Trip Start Aug 04, 2010
54Trip End Feb 04, 2011
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Where I stayed
Took the metro (excellent in Singapore) to the very modern, clean, and beautiful airport and checked in for our flight to Bali
The next day was more of the same - walk around town, shopping at the large semi-aggressive market, avoid the rain by getting a Balinese massage, eat lunch at Emu Oka (famous for suckling pig), arrange our tour for the next two days, drank some Bintang, and shared a crispy duck at the Dirty Duck Restaurant for dinner. Even though there are a ton of tourists and shops, it would seem easy to loose the "soul" of Balinese culture, but it seems strong to me. They are Hindu while the rest of Indonesia is Muslim and their beliefs lead them to be very involved in spiritual pursuits on a daily basis. Extended families live together in compounds with multiple houses and have their own family shrine consisting of many monuments. Then, each small village has at least 3 large temples - one each for Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu
We had a great day on our back road bicycle tour! About 10 of us on it, led by a very energetic, professional, and knowledgeable guide named "Joe." We drove for 1.5 hours to NNE Bali for breakfast with an amazing view of an active (small steam vent) volcano and a crater lake, passing some beautiful rice terraces along the way. Everything is so green and lush and the rice paddies are expertly formed and farmed. After that, we were led through a small fruit garden and saw a whole bunch of fruits and spices (cinnamon trees for example). Then, for the ultimate view, we saw civet cats that help to produce the rarest beverage in the world - coffee that has been partially digested by the civet
Finally, we got on the quality mountain bikes and began the trek. It was all downhill and I barely had to peddle! What a great way to tour, eh? We stopped at Joe's Uncle's family compound and got to see how a typical family lives. Passed a huge banyan tree, some guys getting ready for a cock fight, a bunch of friendly kids who all wanted to say hello and high five us, and rode through rice fields. Jenn got out and got in the mud, helping to transplant the seedlings to the paddy. It was a great ride through beautiful areas and simple villages, along roads with little or no traffic. We were treated to a great buffet lunch of smoked duck and chicken. That was one of the best tours we've done on our entire trip - it felt intimate, local, and "real." We were dropped off at the Ubud monkey forest and watched the monkeys climb around the ancient temple sites
To cap off the day, we took a taxi to Batu balun and saw the kecak dance and the fire dance. These dances are unique because the performers are all men and there are no musical instruments, only the sound of the men's voices make music. It is very rhythmic and powerful and I can see how it might scare the you know what out of any enemies back in the day. In the fire dance, the dancer is put into a trance by a priest and is made to believe that fire is water and water is fire. Then, he dances and plunges into a fire made on stage and has to be pulled out and de-tranced by the priest. It started pouring right at the end of the show and we were glad we got to see this unique performance.
We hired a car and driver for the next day and went to a small temple, got swamped by handicraft hawkers, saw more green vistas, terraced paddies, grey concrete village compounds, veggie farms, small shops, and a few villages. We saw the "mother temple' on the slope of the tallest mountain (volcano) on the island. We were shown around by a nice, older man who answered all our questions and we learned much about all the architecture, history, symbolism, beliefs, and rituals of Balinese Hinduism. The temples were grand and had grand views over the island. We ate fish skewers for lunch and finished the day at a semi-secluded beach down a crap muddy road (which is why its still semi-secluded). Lots of driving that day - the roads are small, the traffic often pretty bad, and you just cant get around very easy. That night, we saw a big ceremony at the central Ubud temple/palace. Young girls, older girls, men, older women, etc etc all doing various dances in ornate uniforms with great gamalang music to accompany it. It was real crowded though and hard to see, even for locals. Another long, tiring, but great day. But we were looking forward to our rest in Seminyak.....