Selasa, 05 Agustus 2008

The Mood of Ubud

Owing to a long-term interaction with the west, as well as a long and flourishing cultural tradition of its own, Ubud has developed a unique style that can be seen throughout the town and its surrounds. The nyentrik (eccentric) attachment of Ubud's more mobile population to old motor vehicles is well documented. Tjokorde Lingsir of Puri Kantor hid a magnificent old 1930s Morris Minor from the Japanese occupation forces, and continued to display it in his garage until his death. Another long-term resident, the Javanese artist Abdul Aziz, kept an old Fiat in his studio. The tradition continues with the younger generation of Tjokorde from Puri Saren regularly buying and restoring vintage cars. A number of gracefully aging Mercedes Benz sedans are often seen on the streets of Ubud. Not content with mere motorcars, Ubud also has the highest per capita ownership of Harley Davidson motorcycles in all of Indonesia.

The most exhuberant expressions of Ubud Style are to be seen at traditional Balinese ceremonies. When choosing clothes, for example, Ubud is always quick to take up the latest fashion in kebayas, sarongs and myriad ways of tying udengs and saputs. Even Ubud funerary accoutrements have been renowned since the time of the great Ubud artist I Gusti Nyoman Lempad (whose designs for bade, cremation towers, made Ubud funerals famous island-wide). Phantasmagoric and giant paper-mache ogoh-ogoh effigies paraded around the village by each banjar the night before the Balinese New Year (Nyepi) also reflect the vivid and fanciful imagination of Ubud's people, as do the numerous bamboo penjor masterpieces that festoon the village's streets during Galungan.

Ubud, to this day, remains a beautiful town despite occasional struggles with tourist development. Our earliest memories of Ubud are much coloured by light – the fingers of weak sun through rising wisps of early morning mist in bamboo groves and river valleys, the dappled midday of the main street, late afternoon sunlight bouncing off mirror-like rice terraces, and, because we had no electricity in our early days here, the flickering of kerosene lamps, the warm glow of bamboo coconut-oil torches, the incandescence of "storm king" pressure lamps, and the magic of fireflies in the rice terraces

Picking our way home by torchlight, late at night after temple festivals, along narrow paths in the rice fields, was always a dramatic end to an evening. Apart from the ubiquitous warung life, these festivals were our main form of entertainment. We would watch mesmerized, as dance troupes of pre-adolescent bidadari -- angels -- performed impossible feats of finger, hand, head, eye and body coordination. We "Westerners" who found Ubud felt that it was our paradise on earth.

We needed to continue to believe in this idea of paradise in order to overcome discomforts occasioned by a lack of modern conveniences. No matter that there was no electricity, nor running water, telephones, street lamps, televisions, nor even restaurants as we had known them. We were young and prepared to endure any discomfort to live in paradise. (Electricity came to Ubud in 1977 and we all carefully apportioned our allotted four hundred watts between light bulbs, and, if we were really well off, small refrigerators.) We were forerunners of mass tourism and the sheer weight of our numbers would change forever the town we had "discovered". Already we were seeking better communications -- the old East German hand-cranked telephone (with its unintelligible crackle that had to be interpreted by its operator) and garbled telex messages made it impossible to run any sort of business by western standards. Telephones, however, finally came to Ubud in 1989, bringing with them not only direct contact with the rest of the world (without "interpreter"), but also nearly miraculous fax machines which brought, to our minds, a quantum leap in communications. Ah, modern technology had come to Ubud at last! The beautiful old cast iron ice grinders that produced wildly-coloured ice confections that cooled the hottest of days, were soon superseded by electric blenders, and the kacang hijau (green peanut) sellers were replaced by jingle-blaring ice cream peddlers on motorbikes. Weekly movies on a precariously hung white sheet in the Ubud Wantilan, advertisement-free public television in the bale banjar -- all went by the wayside in the name of progress.

The person who personifies the "Old Bali" for us is Gung Niang, the mother of our landlord who is one of Ubud's Tjokorde. Gung Niang was our source for all information concerning puri life when we first arrived. It was a mutual education. Gung Njiang would point our what was expected of us and then she would grill us about things she had heard about in "Java" (her word for any place that wasn't Bali). She would cackle with laughter when we ingenuously tried to explain such mysteries as how cows were milked in large-scale dairies. We attempted at different times to ascertain her age but the closest we ever got to a figure was a wonderful, but frightening, story about how, during the Batur earthquake of 1907, she was buried under a wooden and thatch bale in her parents' compound in Peliatan. She was old enough to remember vividly how she kept calling out until her older brother came and pulled her out of rubble. She grew up to marry the father of the present Tjokorde and become the "Queen Mother" of our compound. Her special claim to fame rests with the fact that she continues her husband's legacy of maintaining a large glass jar in which she keeps a special obat, or medicine, that is used to treat any sort of bite or sting. People come from far away for this medicine, and in return they bring bring arak liquor to top up her jar. We have all been responsible for adding to the jar's contents and the more rare the find, the more pleased she would be with our donation, for into her huge jar, to turn into sludge at the bottom, went any reptile or insect whose bite was poisonous. The resultant obat, a clear and foul-smelling liquor, worked on a homeopathic principle and bore amazing results, as we, our daughter, and many neighbours, can verify. It relieved the stings of wasp, bee, scorpion and centipede bites, and a myriad of other misadventures with the animal kingdom. Today she still reigns in her puri, the last of her generation of Ubud aristocrats.

We long ago settled into "our" corner of paradise and began learning from the people around us what was really important in life here. From these interactions come our oldest and most abiding memories -- the myriad and colourful stories that explained and illustrated the everyday beliefs and customs around us, and the establishment of relationships that have now spanned generations. We remember things like the nights before Nyepi with their ogoh-ogoh, the many variations of temple processions and temple ceremonies, cockfights, Hari Saraswati, Independence Day with its town gathering around the greased pole holding dozens of prizes for those who dare to climb to the top, the penjor-decorated holidays of Galungan and Kuningan, the pulsative time when weeks seem to go by without anything happening, and then days that fly by without a break, in a flurry of offering-making, temple visits, community services and cremations. These things have not changed -- and in them the old Ubud remains very much a large part of the "new". It is a wonderfully vibrant place that always evolves, but, at the same time, always maintains its own special character -- one that comprises strong cultural traditions with a more measured approach to life.

1 Comment:

Bali Hotel said...

Holiday to Indonesia with its diversity will make another experience on your life. There are many recommended travel destination within Indonesia supported by many international main gateway such as Jakarta, Bali, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Medan, Balikpapan, Manado and many more. Planning your vacation and adventure tours around Indonesia are very easy and simple when make the booking through the online travel agent. You can find some recommended resources to have discount for Bali hotel, Yogyakarta hotels, Lombok Hotel, Komodo Tours, Orangutan Tours, Bali holidays, Bali villas, Yogyakarta tours, and Bali tours.


privacy and policy | Make Money Online