Bali is a really nice place to have some relaxing beach holidays, even if the ocean is kind of rough at the west coast – and therefore better suited for surfing than swimming – and strongly influenced by the tides at the east coast. This are pictures taken in Sanur during low tide.
Of course we don´t travel all the way from central Europe to south east Asia to just see the ocean and beaches. So we planned a couple of trips across the island during our time there.
Day trips on Bali with a personal driver are easily organized and I would highly recommend taking a driver compared to driving on your own. There´s too much traffic and confusing road layouts. Still, if I could I would have taken this pink thingy.
Bali is always full of tourists and of course nearly all of them want to see something of the island, most probably the same spots that you´d like to visit. That´s why our travel guide suggested to ask the driver to do a tour in opposite direction to all the others. This was my plan for our first trip, but I could not totally convince our driver, which was partially due to some misunderstandings of cultural origin: Basically, Balinese people never say “No” (for the MPI people: High context at its best!).
Here is how to not do a daytrip: The evening before you´ve went to buy some fruits. Next to the shop you´re stopped at a little stall and asked if you´ve already been to this or that interesting point on the island. Some suggestions regarding a tour are made and you agree on one of them. The price is in Dollars… The next day you are picked up on time to a jolly mass sales event with a little culture on top.
These are my tips:
- Ask for the details of the trips route.
- If you´d like to change the route insist on your changes (except if they are not manageable). The drivers like to stick to their routes because of the stops at friends or families souvenir-shops that they include, therefore 3.
- Make sure that you´re not interested in a shopping tour. Be friendly but strict about this point.
- Ask for the price in rupiah. We experienced that there can be many ways how to calculate the exchange rate.
- If the driver is absolutely not happy with the changes or affronted, don´t feel too bad and search for another driver. There are many many people organizing tours and even if you want to be nice and hurt no one, a guided day-long shopping tour is not worth your money.
Our drivers name was Wayan, which is the most common name in Bali. This is due to the fact that Balinese traditionally use only 4 names for their children. In order of birth: Wayan, Made, Nyoman, and Ketut. There are some variations but nevertheless this must be very confusing, especially in school.
The first stop on our tour was Batubulan, where the traditional Barong dance is shown for tourists (every morning, all week). Dancers have to follow the choreography very strictly. Most of them train since they are kids and learn only one dance in their lifetime. If you´re interested in the story of Barong, you can find a summary here:
Our next stop was Balis center of arts, Ubud. One of the attractions in Ubud is a monkey forest that we didn´t want to visit (Wayan reacted with incomprehension). I don´t really fancy monkeys trying to steal food and sunglasses from tourists.
During Balis first big tourist invasion in the sixties Ubud became a center of arts, attracting many artists and hippies. Today its main road is more like one endless souvenir-shop/restaurant, but nevertheless it´s worth a visit and there are some pretty nice places and of course temples! (And a Starbucks, where I admittedly got an iced coffe something, to use the bathroom for free.)
Pura Taman Kemude Saraswati:
Temple, me, iced Starbucks coffee:
From Ubud we went on to Goa Gajah, the elephant cave. The cave is entered through the wide opened mouth of a grimace carved in stone. The place is a sanctuary originating from the 9th century. Inside the cave there are several little niches for offerings. A pool with koi is located a few meters from the entrance of the cave. The pool is supplied with fresh water through three stone nymphs. The temple is surrounded by a nice park and because not too many people were around we got a nice rest and could enjoy the atmosphere while walking around for a bit.
I know, not that special, but seeing a palm tree immediately gives me the “holiday” feeling that I try to preserve in pictures 😉
Impressive root system:
Not far away from Goa Gajah the Gunung Kawi temple originating from the 11th century can be found. It´s a place with 10 up to 7 meter high shrines that are said to be the graves of the king and his favorite queens. Due to our modified route, we arrived at the place relatively late in the afternoon and could enjoy it without too many people around.
Gunung Kawi, vis-à-vis:
The final stop of the day was a luwak coffee plantation. Exactly, that´s the coffee that is said to be made from cat poo. First of all I have to say I´m a real coffee addict and because I worked on a coffee plantation for a bit during my time as a volunteer in Ecuador I´m generally interested in the cultivation and the whole process of coffee production. Luwaks are not cats (see picture) and their poo is used to produce the coffee, but it´s actually intact coffee beans. The enzymes in the luwaks gut digest only some layers on the surface of the coffee beans and this is said to make a softer taste. I for my part liked it.
As you can see I´m still using a small compact camera. But this year I will have enough money to buy a proper one!
In the next entry I give the promised report on exotic fruits and another great daytrip.