Bali is now my favorite place in the world. So far at least. I don’t know how to describe it accurately but I just had this wonderful feeling when I was there like I couldn’t get enough of this beautiful place. It seemed so exotic and real and green. I don’t know. See, I suck at describing it.
Balinese people also seem so lively. They are always making offerings, or participating in (what seems to be a random) street parade, or shooting off fireworks.
But the place is also serene. I loved looking out the car window and catching glances of dilapidated temples, cows grazing on the side of the road, women walking with baskets on their heads, and farmers tending their rice fields while wearing conical hats.
After a relaxing two nights stay in Candidasa, I had the owner of my next hotel pick me up for a full day tour of the island. I chose the places I wanted to see, all of which were between Candidasa and Ubud.
First up was Tirta Gangga, a water palace built in 1946 by the Raja of Karangasem. The original palace was almost completely destroyed by the eruption of Mount Agung in 1963 and has been rebuilt and restored. It is very beautiful, with a maze of pools and fountains surrounded by a lush garden and stone carvings and statues. Tirta Gangga literally means “water from the Ganges” and it is a site of some reverence for the Hindu Balinese.
Next we visited Tenganan Village, a 700-year-old walled village, one of Bali’s original settlements. The residents are the Bali Aga people and their society is communal with a distinct social organization. The villagers do not actually work the land; instead they lease it to people from other villages. This leaves them free to engage in artistic activities and thus the village has become a living museum, with many of the houses doubling as shops and workshops where expert craftsmen and women perform their skills and sell their products. I was really interested in seeing someone hand-weaving the famous ikat textiles but when I visited I didn’t really witness anyone engaging in their craft. I was able to purchase a lovely ikat scarf for my mom however, which was dyed naturally with indigo. I hope she likes it! My favorite part of the visit was seeing colorful roosters… Until I learned they are dyed for cock fighting.
a craftsman engraving my souvenir bamboo bookmarks
Goa Gajah is a temple that was built in the 9th century. I wondered why it was called “elephant cave” since there aren’t any elephants there… Apparently the primary figure of the various menacing creatures and demons carved into the rock at the cave entrance was once thought to be an elephant. Huh. I did have an unusual experience here. As I was exiting, a woman tried to sell me bananas. I kept saying no (I don’t even really like bananas!) but she peeled a banana and shoved it in my mouth. So I kind of had to eat it. Then she insisted I pay her since I tasted it! I threw the equivalent of 10 cents into her basket and hastily climbed into my getaway car! (I know these people are poor and really need money but I can’t help everyone and this woman was obviously way too aggressive.)
similar signs were seen at other temples
fruit for sale
After lunch we went to Tampak Siring, my favorite place on the tour. It is a holy spring water temple. The water is sanctified by the Hindu society in Bali and they believe that it can heal various diseases.
sarongs are provided at temples for under-dressed tourists!
Last we visited the Tegallalang Rice Terraces. We pretty much just did a “drive by”; I only got out of the car briefly to take photos. My driver said it wasn’t very beautiful at that time of year but I still thought it was breathtaking. I wish I had been able to explore more though.
My last day in Bali was spent wandering around Ubud, a town located amongst rice paddies and steep ravines in the central foothills of Bali and one of its major arts and culture centers. In the morning I explored the rice fields located right next to my hotel.
Then I walked down the main strip, popping into a temple, the market, and Ubud Palace.
After lunch I walked down the ridiculously long “Monkey Forest Street” to – you guessed it – the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. I was already wary about it since I read that a recent guest at the hotel where I was staying had been bitten by a monkey. I guess they could sense my fear as I wasn’t in there for a minute before one started climbing all over me! It kept clawing at my purse too trying to get inside. Some helpful tourists told me to hold my glasses so the monkey didn’t steal them and kindly took my camera and a few photos of me. I don’t look nearly as terrified as I felt! After that ordeal, I quickly exited and walked back to my hotel… After stopping for a well-deserved foot massage.
After dinner, my last hurrah in Bali was watching the Kecak (monkey dance) and fire/trance dance performances at Pura Dalem Ubud. Kecak tells the story of “The Death of Kumbakarna”, an episode from the Ramayana epics. It integrates music, dance, drama, and chanting. The fire dance was definitely the coolest part. Its function is to protect society against evil forces and epidemics. But in this case, I think it was just to entertain tourists.
So, just to reiterate, Bali is AMAZING! If you ever have the chance to go there, definitely do!!
*Information about sights in Bali was obtained from Wikipedia and other various websites.