The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson


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Indonesia - Jakarta

The arrow points to Djakarta (Jakarta)

26 November 1968

Today I took the little Yamaha motor-bike out by myself, taking in first Besakih, site of the largest Balinese temple, as usual a complex of three temples dedicated to Brahma, Siva & Visnu, respectively. I found the temple(s) disappointing, there being far less stone-work and embellishment than I’d expected. The site, though, is impressive, nestled at the base of Mt. Agung, a beautifully symmetrical bare peak, and the views inland and seaward are breathtaking. I then proceeded to Mt. Batur, the active volcano which last erupted here in a major way about 6 months ago, but which has been active for some years. The road across the island (very bad in places) proceeds resolutely but not steeply upwards, and one is aware of the climb mostly because of the necessity to go in third gear, and by the changes in scenery, which becomes quite sparse compared with the jungle which luxuriates the coastal plains. And all of an unexpected sudden, one comes right to the edge of the original crater of the volcano, & there in the middle of it is the now very large present-day Mt. Batur. The original eruption (eons ago) left a crater which is still quite intact and nearly 20 km across; about 1/3 is filled with water now. The new mountain rises neatly in the depression (the floor of the old crater is now several hundred feet down), and fresh lava-flows are readily discerned. Lava is still oozing from a fault in the side of the [new] crater, along with some smoke and fumes. Very interesting and lovely. Shot the last 4 photos on my roll of film (can’t seem to get any more here) to see if I can get a panorama. All and all, a scenic and lovely day. Had to buy and wear a Batik sarong mid-day to prevent further serious burn on the top of my legs, which at this moment are a bit uncomfortable. Tomorrow I languish around Denpasar & the beach, and Thursday depart for Sydney.

Besakih Temple and Mt. Agung

Mt. Agung behind the Besikih Temple complex

Looking down on Besikih

Looking back on Besikih from the flank of Agung

The composite below is the original panorama I put together after I returned home. The tape holding it together has yellowed badly.


The original paste-up panorama

An hour or so at the computer makes a considerable improvement!

Mt. Batur

Improved photo; standing on the rim of the ancient volcano

Perhaps I’ve discovered the source of the myth that the tropical people are “lazy” and that “it’s the weather”. The Balinese arise and commence work at first light—about 4 AM here now; the observers (tourists) are of course still sleeping off “the night before”. By early afternoon the Balinese are resting, largely having been working 8 or more hours by then. The air-conditioned tour-busses make their rounds and the occupants see everyone lounging or eating, the shops all closed. The tourists go back to their mint julips about the time the Balinese come to life again for a long evening of work and commingled fun. Somehow they seem to do all this on about 4-6 hrs sleep. I defy any tourist to survive one full 24 hr cycle, including 8 hrs toil in a rice paddy, and still feel the people here are “lazy”!

Bali, incidentally, is the first place I’ve been on this trip where the chinese are decidedly not in evidence. As usual, they preponderate in the businesses here in Denpasar (except the sounvenir shops), but stay very close to home & do not mingle with the Indonesians. The Suharto government’s most serious mistake so far has been to quite deliberately exclude the chinese from participation in their programs to rebuild (Sukarno’s regine was a disaster for Indonesia). The drawback is that the Indonesians themselves don’t seem strongly inclined towards business enterprise, so there is a vacuum now being filled by expatriates of other countries rather than by local entrepreneurs.

I’ve got to mail this today, as it has gotten frightfully long—& heavy!

Love to all~


The Batik sarong mentioned above made it back to the states after saving my legs from a bad sunburn. The little Yamaha I drove that day was really built for a female, so with my feet planted on the running-board and my shorts riding up into my crotch, the tops of my legs were vulnerable. Years later I hung the batik in my house, and someone wandering through exclaimed loudly, “Why, that’s a seven-color batik!” So it was, and so was somewhat rare. I had simply picked it at random from a pile of sarongs in a little shop somewhere along the way.

Here follows a number of photos taken in and around Denpasar. I did go to the beach one day, but it seemed rather dirty and I did not swim: it would have been nice to skinny-dip like I had done  in Thailand, but no one was there to make it worthwhile.

The only intersection in Denpasar

That's a local taxi in Denpasar

Main Street Denpasar

The "main drag" of Denpasar in 1968

Preparing for a funeral

Families gather for a funeral


The pyre has been lit

Funerals were not a solemn afffair: they were a celebration of the deceased’s good luck in moving on to bigger and better things!

Weddings were also very colorful affairs. I watched a wedding procession one day, along with the whole town it seemed, out to celebrate. I found myself standing next to another “ugly american” woman who watch with a disgusted look on her face; finally, she exclaimed, “Oh, how pagan!” I turned to her and said, “No more pagan than driving around in a car with tin-cans tied to the bumper!” She stomped off, annoyed by my comment.

 Near the center of town

The stark whiteness contrast with the usually dark stonework

Elaborate residential entrance

Doors are important in Bali

Door to the promised land

Doors were important to ancient Egyptians, too

The elaborate entrance at top is to a residence; that below I am not sure of.

Lush Countryside

The countryside around Denpasar was spectacular

Road through countryside

Roads made for motorcycling!

Village scene

Somewhere on Bali, a typical village scene

Stone carver at work

Looks like work to me!

I had a very pleasant stay on Bali. Now, I wonder if any of the carefree life I saw there remains. But, I had to move on, so it was off to Sydney and Melbourne by way of Djakarta. That’s next.



Written by Editor

February 13th, 2010 at 8:41 am

Posted in Bali,Indonesia