Taipei 29 Sept - 5 October
At that time, in 2001, one could not book a flight directly from Beijing to Taipei;
one had to go via Hong Kong. I had unexpected difficulties to book a ticket from
Hongkong to Taipei, so I arrived one day late to the Taipei County International
Kite Festival, but on the flights going there I for the first time understood
the worldwide impacts of "9/11": much stricter security checks and there was only
plastic cutlery for the meals on both flights.
There were many wellknown international kite fliers present at the kite festival, but unfortunately the weather was not the best: rain and very strong winds on the rather narrow beach. I got my Uptions (current name 'ReTurn') thoroughly crashed.
After the kite festival we were invited to an excursion in what I believe was a volcano crater and later a visit to Jioufen kite museum with the master kite maker Huang Jingzhen.
I stayed on a few days and explored Taipei, and also enjoyed a tea tasting session with Angela Wu and her kite festival staff. I wish I could have bought a tea cup set (with the sniffing cups), but that would have added too much weight to my luggage.
As the date was now well past the equinox it was high time to follow the Sun to the southern hemisphere.
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Bali 5 - 13 October and 23 October - 3 November
The kite season in Bali had finished, but Bali has so much more to offer. My friend
Nyoman Adnyana had in Taipei invited me to come and stay in his house and
participate in a big ceremony, which turned out to be a great experience.
For some reason I have always liked the art of Ikat weaving. Ikat is a dyeing technique where a pattern is tie-dyed on the warp/weft before weaving. Bali is one of the only four places on earth where Double Ikat can be found: The pattern is tie-dyed on both the warp and the weft before weaving, making the weaving extremely precision requiring. There is only one village in Bali where this is done; in the village of Tenganan. The double ikat in Tenganan is called Geringsing and each piece of cloth usually comes in three "earthy" colours: pale yellow, red and black/brown.
Tenganan is a in may ways remarkable village. [From Wikipedia:]
The people of Tenganan Pegringsingan are called Bali Aga - the original Balinese.
They descend from the pre-Majapahit kingdom of Bedahulu. There are strict rules as
to who is allowed to live in the village. Only those born in the village can stay
in the village and become full members of the community. There are rules regarding
marriage and anyone who marries outside of the village has to leave. A strict
protocol regarding marriages among the kin groups have steered the Tengananese
through the genetic perils of intermarriage although with increasing contact with
he outside world these rules have relaxed somewhat.
By virtue of their magical qualities geringsing are not only capable of keeping impurities and danger out of the village, but also shield and protect humans from harmful influences during rites of passage as they transition from one phase of life to the next.
The Tengananese receive their first geringsing at the hair cutting ritual. The cut hair is placed in a basket which is placed on a folded geringsing on the alé tengah, on which the Tegananese both enters and leaves the world.
In the ceremony that admits a boy or girl to the youth association of the village, they are carried dressed in geringsing cloth on their father's right shoulder. In the concluding ceremony of teruna nyoman which is the initiation, the candidates wear a geringsing and a keris or dagger.
For the tooth filing ceremony, an essential rite of passage for all Balinese Hindus, the participants' pillow is covered by geringsing.
After death the genitals of the deceased in Tenganan are covered by a geringsing hip sash. These cloths may not be used again and so usually are sold. For muhun soul purification rites, an effigy of the dead is carried in a geringsing shoulder cloth.
In the wedding ceremony the groom invites his in-laws to visit his parents home where the couple, dressed in festive geringsing clothing sit while relatives bring symbolic gifts which are placed on a geringsing cloth.
Geringsing is very old; it is mentioned in poems from the 14th century, and there
are about 20 different patterns. The making of a Geringsing cloth is
a very time consuming and labour intense task as I learned from Mrs Nyoman Diani:
Then the actual weaving can start. The weaving needs so much concentration to make the pattern on the weft perfectly match the pattern on the warp so the weaver can only work for a few hours per day. It may take several months or up to a year to finish a big piece of geringsing. In the finished piece the warp is uncut, i.e. it is circular or round.
Naturally, with this very time consuming and labour intense work of art each piece that is for sale holds a quite high price.
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Lombok 14 October - 22 October
The Banana Skin Kite
On the last kite festival of the Sari's Flying Circus tour in 1995; the one
in the crater of Mt. Bromo, I had seen a kite that I fell in love with. It was a
simple wing and the skin was made of skin from the banana plant. The kite fliers
were from the island of Lombok (next island east of Bali). The kite was called
Layang Goang (kite that makes sound), and I later learned that this kite
type in Bali is called Pecukan, and when the skin is made of banana
plant skin, like the Lombok one, it is call Kerikan Gedobong). Mr. Eiji
Ohashi also liked the kite very much. Later, when we had arrived in Bali, I
organized a day trip to Lombok for Eiji and Eiko Ohasi and me for a short visit to
the village Lendang Nanka where the kite maker lived. The school teacher
Mr. H. Radiah, who spoke good English, gave a short demonstration on how
to prepare the skin from the banana plant and also told us how the flying string
was made. This being a short one-day tour I felt I had not learned enough, so I
returned now to Lengdan Nangka, six years later, for a longer stay.
One cloud high.
Making a Layang Goang.
Making the banana plant skin.
The leaf sheaths on the stalks have two skin layers with a cell structure between the layers, and it is the inner of these two skin layers that is used for kite making (and other things). This skin is in Lombok called keros.
The making procedure of keros follows these step:
Layang Goang frame.
Dressing the Layang Goang frame with dried banana leaf sheath skin.
Adjust the bridle point so it is just in front of a wing tip.
Making a kite string.
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Whisteling PigeonsWhile the banana plant skin was drying and the cactus was being soaked I took a bicycle and went round the nearby sight-seeing places. But the most fascinating was actually the early mornings and evenings in the village of Lendang Nanka itself. Each evening around sunset I heard a mysterious whistling sound from the sky and I soon identified it as coming from a flock of pigeons. Several of the villagers kept pigeons, and at sunrise and before sunset they let the pigeons out for a free flight, all pigeons with a whistle or flute around their neck. (Note! This is different from the Beijing pigeon flutes which are tied to the tail feathers.) The female piegons had whistles, greneng, with multiple flutes: three, five or seven, made of brons or brass, while the male pigeons had a larger single flute, sendari, made of horn, wood or brass, around their necks. Often two or more flocks would join in the sky to create a huge whistle orchestra before parting and returning back home. Sometimes a pigeon would by mistake follow wrong flock home, but that pigeon would be taken well care of until next flight.
The sound of a whistle pigeon flock is amazing; all the different tunes that increase and decrease in sound level as the flock flies against the wind or with the wind. The sound is quite faint and not easy to capture, but it is amazing how high up a flock can be and you can still hear the sound. I did not make any recording myself, but I did however find a recording of whistling pigeons made in Bali on Youtube: Pigeon flock Bali (some annoying commercials in the beginning).
One morning when I went out to listen to the pigeons' morning concert I had another extraordinary experience. It was just before sunrise and as I walked the narrow village road towards a place where I knew pigeons would fly, a large group of white dressed women came against me and passed me. They had been to the early morning prayer, dressed in their white praying gowns and white hats. It was like passing through a flock of angels!
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