Monday, March 17, 2014

Blessings and Cat Poo Coffee

One of the highlights of my Bali trip was a morning up in the mountains out to the water temple known as Tirta Empul. It was something I wanted to do on the last trip over but biology precluded me. This time, I had no such issues and the time and date was set with my driver, Made.

Interesting fact: Bali has a naming system in use. It was more popular in years gone by, but you still see it in place. The first born child in a Balinese family is often called Wayan. The second born, Made (pronounced Mah-day). Nyoman is the third in line and Ketut is the fourth born. As tradition flags a little, names change, but you see these names all over Bali.

Made collected me at 9 a.m. from reception. We'd settled on a price and a few arrangements were made. I needed a change of clothes for one thing. My hair had to be up, not loose. Offerings for the Gods were required.

The first two items were not an issue. Easy. I knew I was in for an immersion so I wore my bathing suit under modest clothes. The spare clothes were in a plastic bag at my feet. My hair was clipped up in a bun as it had been since I arrived at Bali. Made also brought along a sarong which was required to enter the waters. Easy.

I jumped in the van in the front seat. "Is this okay? I'd rather sit up front and chat than just look out the window." Made was good with this.

It's something I have trouble with where ever I go don't make me sit in the back - I like to sit up front and see where I'm going. The back seat doesn't feel right to me, especially when I know I'm going to be asking a lot of questions. I don't feel like I'm living in a little bubble up the front. Made also said that it was good for his English to chat - he only knew 'yes' and 'no' in English before he got his driving job two and a half years earlier. Made speaks great English and he was really enthusiastic about showing me a little bit of his country.

The first stop was the offerings shop. "Have you got 5000 on you?" asked Made. I handed over the equivalent of 50 cents. " If you go in there they'll charge you ten times the price. He came back a few minutes later with a plastic bag of stuff. Streamers, incense, flowers... you see these on the streets of Bali all the time. Being a Hindu island, every morning channa is put out for the gods to bring in luck and blessings and to give gratitude to the Gods. Flowers, incence, money, food are all left out in front of the shops. After half an hour they're stomped into the road, but they're a charming part of Bali life.

The drive up to the hills was lovely. Passing rice paddies and jungle, it was a gorgeous drive. Made explained a few things, such as the family temples will only ever be seen on  the left hand side of the road as the temple will always be found in the North East corner of the family compounds. We passed villages where not a tourist could be seen. Of the poverty you see in Bali, you also notice that the children around the place look clean, well fed and happy. People don't have much, but they have enough. I was humbled and a little troubled by my own apparent wealth. Going to Bali is a cheap option, but at what cost to the locals.

After half an hour, we reached our destination - a valley in the middle of some big hills. I payed the nominal entry fee for tourists (locals get in for free) and Made and I made our way to the change rooms.

The rules of Tirta Empul for women are simple. Long hair has to be up. You have to wear a sarong in the sanctuary, men in long pants can wear a sash around their waist. You can't go in if you're menstruating. No bathing suits only - keep yourself covered. I tied the sarong around my neck, kept my bathing suit and bike shorts on underneath and Made stated I was ready to go on, leave my offerings and get in the waters.

I like praying to somebody else's Gods.

After a quick prayer of thanks and peace I went into the waters. Made showed me the spigots to avoid as these special fountains were only to be used when you were at a cremation ceremony.

The water was cool, the stones underfoot smooth and slippery. I made my way to the first spigot. Hands in a prayer position, my head went under three times.

And so it continued.

In front of me were two local women, they took me under their wing and encouraged me to continue. I thanked them for their support. Though foreign to the country, I didn't feel out of place as I made my way under all the fountains.

Something I love about Hinduism - it encourages inclusion. So you're not a Hindu, you're their to pay your respects, good on you. You follow the protocol and come with a good heart - they take you on.

What Made didn't tell me about was the whopping great koi carp that were swimming around in the pools.

After 15 minutes I made my way out of the waters, feeling suitably cleansed and lighter. It's something I'm really glad I got to do.

The next stop on the way home was a coffee plantation. Made asked if I liked coffee - which like, of course I do. He said that there was a coffee that supplied Luwak coffee nearby. Luwak coffee - I'd never heard of it either.

See, what happens is this cat/possum like animal called the Luwak eats the coffee beans. After a while, the luwak poops the coffee beans out. The poop is then cleaned off, the beans inside are roasted and sold on at exorbitant price. Luwak coffee is supposed to be lower in caffeine.

We had a look around the plantation. Unlike western farming practices, everything is grown in together. Made knows his plants - I'd never seen a vanilla tree before.

Then we came across a part of the farm where they were processing the luwak coffee poop. This is where the outer shell of the poop is removed and the fermented coffee bean inside is processed (See, no poop is imbibed after all this happens.)

It's quite a manual process. We also got to watch them roast the beans.

After which, we went up and sampled some of the farm's wares.

I tried a cup of the luwak coffee. It was a bit bitter for my tastes, however the lemongrass tea and the vanilla coffee they sold were lovely, so I came home with some samples which ended a lovely morning trip out of Ubud.

I've come away from this trip feeling really grateful for my life. I've also come away refreshed, happy and feeling ready to start new challenges.

Now the fun part begins. 


Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Bali sounds really interesting.




Jackie K said...

Beautiful pictures, and sounds like a wonderful day.