CYCLING BALI DAY 6: A TASTE OF JAVA IN BALI
With the non-ending coming and going, it’s not too surprising that there’s a large influx of Javanese culture at Bali’s western end, especially in Gilimanuk. Culture in terms of food, religion, dress, clothing, livestock, house style, and places of worship are prominent.
Considering that Bali is predominantly Hindu while Java is almost entirely Muslim, and further that both religions strongly influence the daily lives of their followers, it’s not surprising that differences between the cultures are distinct. In fact, if you have any experience at all, it’s completely obvious who is Muslim, who is Hindu, who’s Balinese, who’s not, and which people are living in an area.
If Javanese/ Muslim, there are mosques, daily prayer calls, women covering their heads with scarves, men wearing little Muslim caps, Warung Padang (Javanese restaurants), and goats. Yes, rural Muslims in SE Asia keep goats. (also true in S Thailand and Malaysia)
If Balinese, there are Balinese family compounds enclosed in heavy stone walls, ornate family temples and stone houses, cows in fields, men wearing Balinese ‘hats’, women in fancy ceremonial blouses and sarongs, Babi Guling shops (suckling pig) and stone temples.
After spending 5 months in eastern Balinese Bali, the sudden sight of mosques, Muslim clothes and Javanese food stalls, as I headed further and further west along the northern coastal road, first struck me as quite surprising and odd. Long before arriving in Gilimanuk I’d already seen the Muslim influence, mainly with mosques and daily prayer calls. By the time I reached Gilimanuk I was quite accustomed to it all.
So I wasn’t surprised, upon arriving in Gilimanuk, to find many mosques, Warung Padang and Muslim people. But the residential area of town did take me by surprise. I discovered that Gilimanuk is filled with long straight clean streets lined with white picket fences and wood houses. Wow! I hadn’t seen anything like that anywhere in Bali. In fact, not anywhere I could think of in all SE Asia. It looked more like a little American town. Hmph.
I was so surprised, in fact, that it took me a few minutes to figure out what was so odd… Oh- no stone walls or Balinese temples. And white picket fences? With yards? Bizarre. And cute.
I also came across some small Javanese boats at the beach. They are distinctly different from the Balinese ‘jukung’ I was used to in Amed and Sanur.
Today my cycling route would take me from Gilimanuk, eastward along the south coast, to the small city of Negara, a 35 km ride. Once again, I was looking forward to pedaling through the forests of Bali Barat National Park then beside the Bali Barat Mountain Range, this time from a southern perspective.
In early morning, after wandering around Gilimanuk, trying to catch sunrise over Java (nothing spectacular today) then packing up, I headed east out of town. The National Park’s forest afforded abundant shade, which I always appreciated in tropical Bali’s heat. The road consisted mainly of shallow ups and downs, fairly easy cycling.
Along the way I continued to pass Muslim mosques and wood houses, though more and more Balinese family compounds began appearing.
|Thai script on stone|
One curiosity I discovered was a Thai style resort! What? I’d been enticed there by a sign offering fantastic coffee. I went to check it out. As soon as I entered the resort’s garden I thought, “Hmmm… This really looks like a Thai style garden.” As I continued along, I found unmistakeably Thai style buildings- built of wood, set up on stilts. Wow. And then the clincher: a large stone inscribed in Thai writing. What a strange surprise in Bali. Especially way over in ‘the middle of nowhere’ near Bali’s west coast. I confirmed with the staff that, indeed, the resort had a Thai owner. soooo ooddd!
I continued on. About 8 km west of Negara the road flattened out and entered wide flat coastal plains around Negara. Suddenly there were astounding views of green rice fields backed by the Bali Barat Mountain Range. Beautiful. I enjoyed splendid views all the way into the city.
Soon I was pedaling into Negara city. It had taken me 2 hours, with breaks, to ride from Gilimanuk. In Negara, it took me a while to find a hotel but finally I found a great place just off the noisy road, right in the city center. I relaxed and set about exploring the area and making use of excellent city internet services.
reporting from the road, Lash
If you’re inspired to cycle around Bali, check out my guidebook-