Monday, February 9, 2009

Day Five in Bali - Tenganan Village

Today's main activity was a trip to Tenganan village in the eastern part of the island. It was considered rather remote until recently and is populated by a rather insular community. By the standard in Bali the residents of Tenganan are considered wealthy but a little context is required to fully understand. Generally speaking, most of the land in and around the villages of Bali are considered property of the village. In order to have property one has certain obligations to the community and they are expected to help out in all ceremonies, both communal and personal in nature. It is possible for a village to sanction and ultimately remove from the community any antisocial elements but because village is composed of multigenerational family compounds such steps are uncommon.

So, getting back to Tenganan, the village's wealth come primarily from their vast holdings which produce prolifically and who proceeds are divided amongst the community. Ari told us the legend about how they came to have so much land. During the reign of the first king of Bali he had a white stallion that was his pride and joy and one day it went missing. Frustrated, the king offered a reward to anyone who found his horse, dead or alive. Whomever found the animal would be granted the land around which it was discovered. The clever ancestor of the Tenganan people found the horse already dead so he skinned the horse and wore the carcass and then walked the area that now comprise the present-day holdings of the Tenganan leaving the horse's scent behind him. He then went to the kind and presented the king with his discovery, telling him that he followed the horse for a long time before it collapsed and died. When the king followed the horse's scent to verify the land claimed he found it where the man had left it and thus granted it to him. That is how the people of Tenganan came to have such vast holdings.

Despite their financial largess the people have decided to preserve the traditional appearance of their village and any new structures or renovations must be in keeping with the rest of the village's appearance. However, we were told that many of the residents have more remote country houses outside the village that are modern and sprawling. Within the village most men show off their wealth in the form of roosters that the use for fighting despite the fact that cockfighting was made illegal for recreational purposes in 1981. In front of many homes are a number of woven cages in which the prized roosters are displayed. Not only is this a conspicuous showing of wealth but it helps to keep the birds from being easily startles during their illicit competitions. Each morning the prize fighters are bathed and pampered by their owners.

Tenganan is in insular community, many villagers can't speak the native Balinese, they speak their own unique dialect that is unrecognizable outsiders. Women who marry someone from outside of the village is not permitted to stay and men who marry outside the village may stay but may not be included in the village's wealth. Because of the relatively strict prohibitions few marry outside their village. Until five years ago no motorized vehicles were permitted within the community and those who wanted them had to store them outside of the village, this restriction was also applied to the omnipresent motorbikes that are so popular throughout Bali.

Artistically speaking, Tenganan is known mostly for their woven baskets which are not only beautiful but very functional and used in daily life. The other art form for which the village is renown is their textiles. So prized are they that they sell for thousands of dollars in a country where the average monthly wage for someone working in the hospitality industry is $25-50 per month making them the equivalent of even a decade's worth of income!

After our visit to the village we returned to a couple establishments to do some additional shopping before heading back to the resort. Today was one of the hottest days we've had since coming to Bali and the humidity was truly unbelievable so we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging by the pool where across the field a number of men work working hard to maintain the rice paddy. We then enjoyed a nice dinner at the resort's Thai restaurant. Bellies full, we turned on a DVD that we bought in Hong Kong and got ready to go to bed. All of the activity and the heat is taking its toll and we're getting tired. I think we're both looking forward to our last day couple days in Canggu where our schedule is completely open so we can relax and enjoy some of the world-class spa services.

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