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    Tropical Heat Tour: Bali Part 19

    Saturday, July 21, 2012
    Sawan, Bali, Indonesia

    Kt. Widana gamelan factory in Sawan, Bali, Indonesia.

    Kt. Widana gamelan factory in Sawan, Bali, Indonesia.

    Kt. Widana gamelan factory in Sawan, Bali, Indonesia.

    This morning, I felt much better because I had started taking antibiotics for my diarrhea, so I was prepared for another go at Sawan, a small village about 15 miles away from Lovina where gamelan instruments are made. I walked through the back alleys over to the main road that winds along the coast and, after standing for just a couple of minutes, flagged down a bemo. He offered to drive me for $2.00 to the Penarukan terminal in Singaraja, where I had to transfer to another bemo to Sawan. En route, he randomly doubled the price to $4.00, which was annoying. I protested, to no avail. I should have just paid him up front. Lesson learned. On a side note, I thought he was a nice guy, even after he raked me over the coals, and I was surprised to see three other tourists in that bemo, because they usually rent a motorcycle or take a taxi or shuttle bus.

    Kt. Widana gamelan factory in Sawan, Bali, Indonesia.

    A lovely rice field and mountain view in Sawan, Bali, Indonesia.

    From Penarukan to Sawan, the next bemo driver only charged me $1.00. At least I got to ride shotgun both times, which is much more bearable than the tiny benches in back that are too small even for a 1/8 scale polystyrene model of a midget. We passed endless amounts of small huts, food stalls and shopfronts as we chugged up into the foothills of the Central Mountains. Finally, the driver dumped me off in front of a small shop with a gamelan sign out front. A lady appeared and told me to walk around the side of the place, down a really narrow trail next to a water-filled rice field past some ramshackle sheds. They were all locked up, but I thrust my camera through a small crack at the top and clicked a couple of photos. I asked the lady if there were any more gamelan makers, and she said no, but I didn’t believe it. So, I schlepped on up the road into the village.

    A Balinese Hindu temple gate in Sawan, Bali, Indonesia.

    Gong Surya Nada gamelan factory in Sawan, Bali, Indonesia.

    I saw a couple of signs, but never came across anything promising, so I proceeded onward a bit until I saw a big sign at an intersection for Gong Surya Nada. There, I turned right and hiked down a hill through the countryside with some incredible rice field and mountain scenery. I passed through a really quaint little village, down another tiny country road that wound through the jungle dotted with homes and the odd business, with sign after sign promising me that the gongmaker was just a few hundred meters ahead. Finally, when I saw the fifth sign, I was about to give up and turn around, when I asked some kids where the gamelan was, and they pointed me in the right direction up a narrow lane through some family compounds. I knew I was in the right place when, after I heard some clinking sounds, I rounded a corner and saw three men in a tiny foundry forging a gong.

    Workers forge a trompong gong at the Gong Surya Nada gamelan factory in Sawan, Bali, Indonesia.

    Trompong gongs on display at the Gong Surya Nada gamelan factory in Sawan, Bali, Indonesia.

    Then a couple of other guys greeted me and let me shoot a few photos and video, followed by a short chat about the making of the instruments, in a shady pavilion in the backyard. They told me it takes six hours for them to produce one gong, and I believe it, because the men looked so exhausted as they pounded on that red hot thing over and over. It’s really hard, grueling labor. They also mentioned they mostly make gongs for the long tromping instrument. As I started to leave and walk down the alley, one of the guys offered me a ride on his motorcycle back up to the main road, which was super nice and saved me a 30-minute hike.

    Playtime at the Gong Surya Nada gamelan factory in Sawan, Bali, Indonesia.

    Talking shop at the Gong Surya Nada gamelan factory in Sawan, Bali, Indonesia.

    Back up at the intersection, I sat down in the shade in front of some shops and waited 30 or 40 minutes for a bemo. A couple went by in the opposite direction, but one of them finally returned a while later and picked me up. The driver, a chubby old guy with a snaggle tooth grin, charged me $2.00 for a ride back to the Penarukan terminal, but it looked nearly deserted, so he offered to drive me from there all the way back to Lovina for another $5.00. I haggled him down to $4.00, and off we went. So, my total outlay for the journey was around $11.00, about half of the $25.00 I would have paid for a private car. Even though I paid many times more than the amount a local would, I was happy I saved enough to pay for my room for a night. After I got some work done all afternoon and evening, I had a late dinner at the Warung Rasta, where a covers band belted out the standard Western top 40 classic rock tunes.

    Overview of the Gong Surya Nada gamelan factory in Sawan, Bali, Indonesia.

    A nice sunset on the beach in Lovina, Bali, Indonesia.

    After a while, I noticed the guy who gave me the aborted motorcycle ride the other day was playing guitar. When their electric set ended, they moved over to a table in the sand for a rowdy, informal jam with an acoustic guitar and a bongo drum, throwing in some Balinese ballads along with the Western hits. I never caught “my” driver’s name, but he invited me over, and we had a nice talk later while we lay on wooden recliners after he handed the guitar off to someone else. Seems he lived for two years in Phoenix, Arizona as a foreign exchange student and worked at a Subway, and now he’s back in Bali. Even though he works as a motorcycle taxi driver, a hotel tout and an axe shredder at the Warung Rasta, he’s still dirt poor. So much so that he wondered aloud to me what he was going to do for money the next day, as there are too many touts and drivers, and the Warung only pays the band once per month–and probably not much, at that. Welcome to paradise!

    Roll over photos for captions.
    Words and photos ©2012 Arcane Candy.

    2 responses to “Tropical Heat Tour: Bali Part 19”

    1. Poison Pie says:

      Glad you are feeling better. Your mini disasters are mounting up. Better start keeping count of something more light-hearted.

    2. Zach O. says:

      Damn I need to catch up. In back in Arkansas for a month

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