Today I'm sharing our adventures from Saturday 9/19, when we hired a car and driver for the day to take us to some of the really great sites on the island. Emily and I were joined by Lisa, Eunice, and Judy, and we had a fabulous day together!
Starting out, we had breakfast at the resort before meeting our driver at 8:30am. This guy sits right outside of the restaurant where breakfast is served; he played every morning and always had such a lovely smile!
Our first stop of the morning on the tour was in Denpasar, where we went to see the Barong and Kris dance. This is a classic story of the eternal fight between good and evil. The Balinese Barong is a mythological creature that represents the good spirit - you see the Barong everywhere in the art, carvings, masks, etc... the evil spirit is the Rangda. The Balinese believe in the concept of Yin and Yang - they also use black and white as symbols of this concept. Balance is very important to them.
Fortunately they gave us a program for this show as well, so we could follow along. There was music throughout, and the actors don't speak much. There was a very funny comic section in this one as well. It was interesting that there was no ending to the play, because of course, the battle between good and evil is ongoing!
Our next stop was the Satria coffee plantation a bit further to the north.
I didn't realize that coffee trees had blossoms - and they smell a lot like jasmine... so wonderful. This plantation also grew cocoa, papaya, vanilla, cinnamon, mangosteen, and lots more! They also produce Luwak coffee here. This is a luwak:
We called it "poop coffee" because the luwaks eat the coffee berries, and the bean with its shell still intact get pooped out (gross, huh!) They clean the beans, shell them, then roast them. I guess the enzymes from the digestive process change the flavor of the bean and make a very expensive and sought after type of coffee! I don't know who decided that it was a good idea to try this, though.
We walked through some of the grounds...
And they showed us the difference between the beans... the ones in the very front are cocoa beans.
And a lady showing how they're roasted by hand (which I'm pretty sure was just for show.)
They take us to a little area where you can do a free coffee and tea tasting. Since I don't drink coffee, I just sampled the herbal teas.
The only tea I didn't try was the rice tea since the other ladies said it was gross and it didn't smell too appetizing. Of course, after you finish sampling, you exit through the gift shop... or past it, at least. The marketing is brilliant, though. You've just tasted this delicious free tea, so naturally we all stopped to buy some! I got mangosteen, rosella (which I think is hibiscus - my favorite,) lemongrass, and ginger. (For Nicole and Brian - this is like the apple tea we got in Turkey - different flavors, but the same instant tea pre-mixed with cane sugar.)
After leaving the plantation, we went to the Tirta Empul - Tampaksiring... basically, a local holy spring where you can bathe in the pool and they have fountains where you can make an offering and cleanse yourself. We went through the entrance where we had to put on a sash (or sarong if your knees weren't covered) so we could walk through the compound on our way to the changing rooms.
I was a bit surprised to find that the changing rooms were kind of unisex, and there weren't really private places to change... just lockers and then kind of a space. We took turns holding up sarongs to screen each other. We had to wear a sarong into the pool, so we got ready and then headed back out. Ketut took my camera to take pictures for us while we were at the pool.
He explained to us how we were to go through the pool and what to do, then we took off our shoes and got in at the beginning. It was cold!
The water was from a spring under the temple, so it was very clear, and what was coming out of the fountains was clean. You start at the first fountain and you wash your head first and then your body. Some of the people there made an offering at each fountain or left a candy or something that represented something they were grateful for.
You go down each fountain, skipping two toward the end that are only used if someone has died. Then you have to go over the barrier into the next section of the pool. Here we're all waiting our turn and the last fountain before we had to cross over.
We finished the last group of fountains and went back to take turns getting back into dry clothing. Unfortunately without any towels. lol. We managed!
We left the pool and headed north, up to Mt. Batur and Lake Batur. On the way up, we passed a beautiful green terraced rice paddy. Since the others wouldn't be with us Sunday to see the great big one we were going to, Ketut stopped for us to get out and take a peek at this one.
As we got up near Mt. Batur, we got our first taste of how tourism was handled in that area, at least. They stop you on the road as you're getting to the location, and you have to pay a toll of sorts for each tourist in the car. They give you a ticket and then they let you drive through. I think the money goes to the villages as repayment for having to put up with the bother of it, but it's the first time I've ever had to pay to see a view through the car windows! (There was another toll when we stopped at an overlook and got out.)
As we were driving, we passed another, smaller temple / bathe area nestled into the trees - very beautiful!
The more we got into the hills, the more we saw produce farms and lots of fruit stands with beautifully arranged fruit.
The view of Mt. Batur and Lake Batur:
We stopped at a nice little restaurant (for the tourists, of course) along the road where we were able to go sit on the patio overlooking the view.
We also had a nice (although expensive - view tax, of course!) buffet lunch... more chicken and noodles! They also had some really yummy tempura veggies.
Another view from where we stopped at an overlook on our way back down:
Then we headed off to our next stop. On the way, we passed a bunch of people going to the village temple for a celebration... there are over 2,000 temples in Bali - I don't think that even counts the family temples in each family compound or at the hotels, etc... every village has 3 temples - one for each of the aspects of God (Brahma, Siwa - or Shiva, and Vishnu.)
Finally we got to our last stop of the day - the biggest, oldest, and most important temple in Bali - Besakih on the slopes of Mt. Agung. Ketut told us that they'd try to force us to take a local guide with us into the temple, and to tell them no because it would be very expensive. So we put on our sarongs and went and bought our tickets, then they told us that they wouldn't let us in without a local guide. So I told him that our guide had said not to get one. He told me to go get Ketut, so I did. After they talked, suddenly we didn't have to have a local guide, but they would disavow all responsibility for what would happen to us if we wandered someplace we weren't supposed to go or took pictures that were forbidden, because there weren't signs to deter us (which was kind of a lie... lol.) So I told him that we completely understood, but weren't going to pay a lot of money for a guide. Finally he said he would provide us a guide for 50,000 rupiah (which was less than $5 - Ketut said that sometimes the cost was as much as 500,000!) So we agreed, paid, and took our guide with us into the temple grounds. What a racket! It was too bad they put such a bad taste in our mouths, because the temple was absolutely incredible.
The temple grounds were a happening place! There were lots of vendors on the grounds selling snacks, and also lots of locals there for worship.
There was a benefit to taking a guide with us... there was a big sign in front of these steps that said that only worshipers were allowed beyond that point. Apparently that also meant only worshipers and people with a local guide, because our guide took us up the steps and while we were there, we heard other tourists who were there without a guide being turned away.
The view from up on the steps was gorgeous!
The guide took us all the way up the steps and into the temple at the top where we stopped and he told me a bit about it - this was the temple to Siwa - the other two temples were higher up on the mountain on either side.
The clouds cleared a bit and you could see peeks of Mt. Agung in the background.
The guide took us around the compound, showed us areas for meditation (where we were, of course, welcome to make a donation if we wanted to meditate for a minute.) In the background, I think it's the temple of Brahma that you can see here.
We circled through and started back down... you can see a bit of how big the temple complex was, and also the temple to Vishnu is in the background on this side. With the beginnings of sunset in the background, it was just spectacular!
Of course, I knew what was coming... I was absolutely not surprised when the guide expected a tip, but I was a bit surprised that he just flat out asked for one. I decided to just go ahead and tip him - it wasn't really that much money, and we did see more because he was with us. So he left us and we made our way back down and out to meet Ketut, with only a small sidetrack at one of the stalls in the little street market to buy a beautiful sarong in a peacock batik pattern that was gold and blue. I'll either make it into a skirt or use it for something else - it was a pretty cheap meter of gorgeous fabric!
So with that, we piled back into the car and started out on the two hour drive back down to Nusa Dua. It had been a great day, and the other ladies were very excited and happy that we'd invited them to join us. As beautiful as the resort was, it was wonderful to get out and be a tourist for the day and see more of the country as well as some truly beautiful spots.
We got back to the resort at about 8pm, and since we'd had lunch at about 3:30, Emily and I just wanted something light for dinner, so we went to the El Patio coffee bar. The resort - the Melia Bali, is a Spanish chain, so they have a lot of Spanish dishes on the menu. I ordered a light platter of Serrano ham and Manchego cheese with bread and another delicious fruit drink. It was the perfect finish to the day!
Just for kicks, a cool statue we passed in the dark on the way back to our room.
That's it for Saturday's adventure! I'll have Sunday and the trip wrap-up tomorrow :)