The Animals of Bali #5 – The Bali Tiger

Species come and species go, sometimes more go than come, but one genus of animal which has perhaps evoked more emotion than any other since the dawn of history is the Panthera or the Big Cats. Maybe because they are seen as one of the most dangerous groups of creatures on the planet, maybe because they are truly magnificent or possibly simply due to their beauty, Lions, Tigers, Jaguars and Leopards are loved, feared and revered the world over and have been hunted since the ice-age days of the Sabre Toothed Tiger.

Unfortunately, Panthera have been hunted to near extinction due to the insatiable appetite of humans for furs and supposed medicines made from their body parts. Several species have actually become extinct and one of these is the Bali Tiger. It is a great shame that these animals were hunted into oblivion as they posed little danger to human beings and pretty much kept themselves to themselves. They proved no match for the guns of colonial Dutch hunters and their already low number were last seen in the 1930’s although some were thought to have survived till the 1950’s.

One famous picture which has been often reproduced and displayed on the walls of Bali villa rentals shows a triumphant Dutch hunter with his retinue of staff celebrating the carcass of a Bali Tiger strung upside down on a pole carried by two of the party. ‘Sport’ hunting is a questionable activity anyway but to kill these magnificent beasts verges on the criminal.

The Bali Tiger (Panthera tigris balica) was one of the smallest members of the tiger sub-species, ranging to a maximum weight around that of a large male human! They were darker in colour than the Indian Tiger with fewer stripes and a larger patch of white on their underbellies.

Whilst the last of these beasts are thought to have died out more than half a century ago, there are occasional reports of big cats taking goats and other domesticated animals in the villages of Bali and some elderly Balinese swear that these are the last surviving members of Bali Tiger. Though there have been no confirmed sightings and there is close to zero chance of having one invade your Bali villa rental, these stories continue to surface every few years. With the growth in the Bali villa rental sector, there is virtually no forest land left in the south of Bali but in the north west there is still a vast area of mostly uncharted forest in the Negara National Park. So when you come here on vacation and you stay in Bali villa rentals, if you do see a tiger make sure you snap a photo or shoot some video footage as proof!

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The Animals of Bali #4 – The Monitor Lizard

Many people are alarmed when they see the small lizards running around the walls and ceilings of their villa rental in Bali. It is not uncommon for rental agents to get calls from terrified holidaymakers at midnight with a hysterical voice shouting, “THERE’S A LIZARD IN MY BEDROOM!! GET IT OUT NOW!!!”. Whilst these unfamiliar creatures might cause alarm, they are perfectly harmless and it is unreasonable to expect that any of the many Bali villas for rent will be lizard free. They perform a valuable service, catching mosquitoes, flying termites and other small to medium sized insects. If you don’t want to see lizards, don’t come to Bali, or Thailand, or, in fact, any country in Asia, Africa, The Pacific Rim and large parts of Europe!

One fairly common lizard, which can be a visitor to or resident in, Bali villas for rent, is the much larger Monitor Lizard. These are magnificent creatures, sometimes up to one metre or more in length, are related to the much larger Komodo Dragon. Monitor Lizards look like mini-dinosaurs. They usually move with slow, deliberate motions and like to avoid people as much as possible but can move very quickly when they need to. They are very intelligent creatures and studies of Monitors in captivity have shown that they can even count up to six! That’s more than some people I know! (Only kidding!). It is a treat to see such examples of mega fauna; these are some of the largest reptiles on the planet and their beautiful skins and noble bearing make them great subjects for the quick witted photographer with a decent camera and the wherewithal to take shots of a creature who doesn’t want you to know it’s there.

If you see a Monitor Lizard in your villa rental in Bali please do not phone your villa agent; do not jump onto a high place and scream. Simply make a little bit of noise and allow the reptilian guest to leave by the quickest exit. They are called Aloo in Indonesian and unfortunately they are prized for their supposed medicinal value and killed and carefully dismantled to liberate their tiny organs. Monitors are vulnerable to dog attack and if you see one in distress, scaring away the dog can save its life. Please do this, as monitor lizards are dwindling in number as their habitat is eroded and they have as much right to be in your Bali villa as you do!

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Dhani and Achmad’s Story

Dhani’s face is very difficult to look at. It is pitted and horribly scarred and he looks more like a character from a teen horror flick than the sweet little boy he is. Despite the fact that he has not yet achieved his tenth birthday he has been through more horrors than most of us experience in a lifetime. It is tribute to some of the owners of Bali villas for rent, and their friends, that Dhani has some chance to lead something approaching a full and rewarding life. His face will never be ‘normal’ and the scars he bares here and over 70% of his body attest to a strength of character that puts most of the rest of us to shame. Charitable donations from the local expatriate community, a large amount of it coming from the fees paid from Bali villa rent, have helped Dhani and his father Achmad regain their lives and return to something approaching a normal life.

It was shortly before his fifth birthday and Dhani was riding with his father on his ‘mobile shop’, a motorbike with a back-rack loaded to crazy proportions with noodles and crackers destined for the local warungs (small shops) in their area. They were waiting in the middle of the road for a truck to pass before turning right, when a motorbike recklessly overtook the truck from behind at high speed. This bike collided with theirs and Achmad was thrown twenty metres through the air, the landing shattering his right leg below the knee and smashing his right arm. Dhani was trapped beneath the wreckage of the bike and was covered in petrol from the ruptured fuel tank. Some petrol must have touched the hot exhaust manifold and Dhani was engulfed in flame. Imagine the agony for him and his father, looking on helplessly, unable to get to his son due to his own injuries.

Almost a year later, Dhani was ‘discovered’ by caring expatriates and the mitigation of his horrific injuries finally began. A small campaign was launched to raise money for his treatment, with several people spending much time, effort and some funding coming from Bali villas for rent and a large proportion from local and international Rotary Clubs.

Now, three years later, Dhani has undergone three life-changing operations and Achmad has had further surgery and been fitted with a modern prosthetic leg. Achmad has been able to resume life in the delivery business and Dhani, now able to close his mouth and eat proper food has resumed normal development and returned to school. Of course, as his tiny body grows to maturity, Dhani will require several more gruelling surgeries as his hardened and scarred skin is having trouble growing with him. So remember, when you vacation in Bali, that some of the proceeds from your Bali villa rent are going to give Dhani a chance at a better life.

To contribute to Dhani’s fund, or to offer practical or medical help, please contact Mark at Indovillas.

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A Modern Bali Tale #2 – The Virgin and the Magician

This is a true story which I observed first hand while staying in a friends’ Bali villa rental a decade or so ago. While some choose to see it as evidence of naive stupidity, I like to see it as an illustration of an innocence most of us lost in primary school. Virtually all villas in Bali come with a full retinue of staff and this Bali villa rental was no exception. One day, the youngest maid, whose duties were mainly washing clothes and mopping and sweeping floors, arrived in floods of tears. She was inconsolable – unable to work, she was a heap of sobbing young woman, sitting in a pool of her own tears in the corner of the kitchen. ‘What is wrong?’, we asked, ‘Are your family OK?’; but there was no response save for an increase in the volume and frequency of the sobbing.

This was repeated the following day and most of the day after. She came to work but could do nothing than express her utter sadness. Finally my friend and his Indonesian wife sat her down on a sofa and dragged the story out of her.

A week previously she had been coming to work when she met a magician in the street. He engaged her in conversation and told her that if she gave him her gold jewellery he could weave a magic spell and double the amount. She was so excited that she told him to wait and returned home to collect all her gold, which included the gifts she was given in childhood and when she came of age.

Eagerly she handed the magician her jewellery and watched, transfixed, as he wove his words and waved his fingers. He placed the jewellery in an empty cigarette packet and told her that she must not open the box for one week. If she opened it even one day before, the jewellery would turn to dust. She thanked him and made her way to work, pleased that she had had such good fortune.

The first few days were easy but on the fifth day she was beside herself with anticipation and on the sixth day she could stand it no longer. She opened the box and poured the contents, a small pile of 100% pure dust into her hand. Explaining this to my friend, sitting amongst the comfort of his villas in Bali, she continued to sob, saying over and over, ‘I’m such a fool, I’m such a fool… If only I had waited the extra day!’

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Bali FAQ #2

Q: When is the best time to visit Bali?

A: It depends on what you are looking for in a Bali vacation. Many young people like to come to Bali because it offers a wide range of party options, from the lows of Kuta to the highs of Seminyak there is something to match every taste. Some people come because of the beaches, others because of the mountains. Many people come to Bali because the island offers a rich and deeply spiritual culture. Others come to Bali simply because it offers all of these things and is a short plane ride from their home. The best parties are in ‘The Season which is actually two seasons; Christmas and high summer. Many people prefer to come to Bali during the rainy season when prices are cheaper and the roads less crowded. It is a time of renewal and intense connection to Mother Earth. There is no ‘correct’ time to visit Bali, it depends on personal choice but there are reasons to come here all year round.

Q: Why is there such a large selection of Bali villas for rent?

A: Bali villas for rent offer a high value-for-money vacation experience where one can experience the heights of luxury in what is virtually a private hotel. The realisation that this can provide a superior holiday has created a huge demand which has been met with a very large increase in the number of villas available for rent. These villas offer a good return on investment for their owners and are a good source of regular income. It is in the best interests of owners to ensure they are competitive and most villas compete on quality of service and equipment rather than price which is usually shaved to a bare minimum anyway.

Q: What can I expect from rental villas in Bali?

A: Most villas in Bali offer a superb level of luxury; a high standard of fixtures and fittings throughout, high quality, comfortable furniture, very restful bedrooms with superb quality mattresses, pillows and bed linens, and there will be a full range of mod cons in the kitchen. You should expect a large LCD or Plasma TV in the main living room and similar or slightly smaller in the bedrooms and other lounge areas. Some villas have a media on demand system with a multiplicity of Movies and TV on-tap; others may come with a comfortable people carrier. It is reasonable to expect that villas in Bali will be staffed by well trained personnel who will make it their duty to see you are supremely served.

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Bali FAQ #3

Q: What can my family do in Bali?

A: Bali offers an interesting selection of vacation activities for young and old alike. Many people enjoy the natural history attractions of the Elephant Park, Bali Zoo, Bird Park and Reptile Park. The Botanical Gardens in Bedugal attract a large number of people to the wonderful forest trail and orchid nursery. This is also the location of the Treetops Adventure course with its jungle walkways high above the ground. Bali has many interesting and exciting cultural sites, temples, traditional markets and thousands of shopping options. There are beautiful waterfalls and rivers in the mountains, some with hot springs and jungle pools, some fabulous beaches and even a water park complete with exciting water slides. Add a superb selection of restaurants from local Balinese to international standard five-star, bars, pubs and clubs, and there is literally something for everyone all within easy distance of Bali villa rentals.

Q: Where are the main places to stay in Bali?

A: Most tourists who visit Bali stay in the south or in the centre of the island. Probably the most popular area at the moment is the west coast from Kuta, through Legian and Seminyak to Batu Belig and up to Canggu but many places in South Bali are now home to many people from all over the world. Bali villa rentals         are available all around the coast from Sanur on the east, down through Nusa Dua, around the bottom of the island and back up from Uluwatu, through Bingin and Dreamland to Jimbaran and then back to Kuta. Ubud in the centre of the island used to be a more laid-back scene but over the past decade it has rapidly increased in size and has grown from a sleepy village to a major town. Less crowded is the coastline from Padang Bai through Candidasa and up to Amed on the north east corner of Bali. There are some Bali villas rental up on the north coast in Lovina and Singaraja and on down to Kintamani with its magnificent volcanic crater thousands of metres in diameter. Less sparsely populated areas where it is still possible to get a Bali villas rental are Mt. Batukaru and the north west coast down to Tabanan and the tiny surfing ‘enclave’ of Balangen.

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Wood Humidity

When buying wooden furniture in Bali, whether for export or for your villas in Bali, there are a number of things to bear in mind so as to get the best possible result.

Perhaps the best advice, especially if you are buying large quantities as opposed to just one or two pieces for your Bali villa rentals, is to take an expert with you. Someone who really knows wood and furniture, or a local to help with finding and negotiating the best price, will help – and someone who combines the two will be best of all. However do be careful that whoever you choose does not have some conflict of interest – many Indonesian companies pay commission to locals who bring in business.

The most common problem with wooden furniture available in Bali is wet wood. As wood dries it shrinks, often twisting, warping or cracking because of the change in size. It is hard to specify what percentage humidity it should be, as that depends on where you intend to use the furniture, but generally for a dry destination (especially if air conditioned) about 12-15% would be good. For a humid area (e.g. villas Bali) about 18%-22% is better.

The best way to test this is with a moisture meter, though that is something of a science, as you have to adjust the reading on the meter to allow for the correct type of wood, and you have to consider how deep in to the wood you are measuring.

Generally the very center of the wood is the wettest part, and some meters with pins only measure 1cm deep, or less, so if the wood is thicker than 2cm then generally the humidity in the center of the wood is higher. Pinless meters can be better, especially as they leave no mark, but they often only measure 2 to 2.5cm deep (good for wood 4 to 5cm thick). Bottom line: know the meter, preferably bring your own, and read the instructions, and then assume that whatever reading you are getting near the surface, the core is wetter.

One very visible sign of humidity is ‘white wood’, a natural feature of many species of wood. This part of the wood has a much lighter colour than the rest (often covered up with stain to hide it), and will definitely have a much higher humidity, even if dried. You can be sure this will shrink when you get it back to your Bali villa rentals – so best not to have it, but sometimes you have to accept a small amount, especially in cheaper furniture. If you have white wood then insist that it is only placed where shrinking won’t matter – i.e. on the back of things, on the edges – and try to limit the amount permissible: 1 millimeter width of white wood will not matter much in most circumstances, but 1 centimeter is pushing your luck unless it is in a non-crucial area.

With this knowledge you should be able to avoid the most common mistakes involved in furniture purchase.

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Balinese Hindu Weddings

A Balinese Hindu wedding can afford the BaIi visitor a fascinating glimpse into Balinese ceremonies and family life; if you are ever afforded the opportunity to attend one, make sure you do.

The wedding will normally be held in the house and garden of the bride’s family, though with so many great Bali villas for rent, occasionally one of those will be the venue.

Before the ceremony begins the bride’s family organise the meal, decorates the venue, and prepares for the guests. The bride and groom are painstakingly made up and dressed in their traditional gold-swathed outfits. For the bride, that includes a sarong, jewellery and a spectacular golden headdress that is so large that most brides are nervous when tilting their heads! For the groom that includes a sarong, a heavy jacket, jewellery, and a kris (a traditional Indonesian knife).

As with many religions in Indonesia, if a non-Hindu marries a Hindu they must convert to Hinduism. A Balinese Hindu child joins their family, and matures, in part through a series of ceremonies at important milestones of their life; similarly a non-Hindu must experience each of these ceremonies in quick succession, all over a period of several hours or days before their wedding, with the result that they are adopted into the family of their in-laws, and become a Hindu.

Finally everything is ready, and the guests start to arrive, dressed in their finest clothing. There is no requirement for guests to turn up at any particular time, so they will appear throughout the day, both before and after the actual ceremony. Since the whole event can last one or two days, if you do have to attend it all, it can be a good idea to check out Bali villas for rent in the area, though sometimes the groom will rent a Bali villa for his guests.

Guests are greeted by family members offering snacks and a drink before being directed to the seating area. Balinese weddings are more informal than a Western marriage, without a formal seating plan, so the guests mingle and mix, as do the bride and groom after the ceremony, serenaded by traditional Gamelan music. There is a buffet (which, if you are not used to Balinese food, should be eaten sparingly, but it is rude not to eat anything) that you can eat from at any time, with the guests eating by balancing baskets of food on their laps.

One important aspect, for the guest, is the gift to the bride and groom. While it is fine to give an appropriate present that the newlyweds will need or like, it is also perfectly acceptable to give money in an envelope; the amount varies depending on the financial status of the families, but for an average Balinese couple about Rp.300,000 is sufficient.

Just as arrival is unstructured, so is departure: whenever you have seen enough, and done your duty to the newlyweds and their family, you can leave whenever you are ready to return to your Bali villa.

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The Bali Bar Scene

Aside from hanging out in their villas Bali, many visitors spend at least a few nights in bars or clubs. Here’s a quick guide to some, not all, of the types of ladies you might meet there.

Due to the prevalent culture few ‘good’ girls go out, and if they do then they generally avoid tourists, being wary of the stereotype – men living for a week in a Bali villa rental who are only after one thing and, once they get it, go home leaving the weeping girl behind. Unfortunately this stereotype is often justified and is repeated in all tourist destinations. If you are lucky enough to meet and spend time with this rare creature then, if you are any kind of decent person, treat her with kindness, respect, honesty, and care, and you will be well repaid by a friendship with a lovely human being – but probably not more than that.

Then there are the girls out having fun. They are probably experienced in nightlife, regulars wherever they are partying, but don’t mistake them for something else – they often have a degree from a local university, well paid jobs in Bali villa rental or whatever, and plenty of self esteem. Their idea of ‘fun’ is not necessarily yours – chances are they want to hang out with their friends and get drunk, like many Westerners at home on the weekends. They can be raucous, entertaining, vibrant and self-possessed. They know what they want and are unlikely to change their mind, so enjoy the ride and be aware that you may not meet their exacting standards – but if you do, expect a lot of fun!

‘Boyfriend hunters’ are regulars who want to find a Westerner to spend time with (at his expense), and maybe date long-distance. Their dream is to marry a wealthy Westerner with several villas in Bali. They are not working girls, but are happy to find someone (or several ‘someones’) to help pay their way through life. Not all of them are exclusive (no matter what they say), some have children living with their parents at home, or even a local husband, and generally they have (or are working on) a well practiced line of manipulation. Be wary.

Some bars have attractive female employees paid to hang out with patrons and have overpriced drinks bought for them. These girls live on the fringes of the seedier side of life, but are by no means ‘ladies of negotiable affection’, so don’t assume anything. It can be liberating to know what the deal is – under such circumstances surprising honesty and fun can result.

Lastly, you may meet someone only partially one or other of the above, or someone who completely different.

An amazing time, wonderful women, and perhaps the love of your life, can be found in bars in Bali. One final thought: if you meet a woman in a bar, then you almost certainly will have met a woman who often goes to bars and meets tourists. Draw what conclusions you may.

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Everyday Bali

Bali is attracting an ever increasing number of tourists and visitors, flocking to enjoy the delights of the island and many tourist related businesses have thrived. Spas, hotels, restaurants, bars, Bali villas for rent, real estate agencies, boutiques, and shops are the most visibly booming sectors.

Much of that has been written about, directly or indirectly – there are many magazines and web sites about Bali villa rentals and hotels, covering the food, shopping, nightlife and many other activities available for tourists.

Similarly, a great deal has been written about the traditions and culture of Bali, often describing it as ‘hidden’, and in some ways it is; but for those visitors interested in experiencing it there are many chances to do so. Balinese culture is near the surface, available with just a little digging.

However there are certain everyday aspects of Balinese and Indonesian life well worth experiencing that the visitor is unlikely to experience unless they know to look for it, and how to do so.

How to find the locals’ choices and the best places? You can try to strike up a friendship with a local who is willing and able to take the time to show you around. Another great source of help and information can be a friendly taxi driver. Generally the key to finding the best places is to ask them what they like to do, and where they go.

However, be aware that while many people you meet will be lovely, genuine, delightful people, some locals who are willing to spend a lot of time with you and recommend places have some kind of angle – how else can they spend the time and money involved unless there was a financial benefit to them? It’s not unreasonable – everyone needs to eat! This doesn’t have to be a problem but it helps to be aware of the possibility. For example, many businesses (restaurants, real estate companies, hotels, Bali villas for rent, etc.) pay commission to locals who bring in visitors.

One thing to try is a Padang Restaurant: rarely tried by Westerners, most purvey excellent food a little reminiscent of curry, sometimes spicy but almost always delicious. It is cheap, and these restaurants can be found everywhere – you can recognize them by the stacked plates of food displayed in the window. One tip is to find one that is busy, as the quiet ones have slow turnover and so the food can sit there for a while.

Also, instead of going to a spa or having a massage girl come to your Bali villa rentals, it is well worth trying a shiatsu massage spa frequented by locals. Try to find one that Chinese businessmen and taxi drivers use – it will be great, and reasonably priced.

The possibilities are almost endless, and all of it can only be experienced if you step outside the normal routines and dive into Indonesian life.

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