Our trip to Bali was a product of two superior last minute planners: the Daves. They both concocted the plan for Dave to join us in China as well as persuaded me to plan a majority of our trip to Bali by virtue of their avoiding it. They must know I like to have some kind of plan when I travel including but not limited to flights and a place to stay…I have very high standards it would seem, but I digress. We managed to agree on a basic plan: spend a few days on the beach and spend a few days in the jungle seeing some historical sites and doing activities like canyoning. We picked Kuta as our beach destination as it is one of the most popular and lively spots on the island (possibly the reason it was bombed twice in the early 2000s). Our hotel rooms were really basic but location, location, location. It was right on the beach and near lots of food options. We enjoyed the pool bar and attempting to learn how to surf two days in a row compliments of Dave’s trial by fire California surfing education and the guys we rented boards from. Minus some serious board rash on my legs and a decent sunburn by all it was a really excellent spot to relax a bit.
We pretty much spent half our time in Kuta under this umbrella or borrowing the surfboards from these guys. Their salesmanship was impeccable:
Guy by the name of Eddie: *Sees me staring around the beach* Hey, are you looking to surf?
Us: Yeah, right now we are just wandering the beach though.
Eddie: Cool, well if you need a board ours are the “save our world” ones over there. *points over there* I’m headed out to surf now, later.
Just the right amount of ignoring us and the price of $3.75 for 2 hours per board and we were sold. We even came back the next day despite our sunburns to give it another go. It probably helped their cause that the entire walk along the beach we had been heckled by countless people trying to sell us things, so the fact that they did not do that appealed to us.
We also got a tip from one of Dave’s friends that there was a very remote beach at the south end of Bali that always had fresh fish for sale, so we hopped a 1+ hour cab ride (it takes a long time to get anywhere during rush hour because almost all roads are only 2 lanes) and got dropped off in a super isolated location. We followed the signs to the beach and climbed down the craziest set of stairs to make our way to the water where we were, thankfully, rewarded with delicious seafood.
UNESCO World Heritage Tour
The third day of our trip I had booked a full day private tour of some of the UNESCO world heritage sites on the island. Our guide was amazing and told us a lot about Bali culture as well as some of the history behind the sites we saw. The major religion on Bali is Hindu, though they have their own more laid back version and refer to it as Balinese Hindu. Indonesia itself is predominantly Muslim, and there were some Buddhist temples there as well, but Hindu was by far the most common religion on this particular island.
1. Pura Tanah Lot
We had seen these offerings all over the place the first two days (on the beach, on the sidewalk, etc). Our guide explained that one is supposed to offer things that are compatible with nature (flowers, food, etc), things that can either decompose easily or be eaten by animals. The people who do not understand this concept tend to leave plastic wrappers on their food offerings which he explained was a nice gesture, but not in keeping with the purpose of the offerings.
Tanah Lot is often referred to as a floating temple because at high tide the water covers the walkway out to it. At low tide worshipers can come to the temple and only residents, or tourists with connections and/or large enough bribes, have the opportunity to enter.
What we thought was peppers turned out to be a very sweet sticky rice snack covered in coconut. I think the green color comes from pandan leaves which we had learned about previously in Vietnam. Delicious.
2. Pura Taman Ayun
Known as a water temple this vast garden and temple compound is surrounded by two concentric moats, a large one outside, and a smaller one inside around the temple. The style of the temple was very different from any we had seen in Asia to date.
The different number of levels also had some significance regarding whom you would pray for or to. Unfortunately I do not recall a lot of the details of this temple, but it plays a very important part in Balinese society.
3. Pura Ulun Danu Batur
By the time we arrived at our third destination at the far north part of the island it started pouring rain, so we had limited opportunity to get great views of this temple on the water in the middle of a volcano crater lake. We manged to take a quick walk around and eat some “betutu” (of the duck and chicken varieties) and got a slightly better view after lunch with the rain died down a little.
4. Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
It should be noted at this point that numbers 2, 3, and 4 on this list are part of the official UNESCO world herritage scope for Bali as they all work together to form a unique irrigation method known as Subak. The way water is managed at the temples and how it is used to sustain the rice terraces was considered of enough cultural significance to earn this distinction. They developed this method around the 9th century, so it has been around for a long time.
5. Elephant Temple
By request our guide spent some extra time with us and took us to one more temple, commonly referred to as the Elephant Temple. It has a bathing pool like that of the more famous Tirta Empul, but it is no longer commonly used. The site itself was actually buried several centuries ago in a volcano eruption and was only excavated in the last 100 years or so to reveal these site. The most interesting part of this compound is the cave exterior.
Beyond this cave there is a Buddhist temple, but we were advised we may not be permitted to enter, so we were content to explore the other half of the complex.
Overall this tour was a really great way to learn a bit about Balinese culture and history and our guide was simply excellent. A great way to get in some moderate activity before our next two action packed days!