(2012 Winter Holidays in Indonesia, Mark C. Eades and Nick Carruthers)
Terraced rice fields north of Ubud:
For the past three weeks I and my friend and colleague from Shanghai, Nick Carruthers, have been traveling in Indonesia. Arriving in the capital city of Jakarta from Shanghai three weeks ago, we first traveled to Bali, then to the tiny island of Gili Trawangan off Lombok, then by high-speed boat back to Bali. Upon our return, we bypassed Kuta in favor of direct transport to the Balinese cultural center of Ubud in the island’s interior about an hour north of Denpasar. In Ubud we took up residence in tourist bungalows near the famous Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary (also known simply as the Monkey Forest), a Hindu holy site inhabited by grey-haired Balinese macaques. The sanctuary includes a descent by stone stairway and over an arched stone bridge to a temple and bathing pool that would make a perfect setting for an Indiana Jones movie. Overlooking a deep canyon nearby are a pair of Komodo dragons carved from a stony outcrop, lending the setting also a “land of the dinosaurs” feel (click on photos for larger images).
Monkeys sharing a meal in the Monkey Forest:
Monkeys grooming each other in the Monkey Forest:
Stone carvings of Komodo dragons, Monkey Forest:
A few miles east of Ubud is the village of Bedulu, once a center of the Pejeng Kingdom of the tenth to thirteenth centuries. Sites in Bedulu include Goa Gajah, the “Elephant Cave,” a Hindu sanctuary dated to the eleventh century and discovered by Dutch archaeologists in 1923. According to legend, the cave was carved from the stone by the fingernail of the giant Kewo Iba. The opening to the cave shrine itself is through the carved mouth of a demon, its small interior including carved phallic symbols dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, “lord of the dance”; and a statue of the elephant-headed god Ganesha, the son of Shiva, lord of boundaries, remover of obstacles, and patron of arts, learning, and trade. In the courtyard facing the cave is a pair of bathing pools fed with spring water from spouts held by six female figures, a distant echo of a Roman spa. Beyond the bathing pools is a large pavilion, used when we visited for giving lessons in traditional Balinese dance to local schoolgirls. In Bedulu also are the stone reliefs of Yeh Pulu, carved into a cliff face in the fourteenth century, and including images of Hindu gods, heroic scenes of men battling demonic beasts, and scenes from everyday life. Like Goa Gajah, Yeh Pulu is said in legend to have been carved by the giant Kewo Iba.
Opening of cave shrine, Goa Gajah:
Girls learning traditional Balinese dance, Goa Gajah:
Bathing pool, Goa Gajah:
Stone relief, Yeh Pulu:
Nick in jungle with motorbike helmet, Goa Gajah:
Me, back at my bungalow in Ubud:
Girls learning traditional Balinese dance, Ubud:
Balinese dance performance, Ubud: