more from Bali and Borneo

22 04 2008

A little more of daily liife in Bali in this post, not just the beach…

OK, the tourist zone near Kuta Beach can be a little crass.

For a place that sustained several terrorist bombings and hundreds of deaths (backpackers like me, and locals) only a couple of years ago… this is the only reference to that that I’ve found yet. The young men running the surf shops and bars here grew up on Australian surf culture alongside their parent’s Hinduism – the fanatical Javanese Islam of the bombings is as foreign to them as it is to us.

OK, more beach shots.

I think this gives some sense of the chaos of cars, motorbikes, smoke, surfers, brightly lit shops, hawkers etc in Kuta.

Then I ran into Thomas, the Swedish fire-spinner I met in Kuala Lumpur. He has a place in Ubud, a well-established craft center inland and put me up for a few days. Urban southeast Asia everywhere else I’ve been is all cold, hard, dusty, artificial surfaces – bare concrete, tile, steel shutters, dirt lots, open sewers clogged with trash. Ubud is drastically different. Everything is an explosion of green, dripping with art, everything built and placed just so with deliberate craft. Everything built with with a local volcanic stone that famously weathers just so and looks positively ancient after only a few years in the sun and rain. Everything growing a patina of moss, enveloped by creeping ivy, blooming with tiny flowers between each crack.

This place is so fantastically alive – something is growing or buzzing around everywhere you go.

Green envelops everything

And everything is scaled just so, just a bit smaller than human size, inviting close looks and isolating details. It’s a fascinating place to photograph and can be difficult to make much progress down the street. Angie H., your brain would simply explode here.

Then there’s one of the reasons I went to Ubud with Thomas – I was fascinated to try to photograph his fire-spinning. Some results:

Then it was on to Malaysian Borneo to flee Indonesia before my stingy 30-day visa expired. Arrived in Kota Kinabalu (capitol of the East Malaysian state of Sabah):

Not too many photos of KK yet, as I’ll be back there in a bit for the annual Sabah Fest, which will add lots of color and variety to the town. Next stop was a quick peak-bagging dash up Mt. Kinabalu (4095m, 13,500ft), claimed to be the tallest in Southeast Asia (there’s a taller one in New Guinea, whose geographical provenance is somewhat contested). Anyway, it’s a beautiful massif of dozens of twisted and dramatic peaks on a stark granite pluton, not unlike the Sierra Nevada, utterly unlike the ugly piles of volcanic cinders making up Indonesia:

Dawn, on the way back down. Check out the shadow of the massif against the alpenglow, on the left, and the Pacific Ocean visible in the distance.

Next: orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and a river trek into the rainforest.