I travelled to Bali for a two-week holiday in 2007. My first time on the island then, I decided to arrange for an airport transfer. The guide who brought me to my hotel subsequently helped me with my itinerary. It helped that I had a basic list of things to do and places to visit. Also, the fact that I had fourteen days meant that my schedule and itinerary could be flexible.
I made plans for:
- Jengala Keramik – paint a pot
- White water rafting
- Balinese cooking lesson
The guide, knowing my interest in cultural and historical places of interest, helped me make plans for visits to:
- Ulu Watu
- Tanah Lot
- Besakhi Mother Temple
- Goa Gajah
- Mount Agung
With so much time in hand, I had time to just drop by nature spots for a visit:
- Lovina volcanic beach
- Ubud market (fresh strawberries at S$5/kg and vanilla beans on the cheap)
- Agro-tourism plantations, where I learnt to dislike Balinese coffee, made of over roasted, tasteless Robusta beans.
The good thing about travelling with a guide is that they are able to plan your travels and make the most out of the day, traversing the island in a very efficient manner. Being unfamiliar with the island may mean crossing the island in haphazard directions, or arriving at a place too early, too late or too crowded. Unless of course, you have equipped yourself with an armful of travel books and has set a well-planned itinerary weeks before. Otherwise, it may be wise to go with a guide, which is very affordable and always very friendly: it’s the Balinese temperament.
It was with this prior experience that I know exactly where I want to go and what I want to do on my second visit over the long weekend just past, when I *returned to Bali...*
|Waiting for my flight at Changi Airport and hating the strict enforcement of carry-on luggage weight-limit.|
|Yup, that's my flight!|
|Falling asleep on the 3-hour flight...|
|Breakfast: we couldn't find anything local...|
|Souvenir from Jenggala Keramik of my first trip to Bali.|
(Note to self: Next time, I should make a 6 day stay and not over a weekend to get this done.)
|The headquarters and showroom of Jenggala Keramik at Jimbaran.|
Lunch was next. It was an exploratory trip on the way to Ulu Watu and it was settled at this restaurant at Nusa Dua. Food is always affordable at Bali. An overwhelming meal at a restaurant is almost always just a few dollars in the teens. Yup, it’s THAT affordable.
|The Jeroan (Holy of Holies) at Pura Uluwatu|
Pura Luhur Uluwatu is definitely one of the top places on the island to go to for sunset delights, with direct views overlooking the beautiful Indian Ocean and daily Kecak dance performances. Balinese architecture, traditionally-designed gateways, and ancient sculptures add to Uluwatu Temple's appeal.
Without a doubt, what makes Uluwatu Temple spectacular is its cliff-top setting at the edge of a plateau 250 feet above the waves of the Indian Ocean. 'Ulu' means the ‘top’ or the ‘tip’ and 'watu' means a ‘stone’ or a ‘rock’ in Balinese. Several archaeological remains found here prove the temple to be of megalithic origin, dating back to around the 10th century. There are two entrances to Uluwatu Temple, from the south and the north.
|The trail along the fortified cliffs of Uluwatu.|
The Balinese Hindus believe that the three divine powers of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva become one here. That belief results in making Uluwatu Temple a place of worship of Siva Rudra, the Balinese Hindu deity of all elements and aspects of life in the universe. Pura Uluwatu is also dedicated to protect Bali from evil sea spirits.
|The Kecak performance (about S$10/entry) at sunset.|
|Breakfast by the padi fields along the way to Tanah Lot.|
P.S. The food may induce instant diabete. Proceed with caution.
|The temple is isolated from the mainland during hightide.|
The Tanah Lot temple was built and has been a part of Balinese mythology for centuries. The temple is one of seven sea temples around the Balinese coast. Each of the sea temples were established within eyesight of the next to form a chain along the south-western coast. However, the temple had significant Hindu influence.
At the base of the rocky island, poisonous sea snakes are believed to guard the temple from evil spirits and intruders. A giant snake purportedly protects the temple, which was created from Nirartha's towel when he established the island.
The area leading to Tanah Lot is highly commercialized and people are required to pay to enter the area.
|A quieter spot on the same grounds as Pura Tanah Lot. This temple gets its name from the unique rock formation on the cliff which it stands.|
|Lunch at Waroeng Made Becik upon arrival at Ubud. The music, the breeze, the palms, the lull.|
|Captivating view of the multilevel temple complex that is Besakih.|
The numerous scams and excessive hassle around Pura Besakih ruin the entire experience for many tourists. The temple is sadly exploited as a way to shake tourists down for money. Some tips for avoiding scams around the temple complex:
- Guides are not necessary: Locals will tell you that certain temples are "closed" or that you must hire a guide to see "sacred" parts of the temple. Nearly all of the Pura Besakih temple precinct can be explored independently. Unofficial guides may demand a tip to continue halfway through your tour.
- Bring your own sarong: Proper dress is expected inside of Hindu temples; men must cover their legs with a sarong. Sarongs can be rented at the entrance of each temple, however purchasing your own in Ubud is a better idea.
- Do not overdo donations and do not feel obilgated: Upon entering each temple, you will be pressured to give a donation. A logbook of previous guests will show exorbitant amounts of $10 - $40. A typical donation to other Hindu temples in Bali is typically around $1.
- Expect inflated prices: Food, drinks, and souvenirs around the temples are outrageously priced - wait until you return to Ubud to enjoy delicious Indonesian food.
|Dinner at Cafe Wayan, Ubud: it's like dining in a garden.|
|Woke up to the call of nature: country stay means morning calls by roosters are included free of charge. But the Balinese garden view glistening with morning dew makes it worth the while.|
|Tegalalang: this beautiful, serene iconic symbol of Balinese rice agriculture is now used as a spot to cultivate a different type of crop: tourist commercialism.|
|Tegalalang: a money-making tourist spot.|
|Face of the granite cliff with five candis. A picturesque tomb with a lily pond in the foreground.|
Inscriptions over each candi approximate the date of construction to be in the 11th C. It is believed that each temple served as a memorial to a deified royalty principally because they are shaped like the burial towers, or Candi’s, found throughout Central Java. But in Java they are free standing whilst those found at Gunung Kawi are actually hewn relief's in solid rock. While the exact origin of the candi is unknown, there is evidence to suggest that the first set of five were built to honor King Anak Wungsu, whose rule over central and east Bali extended from AD 1050 to about AD 1080. It is possible that one was built for him and the other four for his wives, who would have ceremonially committed suicide after his death.
On the east side of the river are situated five candi which constitute the main group in this complex. Across the bridge are four candi on the west side. The remaining candi at the southern end is often referred to as the ‘tenth tomb’. At the bottom of the stairway and to your right-hand side through a small field (about one kilometer) is where the tenth tomb is located. The legend to this amazing place is intriguing. It is believed that the mythical giant Kebo Iwo carved out all of the ancient tombs in one night with his fingernails. Behind the small temple you can find a couple of meditation caves, which indicates that this is a pre-Hindu place where monks and pilgrims came together to meditate.
This trip marks my second visit to the island. I have a better understanding of the place. Thus, if I should visit again, it would not be for the attraction spots, but the siren lull of the island. Ubiquitous Balinese gamelan music forms the soundtrack of the island. Abundant and lush vegetation of coconut palms and rice swaying in the breeze is the picture, the landscape scenery. It will be for these that I visit, should I visit ever again.
# All coloured drawings: Daniel Smith Watercolours on Moleskine Aquarelle A4 sketchbook
## All black and white pen drawings: Platinum Preppy pens with Atramentis Archive Ink on Stillman and Birn Beta A5 landscape hardbound.