Modernity and Tradition at Home and Away

As Zoey and I return home from our morning walk around the city, she’s drawn in to a number of rapid fire conversations with her kampung friends (she spends more time out playing everyday with friends now; Grandpa time often takes second place to playtime in the neighborhood). She’s smart and sassy, so much like her mother, grandmother and youngest aunt; my oldest daughter and youngest son take more after me – thoughtful and somewhat reticent in dealing with others. Zoey gets into a verbal taunt with a friend who is twice her age, and she holds her ground. She switches off effortlessly into English with me when she asks if it’s ok to play with her friends rather than come upstairs to her room to play with me. She grabs some snacks that she’s bought at the mini-market, gives one to a friend and off she goes.

A group of these little kampung urchins gather round to watch a neighbor who’s crafting a new outrigger boat. The kids still learn about traditional ways by watching the adults; none of the adults mind the audience unless they get in the way of the work. It’s a scene that’s gone on in this kampung for hundreds of years. But one of them pulls out a tablet and snaps a photo of his uncle at work, modernity is never far away or totally separated from the traditional life. The kids blend them together without a thought. Their toys include store-bought dolls and laser guns, castoff plastic plates from a recent ceremony and some oddly shaped pebbles that have washed up from the sea in a recent storm.  This kind of childhood is far from my own Chicago child life: we rarely interacted with adults, dads were at some sort of work that we only vaguely understood and moms were at home cooking and cleaning. Here it’s like Tom Sawyer and Kim all rolled into one, set against the beautiful Bali Sea in a somewhat seedy fishing kampung.

I’ve been trying to get a grasp on the issue of modernity versus tradition (if it’s really a binary thing, and it certainly doesn’t appear to be) in PNG, but it dawns on me that very similar processes are at work here. Maybe that’s what has thrown me off integrating my most recent trip to PNG into my somewhat idiosyncratic world view. I was having dinner with a few guests on the cruise ship and one of them remarked that my wife sounded very traditional.

That remark just came to mind today while I was cleaning the house and moving some of my wife’s traditional medicines out of the way. The smell of jajan (a wonderful variety of baked goods) rises up to my room from my wife’s kitchen. She’s cooking for the 40-day ceremony for my new grandson. She still makes everything from scratch even though she could more easily buy the things she cooks in a bakery or supermarket. My wife is about as traditional as you can get here, but the tablet that she uses for her regular Facebook postings is never far from reach.

Tradition and modernity are all around me, but I miss a lot of it because in so many ways, I really have (as I’ve been accused of by several former anthropologist colleagues) gone native for  the most part and so what seems strange and exotic to Western outsiders is just another regular, non-remarkable event for me that I gloss over like so many of the ceremonies and colorful cultural artifacts that bring millions of visitors to this tiny island every year.

And then there’s tourism that gets thrown in this mix. I came here as a tourist as all of the foreigners who live here did, but over the years I’ve grown to view tourism mostly through its negative aspects. But tourism is one of the economic and cultural forces that I’ve come to reconsider after my month on the Sepik River. And accordingly, I need to do so here as well. Lots of things to reconsider; that in itself is actually refreshing as the events of the last six months have shaken me out of my tropical lull and started me on taking a look at the local and the foreign in some new ways.

The movement from tradition to modernity doesn’t have a simple linear trajectory; it twists and turns, advances and retreats. Some aspects of modernity are adopted and modified to fit into the regular flow of life; technology seems to be the easiest path to be adapted, ideology the hardest. And there’s the sticky problem of the definition of both modernity and tradition. This is a current issue in many of the places that I’ve visited in PNG. What’s tradition, what’s custom, what’s good tradition, what’s bad, what’s the difference between tradition and custom. One example: are young ladies in the Trobriand following tradition when they dance topless in front of camera-clicking (and cash-paying) tourists? And if it’s tradition, is it good tradition or bad tradition. And then there’s land issues. Here the issue revolves less around land problems (a common point of contention in PNG) and more around how cultural actions are played out whether it’s in death rituals, religious rituals or the political translation and mobilization of the two.

In both Indonesia and Papua New Guinea there are serious existential concerns about the viability of traditional culture under the onslaught of 21st century modernity and globalization. However, they are opposite sides of the same coin;  Bali is concerned with too much tourism, Papua New Guinea with too little.  Finding a balance seems to be the commonsense solution to Bali’s problem, although the eyes of the powers that control such things here seem to be blinded by the color of money. It’s always the more the better. But this issue in Bali has been discussed since colonial days, and with no solution in sight, it’s easy enough to take the cynical view that nothing will change until the whole fragile system collapses under its own weight. For PNG, well that’s something for another post.

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The History of the Bugis in Kampung Bugis Part II

Note: Back on the old blog before I lost my domain name, I had a history of Kampung Bugis that I translated from the Indonesian. This document was a senior thesis written by an Indonesian student. It was an interesting history, and unfortunately I’ve misplaced most of the translation except for this section, I’m posting this here with the hope that I will come across the rest of  the translation in the future.

Last post on the Bugis, I wrote that I would add some information about the culture of the Bugis who arrived in Bali. This post summarizes the information in from the first section of Chapter 2 of the Migration and the Role of the Bugis in Kampung Bugis Buleleng 1815-1946 by I Nyoman Mardika.

According to Raden Sasrawidjaja who wrote about the Bugis in Kampung Bugis in 1871 when he visited there, the houses of the Bugis who came to Bali had three parts: an upper house under the roof called the Rakkaang where grain, other food supplies and family heirlooms were stored, unmarried girls from the nobility also lived in this section of the house; the second part of the house, the Alebola, consisted of rooms that were used for living, such as bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining room and a receiving room; the third part, the Awasai, was used for livestock, farming gear or fishing gear.

The original geographic boundaries of Kampung Bugis were unclear because there were no firm agreements on borders at this time, but after Indonesia won independence the boundaries of Kampung Bugis were the Java Sea to the north, Tukad Buleleng to the east, Kampung Anyar to the west and Banjar Bali to the south. The population of Kampung Bugis in 1823 was estimated to be around 2,000 residents. The current population is around 3,300.

Kampung Bugis was ideally located for the Bugis people because it is located along the beach close to the center of the town of Singaraja. It is also adjacent to to the customs port of Buleleng. Because this customs port was busy and visited regularly by ships, it was an ideal location for the Bugis who were skilled in trading activities. Also, due to Kampung Bugis’ relatively small, narrow boundaries and sandy soil, farming was not an option as an economic activity. So, the Bugis traded as their main means of livelihood with fishing as a secondary source of income or food. The writer notes that the Bugis are known for their trading ability because of their tradition of sailing and dominating inter-island trade prior to the Dutch intrusion into the islands.

In order to be able to understand the history of the Bugis people in Kampung Bugis, it is necessary to view the kampung and the people in the context of north Bali, or Buleleng. The city of Singaraja was founded in 1604 by I Gusti Panji Sakti who came to the north from the kingdom of Gelgel in the south. Sakti, according to the Babad Buleleng, traced his descent back to the fabled Majapahit Empire in Java. Sakti’s descendents ruled Buleleng until the late 18th century when the kingdom was taken over by Karangasem. By 1840 Buleleng was ruled by Anak Agung Ngurah Made Karangasem along with the powerful prime minister I Gusti Ketut Jelantik. Under his charismatic leadership, Buleleng became one of the most powerful kingdoms on the island. But, the Dutch, who had paid little substantial attention to Bali up until the 18th century because of its lack of spices, became interested in securing treaties with the Balinese kings in order to establish themselves on the island so that any British ambitions for Bali would be abandoned. By 1845 the Dutch had successfully established treaties with most of the Balinese kingdoms.

Next post: The Dutch Capture of Buleleng

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Once Again Back On the Road: Another Ubud Trip (Where Else?)

I’ve been back from my latest trip to Papua New Guinea for almost two months now. I’ve been working on writing about the changes in me that those trips have brought about, but I haven’t quite completed figuring the whole thing out – but soon, it’s just on the tip of my tongue.

After being out on the sea for three months out of five (before these two months at home), life in the kampung has gotten a bit ho-hum. Everyday is the same: get up, play with Zoey before school, get her off to school, clean the house, play with Zoey after school, do a little reading and writing, play with Zoey again while my wife makes dinner, eat dinner, watch tv and sleep, Reset and do it all again tomorrow.

Now, that’s actually not a bad life. I don’t have to work; I wouldn’t mind having some extra money, but we have enough to get by on, and for me that’s cool. I have a great bunch of kids and grandkids. Somehow all the neurological problems that I had a few years back after a stroke have disappeared. I live on a tropical island, which I’ve wanted to do since I was in high school. I speak two languages and bits of three or four other ones. I have a beautiful and extremely challenging wife. I have a completely strange and blind monkey that I would love more if he didn’t insist on peeing on me.

So, what I have always needed when I get these stay-at-home blues is a road trip, and where else to make a trip other than to Ubud to visit some old friends and see what the Yoga capital of the world is up to these days. Really the trip is not just about visiting friend or getting out of the house. It’s as much about seeing Bali. Getting out to the villages and the small roadside warungs and life outside of tourism central.

Life on this small island now regularly called a resort island (how ugly can we get) has always been about what happens with the masyarakat (the people). All the rest is window dressing for anthropologists, royalty-struck tourist hangers-on, and, of course, the wealthy and connected. And for me, the best way to get to see what is going on around the island is to head out on my motorcycle and make a few stops along the way to chat with folks. The destination of Ubud is really of secondary importance to the physical act of the ride over these twisty roads that run through some of the best of traditional Balinese villages.

The weather on the trip down and back was beautiful: clear skies, a slight breeze and that Balinese sun to keep me warm when I got up into the mountains just before Kintamani.

These trips give me a chance to let the thoughts flow freely, unencumbered by the daily trivia of life back home. My children call these trips “refreshing,” and while I used to think that was kind of a strange way to put it, it’s actually the perfect word to describe what happens when I get out on the road. On this trip, I was playing with the concept of consciousness (not in the sense of how some of the new arrivals to Bali use it, such as in “Oh ya, I’m a conscious person,” but in the scientific sense of the word.) Consciousness is a favorite concept to think about just because of the act of perceiving and thinking about the beauty found around Bali on the way up to Ubud from Singaraja. The sense of being in the world can be really startling when immersed in the lushness of a tropical island.

By the end of the drive, I was, as is said, refreshed. Down in Ubud, things are as busy as usual; the tourist season really doesn’t exist anymore for Ubud, it’s always the tourist season. The narrow sidewalks that were once a pleasure to stroll along in early May before the onslaught of the traditional tourist season that began in June, now are packed in early May with the wandering hordes of tourist walking two or three abreast making it difficult to do an absent-minded stroll. Seems like there is always someone pushing you off towards the street, which is extremely hazardous with all the traffic in Ubud these days.

I had a chance to catch-up with the Balinese family that I have been staying with for the past 29 years, as well as spending a pleasant afternoon catching up with an old American friend and his Balinese wife. And, as usual, I did my shopping tour through town to get a few things for Zoey, Zander and Su. I made my obligatory stop at Ganesha Books to get Zoey a few books, and I succumbed to the desire to spend a quiet evening in my room by ordering a pizza from a local restaurant.

Getting out of town is for me a chance to get out of a few of the daily routines, and this trip was successful and pleasant. And now back home to start on some new projects.

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Time and Time Again: Life in Bali

Bali. For some people the name says it all – warm seas, soft sands, cold beers, vibrant colors, exotic sounds, friendly people, wide smiles, laughing children, a multitude of inexpensive small hotels and homestays. Bali. A land of wonder and magic set in the warm waters of the Bali Sea and the Indian Ocean.

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Bali. The tourist-ruined, money-soaked island sucking in foreign dollars for the Indonesian government in Jakarta. Hand-planted rice, delicately crafted religious offerings, vibrant cloths used in ceremonial clothes. Gamelan orchestras practicing in the warm nights under a brilliant moon, fishing in a traditional prahu chasing tuna and flying fish, the mystery of a wayang kulit in a village with the children laughing, the men gambling, and the women making comments on their husbands’ performances or lack thereof. Bali. Which one is it?

The answer is that there is no answer – it all depends on what you bring to Bali and where you take it. There are foreigners who have come to Kuta and have never left. The excitement, opportunity and midnight rush have seduced them into finding a way to build a life there. Sanur, a twenty minute ride from Kuta, is a more relaxed village catering to generally more upscale tourists. Then, too, there are the tourists who come and drink, dance, spend and flee looking for one more country or island to “do.” Come up to the north and you might find boredom or bliss. Quiet sunsets on Lovina or Anturan Beach, serene walks in scenic villages. Try Ubud, the fabled center of Balinese ‘culture,” and you may find fantastic artists and musicians, thrilling performances of ancient dances and plays, or you may find digital nomads wandering the street half-naked, rabid dogs, muddy pathways and cold showers.

Bali. I first heard of the legendary Indonesian island during my freshman year at the University of Illinois in my Introduction to Cultural Anthropology course. Years later, I was a teaching associate in the anthropology department at UC Berkeley teaching an introductory anthropology course with Bali as one of the culture areas. And, while I had never been to Bali, my readings and lectures lit the desire to visit this island about which so much had been written just to see what the fuss was really about. As these things sometimes go, not long after I was offered a teaching position in a mining company on the island of New Guinea – not all that far from Bali. The fulfillment of my desire was just on the horizon. When I left San Francisco in 1989, I never imagined that I would still be living overseas 28 years later. As the Grateful Dead say, it’s been a long, strange trip.

 

Being one of the old-timers now on the island, I tend to get lulled into thinking about how much better the island was before tourism boomed – there were plenty of tourists when I first came here, but every year the numbers go up and in some parts of the island – Ubud and the Kuta/Legian/Seminyak area in particular – high season just means even more tourists than usual. We like to talk about the adventure that life here was back then when many places still had no electricity, it was more common to drink warm beer than cold, streets in the villages would turn into streams of mud during the rainy season, and you never knew what strange thing you might find around the next bend in the road.

Thinking about the lost, the real and the imagined Bali. I find that living in a developing-world slum keeps me somewhat less in need of a reality check than some of my friends who actually buy the market-driven fantasy of a paradise island. And, yet, driving through these solitary mountains and antique villages bereft of Mercedes Benzs, delivered pizzas and organic carrots grown in soil saturated with the green revolution’s chemical remnants reminds me that something brought me here so many years ago long before it was discovered by yoga-drenched sybaritic youngsters looking for one more fix for their god-obsessed wandering. We project our needs, desires and dreams on this little, overcrowded island of drama, ceremony, magic and tedium. People of all ages, classes and nationalities arrive here daily: many are physically ill, emotionally-drained, financially or intellectually challenged. They are looking for something special to recharge, revitalize or renew their lives. They’re looking for that special magic that Bali is so famous for. Some find it and go on to develop their lives, others just can’t connect to the realities of life in a developing country.

So why have I stayed in Bali and not gone back to the States or off to another country around the world? Serendipity is one short answer. A close American friend and long-time Bali resident has the saying: many are called, few are chosen. Without getting overly mystical, I felt a pull here within the first month that I was here. Not as soon as I arrived; I stayed my first week in Kuta and while it was a welcome break from life in the mining camp where I lived, it was not what I had hoped to find here. But slowly over the month of my vacation my perception of Bali developed. It was a combination of the natural beauty of Bali and the friendships that I developed with Balinese. It happened when the giddy edge of exotic strangeness started to wear off and a feeling of normality set in. It was then that I realized that I wanted to live here permanently. It wasn’t cheap living, it wasn’t being able to build a “villa,” (never been there, never done that), it wasn’t having a “staff” to cater to my every need, it wasn’t even because of a woman (I had already set my mind to living here permanently before I met the lovely Suhana). It was that mystical something that drew me here and keeps me here.

We imagine what we’d like to see when we travel. In the days before social networking, smart phones and instant images that can be transmitted across the globe in seconds, tourists would develop mental images of what they might meet upon entering a foreign country, then those imagined images would be adjusted to the reality. Now we can see our hotel room online, read updated reviews of the restaurant, check out the toilet facilities, see who our neighbor is going to be on the airplane, view anything and everything in a 360 degree total surround sound view. Traveling around to exotic locales isn’t what it used to be in terms of adventure, but for those of us who have been around this tropical “paradise” for a long time, we need to remind ourselves that others arrived here before us and said pretty much the same things that we say now. We just need to remember that the beauty of the island is not just in a startling sunset or a lush paddy but in the dignity and strength of the people that live here.

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On the Road Again: Another Visit to Ubud

farviilageGetting out on the road in Bali just before dawn is one of my special loves. The air is fresh; a gauzy haze blankets the countryside; small, wood cooking fires send up snake-like streams of smoke from dozens of kitchens along the rural roads that add the hint of an exotic smell to the morning crispness. Markets are busy with a mess of motorbikes, trucks, cars, bicycles and pedestrians all maneuvering for space. The earliest and most eager students begin to appear alongside the rode ready to begin another school day.

dscf4048The road from Ubud to Kintamani via Tegallalang is mix of stretches of new, smooth asphalt and crumbly, potholed rubble. It’s better now though than in the past and it lends itself to a reflective drive – on cruise control most of the time as the early morning traffic thins out once past Tegallalang.

A three-day rest back in my usual homestay – my home away from home- for the past 27 years. It had been almost a year since I stayed these last: too many responsibilities at home with my job of raising my inquisitive little granddaughter, a month long cruise to Papua and the Moluccas, and the usual tedium of house repairs. So, back at the homestay a morning of friendly and surprised greetings – bapak, you’ve been away for so long, we were just talking about you, how’s Zoey, how’s Singaraja, have something to eat you must be tired from that long drive. Wonderful to know that I have my secret little sanctuary away from the bustle of city life in Singaraja and from the craziness of Ubud even though the homestay is only a hundred meters off the main street of downtown Ubud – if I can call it that.

Time to meet with old friends – foreign and local. Talk about the state of the world and the country in these post US-election days because everyone wanted to talk about that. And a lot of talk about the state of Ubud. My first surprise as I turned onto the main road on my way to the homestay was to just miss getting slammed into by two foreigners on a motorbike – obviously not used to driving in Indonesian traffic. And just as surprised by their state of dress – or perhaps state of undress – is a better word. The young man shirtless, wearing only shorts and flipflops, no helmet. The young lady on the back barefoot wearing only a bikini and no helmet either. It was the first sight of foreigners sporting beachwear in Ubud – far from any beach. Later I was to run into more of this as I walked around town: men shirtless, women in bikinis. I had to ask my friends because this was something new for me.

The responses from my foreigner friends were expected – something along the lines of “disrespectful,” “rude,” “clueless.” Maybe because we’re from another generation, or maybe just getting older and more conservative. But, what I really wanted was to hear what the Balinese think about this because regardless of what we foreigners think, if the Balinese aren’t offended by this type of dress in public places, well then, we should just get on with things and forget about it.

So, I asked a cross-generational group from great-grandpa down to the teenagers in the compound. Responses were pretty much uniform except varying in degrees of irritation: “rude,” “disrespectful to the local culture,” “eww, who want’s to eat in a restaurant when people are at the next table undressed,” “idiots” (a teen, of course), “kind of funny to see people walk down the street like that,” “OK for the girls but not for the boys,” “don’t they read the guidebooks on how to act in Bali?”

And it was that last comment that set me off on another line of thought. Whose responsibility is it to tell foreigners what is acceptable locally and what isn’t? Should they just figure it out on their own, should there be some kind of handout at immigration on how to behave in Bali, should the locals tell them directly (a bit confrontational for most Balinese that I know), should we old-timers act as the fashion and behavior police?

Well, there was no real consensus from my friends, but generally the idea of having some sort of informational pamphlet at the airport received the most positive responses. However there was also a pretty adamant group that thought that tourists should find out for themselves – “that’s what you did,” said an old-timer, “you were always asking can I do this, is it alright to do that. What’s so hard about that?”

So, I guess life with tourists will just muddle on as it has always done except for those extreme situations when tourists decide to have sex in a temple (yes, it’s happen a number of times here), or relieve themselves on a temple wall (yes, been done as well). So, in the meantime,  I’ll just continue to look somewhat bemused when I see strange tourist behavior and just get on with things.

And when we got to politics, no surprises there. No Trump fans and some worries that things will get worse in the world with a loose cannon in charge of the US. Despite what Trump likes to say, Obama is respected here, and no one is looking forward to the change.

A lot more from this trip – it was eventful – but that’s for another time. Zoey will be home from school soon.

And another local take on Ubud and its foreign residents:

And another with a relevant comment even though the location is Kuta:

And since I’m on with Natasha today, one more cute take on foreigners in Bali:

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Back to the Source: Lessons from Zoey

Getting older I’ve been somewhat surprised that I tend to live more in the future than in the past or present. This seems to be pretty much a function of raising a granddaughter (and still having several children in university or close to it). I’m continually thinking about how their lives will turn out and how long I’ll be around to help them as they transition in adulthood.

It’s gotten a little frustrating – this living in the future – as Indonesians are not generally known for their proclivity for living in, or planning for, the future. So, I’m usually out of time-sync with most everyone around me. And, as my memory continues to deteriorate at a faster-than-hoped for degree, trying to keep track of everything swirling around gets more confusing and frustrating. I wasn’t consciously aware of this (even though the signs have been fairly evident for months now), but weeks of nightmares led me to go back to the source of my early graduate school training in psychological and psychoanalytic anthropology. So out came the Freud in an attempt to figure out what my unconscious was insistently trying to tell me. I went through Interpretation of Dreams, Civilization and Its Discontents and a variety of essays in a few Freudian collections. The common thread finally became evident – a loss of control.

According to my neurologist, this feeling of a loss of control isn’t uncommon in people who have had a number of strokes. So the problem was how to deal with this disconcerting emotional state. Going back to the source of my sojourn in education brought me to the realization of what it was that was troubling me, but it hadn’t given me to way to deal with it. And, that’s where my youngest granddaughter comes in.

dscf1791Zoey has already developed a basic understanding of time – before (the video we saw before, Grandpa), present (let’s play ball, Grandpa) and future (when we get home we can go upstairs?). But, in the main, Zoey lives in the present: she’s acutely aware of everything that goes on around us – on our walks, when we play in her room, when we’re about to take a nap. She catches the details of the moment both for good (wow, big goats!), and bad (oh no, the nasi lady is gone). She sees the butterflies across a crowded street and the new house under construction a block away. Her greatest concern is the problem immediately confronting her. She enjoys life, she laughs a lot, she’s always present even when I’m not. That vacant look that she occasionally gets from me elicits a response of “no sleeping, Grandpa.”

This three year old bundle of energy takes things as they come. Her big thing now is sharing, and she believes that everyone will share like she will, that everyone will have the same big open heart that she has and that everyone will play fair and be friends and that things really are good and beautiful. That’s a lot of faith in believing that things will all work out for the best, and it’s something that our children and grandchildren have (and that we once had when we were younger). And, a lot of that faith, I think, has to do with her living in the present; she doesn’t remember when her friend smacked her over the head with his toy or when Grandpa was grumpy and made her take a nap, or when the crazy lady in the street hit her with a newspaper. She lives in the now, she has faith that things are going to be great – it’s a beautiful day Grandpa; look at that, Grandpa, it’s amazing. It has nothing to do with religion or politics or ideologies; it comes from deep down in the human DNA, that inherent optimism that we often let get buried by all the layers of cultural conditioning. She lives in the Now and that seems to me to be about the best place to be these days.

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A Brief Historical and Socioeconomic View of Buleleng, Singaraja and Kampung Bugis

Singaraja is the capital of the regency of Buleleng, which covers the north side of the island of Bali. Buleleng is the largest province of Bali in terms of area. During the colonial period, Singaraja was the capital of Bali and the Lesser Sunda Islands; in 1953 the capital was moved to Denpasar in the south. During the colonial period, the harbor in Singaraja was the entry point to the island for visitors and a variety of goods including slaves and opium.

Raja of Buleleng and his secretary circa 1875. Image:  Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute

Raja of Buleleng and his secretary circa 1875. Image:
Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute

Buleleng was founded on March 30, 1604, by the legendary Gusti Panji Sakti who was descended from the son of Dalem Sagening, king of Gelgel, and who at one time ruled both Buleleng and Blambangan in Java. The story goes that Panji Sakti left Klungkung to found a new kingdom in North Bali. When Panji Sakti reached the top of the mountain range, he was thirsty, but there was no water. So, he drove his magic kris into the ground and a spring formed. This spring still exists today at the site of the Pura Yeh Ketipat temple in the Lake Beratan area. Eventually Panji Sakti built three palaces; the last palace was at the site of Singaraja and this is considered the official birth date (1604) of the city and the kingdom of Buleleng.

Buleleng was the first of the Balinese kingdoms to fall to the Dutch after three battles in 1846, 1848 and 1849. (I’ll have more about this in my posts about the Bugis in Kampung Bugis.) Buleleng has 9 kecamatans (sub-districts); these are Gerokgak, Seririt, Busung Biu, Banjar, Buleleng, Sukasada, Sawan, Kubutambahan and Tejakula. Geographically Buleleng includes mountain ranges in the south, two lakes in the mountains and the relatively narrow coastal plane that skirts the Bali Sea on the north. Agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and crafts are the main areas of the economy. The regency’s land area is 24.25% of the total land area of Bali. Buleleng’s has a varied climate; the mountain ranges to the south regularly receive rainfall, while the coastal area has a dry season and a wet season.

According to the Kabupaten Buleleng’s website, the regency (or district as it is sometimes called) had a population of 786,972 in 2009. While the sub-district of Buleleng has the smallest area of the nine sub-districts, it has the largest population and highest population density. The sub-district of Buleleng had a population of 146,942 with a density of 1,515 people per square kilometer; the city of Singaraja has somewhere between 80,000 to 100,000 residents and this accounts for the high population density of Buleleng. Singaraja is known as a city of education.

Kampung Bugis is located right along the Bali Sea (sometimes also called the Java Sea or the Bali/Java Sea), and is adjacent to the harbor. The total area of Kampung Bugis is 30 hectares. In addition to having the sea as its northern border, it borders Kampung Baru to the east, Kampung Kajanan to the south and Kampung Anyar to the west. The kampung has 3,299 residents, divided almost equally between males and females. Trading is the most common occupation, and there are 21 residents listed as making their livelihood by fishing.

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City Life in Bali: A Walking Tour of Singaraja

singaraja1

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I was going to get some needed exercise while exploring the city that I’ve called home for most of the past 23 years. I’ve been waiting to get over a bout of pneumonia, but it’s been a long time coming – getting well that is – so I’ve decided that the best way to speed my recovery at this point is to just get out and do some walking. One thing that I’ve discovered while planning my walking tour of the city on a map is just how big Singaraja actually is. That little discovery has surprised me, I think, just because I’ve taken the city for granted. It’s a fairly common thing for people to fall into comfortable routines, and we miss all of the wonder and the changes around us. So, if I really want to do right by Singaraja, I’m going to be doing a lot of walking over the coming months.

I’ve been thinking about how best to do my little walking tour, and I finally decided that the best place to start is from home. It makes a lot of sense geographically because we are right at the edge of the world – so to speak – because three meters in front of our house is the Bali Sea and that’s where Singaraja ends. So, I’m starting out from home and making little forays farther and farther out from the house.

masjid

My first walk is just a little stroll out of Kampung Bugis past Masjid Taqwa down Jalan Diponegoro (Singaraja’s central business district – that’s probably too grand a title for Jalan Diponegoro, but I like it so why not) then over to Jalan A. Yani and back down Jalan Imam Bonjol to the harbor and home again. The route is traced out on the map of Singaraja for readers who want to locate the areas that I’m writing about on a map. Jalan Diponegoro is the central shopping area and the city’s main traditional market is located right in the middle of the street although it can be a bit difficult to discover because the entrance is just a small opening on Jalan Diponegoro – the actual market is between Diponegoro and Jalan Imam Bonjol. The market has fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, spices, clothes and a variety of other dry goods. Really, I don’t find it all that interesting, although it does seem to attract a number of tourists who want to see a traditional market.

The street also has electronic stores (I buy all my electronic equipment there), a few small restaurants, shoe stores, a few book stores (including a new one that I just discovered on this walk), a pharmacy, a few doctor’s offices, some fishing equipment shops, a small mini-market, two or three clothing stores, the main branch of BII (Bank Internasional Indonesia), a few hair saloons, a few gold shops, and an assortment of shops selling household goods. The street is almost always crowded with traffic due to the relatively new practice of allowing double parking which causes traffic to back up during the busy shopping hours of the day. I’ll get back to discussing Jalan A. Yani in another post.

imambonjol

Jalan Imam Bonjol is another busy street just to the east of Jalan Diponegoro. It is filled with shops selling a variety of things, such as household goods, furniture, car and motorbike parts, gold jewelry, and children’s toys. This street also has an entrance to the main market and a new mini-market. While Jalan Diponegoro is a one way street running north, Jalan Imam Bonjol is a one-way street running south. Most of the buildings are two stories with a shop on the ground floor and a residence on the second story. Running off of Jalan Imam Bonjol to the east and west are several small streets called gangs in Bahasa Indonesia.

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Walking Tour of Singaraja, Bali: Jalan Erlangga and Jalan Hasanuddin

Today I’m going to walk up Jalan Hasanuddin which is just a street to the east of Jalan Imam Bonjol.
A map of my walks.

After leaving Kampung Bugis walking to the east comes the intersection of Jalan Diponegoro and Jalan Erlangga. Actually, Jalan Dipongegoro becomes Jalan Erlangga in that way that streets do here. Navigating any city in Bali is made more difficult by the fact that house and shop numbers do not necessarily change sequentially and one street suddenly becomes another without warning. Detailed maps may be of some help, but how many of us carry maps around with us? So out onto Jalan Erlangga; this is a short street. This part of it is narrow and often congested because of traffic coming from Jalan Diponegoro, which, as one of the main streets of Singaraja, gets a lot of traffic, and Jalan Pattimura which runs through Kampung Bugis and gets a lot of traffic because all of the trucks coming from the west have to be routed through Jalan Pattimura. Find a photo. A lot of cars and delivery trucks double park here which adds to the congestion.

Jalan Erlangga has a large furniture shop where we buy most of our furniture. We’ll occasionally run into foreigners from the Lovina area shopping for furniture there. This is not the expensive custom made furniture, but they have some nice beds and a few other pieces. One the south side of Erlangga is another furniture shop. We buy things there occasionally. Additionally, there are several automotive parts stores, a fishing/photography shop, a small grocery store selling dry goods and beverages, a baby shop and at several bicycle stores. Other buildings include a mosque and a store selling generators, hardware and other building tools.

Jalan Hasanuddin, Singarja Bali

Jalan Erlangga continues on past the intersection with Jalan Imam Bonjol. Here, Jalan Erlangga becomes a wider two-way street. Both sides have a number of shops selling building supplies such as paint, plywood, ceramic tiles, tools, varnish, nails and bolts, cement, and a variety of other building materials. This section of Jalan Erlangga continues on about 200 meters until it reaches the entrance to the old harbor and the bridge; it then becomes Jalan Surapati. Right across from the entrance to the bridge on the south side of the street is the start of Jalan Hasanuddin. Like Jalan Imam Bonjol, Jalan Hasanuddin is a one-way street running south. A lot of the buildings on Jalan Hasanuddin are storage facilities for local businesses. There is a busy pharmacy, a dentist’s office and a pediatrician’s office close by. Going south a ways is a pet supply store. No pets, just supplies like cages, aquariums, food for any number of creatures, and cigarettes. Yes, this pet store sell cigarettes.

Jalan Hasanuddin continues on south until it curves to the west and joins up with Jalan Imam Bonjol. As I walked this short stretch, I could hear the screams and laughter of children. I looked up and noticed an elementary school. I expected that because of the noise level the kids would be out on recess, but they were safely tucked away inside the classrooms. A large bathroom and tile store sits right at the intersection of Hasanuddin and Imam Bonjol. We’ve bought a few faucets and a toilet from them. They have a small, but interesting selection of bathroom fixtures, including a large solar water heater. This kind of store wasn’t around in Singaraja when we were building each of our houses. To get Western-type building supplies, we had to go down to Denpasar, and even there, the selection was limited. Singaraja has become more Western friendly in terms of construction materials, and, even Indonesians are now buying Western-type furnishings for their homes. Recently we visited a neighbor’s house and were surprised to see that they had a Western toilet in their bathroom along with a fancy sink and cabinet set. Across the street is a fairly large building supply store that sells paint, wood, plastic piping and so on.

And just where Jalan Imam Bonjol ends and splits into two streets, Jalan Gajah Mada starts and leads south to Denpasar. Jalan Dr. Sutomo splits off to the west for a short distance and becomes Jalan A. Yani which heads off to Lovina. Right at this busy intersection (noticeable for the large statute that marks the intersection), Singaraja’s post office is located. Generally the post office isn’t too busy, and it now has a small ATM in the parking lot.

I follow Jalan Dr. Sutomo – it only runs about 150 meters at the most – over to Jalan Diponegoro. Jalan Dr. Sutomo has a mix of small businesses that sell books, household goods and electronics. There is also a small internet shop that I used a few times when my internet connection was out. Perhaps most importantly, Bank Central Asia is here just across from the south entrance to Singaraja’s main market. BCA has an ATM machine and inside it’s possible to change currency including traveler checks. A police post, a clothing store and a motorcyle store are also located here.

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