So as many of you may know by now, my first stop is to stay with one of the Princesses of Bali. You may be wondering like I was:
A.) Is she really a princess, and
B.) Is the compound really a palace?
Well, the answers are yes, and no. Yes, Ratih is a Balinese princess; her father was the last king of one of the territories, and her father a prince. Since she is now married, she lives with her husband on an amazingly ornate compound that they just completed a few years ago (I can only imagine what the old compound looked like!), but technically no, its not a palace.
Since I am currently the only visitor, I have an entire guest house to myself. And I mean literally house, at least 2,000 square ft with kitchen, dining and living rooms, several bedrooms, and three mega-verandas (front, back, and upstairs). There are three of these house/villas in total. In addition to their private living space, there is also a small private apt for rent, a temple/ceremony building, and of course separate living quarters for the five live-in staff (not including day workers). I have attached a few photos of my humble living quarters (this is all just my guest house).
In spite of all that (or because of it?) I find myself feeling not like a guest, but more like I’m visiting a distant aunt that I never before met. She and her family have completely welcomed me into their family life, which has made such a difference. I take breakfast on the verandah, but eat my other meals with Ratih and her family. I feel like I’m really getting an authentic taste of Balinese life. Ok, granted a really really nice version of life here on the island, but local all the same. I am staying in Denpasar, is a large ‘city’, thus possessing virtually no appeal to tourists, so I only interact with Indonesians on a daily basis, which I like. However, everything is still picturesque, and I am only 1.8 miles straight down the road from the beach and beach town of Sanur.
Ratih regularly invites me to accompany her to attend various functions, so in my first three days I have already attended a traditional Balinese ceremony at her family’s temple, visited the local cable station to watch her being taped and interviewed with her dance troupe, and seen her full dance group (~50 including musicians) perform an entire traditional Balinese dance production. On our way there, to Ubud (now all too well-known for the book and movie, “Eat, Pray, Love”), she stopped to show me the ‘home’ where she grew up, which turned out to be the Royal Palace, Puri Saren (her mother and many other family members still live here). I attempt to take photos, but my camera died at that moment, and the iphone wasn’t capturing good shots in the hazy sunset. Luckily the royal palace is also a tourist attraction and plenty of info can be found. I like this site the best for their photos: http://www.balistarisland.com/Bali-Interesting-Place/Puri-Saren.htm, but even Frommer’s has basic info listed on the palace.
I know, it’s a rough life hanging with the royals, but someone’s gotta do it! 😉