Thursday, January 04, 2007

V2.A.P1 = V(isit) 2.(Indonesia) A. (Bali) P(osting) 1 - Bali


Going to Bali after so many years was interesting. Returning to places (which I seem to be doing with several parts of the world) makes one notice the change… both internal and external that is. My first visit to Bali was in 2001, December and exactly five years later I was in the same airport, and in the same hotel (which I managed to find only on my second day there), on the same beach, ate at the same restaurants etc. This time I was much more enthusiastic about the food, much less interested in travelling around Bali, and aware that the rainy season was postponed for a month or so…

For the first few days, it was brilliantly sunny, I was mostly taking long walks on the beach, reading on the beach, watching people on the beach, eating all the tropical fruits I could find, again, on the beach. These days I spent in Legian and Seminyak. See the map.

Legian and Seminyak are the adjacent beaches to the famous and tourist filled Kuta Beach. So it you want to stay away from at least the majority of the toursits, there is a point in refraining from Kuta, and sticking with these two northern beaches… Still, they are quite reasonable priced for a Western tourist, although you may get exhausted by the number of people that greet you and ask you questions, and rip you off… You get used to all that in a while and the sunsets always make up for any little problem you may experience (see pics).

What I had to get used, immediately after getting off my plane at the Denpasar Airport, was something subtler though. I had to relax, and manage not to think that everybody around the place was there to steal my time. It took me almost an hour to quit panicking about time and the restlessness slowly faded. So strong is the feeling/urge of doing things in fixed times in the Netherlands that it required some effort to put my impatient grey cells at ease. Then, it was much better. It took me an hour to figure out that I wouldn’t be going to Aceh in the dates that I wanted to. It took me even longer to find the hotel I was trying to find, but all that went well and I managed to read, and eat all the fruits I liked, hence feel pampered. I had some great talks with two people: 1. Kiki, once she quitted trying to sell me all the dresses she had in the basket that she carried on her head… We talked about skin colours (we basically wanted to exchange them), how it was to borne and not to borne children (she almost of my age and had 5, and was surprised at my reluctance of having any), and gendered economics through food and family matters. 2. The owner of my fave restaurant on the street I stayed, who was a man of 50, very talkative but almost in a non-Balinese way, that is, with and through content. We talked of politics, of course, and life matters, and he explained the distance between people and the political apparatus, and how it applies differently to peoples of different characters. In the Balinese case, he thought, the kind and gentle native culture would not be able to bridge that gap almost artificially created through the centralisation and militarisation of the country.

Bali is special, because it is a Hindu island, and if I am not mistaken the only one, in Indonesia. It shows. People are fine with most of the things you can do there, which is a feeling you have to say farewell to if you will travel to Muslim islands and particularly to shariyah-ruled parts (which I did later). It dates back to the end of the prehistoric period marked by the arrival of Hindu people from India around 100 BC. It was during this time that the complex irrigation system subak was developed to grow rice. Some religious and cultural traditions still in existence today can be traced back to this period (See picture).

Once you see the coral reefs around the island, the white beaches of the southern peninsula (the tail, as I like calling it) and the black northern beaches, and the rainforests in between, one cannot help but think what the place would look like before it was colonised and then modernised. It must have been heavenly.

Two Suicidal Wars with the Dutch (mostly from wikipedia):

The First European contact with Bali is thought to have been when Dutch explorer Cornelis de Houtman arrived in 1597, though a Portuguese ship had foundered off the Bukit Peninsula as early as 1585. Dutch rule over Bali came later, was more aggressively fought for, and they were never ultimately able to establish themselves as they had in other parts of Indonesia. In the 1840s, a presence in Bali was established, firstly in the island's north, by playing off various distrustful Balinese realms against each other. The Dutch mounted large naval and ground assaults first against the Sanur region and then Denpasar. The Balinese were hopelessly overwhelmed in number and armament, but rather than face the humiliation of surrender, they mounted a final defensive but suicidal assault, or puputan. Despite Dutch pleas for surrender, an estimated 4,000 Balinese marched to their death against the invaders. Afterwards the Dutch governors exercised little influence over the island, generally allowing local control over religion and culture to remain intact.

Japan occupied Bali during World War II during which time a Balinese military officer, Gusti Ngurah Rai, formed a Balinese 'freedom army'. Following Japan's Pacific surrender in August 1945, the Dutch promptly returned to Indonesia, including Bali, immediately to reinstate their pre-war colonial administration. This was resisted by the Balinese rebels now using Japanese weapons.

In 1946, the Battle of Marga was fought in central Bali. Colonel I Gusti Ngurah Rai, 29 years old, finally rallied his forces in east Bali at Marga Rana, where they made a suicide attack on the heavily armed Dutch. The Balinese battalion was entirely wiped out, breaking the last thread of Balinese military resistance. In 1946 the Dutch constituted Bali as one of the 13 administrative districts of the newly-proclaimed Republic of East Indonesia, a rival state to the Republic of Indonesia which was proclaimed and headed by Sukarno and Hatta. Bali was included in the ‘’Republic of the United States of Indonesia’’ when the Netherlands recognised Indonesian independence on Dec. 29, 1949. In 1956 Bali officially renounced the Dutch union and legally became a province within the Republic of Indonesia.

So much for now, and more to come shortly!
ps. All pictures belong to Harro...

11 comments:

Harro said...

Great of you to add some background to the stories! And of course thanks for the credits (although I only had to press 'click', the sun did most of the work for me) :) Looking forward to what comes next!

smack said...

Yeh the history of those isle are very interesting. I never have known how the first rice fields/sawa were cultivated. And like you described, the Dutch and the Japanese had a great influence on Indonesia. Especially the Dutch as we know. Al tho many Dutch military man were captured and imprisoned by the Japanese.
Nice pictures Harro, great to see the sundown again. Well looking forward to the rest of your tell.

smack said...

Hmm soz but my grammar sucks grr.

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