With the new four term school year in Tassie, term one break is already upon us. What better way to relax than head overseas?
My friend Yvonne who has never been out of Australia was keen to join me on this short adventure, so we booked some tickets and headed to Bali for roughly two weeks.
The flight over was pretty uninteresting but we arrived safely in Denpasar at 11pm local time and were collected by our driver Sabdah, who took us to our hotel in Legian. After a whole day in transit, we checked in, politely drank our welcome drink (it was a clear drink but has a strong flavour of cinnamon…weird!), and soon after crashed for the night.
We woke up groggy and tired, but unable to continue sleeping, so we dragged our sleepy selves out of bed, had some breakfast and hit the streets for some exploring. We wandered down the main strip of Legian and then continued through to Kuta Beach. We did some haggling for bintang tank tops (they make great gifts for people at home!) stopped for some chilled mocktails, checked out a few shops and then booked an afternoon tour.
Our tour driver collected us from the hotel at 2:30 and we headed out to The Royal Temple of Mengwi. Its Balinese name Pura Taman Ayun means ‘Garden Temple in the Water’. It is one of the most important temples in Bali. Built in 1634 by a King of the Mengwi dynasty, the complex is on an island in a river and its inner temple is surrounded by a moat. While it wasn’t as big as I expected (based on pictures I had seen) it was really quite beautiful. The only thing that was a little disturbing were the chickens in tiny cages in the first courtyard of the complex. The Balinese have always enjoyed cockfights, and they still continue to be popular, we were worried that the chooks we saw had a predetermined future, which was a little sad to see.
Our next stop was Alas Kedaton, often referred to as Monkey Forest. There is a temple, Alas Kedaton Temple, which borders on a 12,000 hectare forest, where monkeys and bats live. Here you are able to wander around with a guide who explains how the monkeys live freely and choose to visit (clearly they are being fed, or they wouldn’t choose to visit). She also explained that the monkeys were macaque’s and the male have sex up to 10 times a day…that’s why we could see so many adorable babies. Some as young as a few days old….soooooooo cute!!! The monkeys weren’t anywhere near as aggressive and grabby as the ones we came across in Malaysia, here I even got to hold the hand of a little guy!! Such soft hands. It was beautiful to see all the monkeys…and not fear for my life!
The last stop of the tour was sunset at Tanah Lot and it’s neighbour Pura Batu Balong. Tanah Lot is a small island with a temple on top. Pura Batu Balong is two small bays further along the coastline and is a small temple perched on a cliff top, which is accessed via a natural bridge. The two temples were beautiful, and the coastline was stunning, lush green gardens on the cliffs above black sandy beaches – a perfect location for a sunset! Unfortunately for us, the sky wasn’t participating with the romantic notion of a cliff top temple silhouetted against a striking sunset, because it was cloudy and the sunset wasn’t colourful. I was a little disappointed with the lack of sunset, but as I said, the location itself was pretty impressive and it was a really pleasant end to the day.
After an early night, solid sleep and a tiny sleep in, we were feeling much more ready to take on the world. After some brekky we hit the streets once more. We headed in the direction of Seminyak, we checked out a few markets and wandered last the beach before catching a taxi to Seminyak, where we checked out Pura Petitinget temple. To make ourselves respectful of the Hindu faith we hired sarongs before wandering into the temple. The temple was quite pretty and it was good to wander around by ourselves – we were the only people there – but on the whole it wasn’t amazing to look at. Possibly not worth the effort of getting there.
After looking at the temple we headed back towards more central Seminyak, where we found a great cafe to stop for a coffee and a small bite to eat. We also took the time to check out a few markets stalls, jewellery and clothes mostly, and clearly designed for a more upmarket target audience than what we had experienced in the Legian/Kuta region – it was a nice change.
After some more wandering we decided it was time for a break, so we caught a taxi back to the hotel where we had a dip in the pool and spent some time lounging around the pool. The late afternoon was spent wandering some previously unexplored streets. I found some cute items for a certain cute niece of mine. I also found an interesting assortment of fresh fruit, so it was experimentation time! I got some Rambutan…a favourite of mine, some other small fruits that I think were called Longon and some freaky looking fruit called Salak. The Salak was brown and was scaly like a snake, only they were hard scales. The fruit itself had an ok flavour, but the texture was a bit bizarre and made your mouth feel like it was being dried out, in contrast the Longon are juicy and sweet…yum!!
I was collected from the hotel at 7:30am along with a family from Perth and a couple from Perth, we all headed to the hills. Along the way we stopped at a coffee roastery where we got to try 8 different coffees and teas, and for those willing to pay extra, Kopi Luwak. Kopi Luwak is said to be the worlds most expensive coffee, the coffee beans are eaten by the civet cat. Once the cat poops the beans back out, the beans are cleaned up and ground into coffee. Surprisingly it was actually quite nice coffee, even if the idea is pretty gross!
After our coffee break we continued on up into the mountains, up to Kintamani, where we stopped for breakfast. The view while we ate was stunning! A view of Mount Batur (an active volcano…no eruptions while we were there though) and the beautiful blue Lake Batur.
As we were finally at the top of the mountains, it was time to head back down…on mountain bikes!
We rode through villages, past rice terraces, through farmlands…it was all stunning! The local children loved it, and when they saw us coming they would run to the road and smile and wave, calling out “Hello”.
Along the way we made a few stops. the first one was at a village temple, there were people everywhere. Cockfighting is a big part of Balinese culture and they all love to gamble on these fights, so we stopped to watch. It starts with all the people determining which roosters will fight. Then each of the roosters has a razor sharp blade strapped to one of their legs, the blade is probably about two inches long. Then the first round starts, the two owners squat in the middle of e ring, plucking the roosters feathers, poking the beak at the other rooster, getting them all fired up. The crowd stands and calls out words, also trying to aggravate the birds. Then the two owners step back and throw the roosters into the ring, where there is a great deal of flapping, some blood and very quickly it is all over. If the losing bird is weak but not close to death, the two birds are put in a small cage together until there is a death. Of the three rounds we saw, the worst one was when the roosters was pure white, it just highlighted, literally, the brutality of the sport. I was pretty glad when the group decided to continue riding!
Our next two stops were both about rice. The first was when we saw rice being harvested, they were using a harvesting machine. I think the people were cutting the stalks and feeding it into the machine, then machine then stripped the leafy stuff away from the rice, so they could collect the rice. The second stop was the same thing, rice harvesting, but using the traditional method. People would cut small bunches of stalks, then walk over to a big bin type thing which had an angled wooden board in it, there you would bash the stalks against the wood, to make the rice fall off the stalks. Then you would pass the bundle of stalks to a lady who would strip the last bits from the stalk and throw out the rest. A few of us had a go at bashing the stalks…it was kind of fun, but we got covered in leafy and dusty stuff, and I don’t think any of us were that successful at stripping the stalks of rice.
The remainder of the ride was very pleasant, we had a few drops of rain, but thankfully the sky didn’t really open up. The ride ended in a quiet little village, where we were invited into someone’s home to enjoy a traditional Balinese buffet lunch. It was oh so tasty!!!!!
Then it was time for us to pile back into our minivan and drive back to town.