I think I’m getting the hang of this photo essay thing. Easy! Just chuck up a few photos with a bit of commentary and you have yourself a blog post! Might have to do more of it. Anyway, this one is about people and animals in Bali. Why are both people and animals in the same post? Some might say that I’m seeking to draw the viewer into recognising the commonalities between humans and other animals and begging for there to be a greater understanding of the plight of animals in Indonesia which are often deprived of even the most basic living conditions. Others might just say I didn’t have enough photos to do two separate posts. I have no comment.
I was inspecting a hotel near Lake Tamblingan when a man in the distance was motioning for me to come over. It was a little awkward, but he had the most glorious smile, warm spirit and wanted to shake my hand forever. We had a little chat in Indonesian and he then wanted me to take his photo. After snapping a few shots, I showed him the results and he thanked me profusely. Of course I felt humbled by the kindness of one of the most incredible spirits I’ve ever met.
Photography experts often talk about how people’s eyes are what make or break a portrait photo. Judging by this photo, the same can be said for all primates. This monkey was chained at an animal market in Denpasar and gave an incredible look of sorrow.
We can talk about warm spirits all we like, but it means nothing until you experience it. In Bali, there are many of these warm spirits – I met this man after he just hauled in a bunch of fish for his family from the local reef in Pemuteran. He was very humble, gracious and a little bit bemused as to why I would care to look at his fish!
Bali is overfished – to the point where protected reefs are now the target of fishermen in a bid to keep up with ever-increasing demand. To be fair to Bali, large portions of Indonesia are overfished and waters outside those of Indonesia’s own are now the target of fishermen. The array of fish on display at the fresh fish market in Jimbaran is bewildering and a great reminder that the fish you have for dinner may well have been a spectacular juvenile reef fish caught illegally.
These young boys were running amok as young boys normally do. Except in Bali, the world is your oyster with the freedom to roam around and get up to mischief without fear of speeding cars, the stranger next door or an overly critical community. These boys puffed out their chests when they saw my camera and galloped away to continue their reign of terror in no time at all.
Baby monkeys also have much freedom from an early age although their mothers keep a protective eye out for them at all times. It’s not unusual for a baby monkey to scratch around in the bushes while a dozen metres away its mother snacks on bananas stolen from panicked tourists. A great place to spot this sort of behaviour is the Ubud Monkey Forest, although it can be heavily touristed in the middle of the day. The Monkey Forest at Sangeh is also a spectacular setting for primate observation.
Man and beast work together to plough the fields near a guesthouse 7km from Amlapura. Many Balinese farmers still use old-fashioned techniques to plough their fields despite the explosion in motorised transport over the past two decades. Preparing a ricefield for planting is a multi-stage process that has not changed significantly over hundreds of years. Scenes like this are played out across the island and outside of the main tourist towns, it’s possible to have a room with views of glorious terraced ricefields such as this one.
An important aspect of preparing a ricefield for planting is allowing hundreds of ducks to forage in the muddy field for spilled rice and unwanted insects. During the process, ducks also add nutrients to the soil which is then mixed through during the ploughing process. I saw this duck chasing its friends across the sprawling fields immediately north of Ubud at the end of Jalan Kajeng – my favourite place to walk in Ubud.
These is no human counterpoint to this photo – this animal is pure evil. I think monkeys are cute, but they’re mischievous little critters that are entirely unpredictable. This particular cutie was fossicking in the shallows when I thought it’d be a splendid idea to take a few shots. Maybe I should have asked for permission first, but it took exception to the candid shots I was taking and charged me, teeth all over the place.
What a fantastic place Bali is. Ever been? Going soon? Want to go? Do you need more convincing?