Guest Post: Preserving Balinese Tradition with Ethically Sourced Bones

Guest Post: Preserving Balinese Tradition with Ethically Sourced Bones

Written by Skull Bliss, an online shop selling exquisite, ethically sourced artistic animal skulls to support local Indonesian artists. When we found the amazing skill decorations with their breath-taking carvings in Bali, we were just in awe of the extraordinary craftsmanship and unique artwork.  From then on, we decided to create an online shop to spread the word about these gorgeous animal skulls as we wanted to give the Master Carvers a platform to offer their art to the world. It is a Balinese tradition to use an animal skull in order to transform it into an eternal piece of artwork which has a long, well-respected history in Indonesian society.  They no longer wanted to waste the by products of an animal after it was used for food so they started to clean the bones, bleach them and carve symbols and ornaments into them, usually religious in nature. Creating these stunning skull records takes about 6-8 days total. The sketching and preparation of the bones alone takes 2-3 days.  After applying the beautiful carving, the animal skulls need to get a finish and dry in order to prevent cracks during shipment. We take pride in supporting Balinese artists which gives them an opportunity to follow their passion, creating art while providing for their families.  We’re also proud to keep a Balinese tradition alive.  ‘SkullBliss’ offers unique art, where each animal skull tells it’s own story so you will never get tired of admiring the decor....

Off-the-beaten-path Bali beaches and other sights near Kuta

Off-the-beaten-path Bali beaches and other sights near Kuta

Although we were based in Kuta for the second half of our trip, we didn’t linger in commercialized Aussie-land.  On Saturday morning, we met up with Rachel (A classmate of one of my best friends from high school who has lived in Bali for the past couple of years) who got up signed up on an awesome day trip to Nusa Lembongan through her friend Martin.  Fortified with donuts, we boarded a boat and sped off to the island, aka heaven on earth.  The area is relatively off-the-beaten path so it’s less touristy, the locals were nice (but we found that to be true everywhere) with breath-taking Bali beaches and scenery.  We went snorkeling in crystal clear water.  We didn’t see any manta rays (which the island is famous for) but there were fish of every shape and size (we didn’t even have to bribe them with bananas!).  Deb and I discovered three stone buddhas at the bottom which were supercool.  After snorkeling, we piled into open-aired jeeps and bounced down dirt roads through an island, switched to a small boat to cross to a neighboring island Nusa Ceningan (because a bridge was recently blown out… which was a bummer since we were supposed to go be able to rent motorbikes to get there) then continued on another truck.  Riding down these quiet dirt roads was an experience in itself- Deb stood up, arms outspread (never-let-me-go-Jack-style) to feel the ocean breezes and commented “I don’t know if its the ghetto Jersey in me but who needs the Titanic when you have a truck like this?”.  Especially when the truck leads to incredible vistas of limestone cliffs and the bluest water I have ever seen (even the colored water on Singapore’s manicured party island, Sentosa, couldn’t compare!).  The waves were rough so we could only jump off a smaller deck but Ken, Jen and I survived! The group chilling by the Blue Lagoon- look at that water! Bali family totem pole after we survived cliff jumping The adrenaline rush helped our appetites so the day ended with a tasty Balinese meal overlooking Dream Beach (which many claim is the most beautiful in Bali) and naps on the beach to recharge before some late night adventures in Kuta, upon our return home.  We switched speed boats for the return to the mainland so we could pile on the top for a bouncy, open-air journey.  As you can see below, hanging on for dear life was positively exhilarating.  We joked that we felt like dogs with our heads out the windows and decided “happy dogs” defined a new level of unaltered joy: salty skin, wind-whipped complete carefree-ness! Happy dogs! For our last day in Bali, we hired a driver to make sure we hit the major remaining highlights in the south of the island.  We started in Nusa Dua so Ken and Alissa could fit in some watersports (which surprisingly, weren’t cheap).  We proceeded to Pandang Pandang, one of the best surfing spots in Bali which was recently featured in the film Eat Pray Love.  The beach itself was pretty hidden and we had to wind down flights of stairs, squeezing between two rock slabs while keeping a wary eye on the monkeys in the jungle trees.  The beach itself wasn’t huge but the perfect place for people watching- so many attractive surfers!  The Rip Curl Cup should be happening right now but unfortunately, there wasn’t any official competition while we were there.  Which was probably a good thing so we could relax and enjoy the sun and the surf. It’s always an adventure with us- jumping photo at Nusa Dua, the watersports capital of Bali After the beach, we wrapped ourselves in purple skirts to visit the Uluwatu temple.  The temple itself wasn’t incredibly impressive but monkeys and an amazing view from 300-foot cliffs made the stop worthwhile.  The temple is one of the most famous six in the island and it’s supposed to guard the Balinese from the evil spirits of the ocean.  I was grateful that the temple guarded me in my attempts to do yoga cliffside- Ken and two Asian men almost peed in their pants when they saw me attempting tree pose teetering near the edge of a steep drop-off but I survived!  Our day ended with a seafood dinner and sunset on Jimbaran beach.  Our feet were buried in sand as we enjoyed Pina Coladas, were serenaded by wandering musicians and watched the daylight turn into twinkly stars.  There was a spontaneous fireworks show and we had an excellent view of the planes landing, which kind of helped mentally prepare us...

Ubud: biking the countryside and learning Balinese cooking

Ubud: biking the countryside and learning Balinese cooking

Talk about the best $105 I’ve spent this summer- the price for round trip tickets for four and a half days in Bali, Indonesia.  Somehow I booked a different flight than my friends getting to Bali but the 8 or so hours I spent before they arrived were some of my favorite for seeing how the average Indonesian lives.  Sanur, a balinese couch surfer and a vet, camped out at the airport 3 hours before my arrival and greeted me admidst throngs of tourists with a handmade sign and the most delicious roti-o French toast-sequence warm crispy bread.  Before exploring the island en route to Ubud on his motorbike, we stopped to meet his brother and sister-in-law who greeted me with warm smiles and a mug of Balinese coffee.  After chatting for awhile about their lives in Dubai and things to do in bali, Sanur and I took off for the hour long drive to our villa.  The place we booked was a two bedroom private villa plopped in the middle of rice fields outside of Ubud.  The place was owned by a Norwegian who was renting it out while abroad and we lived like kings for $15/each per night.  After I got settled, we headed downtown, ate dive at a local jive, and ended up listening to a live band at a biker bar.  I got my first taste of Bintang (the local brew and their pride and joy) rocking out to 90s tunes with Indonesian motorbike boys. The view of our private pool from the balcony in our villa Eco-tour through the Balinese Countryside The next day was an eco-cycle tour suggested by Didi, the wife of our friend at the embassy.  We had high expectations and all of us laughed out loud when we read about the tour ahead of time: “We ride through lush forested areas, plantations full of Balinese staples and cash crops (cloves, coffee, cocoa, vanilla, tapioca, taro, local vegetables and exotic tropical fruits), through timeless small villages and lush rice paddy panoramas. And throngs of adorable Balinese children will be there calling out ‘hellos’ and wanting ‘high fives’ on the way down” but literally, that’s what happened (I felt bad when kids reached out for a high five because I’m a two-hands-on-the-wheel-kinda-girl when I’m flying down hills). We started with a Balinese breakfast of black rice pudding and banana pancakes overlooking Mt. Banur (an active volcano) and Bali’s largest lake.  Fortified with deliciousness, we got on mountain bikes for my favorite kind of biking (almost entirely downhill, “Mary Poppins style”) winding down quiet village roads. On our bikes!  Outside rice paddies where Deb almost got stuck in the mud The first major stop was the plantation where we learned about (and tasted) Balinese fruits, tea and coffee.  We elected to sample “Kopi Luwak”, the most expensive coffee in the world, fondly referred to as “Cat-poo-ccino” by our sassy tour guide.  To produce this coffee, a civet (“half-fox, half-cat like creature) eats, digests and excretes the beans from which the coffee is brewed.  We tasted it with an open mind and enthusiastic anticipation but I think we agreed with Tim Carman, food writer for the Washington Post who concluded “It tasted just like…Folgers. Stale. Lifeless. Petrified dinosaur droppings steeped in bathtub water. I couldn’t finish it” after tasting the brew.  From there, we hopped on our bikes, stopped at a traditional Balinese family compound to learn about their daily life and dance with the three adorable kids rocking out to Gangham style.  We ate bananas at the base of a huge Banyan tree, walked around rice paddies and got stuck in the mud, saw woodcarvers at work and ate a delicious Balinese meal for lunch. Deb and I in front of some terraced rice paddies After the tour, we did an obligatory wander through the monkey forest, which is exactly what it sounds (a forest filled with monkeys).  It’s kind of cheesy (and terrifying for Deb and I… monkeys haven’t been the same since Kuching) but just one of the sights that you have to hit if you go to Ubud.  After some shopping, we returned to our villa for some party tunes and a private pool party, just us girls, as the sun set.  We agreed life was basically perfect… all I could add was “if only I had ten toenails” (stupid door!  I ran into on the first day of orientation but my toenail flew the coop just prior to arriving in Bali- no pedicures for me). Ken joined us very late thursday night for a very indulgent Friday in Ubud.  Despite planning to sleep in, Deb and...