Bali was our first destination on our honeymoon tour. It is where I was promised we could recover, read and sloth out! After the crazy stress of moving continents (from Japan to Brazil), learning a new language, surviving the first year in my wife's home country, and four-wedding marathon to boot, well, I deserved this. It was like reaching the top of Fuji: it's ugly getting there, but God, does it look sexy from the top.
Bali is the Hindu hold out of the mostly Muslim Indonesian archipelago. We opted out of a beach stay in Bali and decided on Ubud, the hill side town, where Elizabeth Gilbert’s (aka Eat, Pray, Barf) Balinese medicine man Ketut hails.
Ditching the crowds for the mountains and rice paddies of Ubud made all the difference as it was so much more lower key.
Our first expedition outside of hotel paradise was with Bali Go Bike. A bike tour company run by Ketut (not Gilbert's Medicine Man, shucks) and his brothers. Ketut was all kinds of awesome. He really puts himself into his tour and his pride for Ubud is unmatched. The guy smiled smiled smiled. When we got off the bikes here and there to pee, drink, and mostly take photos- which would make me nuts if I were a guide, he calmly gave us a smile and had a cigarette. At first I thought Ketut meant chill in Balinese, but really it simply meant that he is the fourth child and youngest in his family.
Back to the ride. We started the ride literally in a cloud at, near, or on top of a volcano (still not sure which) and road our bikes all the way down, taking our time, hopping potholes here and there, and quietly breathing in the air and life of rice patties, terraced hills, jungle paradise, and festive villages.
Rice patty and terrace.
This is where coconuts go to die, found on the side of the road.
All of Bali was in the middle of celebrating Galungan, the Hindu equivalent of new years with the family and preparations for Christmas. We couldn’t have happened on a better day for the ride, as women carried offerings and food platters to their various celebrations and temples, in every one of the 16 mini-decorated villages we rode through.
Giant hand made bamboo structures decorated the streets in each town.
One of our stops was a coffee plantation where they had a variety coffees and teas produced and prepared right there on the grounds (pun intended). One of their specialties is Kopi-Luwak or civet coffee: made from the digested coffee beans “produced” (or shat) by the animal, collected by workers, washed (thank god), then sun dried and lightly roasted--you know, to keep in the special flavors of the civet's digestive tract.
Roasting civet beans.
Kopi-Luwak is one of the most expensive coffees in the world. After the Civet drops his load, laborers gather (a few at a time) and then wash, sun dry, lightly roast the coffee and so on. The beans are discharged in clumps often having some of the coffee berry membranes still attached to the beans--which are still intact. There is something good knowing that people pay good money for coffee that comes out of a creepy animal’s ass.
Being my first cup of civet coffee I expected it to be more rich, with a hint of turd, and really have more of a distinct aroma, but civet coffee is supposed to be more smooth. It was good but I expected more from all the hype. Then it struck me, this was farmed civet coffee. There is a theory that civets in nature produce better grains. In nature, out of the cage, they would naturally have the freedom to hunt for the best coffee berries and therefore produce a better quality coffee. If it is farmed, the civets have no choice what berries they poop and only eat and shit what they are given. In the wild they would have choice in berry selection, and the process would differentiate and lead to better quality.
Either way it was a good cup of Joe.
Some people say after a good coffee, “Oh man, this coffee is the SHIT!” And this really was. It was delightful. Check out my shit drinking grin! Ketut on the right.
After more terraces, photo breaks, and many sips of water we came to the end of the ride.
The tour led directly to Ketut’s compound, a home with open air rooms, their own temple, and lots of space where we sit or lay on the floor and soak it all in.
His entire family graciously welcomed us over for an amazing buffet and encouraged us to explore their home, which felt more like a palace with hand carved wooden doors, and pillars painted in gold and red.
It was a lovely home and were treated as friends of the family.
Peanut sauce chicken, mixed vegetables, and shredded chicken over rice.
Outside Ketut's home.
Yes, those are life size statues of a tiger and a bear.