Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Livelihood in the Eastern Bali

Eastern Bali is where you can come closest to the Balinese lifestyle and local people. This is the region from where people draw out their livelihoods thus accounting for the maximum employment opportunities in Bali. Famous for the lush green paddies, eastern Bali is the core of producing fruits, vegetables, nuts, rice and all such items which not only fill the stomachs and hearts of many.

People in eastern Bali has gone beyond the obvious and converted what little they have into something which we all are in awe of today. The livelihood activities of Bali have given rise to the humongous tourism and placed Bali on the global map.

Where to go
Eastern Bali is known for its beautiful coffee plantations. Hundreds of years ago, Dutch planters had recognized Bali as a perfect growing climate for the heirloom cacao and they moved cacao beans onto Bali soil. Eventually, the trees spread informally and evolved into a unique, high quality cocoa. The Kintamani region is still considered as Bali’s primary coffee growing region. Most of Bali’s coffee is grown by small local farmers organized in Subak Abian. Subak originates from rice production and is an organization where farmers within the same trade join forces and cooperate about the technical, social and religious aspects related to farming. One of the characteristics of Bali coffee is the processing method. Wet processing is the traditional way of coffee processing in Bali, while dry processing is the most common method on the other part of Indonesia.

Balinese soil is very favourable for growing cashew nuts, owing to the fertility of soil. In Ban Village, Karangasem, the cashew growing community has created huge employment opportunities for women in eastern Bali. These cashews were earlier exported to India or Vietnam for processing. But now a lot of cashew filtering and processing units are also being setup in Bali. These units employ about 300 staff to crack, pry, peel, roast and bag the cashews. Now the cashew farmers are able to sell ready-to-eat cashews at a much higher rate.

Arak workshops also create huge working opportunities in eastern Bali, and Sidemen Village is a well-known area for Arak producing. Arak is the traditional Balinese liquor that is derived from the palm tree. Arak is clear and colourless, high in alcohol and has a very sharp, biting taste. It owes its popularity to the powerful taste and cheap rate. These workshops take you through a tour of how Arak is produced and how it should be consumed so that the bitterness does not hit hard.

Bali is renowned world-wide for its unique and intricate textiles. The Balinese women are considered to be the guardians of the secret knowledge of textiles, and like the ingredients for certain dyes and a rich compendium of sacred motifs. Bali’s rarest textile can be found in the village of Tenganan, known for its sophisticated weavings. The Geringsing of Tenganan are produced by what is known as the double ikat method, a technique in which resist patterns are applied to both warp and weft threads before weaving, so that the final pattern appears only on completion. The most striking feature of all Geringsing is their muted colouring – combining red and reddish-brown tones, eggshell and dark blue or black violet. Double Ikat is a technique in which both warp and the weft are dyed with a specific pattern prior to stringing on the loom. This extremely demanding and time-consuming process requires a lot of skill and employs skilled craftsmen only.

Amed is a vibrant fishing village where the daily life has not changed in decades. This area is responsible for employing hundreds of fishermen. More than 80 percent of the people in Amed rely on fishing. Traditional fishing boats line the beach and various sized motor boats are moored to the shore. The local people are very friendly, and most of the times they welcome visitors into their homes to see their day-to-day activities. Each morning before sunrise the local fisherman leaves on their jukung boats to catch mackerel in the Lombok Straights. The fisherman usually returns early morning, while the women and children are waited to collect the fish and take it to the markets. Mahi-Mahi, Rainbow Runner, Spanish Markel, Travelly, Tuna are some of the common Balinese catches.

Step outside a little bit, Lombok is known for its golden ‘South-Seas’ cultured pearls. Lombok produces some of the best South Sea Pearls in the world with over 24 active pearl farms. Pinctada Margaritifera, the black-lip pearl oyster, exhibits a variety of colour morphs ranging from the commoner reds and browns to greens, bronzes and creams. Hyriopsis Schlegeli is freshwater mussels which are common throughout the world, but those used for pearl cultivation are mainly found in freshwater rivers, lakes and ponds. These pearls are unique and of the finest quality. Most of Lombok’s pearl farms are located along the south west coast of the island, from Sekotong Timur to Bangko-Bangko, Sekotong Tengah and Lembar. At present, Lombok exports over 700 kilograms of pearls per year. It not only puts Bali in the global map, but provides jobs to a lot of people along the coastlines.

What to do
For the underwater lovers, there are several breathtaking diving sites like Paradise Reef, Kubu, Lipah Bay and Waterloo. The east of Bali underwater attraction is mainly known for the US Liberty, a world war II wreck that lies close to Tulamben. Shipwreck diving enables sport divers to visit the past. Each wreck is considered a time capsule into history waiting to be explored. There are many rare animals living in the small reefs and sandy areas close to the wreck. The excellent diving in this area makes it well worth an extended visit, especially for photographers interested in critter diving.  You can see mimic octopus, boxer crabs, eagle ray or a couple black tip reef sharks, a big barracuda or Spanish mackerel.

Eastern Bali has stunning beaches for the beachgoers. Bias Tugel Beach and Blue Lagoon are beautiful white sandy beaches near Padang Bai port. The clean water here allows you to swim or snorkel to see the beautifully coloured coral reefs and various ornamental fish. Jemeluk Bay in Amed is another snorkelling spot. The offshore waters offer good snorkelling with live coral in shallow waters. The coral reef is right up to the shore and is very gorgeous.

For all those who just cannot get enough of the ocean, Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan beaches offer sea kayaking activity. You can paddle along the coast taking in the beautiful landscape, including the cliffs and natural caves. Also experience the beautiful sunny mornings and afternoons paddling along the shoreline of Mushroom Bay and Lembongan Island. Depending on the tides, you might experience flat water or some manageable waves.

Telaga Waja river hosts a variety of water rafting activities for the adventure seekers. The action starts when you launch into an 9.6 kilometres river stretch, set to a backdrop of wild unspoiled rainforest, towering gorges and magnificent rice paddy terraces. Test your adrenaline and feel the sensation of how the thrill of conquering the rapids of the wild river.

One of the most adventurous things to do during a trip to East Bali is to go hiking the volcanoes. Mount Agung and Mount Batur provide hiking trails that will challenge your core stamina. Mount Agung is the most favourite one among the hikers. Before or during the hiking, you can also camp a day to get the real sense of being a true traveller. Imagine watching the starry skies, trading stories over the campfire and enjoy the solitude all around.

East Bali will give you loads of options for sight-seeing, adventure sports as well as brings you very close to Balinese way of life. With so many livelihood activities around you, there is no scope to miss out understanding the Balinese tradition and culture. If you keenly observe the local people, you will not fail to notice how hardworking and sincere these people are and how their occupation has given rise to such wonderful tourism options.

This article is also published at NOW! Bali Magazine