Our third destination on this incredible journey was Bali. We are now three for three of places we had not yet seen but always wanted to visit. Bali! It was like a dream come true when we found out that it was our next stop and it certainly did not disapppoint us! We instantly fell in love; since Kate and I love all things Asia, Bali is right up our alley.
We had three full days and four nights in this amazing country on this Par Five leg of our journey. We got in late the first night, so we officially started after a fabulous Indonesian breakfast at our hotel the next morning. We stayed at the Komaneka Rasa Sayang in Ubud, a beautiful boutique hotel with a wonderful atmosphere and a very attentive staff, not to mention delicious food!
The first thing we did was to walk down Monkey Forest Road, which is bustling with shops, restaurants and galleries, to the Monkey Forest in search of Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal. In case you don’t speak Hindi, that is a Cremation Temple and Balinese Cemetary. The cemetary is only a temporary resting place for the deseased loved ones of the Padangtegal Village, until a Mass Cremation ceremony is held every five years according to Hindu tradition. There are, of course, monkeys everywhere in Monkey Forest and the little devils are very wiley and will steal anything they can, so it is wise to zip up bags and do not take in food! You can buy bananas for them there, if you wish, but we just admired from afar and tried to remain inconspicuous, so they wouldn’t rob us! “Tadak Apa-Apa”, No Problem!!
After we enjoyed that part of town for a bit, going into some galleries and shops, fighting the temptation to buy everything we saw, we headed out to the Elephant Safari Park to take in an elephant ride! That was another dream come true! There is a beautiful museum there with incredible artifacts and a huge mammoth skeleton. Our elephant trainer, Norman, was so pleasant and Mona the elephant was kind enough to give us a ride. Mona can also play the harmonica and paint! They have been together for 14 years and are very close and Norman calls her his “second wife”. Mona cries when Norman leaves her at night!
On the way there, we asked our cab driver question after question and he was so helpful and eager to teach us many things about his country and its people and rich traditions.
For example, there are hundreds and hundreds of “kayangan jagat”, or temples, in Bali; cremation and cemetary temples, community temples, family temples, village temples, spring temples, etc…and they are all very beautiful! The Balinese people are such a warm, devout people, dedicated to family, tradition, religion, peace and happiness. We came at just the right time to witness many celebrations in the month of April!
We purchased a temple sarong and sash to wear on our temple visits and we actually visited several while we were there. Besakih, the Mother Temple, was the first temple in Bali, so it is the oldest and dates back 1200 years. We were there on Saturday the 18th of April, 2015. There were thousands of people there, flowing up and down the steps like so many rivers and it looked like a movie set of some epic story of days gone by, but here it was right in front of our very eyes! I felt such love for these people and their devotion to their customs and beliefs. They were also very generous and kind to us to let us share this time. We were able to obtain a “canang sari”, which is an offering of incense, flowers and spices so we could also partake in prayer. Our temple guide confided to us that he and his wife had anticipated children for six years, but had not yet been blessed, so that was our prayer as we were sprinkled with their holy water and the priest lit our incense and as we raised ur hands without, then with flowers three times, then without for the fifth time. Then, rice is placed on the forehead, for prosperity. They are very welcoming to all beliefs, so for us to pray to our God is no problem for them. “Tadak Apa-Apa”!
Our driver’s name was Wayam, which means “first born”. Maday is second born, Yoman is third born, Katut, last born. After the elephant ride, we went to a coffee plantation overlooking this vast, tiered valley of coffee and tried many varieties, including Bali, Vanilla, Chocolate, Ginseng, Ginger and Lowak coffee. The Ginseng is our favorite so we bought some to bring home. The Lowak coffee comes from feeding the Arabica beans to a weezel-like animal, called a Sivit in English. The beans ferment in the stomach of the Lowak and when they pass through, they are gathered, cleaned and made into a very special, smoothe coffee. At the coffee plantation, we also saw many varieties of spices growing, like Vanilla, Ginger, Cloves, Tumeric and Cocoa.
Right down the road were the stunning, terraced rice paddies of Tegallalang. It is an incredible sight! Wayam told us that when a family buys rice, they go straight to the farmer who grows rice and orders it, rather than buying it in a store. They have white basmati, black and red varieties of rice here in Bali and most people eat rice at every meal.
We spent awhile in the afternoon at Bali Pasar market taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the fruits, vegetables and merchandise that is in abundance there. This country is so rich and full of life. We walked and walked, also looking in the many shops and galleries, before enjoying a delicious Asian meal and heading back to the hotel for a much deserved rest! We had to get up at 1:30 am for our pick up to climb Mt Batur the next morning! More later!