When going on a trip one always hopes that the experience will match the dream.
In the case of my recent trip to Java and Bali with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) the experience exceeded the dream.
I was there as OAT's guest. There were 15 people on this trip (the max for an OAT trip). Seven of us were traveling solo with our own rooms and no single supplement. This fact is part of why I think OAT really delivers on their trips. But there is more. So much more.
Last week I shared Into Homes, Schools and Villages in Java and Bali in which I wrote about some of the scheduled stops to meet locals. This time I want to share the spontaneous stops. The occasions that were not on the itinerary. These were opportunities to get behind the standard sights to experience everyday life.
In addition to the hours of explanation that our guides gave us patiently answering our detailed questions, they also stopped at every opportunity to give us unscheduled experiences. Yes, extraordinary!
Understanding the Rice Field
While a visit to the most beautiful rice fields in Bali were on the agenda, we also made a spontaneous stop at a family rice paddy in Java. There were four people harvesting in the fields. They looked as though they were from three generations. As our guides, Hendy and Manik, asked our questions and translated their answers, we learned about the types of rice that Indonesians use, the planting, weeding and harvesting cycle and the rotation of the fields.
Rengginang – Rice Cracker Baskets That Are a Favorite with Beer
After visiting the Borobudur Temple outside of Yogyakarta (Java) we took a cart ride through the adjacent town. As always, Manik and Hendy were on the lookout for learning opportunities. This time, a family rengginang (rice cracker) making business was busy with their daily operation. That’s not always the case but we were lucky. These crackers are usually enjoyed with a beer. First they are formed, then sun dried and then deep fried.
Discovering a Balinese Family Compound
Shortly after arriving in Bali, before we made it to our first destination of Ubud, we stopped at a family compound and learned about the layout and functions of a Hindu home. The family temple is always located in the north-east corner. Within the temple are three important shrines: Kemulan, a shrine to the Hindu holy trinity, Padmasana to the left which is a shrine to the supreme God and a third to the right which is devoted to the family’s ancestors. The couple we met in the compound were the grandparents of the family and were making the daily offerings for the shrines. Offerings are placed directly into the shrines. Sacrifices are laid on the ground to protect people from evil spirits coming out of the ground.
In Ubud I had read that, if you are lucky, it is possible there will be festivals (more often than not, funerals) taking place. We had a free day in Ubud so I went to the tourist office for help. I wasn’t lucky. I mentioned this to our guide, Manik, and the next day on our drive across the island to Lovina he suddenly asked the driver to stop the bus where a funeral taking place in a family compound. He went to check, returned and, yes, we were welcome to go in. The Balinese are so welcoming.
Traditional Palm Sugar Producer
This was one of my favorites. After our scheduled visit to a school that is supported by OAT and a visit to a family that makes their living making baskets and before having lunch at a local's home we made an unscheduled stop at the home of a family that produces palm sugar. The four minivans we were in stopped at the side of the road and we entered the forest on a narrow dirt path. After we were about 50 feet in Manik called out to the owner who came and joined us on the path. He couldn't have been more than five feet tall and his weathered skin made him look more than his almost seventy years. Yet… up he climbed 30 feet to the palm fruit which he cut to let the sap drip into his container made of pumpkin skin. It was incredible. From there we continued along the path to his home where we tasted the sap and the palm sugar made there. Many people bought chunks of the sugar that tasted like a buttery fudge.
This was another surprise on the agenda. It was a very early start – 5:30am to get us out in hopes of seeing dolphins as the sun rose . I saw a couple shoot through the water and one breach but it all happened so fast that there are no photos. Seeing more dolphins would have been wonderful (and one of the boats did) but going out in the early morning and seeing the sun rise was a pleasure unto itself.
I thank Overseas Adventure Travel for sponsoring my trip to Java and Bali.