Of Brilliant Wings & Fishy Things

Occasionally, I’m embarrassed to confess to people and sundry that, despite living in Bali for just over 5 years, there are still plenty of places that I’ve not yet seen. I’m not referring to tourist sites, as I tend to eschew those as much as possible, because of the hordes that descend on the island, and the souvenir hawkers that render the experience rather unpalatable – at least to expats like myself.

Not for lack of interest have I not visited the many places dotting this island that are worth a journey; rather, my limited mobility and inability to drive, requires more planning, more money and time – which isn’t always as freed up as one might like to believe.

It was high time to rectify this situation. A French friend and expat suggested that we take a day trip to sights as yet unseen by me – although already visited numerous times by himself. I was grateful for the idea and offer, and excited about the prospect of unearthing new discoveries about the island.

DSC02084First stop: Bali Butterfly Park in Tabanan regency. An hour’s ride from Ubud, we pulled into a nearly empty car park. After paying the entrance fee (a reasonable 85,000 rps), we entered into what I can best describe as an enchanting garden inhabited by hundreds of freely fluttering butterflies, in a DSC02108space entirely covered by a massive netting perhaps 15 meters high.

It was love at first sight. Creatures so breathtakingly beautiful, this enclosed realm was a testament to the exquisite creations that nature, if left to its own devices, offers to the world.

DSC02099A semi-indoor space held display cases full of cocoons and newly-birthed butterflies – waiting for their wings to stiffen and strengthen enough to enable them to fly. (Typically, within a few hours). Those that had reached maturity were easygoing enough to be placed on our clothes: up close and personal with a few pairs of wings!DSC02132

Our timing was auspicious: mating season was in swing. And what swinging was in progress… Once they get into coupling position, butterflies mate continuously for 8 (yes, eight) hours straight. Quite the sight.

DSC02124Somehow, my friend’s awareness of mating butterflies generated his hunger pangs. So we drove off – with our sweet, French-speaking Balinese driver Dolit at the helm.

The roads took us through traditional villages and cities, alongside rice paddies, through busy intersections, around roundabouts, and over bridges. A posse of Balinese Harley Davidson bikers rumbles by at high speed – with one of the riders sounding an ambulance siren to urge drivers out of his way. We even passed the relic of an airplane, its rear half jutting above fields and buildings, creating a surreal landscape, completely out of place.

The sight of a few motorbike drivers sporting rubber boots hinted at our approaching destination: a telltale sign of fishermen and fishmongers. Once we passed all the high-priced restaurants by the beach, we arrived at the Jimbaran Fish Market. MoDSC02157re astounding sights to behold: Indoors, massive amounts of styrofoam boxes are piled high with fish, caught and hauled from night time to dusk. Prawns, lobster, crabs, other slimy things and fish of every kind and size are laid out for all to see and pick from.

DSC02169Dolit shopped around for our catch of the day, finally settling on a few kilos of tuna – and, at my request, a red snapper too. He carried our precious cargo to a typical warung across the road (that’s where the locals eat!), where they chopped up each fish, slathered on  some sambal matah (Balinese spice sauce) and grilled them to perfection.DSC02182

Served with a freshly opened coconut, it was an incomparable dining experience. We dug into soft-fleshed, nearly boneless fish. The rest was wrapped up for takeaway. A brief walk over to the sandy coastline nearby, where dozens of fishing boats were beached.

Perhaps because these outings are so rare, and I yearn for them to be more  regular, I also recognize that, when I do set out on an island adventure, it ends up being that much sweeter and wondrous. Amen.

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