After a surf with Ketut at Echo Beach this morning, I decided to hope on my scooter and head into the mountains of Ubud in search of a cockfight – I’d heard that’s where the bouts go down.
It was an hour and a half ride through crowded villages and rice patties into the mountains, but I was happy to leave Canggu. I was starting to get comfortable there, and knew that I didn’t get out then, I may never leave.
The ride was intense – there are no rules of the road, and it’s customary to pass people on the right side, veering in the lane opposite filled with oncoming traffic. Do as the locals do, they say. We do. The cars behave like assholes, speeding up and pushing right when a scooter tries to pass. The logic is flawed for scooter traffic has little to do with their estimated time of arrivals.
After several near misses and wrong turns, we finally arrive to our location outside downtown Ubud. It’s down a dirt road, surrounded by rice patties, rundown temples and homes.
Just outside Ubud, there’s no tourism. Walking down the street from my hotel, I was the only non-native. I passed a school with kids banging bells, an old contemplative man smoking and grimacing, a group of kids racing bikes, women chatting outside little shops, lost cocks rummaging through the sewers, and gangs of stray dogs fighting and barking and sleeping. Each house looked like a temple and large bamboo lanterns hung over the streets for the recent Gelungen, I’m told by our small opportunistic guide it’s the equivalent to Christmas.
Our guide’s name is Eday, and she didn’t apply for the job, rather she just took it. She’s a journalist, allegedly, from Jakarta, and doesn’t ever stop talking. She’s also very afraid of dogs and the dark. She also shies away from photographs because, she alleged, she is a little famous in her country. Other than that, it was nice to have her knowledge and Indonesian as we made our way through the streets of this little town on the outskirts of Ubud.
We stopped at a local warung and ordered Nasi Goreng and Cap Cay for 10,000 rupiah each. That’s less than a dollar for each dish. The warung was small, the entire family sitting in there with us. They were sweet and smiled and nodded, encouraging us to eat and order more. I’m in search of a chicken fight, I told them. I would have said cock, but I didn’t. I asked Eday to translate. She did and they laughed. They said check in downtown Ubud.
They also told us there was an international cock fighting festival just up the road last month. Other than that, they said they didn’t know when the next fight would be – there wasn’t a set schedule, but they thought Saturday nearer Ubud was our best bet. I’ll have my cock fight, yet.
Despite its illegality, cock fighting is still alive and well in the more practicing Hindi parts of Bali and I intend on finding one. Tomorrow we’ll find out more. The plan is to see temples in the jungle and then head to Keramas for more surf the next day. If the cock fight is found and confirmed I’ll put Keramas on hold and stay for the fight. If not, I’ll head to Keramas and then Mount Agung, the tallest mountain in Bali. A hike to the top – some nine-thousand feet – in the middle of the night, just in time for sunrise.
The temples have been viewed. We also visited the monkey forest – excuse the “sacred” monkey forest. I know, I know. I didn’t want to go, but my companions insisted upon it and so I, being the benevolent compromiser that I am, quietly and respectfully obliged.
It was a nightmare, a bullshit nightmare. Confident, brazen monkeys swarming the herds of camera-clad tourists, I’m surprised more people don’t contract rabies and die. I don’t know the statistics, though – maybe they do. There was a concession stand and each visitor must purchase a ticket to enter the sacred forest.
Not me, however. I refused to pay that admission and so I strolled around the perimeter, walking in through exits and stepping over ankle high chains, until I finally just walked through the front door. The key is to avoid eye contact, while maintaining an air of belonging.
After the monkey forest, we returned to the hotel, waiting for a new motorbike. I forgot to mention mine had refused to start this morning and so I found myself, once again, on the back of a man’s scooter.
This was lucky, however, because the breakdown led me to where I am right now, sitting in a café, talking with a sleezy man who calls himself Sam. Surely, Sam is not his real name. Moments ago, I brought up my desire to see a cock fight while I’m here. His eyes lit up and he put a small hand on my shoulder, guiding me outside to somewhere more private.
“There’s a big fight tonight,” he said, smiling and patting me on the back as if I needed some sort of encouragement. “Meet here at 11pm and we’ll take you there. Beer and everything,” he declared happily. He then leaned in close and offered me any of his girls of the night. “Good price,” he said. I believe him, too, however, I declined respectfully and told him the bird fight would be just fine.
So, eleven tonight it will be. The birds will fight. I will crow. I might also win some money.
Camera-clad like those tourists at the sacred forest, except these pictures will be bloodier.
More later, as always.