It was almost ominously becoming my first episode of an international embarrassment recently. The hotel room which I booked earlier seemed to be taken away by the Kangaroos who came there for their annual surfing thus leaving me to wander around the city with my luggage for another emergency alternatives, my plastic cards (the chips) out of sudden having their own mind decided not to work properly and almost left me on the street begging for rupiah to pay for the room and the organizer changed the conference venue to another part of the island (luckily not the date) without notifying the participants way in advance – I almost stranded on another side of the world. That was not to mention how the organizer changed and reshuffled the timetable jolly-molly and I almost missed my slot.
Bali was very hot sans the rain that almost sank the whole Sumatera. The whole sky was opening wide void of any cumulus cloud which I saw floating clearly from the aeroplane before we touched down. My body sweat all over even with a simple few descending steps from my hotel room to the cafe. I was on another last-minute official trip, a 5 days assignment to Bali, Indonesia presenting a talk on a conference. Without prior knowledge of the conference itinerary, there was actually nothing of any intellectual activities planned except a cocktail reception in the evening on the first day. So I took the opportunity to explore the mystical Bali, their inhabitants, the customs, the taste, the smell and indulged myself in a whole new experience so far the closest I got was from my couch watching Lonely planet on the Discovery channel.
Barong and kris dance at Batubulan. Barong ( it looks like a big lion) is actually a mythological character, the king of the good spirits. This dance narrated the story of good fighting the evil. The play have several acts and lasted about one hour with the soldiers in trance stabbing the keris to their own body as a final play.
One of the many acts in the barong dance. These ladies performed the dance elegantly evidence of many years in the dance academy.
Batik weaving was done manually. This reminded me of my mother who used a similar instrument back in the keropok–lekor land. But unlike my mother’s, their technology in the weaving seemed to be more advanced. The instrument used a semi-automated feeder of which until today I still couldn’t figure out how exactly it work.
There are still few active volcanoes in Bali. This one is Gunung Batur poised majestically against the blue sky in Kintamani. Tracks of lava flow can still clearly be seen at the foot of the volcano.
This restaurant where we had our lunch overlooked the magnificent mountain and Tasik Batur (on the far right). I was quite pleased as this restaurant caters for Muslim and has a musolla in its premise (which was a rare coincidence if you were in Bali). As it is located on a higher altitude, the temperature was a bit pleasant here.
As we were descending down the smoking mountain, we stopped at this popular sighting of a paddy field at Tegallalang. The rice is almost ready for the harvest. With such a terrain, most farmers will resort to using traditional ways of harvesting their produce. This exact spot was also a film set for Julia Roberts latest international movie ‘Eat, pray, love” , which was shot quite recently.
Those eerie looking roots juxtaposed the serene surrounding in the Sacred Monkey forest near Alas Kedatong, Ubud. The bridge led us to the sacred monkey temple. I didn’t put the monkey photo here as their monkeys were no less difference from any other monkeys in almost all departments.
This komodo stone-carving found in the Ubud forest gazed precariously on a young lady having her blissful evening bath from the cold spring that coming out from the komodo’s mouth. If you look closely, there was another lady enjoying this natural spring under the Komodo’s belly (notice a slipper). Unbeknown to me at first, she was actually getting too comfort with the nature half-naked! What a rare sighting!
Yours truly was striking a killer pose in one of the sacred sanctuaries for Hindu devotees. One has to wear a sarong and a sacrimonial yellow band to enter this place. So composed with the pose I forgot the name of this place.
These disciples took a dip in one of the temple sacred pools to cast away the bad spirits. I almost joined them to cool off and have a good splash as my armpit was flooded and my sweat run down like Niagara falls. Too hot and too humid. I am wondering why. Probably too many bad spirits wandering around the island.
This civet the local calls luwak (Paradoxurus) was a very interesting creature in this Coffee, fruits and spice garden at Temen. This mammal favorite food is ripe coffee beans. The still-intact beans from this animal’s dropping, were cleaned, roasted and ground to become one of the most astonishing coffee ever. Dare to drink?
The resulting coffee is said to be like no other. It has a rich, heavy flavour with hints of caramel or chocolate. Other terms used to describe it are earthy, musty and exotic. The body is almost syrupy and it’s very smooth. I however, have no gut to taste the coffee. The price of a pound of Kopi Luwak is around $300 or more. The above photos of coffees were samples given to us for our taste bud pleasure (from top left kopi halia, ginseng, chocolate and vanilla)
Another beautiful spot to marvel was this floating pura at Tanah Lot. One can only access this place during the low tide. Luckily I came quit early in the mornng while the tide was really low.
I spotted this terrace of green paddy fields on my way back from Tanah Lot. It was near Seminyak. Not to missed this rare opportunity, I asked the taxi driver cum our guide to stop at the road side for me to snap some splendid pictures of this natural beauty.
A stunning view of sunset at Uluwatu. Visitors/tourist come to this place for two purposes – to witness the beautiful sunset and to watch kecak and fire dance. Sun sets around 6 pm in Bali and one has to come earlier in order to catch the magnificent view.
Kecak is the most unique Balinese dance which is not accompanied by any orchestra but by a choir of seventy men. It has its origin in an old ritual dance: Sanghyang or Trance dance. The story depicted of Rama and Sita mythical adventures, fighting a demonic king Rahwana.
The grand finale for this kecak performance was a white monkey (Hanuman) kicked the fire around and menacingly toward the crowd. Ironically, earlier I almost got mugged by a probably Ebola-infested monkey who was so fascinated with anything that was not your original body parts (glasses, hats, foods, cameras etc).
Similar to this island inhabitants, food was confusing enough especially for the unwary Muslim travelers. Even with the halal label flaunting obviously on its banners it was quite common to see pork served alongside the other dishes in most of the eating establishments. The only safe food haven was the Padangs or outdoor eating hawkers along this beach. I found the best soto here, really.
Personally I think the accommodation around this tourist spot was a little bit on a higher side. The price that I paid was not worth for the type of room that I got. I paid approximately RM250 for a room in this two-stars hotel. However, I quite like the old and classic Bali decor.
Kuta Beach was really overcrowded with the sun-worshipers. It was really hard to walk freely on this beach, unless you step onto somebody’s buttock.
Every evening sun-lovers will stroll the beach and waited patiently for the glowing sunset at Kuta Beach.
The highlight of the excursion was a romantic candlelight dinner with my significant half at the beautiful Jimbaran beach close to the sea. The seafood was considerably quite expensive, but… this unforgettable experience with the loved one was priceless.
In a nutshell, Bali is a very interesting island with lots of new adventures and opportunities to satisfy our sight, smell and taste. Me on the other hands, would not consider to come to this place for the second time given another chance. Our own mother-land has even more charms and hidden gems waiting for us to explore for a fraction of traveling time and cost. Sometimes, the gems were just a few steps away from our doorsteps. Just pack our bag and beat the road.