For today, I booked a tour that would go to the North side of the island. I ended up paying significantly more but I got the car to myself and sort of was glad not to have to go with any tourists from China or something. I was surprised when the car arrived. I was expecting a small car and driver. What showed up was a large van, a driver, and a guide. Then, before we could get out of the Taxa Uma parking space, the salesmen who booked my trip showed up to check on his boys and make sure I was ok. They were boys. The driver was Puta and I'm guessing about 20 years old, though I never asked him. The guide looked a lot younger. His name was Ian. He explained that he is still in language school, and apologized if he was hard to understand. I asked him how old he was. 17! Ha! I was being led to the other side of the island by a teenager. Somehow, appropriate. I assured Steven, the sales guy, that I was fine with Ian and Puta. He looked a little doubtful, but said, OK, and closed the door. And away we went.
Puta could certainly step on the gas when the traffic allowed. But, all in all, he wasn't a bad driver. Ian was not exactly chatty, but did ask a little about me and seemed willing to talk about himself. He finished school about a year ago when you could still graduate at 16. He lived in Denpasar with his mother. His father had left them when he was young and he hadn't seen him since. His mother had always worked hard to support him. His extended family lives in Java, though he doesn't seem to interested in ever leaving Bali. At least not permanently. Puta is Hindu, but Ian is Muslim. I asked about his practice and he seemed to think he was doing the 7 pillars as well as he could.
Puta had a tattoo that stuck out just below the sleeve. I asked about it. Before long he was pulling on his shirt as he drove to show me the other tattoos. Um, maybe later would be better.
We weren't really supposed to stop in the artisan village, but my guys had decided I needed to see it. They took me to a batik factory where they showed me how they made batik clothes. Then, we went to a silver smith where they were making silver and gold jewelry. They took me to a painting studio with gorgeous things hanging all over the place. Finally, they took me to a wood working shop. The guys there were true artisans and that stop ended up hurting me more than the others. If found a mask that demonstrated some of the best work in the shop. When I found out it was way out of my price range, I bought it anyway. As the young man was wrapping it up for me, he confided that this piece had special meaning to him. His father had made it. And his dad no longer does wood work; he only trains other wood workers now. No paint. Just the natural beauty of the wood.
We made a stop to taste the Luwak coffee again. I started to turn it down, but I didn't want to disappoint my boys. I know, crazy right?
I had planned to do a little shopping tomorrow before leaving, but I decided I had spent all the money I needed to. Perhaps a day to hang out and rest would be ok too.
From time to time, I would ask Ian a question--how many Muslims are in Bali? Are there any other Hindu islands? How long will it take to get to Ulun Danu? Each question led to a long discussion in Indonesian, then Ian would pronounce the consensus opinion they had come to. Kind of funny really.
They took me to see these rice terraces. I was a little afraid it was the same place we went to in Ubud, but not at all. This was a sprawling hillside painted with terraces and little tin houses. I got out of the van with my mouth open and started taking photos. There was a little restaurant near there, so they asked if I wanted to get lunch. I was hungry. The place was an Indonesian buffet, not bad at all. But the best part of it was the sweeping view of the rice terraces all around me. I asked Ian if they would join me for lunch. "No sir." Then, when he thought I looked disappointed, "maybe later."
Back in the van we raced toward the Ulun Danu. We capped a hill to see the lake below us. The temple was on the other side of the lake. When we arrived, Puta stayed with the van and Ian went in with me. He didn't seem to be a wealth of information, but he seemed to like my humor and enjoyed taking pictures of me when I would hand him my camera. I asked to take a shot or two of him. He hesitated, then agreed. When he saw my pictures, he said, "You are a good photographer." Well, if you shoot enough your bound to get a few decent shots. I really liked Ian. He was kind-hearted and helpful. I asked him, "So, is it harder to take care of one person or a whole van load of people?"
"Actually, it is harder to take care of one," he confided. I tried not to get my feelings hurt. "with just one, I have to speak English all the time." I suppose he was right.
I actually felt a little guilty being at the Lake Temple. Dave so wanted to see it and it was just too far for us to manage during the time he was with me. I think his feelings were hurt that I would go without him. It was a beautiful place. The lake was hedged by mountains. Little boats skimmed across it with a Disney-like pace. The towers were magical in their reflection off the lake. I could have spent a day here. But, we were behind schedule and needed to move on.
Next stop, the hot springs at the Buddhist monastery. Try as I might, I could not convince Ian to get in the water with me. I guess he wasn't as willing to be my friend as Dave. He did stand outside the pools and take pictures of me. Hm. Might have been better without the pictures of me shirtless.
I had asked Ian to teach me to fold a sarong. He showed me how he folded his. But the one I had didn't have enough extra material to fold it correctly. "Your sarong is too small for you." Still, I kept it on to wear to the van and all the shop-keeps agreed with his assessment. I got him to stop with me and help me pick out a sarong that would be appropriate. The shop-keep I bought it from asked me to buy one for myself and one for Ian for a cheaper price. "Want it?" I asked. "No, sir, maybe later," he responded. Hm. I'm sensing a pattern.
After the hot springs they took me to a waterfall that is off the tourist path. Ian seemed particularly excited to walk me to the 1, 2, 3, 4, FIVE waterfalls. He took several pictures of me and seemed happy to pose for a couple himself. It was a beautiful place. You could hear nothing but the flowing sound of water.
Last stop was a Buddhist temple. I was really pretty tired and ready to start home. But I did enjoy chatting with Ian. I asked him for his email address so I could send his pictures. "And, I would enjoy keeping in touch." He smiled.
When we got home, I gave each of the guys a fairly generous tip. I asked them if it was ok for me to give them a hug. (Man, have I ever become a big hugger.) Puta hugged me, but seemed kind of awkward. Ian hugged me like I was an old friend. Later, I got an email from him thanking me for the pictures. "You know, you are the best trip Puta and I have ever had," he told me.