Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Monday, April 25 - Gunung Kawi - Tirta Empul – Kintamani - Mount Batur - Sabatu - Mt Abang - Pakuduwi (Garuda) – Ubud – Luxe Barbeque and Grill

This was Robin and Peter’s last day in Ubud. We will miss them. We have had much fun together, and Ray and I have learned  a lot through them about Bali’s culture, sites, and people. We took full advantage of the day and had some more delightful experiences together.

We arranged with Made to take us to Mount Batur, and in his usual quiet leadership style, he threw in a few more treats as well!! Unfortunately, Ray was suffering from the sudden onslaught of a cold, and didn’t come on the journey with us.

Gunung Kawi is an 11th century temple and funeral complex located on the sides of a mountain at the bottom of the valley of the Pakerisan river in Tampaksiring. There are 10 large shrines thought to be dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana Dynasty carved into the sheer cliff face and on the other side there are 5 temples, again thought to be, dedicated to the King Udayana, his Queen and sons. Views from the top of the valley over the rice fields are stunning and set the tone for the temple. Passing over one of the irrigation canals and a weir we could see the shrines peeping through the vegetation and shortly after that we arrived in the temple complex. The whole site was set in the lush green forested valley with beautifully coloured leaves, and trees with a hundred trunks!! It was all quite majestic. We slowly climbed the 270 steps back up to the car park and bid Gunung Kawi “farewell”.

We had a short drive to Tirta Empul, another beautiful temple which is dedicated to Vishnu (a Hindu god name for the supreme consciousness Narayana) this time a water temple built around some active springs and two pools of holy water that people go into and duck their heads under the taps surrounding the pools for ritual purification. The springs in the temple pond are very active, and of course are considered very holy.

There is a surprisingly modern structure located above the temple. This was apparently built for a visit by President Sukarno in 1954. It is currently a guest house for important guests.

As we climbed up a narrow mountain road with very sharp bends, we discussed where we would eat lunch. When we emerged at the top of the mountain with a beautiful lake lying in the volcano valley below us, Made announced that he was taking us to the restaurant with the best view of Mount Batur. And he did!

Mount Batur is an active volcano. It last erupted in 2000 and you can see the black markings of the lava that flowed out of it during previous serious eruptions. You can also see two or three small “holes” which often “smoke”!  Mount Batur is actually a secondary volcano forming in the caldera created after the volcanic eruption and destruction of the original volcano. The restaurant we were sitting in was on the outer rim of the caldera and we could look over to Mount Batur, and see Lake Batur, which has also formed in the caldera, lying at the bottom of Mount Batur many feet below us. The scary part is all the little villages that have developed at the edge of the lake and in the valley of the caldera. The caldera is an amazing feat of nature, but you will have to look elsewhere for the technical explanation of what exactly happened!! Needless to say it was quite a spectacular view.

 After lunch we had a quick drive back to the Ubud, down the mountain road, through many tiny villages each represented by some art form. We stopped on the way to buy some small umbrellas for Robin and Peter’s latest stone carving of some protector whose name I am afraid I can’t remember!!

Back at the villa, Robin and I sat back and chatted while Peter did the packing!! All of it!! Robin’s as well!!! Robin….you are a lucky woman!!! Well, Peter is a lucky man too!!

Dinner was a lovely treat for us. We all walked into Ubud, slung our leg over the seat of motor scooters, and were whisked through the rice fields by the light of the moon to the Luxe Grill and Barbeque. There we were treated like kings and queens, and had an absolutely delicious meal, complete with desert and wine!! Then we reconnected with our trusty scooter drivers and headed back into an Ubud quietened by the late hour, and made our way back to the villa along the now almost deserted streets. What a beautiful evening for Robin and Peter’s last evening in Bali for this trip.

Sunday, April 24 – Relax and Campuhan Ridge Walk Revisited

This morning Robin and Peter took off with Made on a shopping expedition. Ray and I chilled at the villa. I was writing up my blog, and when they arrived back, I don’t think I had moved a muscle!! We decided to repeat the Campuhan Ridge walk to the Karsa Kafe for lunch. 

Although it was equally as beautiful as the first time we walked it, it did not take us as long as I didn’t stop every few feet to capture the magnificent view on my camera. We followed the signs to Karsa Kafe from the main street in Ubud just east of the old and new bridges. We went past a huge temple but it was all locked up and we couldn’t get in. Weren’t dressed properly for temple viewing anyway!!  

The path turns toward the north and emerges at the edge of a spectacular series of terraced rice fields. The narrow path, which is mostly paved, winds its way among rice paddies, past houses, shrines, and even several cafes and galleries. The first part of the path seemed to be pedestrians only then we had to share it with occasional scooters, but it is far too narrow to worry about cars or traffic. As the route heads north it takes on a more rural character, and we had an amazing view of what I think was Mount Batur. We also passed several nice cafes with knockout rice field views, and food and drinks were available by various vendors along the route.

 After about 2 k we arrived at Karsa Kafe and headed upstairs to the open air restaurant with its spectacular views over the rice paddies. 

We had our lunch and walked back into Ubud. Robin and I took time to look through some of the shops while Peter and Ray went off in pursuit of an ATM. We met back at the villa in time for a swim to cool down, and ultimately, dinner. 

Saturday, April 23 – Barong and Kris Dancing at Jambe Budaya, Batubulan – Bali Bird Park and Reptile Park – Tanah Lot – Hujan Locale

Each day in Ubud can be as exciting as you want it to be. Today, we had asked Made to take us to the Bali Bird Park and Tanah Lot, which I had heard was a “must see”! He suggested we add in the Barong dancing at Batubulan.

The dancing was obviously very commercial….at 9:30 a.m. in the morning, who else is going to see it other than tourists? They handed out a sheet of paper which attempted to explain the story but to be honest, it was hard to follow. The Barong is a likeable lion-like mythical creature and leader of “good” making him the enemy of Rangda a mythical demon queen. Barong dancing portrays the battle between the two which is the eternal battle of good vs evil. The “kris” or “keris” is a “distinctive, asymmetrical dagger from Indonesia which is often considered to possess magical powers.

The costumes were amazing, and the dancing was quite good, but I felt  the clown act was a little tawdry and inappropriate for a traditional performance such as the Barong Dance, especially early in the day when the audience is likely to include some young people. However, it was all very entertaining. Unfortunately, there seemed to be something wrong with my camera, perhaps moisture in the lense somewhere? It is quite humid here. Anyway, the pictures give you some idea of the costumes and setting.

After our dance show we continued on our way to the Bali Bird Park. The Bali Bird Park has been around for over 20 years and is committed to preservation, conservation, and breeding of Bali birds and birds from other countries. There were birds from Indonesia, Latin America, Africa and Australia. The park was well laid out by the various regions and birds where possible could move around in the exotic foliages surrounding them. In addition to the exotic bird population, there were also special programmes you could watch. We chose the one on birds of prey, and amazed at the eagles, owls, herons, and other birds the trainers worked with to catch prey in flight, pick up prey from a volunteer’s head, or pick up prey from the ground.  There was also a beautiful fly-past by 4 South American macaws!  And there was a short, random, exhibition put on in the restaurant over lunch. Check out Robin….the “Bird Lady”!! The park boasts 1000 birds and 250 species!  I don’t know how many we saw but we spent an amazing few hours wandering around and sharing the avian world. For bird lovers this was a true paradise!! Here are a few pictures!!

 Our tickets to the Bird Park also got us into the Reptile Park – another extremely well done exhibition of the animal world. We had the interesting experience of watching a python devour a mouse, but most of the other snakes were “sleeping”, except one, a cobra, that watched me quite carefully as I tried to photograph it!! In addition to the snakes we saw a komodo dragon, huge crocodiles and some iguanas.

Finally, we were on our way to Tanah Lot. I had read that the Pura Tanah Lot was an interesting temple set on rock formations in the ocean….which it was. But I also thought it was going to be beautiful. Mmmm, from a tourist perspective, I struggled with this site. There were masses of people, they charged more than some other temples for admission, they charged you for dirty bathrooms, and the beauty in the site wasn’t there …..for me. But, we had visited it at low tide and I think it may also be more spectacular at high tide, and maybe if we had seen it at sunset, it would have been more magical. There were tables set up for sunset viewing at the restaurants high up on the cliff overlooking the site. For the Balinese, this is an important temple, and we could only peer at it from the outside as we were not allowed inside. So, all in all, I am glad we went to see it.

We had a full day’s activity, and in the evening went in search of Hujan Locale, a comfortable restaurant on Jalan Sri Wedari with a fusion Asian menu. The food was attractively presented and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Then we trekked back along the road with our flashlights to our villa in Penestanan. We enjoy these evening walks home in the cooler evening air after a good meal.