t she suppose to massage my feet! Yes she did that, but more. She massaged the whole legs. From foot up to my thigh. For each legs! The massage was great. Her movement was graceful. It was as if she was dancing to the Balinese music that filled the room.

My little master insisted that we rode the horse cart back to the hotel. And so we did. He was all smile as he had been wanting to go for the ride ever since the first time we saw the horse cart on the first day. 15 minutes later we reached the hotel.

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