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Purging Paradiso & evil spirits in the underworld of Bali

underworld of Bali

We left Ubud for the northern coast of Bali. We didn't bother to hit the southern beaches near Kuta (nor did i when i came 22 years ago) .... just doesn't seem like our scene .. especially over xmas. On the way north (to Lovina) we passed a few temples & rice fields (pictured herein).

royal temple

Mengwi royal temple  somewhere in central Bali


temple demon

some sort of demon guarding the royal temple

In the last post, i started to go into the ecosystem of the rice fields here. The Balinese (perhaps with the aid of the Dutch), were practicing permaculture before the word existed. Not that the Balinese are particularly interested in eating anything other than rice (they worship the stuff) .. but they are smart enough to know that to sustain their crops year after year, they need to create a whole living ecosystem around it .. terracing & flooding the fields & letting frogs & fish live within them (though we didn't see as many fish in the fields as we did recently in Cambodia). They even introduce ducks into the picture that forage around in the fields .. & they often have a cow (literally, not figuratively), not to eat, but just to provide manure. And buffalo to work the fields .. though more often than not, in this day & age, the buffalo are being replaced by motorized plows.

buffalo rice fields


rice fields


mechanical plow

motorized plow (but still the old school hat)


J is reading Island Of Bali by Miguel Covarrubias (by my suggestion) & she keeps reading me tidbits reminding me what a great book it is, in regard to everything to do with Bali .. the customs & traditions & peculiarities, like how Balinese fear water (though they are surrounded by it) because that's where they think all the evil spirits live (& the good spirits in the mountains). And how «dogs were undoubtedly provided by the gods to keep Bali from perfection.» We've witnessed plenty of these dogs & they are for the most part mangy & aggressive & scary looking. But here's one lovely dog i befriended on the beach in Lovina.


my bitch licking my baby face (after shaving off a few months worth of facial hair)

Passed another temple on the way north, on a lake, crowded with Javanese tourists.

lake temple

lake temple & bamboo (Pura Ulun Danu Bratan)


women temple offerings

one of many festival preparations along the way


motorcycle carrying fodder

carrying fodder, barefoot by moto

The northern coast was definitely quiet & not so touristy .. though perhaps not as nice as southern beaches, at least not in the traditional sense of white sands & aqua waters (the beaches are 'black sand' beaches, though they are really mucky brown). And the beaches & water were littered with garbage (though we heard the same of Kuta). But a good place to hang out & do a lot of nothing but write & read & eat & drink arak (Balinese rice wine).

rambutan, mangosteen

dragon fruit, rambutans & mangosteen


Nasi gaur

nasi gandul

We did the requisite dolphin trip, which was pretty stupid. Woke up at 6 a.m. & got into this little outrigger canoe with a put-put motor & headed out .. along with a fleet of 100s of other such boats .. felt like the Balinese armada or something. Mostly Javanese tourists.

dolphin armada

what do the dolphins think of all this?

Seems silly anyway to just go looking for dolphins (see also our recent trip to see whales, of which we saw none, though we did see plenty of dolphins then). It's one thing if you see them on the way to somewhere else. A few times i've seen them in Mexico or Belize & jumped in & swam with them even .... but i wasn't about to do that here for fear of being hit by all the boats swarming to wherever the poor little dolphins surfaced.



dolphins (spinners) through the surface

After the dolphins, we went snorkeling. Again, many boats cluster at the same spot, though it was funny because most Javanese can't swim or are afraid of water, so they would just peer in from the boat .. the women in headscarf & all. The more adventurous men would lean over the side with a mask on while people held on to them to keep from falling in.


j with fishes

j swimming with the fishes

Also did the spa thing. In Ubud, we got (Balinese style) massages & pedicures & manicures. In Lovina we got more massages (i got a Swedish one, though didn't feel that different than the Balinese one .. not that i would know the difference as i've never really done all this stuff before) & also facials, hair treatments, exfoliations, herbal baths, etc. .... the works. They do the full body thing here which is sort of mortifying .. especially wearing nothing but these little paper-thin see-through diaper things.

yellow fishes

We had dinner right on the beach every night, except xmas dinner which was some surreal gala thing that words can't describe .. suffice to say, it's the effort that counts. More importantly, xmas eve was our 16th anniversary. Almost every year we spend our anniversary someplace that i never would've guessed the year before. Here's where we've spent our past 16 anniversaries/xmases (one of the benefits of keeping a blog & a journal):

2012: Dinner on the beach in Lovina, Bali. Xmas day dolphin trip
2011: In Istanbul, dinner at 360, xmas day went to Hagia Sophia
2010: In flooded Rome, sushi dinner
2009: West Village, can't remember what or where we celebrated, but xmas day we made this video
2008: Chiang Mai, Thailand
2007: NYC (went to Gyu-Kaku)
2006: layover in Amsterdam (on a plane flying to Morocco)
2005: New Mexico, i think
2004: NYC, Bluewater Grill
2003: NYC, ate at Fiamma Osteria, xmas day we saw the rockettes
2002: NYC, ate at Fiamma Osteria, next morning we went to Argentina
2001: NYC, i think?
2000: Bahamas, ate at some dive because got tired of waiting at other places
1999: Santa Fe, ate Indian food
1998: Mendocino, CA
1997: NYC (at visitors, we were living in Portsmouth, NH at the time)
1996: Phoenix, next day we drove to Baja

puffer fish

blue puffer

I've been re-reading Dante's Divine Comedy off & on this whole trip, an abridged dual-language version. I read it before in Italian but was so focused on language i wasn't picking up much on content. So this time i stuck to the english side. Read Hell in Timor. Read most of Purgatory in Bali, but then stopped to read John Haskell's American Purgatorio, which i talked about in the last post. And now i finished the Paradise section .. which started off kind of cool & metaphysical, but towards the end got too religious for my tastes.

blue seastar

sea star, brittle star & some coral & algae

Dante doesn't have a whole lot to with Bali .. unless you consider the heavenly island of Bali to be paradise (Dante does reference islands a few times as such a metaphor). Hell takes place beneath the ground, then by Purgatory Dante resurfaces & ascends the lofty mountains with his buddy Virgil. Paradise continues from there, even higher into the heavens .. though perhaps you could also think of the sea as paradise (though, again, in Bali they think that's where evil resides). This from the third canto of Paradise:

Just as, through transparent and smooth panes of glass,
     or else through limpid and calm waters
     that are not so deep that the bottom is lost to sight.

fish flash


Of particular personal interest (in relation to my recent Under the Auspices project, is Dante's references to both she-wolves & starlings. Towards the beginning of Hell:

And a she-wolf, which, emaciated as she was,
     seemed laden down with every sort of passion,
     and had already made many people live in melancholy,
aroused so much distress in me
     through the horror that issued from the sight of her
     that I lost all hopes of gaining the heights.

coral tree

And then later on in Hell:

And, just as the wings of starlings carry them off
     in the cold season in a wide, dense flock,
     so did that win toss the evil spirits there
this way and that, up and down;
     no hope ever consoles them,
     neither of rest, nor even a slackening of their punishment.

coral folds

Anyway. In real life i am ahead of my blog life. We are already in Gili island, off the coast of Lombok. But i'll get to how we got here in the next post ....

julie julia

j & our trusty 'captain' of Julie & Julia



passing Bali's largest volcano (Agung) on the way to the port

 >> next: Just another Gilligan reflecting (underwater) on the island of Gili Air .. on sea turtle salvation, The Price of Civilization & 'belum' America .. halfway home into 2013

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