Going from Buddhist Thailand in the morning to Hindu Bali in the afternoon, I hadn’t expected to end my day at a picturesque, ancient Hindu temple listening to Muslim call-to-prayer.
Candikuning, a tiny town recommended to me on a traveler’s forum, welcomed us with bright skies and cool temps. We ate dinner at a “Warung Muslim” (Muslim food stall) where we got to watch a fantastic teenage boy break into fits of giggles when some Englishmen stopped by in search of beer. After they left, he kept cracking up, saying, “Ha ha ha ha… we are Muslim! Do we have beer?! Ha ha ha haa….We are Muslim!” (No. Clearly, Muslims do not drink.) Before we left, his mother agreed to an impromptu lesson on Indonesian food. She translated each menu item one at a time, rushing off to the kitchen for props when she didn’t know the English words and saying adorable things like, “cooked in sauce tomahto.”
We’d chosen Candikuning based on our desperation to shed sweating-as-a-daily-reality (a tough order in the tropics.) Halfway into our trip up the mountain, I knew we wouldn’t be disappointed. I fell immediately in love with all the tropical fruit — eating mangosteens and passionfruit several times a day. Adorably, at the corner market, instead of coins (most valued at less than 10 cents USD) they handed us individually wrapped hard candies with our paper change.
Up the road from our culture-rich homestay, we passed through the majestic gates of the botanical gardens and spent hours wandering one day. On another morning, we rose with the sun to hike through the thick jungle up a nearby peak. The school children jumping into bemos in the misty sunrise shrieked and giggled. On the way back, we passed roadside bunny vendors — “the babies for the children and the big ones for the rabbit stew.” It was the same road we followed one evening to Strawberry Hill — where we celebrated our sixth anniversary by digging into the luxury of hamburgers.
Each morning Jack Johnson lyrics stuck in my head as we feasted on complimentary banana pancakes. Each afternoon, like clockwork, it rained. Sometimes I sat in the bamboo easy-chairs in our foyer, motivated by the perfect, pensive, grey skies to write and write. Other times I stared out across the sugarcane dancing in the breeze, sheltering the baby lettuce and carrots. Sometimes I would head into town as the clouds gathered, meeting up with Pat at a cafe to share delicious “Chicken Pitta” while watching children in school uniforms drive their motorcycles — sans helmets! – home in the pouring rain.
Narrow dirt lanes just wide enough for two motorcycles comprised the majority of the village. Post-rain afternoon walks through these winding alleyways left my face sore from returning smiles. I found the popular local’s restaurant where a Muslim woman serves amazing chicken skewers and rice. I visited her nearly every day, thanking my lucky stars on my first visit for my previous food lesson. She doesn’t have any menus!
My three favorite characters, by the end of our stay, were John the Australian, Effi the Laundry Woman, and Afif the Internet Cafe Owner. John is a funny old guy, face full of busted blood vessels and a colorful vocabulary including references to “me coat, me house, and me kids”, references to himself and his wife as “ol’ daddy and mummy”, stories about locals dying from swimming in “toxic” local lakes, and explanations about the ancient volcano eruptions and resulting ash layers in the area.
Effi is a Muslim woman who befriended Pat when he brought her our laundry and stayed to talk about the pilgrimage to Mecca. When we asked her about rentals in the area, she insisted on immediately dropping everything to help us explore options and quickly coached us to claim we were her distant relatives from the U.S. so we’d get a good deal. Afif the Internet Man is Muslim as well. He appears to be very young, but I assume he is at least in his mid-twenties. I was very touched by his willingness to open up his shop as my schedule demanded it. He even trusted me with the keys on Friday (a sacred day during which all Muslims must go to pray), telling me to “let no one but your husband in “while he was gone.
Both Effi and Afif helped us look for housing locally. We would have loved to stay in Candikuning, but there really aren’t rentals with western comforts. On our budget, we would have been camping, essentially. Fine if you’re not planning on spending lots of time being mentally productive. Alas, that’s just what we were after. So, we put the problem aside and headed to the airport to meet my parents! ♣
Here you can see angry bears, flower power, Bali-Hindu stonework, a Bali Burger… and other stuff.
Photo credit link: exotic fruit (broken).