Tuesday, 28-10-2014. Day 69.
Roosters and Dogs and ATMs
The mornings in Bali belong to roosters and dogs. Fortunately, unlike the roosters we met on the farm in Western Australia, Balinese roosters seem to have a little respect and don't start in with the crowing until first light, which is about 4:30 in the morning. The dogs, though, aren't quite as courteous and can frequently be heard through the night. Once one of them gets to barking, there's a flurry of yips and yaps that can sometimes go on for several minutes.
So it was no surprise that I was up to watch the sun rise. The first thing I noticed when I stepped out onto the balcony was a the rich smell of smoke. Something is always burning in Bali—incense, trash, offerings, rice paddies, food—and the Balinese air is thick and chewy, tasting of ash that settles deep in the back of your throat.
After a fantastic breakfast at the villa—and after the girls had some time to enjoy the pool—we thought we'd do a little exploring. We didn't see an ATM at the airport the night before, so our main task of the day was to meander out and find somewhere nearby to get some local currency. We didn't want to walk all the way to the Ubud town center, which was 45 minutes or so by foot, but ATMs abound in Bali, and we found a few that were a 20-minute walk down Jalan Hanoman, one of the streets that serves as the border for the Ubud town center.
As we left the villa, we were greeted by a row of baskets, right on the street, each holding a single chicken. On closer inspection we realized these were roosters. We found out later that these birds were used for ceremonial cockfighting as part of cleansing ceremony called tabuh rah (pouring blood), where the blood of the losing chicken is used to appease evil spirits.
We walked a little further and saw a moderate-sized rice paddy, just down the street our villa was on. We'd never seen one in person before, so this was pretty cool. No one was working it when we went by, but in later days we'd see workers leaving the fields about 6:00 p.m. carrying huge bundles of harvested rice on their backs.
Once we started walking down the busy Jalan Hanoman (jalan means road), we quickly found out that nobody walks in Bali, at least not Ubud and at least not for any distance. The streets are very narrow, the sidewalks are somewhat hazardous, and there's a constant flow of motorbikes, scooters, and cars literally inches from pedestrian walkways.
But walking allowed us to see things we otherwise normally would have missed from the comfort of a car, like where the citizens of the region dump their trash. And that's pretty much anywhere, although some places were certainly more like dumping grounds than others.
Along Jalan Hanoman, we saw plenty of warungs, which are small, usually family-owed, shops. These come in a wide variety of size, quality, and function. Some are very much like small convenience stores that sell everything from cigarettes to bottled water (make sure that cap is factory-sealed) to ice cream to petrol, while others are small cafes or even larger sit-down restaurants.
In addition to the warungs, there were plenty of other types of shops, including quite a few motorbike mechanic shops, plenty selling various Balinese trinkets, and one that sold eggs. A lot of eggs.
As we walked, we found an Indomaret (which is best described as an Indonesian 7-Eleven) that advertised an ATM ... and immediately ran into trouble. This ATM was from a bank that didn't offer access to any banking networks that our ATM cards could use. Plus, the Indomaret's bank didn't accept our credit card providers (we'd ad no trouble up to this point in any other country), so we paid U.S. dollars for the groceries we had selected to keep the kids from starving. It was all very confusing for us and for the employees of the Indomaret, and in the end, I think they came away with a bonus of about 7,000 rupiah (about 60 cents) for their trouble.
This incident made us a little concerned about our ability to engage in commerce in Bali, but, fortunately, we found a whole bunch of different ATMs from different banks at the corner of the next block, and most of those offered at least one network that worked for our cards. Problem solved.
We'd been walking for about half an hour, and now we were hot and hungry, so after we'd gotten some funds in our wallets, we stopped for lunch at a local cafe before heading back down the road to the villa. As we walked back the way we'd come, we dodged cars, motorbikes, open holes in the sidewalk, and dogs.
The Dogs of Bali
There are scrawny, raggedy, semi-feral dogs everywhere you turn in this country, and they seem to have territories they defend with aggressive barking. So far, we've encountered only barking dogs, but after after the Bali rabies outbreak of 2008, one can't help be a little leery of these animals. And since the problem of dogs and rabies is more severe in Vietnam and Thailand than Bali, we're glad that, despite the cost, we had the girls vaccinated for rabies before we left.
After our first foray into the streets of Bali on foot, we were happy when we got back to the villa (and the cool comfort of the pool). It was all too apparent that if we wanted to do any sort of exploring, we were going to need some sort of vehicle.
- Kilometers walked: 3.5
- Dogs encountered: 11
- ATMs used: 3
- Interesting chip flavors discovered: 1