Thursday, 18 December 2014

Indonesia, Bali (All over)

If people tell you that 5 days is enough to explore Bali, they are lying through their teeth. I find 5 days too shorrrrrttt. Urghh.... I didn't even get to explore Ubud...

Uhuks...uhuks... (tears rolling down) uhukss...

Ok. Hahha. I better stop this melodrama. Here are some images that remind me of Bali. 

1. The Rice Fields

The rice fields in Bali are vast, and may stretch miles and miles in front of you. The greenery view is really scenic and it has the effect of clearing your mind. It's perfectly relaxing here.

The rice farmers here also grow vegetables and fruits in their own garden when they are not in the rice fields. Food in Bali is fresh as I have not seen the locals eat or sell processed, microwaved or canned food in the places we had our meals.

2. Kintamani

And this is Mount Batur and Lake Batur. When we went to Kintamani for the first time, the thick fog had obstructed our view of the volcano. So, we went to Kintamani again on our fourth day. Yeay!! This time, we could see both the mountain and the lake. 

We could also see the Trunyan village from our spot. Trunyan is one of the most traditional village in Bali and it is well known for its peculiar practice. Its villagers will just lay their deads on the ground without burying them!

3. The Canang Sari

Canang Sari are the daily offerings made by the Balinese to the God and we could find this in Bali temples. There's a smaller version of the Canang Sari and they were usually placed on the ground in front of the shops. 

4. The Coffee Beans 

At the garden of Bali Pulina, we get to sample different types of coffee and tea for free. Only the Luwak coffee was charged. Jas ordered the Luwak coffee, so I sampled it too. Nice? Well, I usually don't drink coffee, so I'm not the best judge. But I'd rather buy the ginger tea than the Luwak coffee. 

5. The Cultural Centre

Ubud is the best place to see Balinese art. We went to the painting, woodcarving and Batik workshops on our third day. In the Batik workshop, I captured a picture of the hot, liquid wax, in a heated pan used by a craftswoman. With the wax, she was able to create Batik patterns on a piece of large cloth. It's a really tedious job I must say. It requires a lot of patience and focus - the two things which I think I don't have in me. 

Well, there were also other art forms that we didn't visit such as stone carvings and the gold and silver artwork. We gave these places a miss because we wanted to go to the beaches.

6. Pandewa Beach

This is the Pandewa Beach, a secret beach known by the locals. The beach was nice and quiet. One thing I observed about Bali is that the waves here were pretty high and rough. I think only a strong swimmer can swim in the sea here, and it's definitely not me. Great for surfing I guess and other sea sports.

7. Jimbaran Bay

Going to the beach and not eating the seafood is a rare occurence in Bali. Blogging about the seafood there automatically makes my saliva drools.

If only I knew how good the seafood was, I would have stayed in Jimbaran area instead. It was that good. When something is fresh, you can just feel the sweetness oozes in your mouth. And you don't need any accompanied sauce because the taste is already fantastic.

The charcoal makes our fish taste even nicer. The fish was served with rice, fried kangkung (vegetables), garlic prawns, and fried calamari.

The fried calamari is probably the one and only food that I missed the most in Bali. It was crunchy and tasty. 

8. Spa and Massage

Finally, the massage and spa in Bali is a total luxury. You will be pampered like a royalty. Well, I made a mistake of having a massage on my last day because it means that I only have a taste of pure bliss once.

So seriously, who says 5 days in Bali is enough? I am already thinking of planning another trip to Bali in the near future. Hmm.. there are some parts of Bali which I have not explored.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Indonesia, Bali (Uluwatu)

I've decided to write a separate post on Uluwatu Temple because it deserves a special mention. I especially love the breathtaking scenery before me and it's not so much about the temple actually. 

Climbing up the cliff at Uluwatu is quite a task to some, but we could hear the waves crashing on the rocks below and we could watch the sun set on the horizon. Exceptionally splendid. I feel like I'm in a special place, in touch with nature, and it feels so good.

See that black, multi-tiered roof structure at the tip? That's the Uluwatu temple. It's also known as the sea temple. Built in the 10th century, it's purpose is to appease the sea deities so that the mainland could be protected. There are in fact two sea temples in Bali that I know of; the other is the Tanah Lot Temple.

We walked all the way along the edge of the cliff, right to the end. It was quite scary to walk at the edges because there's no fence to prevent your fall into the rolling waves. The white foam after it pounded the rocky shoreline was deceptively welcoming; the salty air blowing from the sea, however, was totally refreshing.

These are some corns left on the trays for the wild monkeys in the area. The monkeys were known to steal food or snatch things from visitors so we were quite wary of them. I was extra protective of my spectacles after a tourist's sunglasses was snatched off from her face. One of the guards had to cajole the naughty monkey with a corn to get it back. 

After the climb, we went to watch the Kecak Dance, which was another highlight of our visit here. We paid 100,000 rupiah each.

When we reached the open theater, a large number of people were already seated. We chose the middle seats and were pleased with the idea of an open theater. It was a perfect spot to witness the sunset. 

A priest could be seen conducting an offering at the 'candi bentar' or the split gate before the dance started. 

And then he lit up the flames on this black structure and prayed in front of it. I'm not sure why he did that, but it does not surprise me anymore if he's trying to appease the spirits connected to the totem because that's the way of the Balinese. Their lives were always centered towards appeasing their gods and the spirits. 

An open mind is really needed if anyone wants to appreciate a culture that is very different and unique. Sometimes, people do not understand this and it's kind of disappointing when they start to ridicule another culture. When you judge others, it does not define who they are; it defines who you are. That's how I feel about people who place their importance above anyone else.

Anyway, I waited in excitement and the dancers finally made their grand entrance with loud chanting. The theater was so full of energy as soon as these men moved into the stage. 

The totem seems to be an important feature of worship. In harmony, they chanted the 'cak' chorus in a trance manner and sat around the totem in tight circles. I simply couldn't keep my smile off when Jas whispered to me that this is the Balinese a cappella.

After getting the blessings from the priest, the epic love story between Rama and Sita began. 

It was a moving and entertaining story. I'm not sure how to explain but as night falls, the glowing lights which cast long shadows on the performers enhanced the atmosphere further. There was even a comic relief in the middle of the performance when a performer sat and interacted with the spectators. 

The performance finished off with the good prevailing over evil. It was a splendid ending and I didn't realise that time passes by very fast. 

It was already 9 pm by the time we headed back to Ubud. We definitely had loads of fun on that day. I still have one last post on Bali so stay tuned.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Indonesia, Bali (3 Temples)

There are more than 20 000 Hindu temples in Bali and we visited 4 while we were there. As soon as we met our driver, I opened a conversation on the belief system of a Hindu. My curiosity had been unplugged and it's great that our driver is a staunch Hindu. He really did try his best in explaining to me, but I must admit that Hinduism could be quite complicated and confusing to understand. 

So, I think I will just leave religion out of this entry and instead, post the scenic view I have enjoyed during my visit.

If you only have room for one temple in your Bali itinerary, Besakih Temple is one of the attractions you would want to head to. This temple is situated on the slopes of Mount Agung, an active volcano in Karangasem regency. 

The compound is so huge for a temple; it's no wonder people here called it the mother temple. In order to get to the epicenter of the temple, we have to climb about 200 steps, but it's really worth it. Besides, the air was cool and clean. 

Besakih temple is deemed to have existed since the 10th century and is where all Balinese come together to pray. In total, there are actually 23 separate temples within the site and each temple differs according to deity and purpose. The caste system also seems to play a part here although I don't think it influences the Balinese way of life that much as compared to those practised in India.

A small garden in the temple. We could see some parts of Bali from here. Our driver wanted to pray at the main temple and we followed him there. The main temple was actually out of bounds to tourists but we managed to stay in until he was done. There were, however, many large wild dogs in the compound and they were vicious-looking. I had to remind myself not to run or risk being chased.

The second temple that we went to was Goa Lawah Temple. It's located in the Klungkung Regency and our reason for this visit is to see the bats.

The darkness beyond the cave gave me goosebumps. As if it's not creepy enough with all the bats hanging upside down at the mouth of the cave. 

I wondered how the bats were at night since bats are nocturnal animals. I asked our driver in my most casual tone whether the temple keepers feed the bats every day, but he said that the bats find their own food. Woo.. I wouldn't want to be anywhere near these bats at night.

If you notice, every main temples have these three doors. According to our driver, we could only use the side doors to gain entry because Hindus believe that the door at the centre is built for the Gods, so human beings are not allowed to use it.

There were quite a number of chickens at the temple. I was curious so I went to do some researching on my own. Apparently, chickens are part of the animal sacrifices made during religious ceremonies. The Hindus believed that when an animal is sacrificed, the demon is appeased. Hence, the balance between positive and negative force is restored. 

Besides chickens, dogs, pigs and buffaloes might also be used as animal sacrifices. Hmm.. this explains why there were quite a number of dogs at Besakih! The third temple that we went to is Tirta Empul, a water temple that is dedicated to Vishnu. 

This temple is very near to Ubud, so we visited it on another day. The temple is well-known for its holy water and that is why Hindus from all across Indonesia visit this temple as part of their pilgrimage.

It is here in Tampak Siring that Hindus bathed and prayed in the holy water to cleanse themselves. There were also non-Hindus who took a dip because they believed in the curative power of the water.

After visiting the temples, I feel that Hinduism practiced in Bali is quite different from those in Singapore. Here, the temples were always bustling with social activities and ceremonies, with Gamelan orchestra played at times. Not just the older generation, the younger ones also seem to take up major roles in the temples. You can say that the whole community lives in the temple and each member is an important unit. 

Our last temple visit in Bali is Uluwatu Temple. But I'll write about it in my next post, together with my experience watching the Kecak Dance. Until then, stay tuned. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Indonesia, Bali (Desa Penglipuran)

December is a rainy season in all parts of Southeast Asia and this includes Bali. I like it when the weather gets cool and comfortable during our sightseeing, but when it rains heavily, our movements does get a bit restricted.

On top of this, we didn't get to see Mount Batur in Kintamani. The fog embraced Mount Batur protectively, shielding it from our sight. We waited for 3 hours for the fog to lift up, but luck was just not on our side. We then decided to visit a traditional village in Bangli regency.

This village is known as Desa Penglipuran and it's very famous in Bali. The village was well-organised with direction signs, beautiful stoned-pavements and a good drainage system. While we were there, there was a school excursion by an Indonesian school, so for a while, we were not the only curious onlookers there.

It must be the most beautiful village I had ever came across in Bali. I wondered whether this residential area could be considered as the high end area of Bali, where only the rich (Balinese) live. Our driver, however, told us that this was not the case. A Balinese village is organised like this since the olden days.

I like how the entrance is built in each house but what's most amusing about the entrance is this notice. You can find this in front of every single house.


The notice informs visitors who the house belongs to and the total number of males and females living in the house. I find this interesting. If only they state the number of eligible bachelors in each house and their age... Hahha.

I entered a house and was not disappointed. I learnt that a Balinese home consists of at least 6 small, separate structures. The main structures are the family temple (top pic), the ceremonial pavilion, the kitchen, the bathroom, the guesthouse and the sleeping quarters of the family.

Apparently, most Balinese family sleeps together in one bedroom, and they like to keep their windows shut to keep out the evil spirits. Their kitchen, usually tiny and windowless, is very dark and small too. There's hardly any room to breathe when I entered the kitchen. It is bright in this picture due to my camera flash. I'm pretty amazed by my camera too; it has worked wonders. 

Anyway, do you see that kettle? It's seated on a traditional wood burning stove.

While cooking, the cook had to cut her onions and whatnot outside. The limited space in the kitchen means that the kitchen is only used strictly for cooking. Our driver also told us that at night, a family member had to sleep in the kitchen to guard it. This statement did raise some eyebrows; I'm not exactly sure why the kitchen has to be guarded. It's really mysterious but I didn't probe further. And now I regretted not probing...  

What was really good in the Balinese culture is the sense of community in the village. The guide told us that the villagers will often gather to celebrate special events, have meetings and pray at the temples. All the houses are also interconnected; they have no gates. The trust level is so high among the neighbours; one is free to enter the dwellings of their neighbours anytime. Woah.. I'm in awe. Our houses in Singapore are constantly under lock and key. What a huge contrast! 

The villagers here also separate their rubbish according to organic and non-organic waste. Amazing right? My stereotypical beliefs that villagers are old-fashioned with obsolete mindset has been shaken here.

Coming up next is my post on the temples which I had visited in Bali.