“It was a pretty drive back along the coast and cutting inland up the hill we passed a waterfall and continued to gain altitude and lose temperature.The air became quite cool.We stopped to watch the families of monkeys frolicking and grooming on the roadside with a peak through the trees at the lake below.This was a smaller body of water that we passed by to arrive at LakeBratan and its Pura Ulun Danu temple (of the dead).Also marked by its souvenir row of kitsch we stayed away down on the shore and got some beautiful shots of the pagoda-like structures floating in the aqua-shaded water.The clouds had come in strong in the background and the sun filtered through the front for some beautifully dramatic lighting.For mid-day we couldn’t have asked for more.The short cut road from Bratan to Mt Batur was a rugged, rural lane taking us through areas we never would have found on our own.Past rice paddy fields, small villages, more temples up steep, curvy inclines and through banana palm groves we dodged the potholes and aggravated our driver by wanting to stop for photos.I loved driving along the ridge way above the deep-cut lush valleys.We could see the settlements beyond us as the ridge climbed to become the volcanic rim overlooking LakeBatur and the volcanic cone of Mt Batur.We drove down a side road toward the recommended hotel with reluctance from our driver again.We settled on a guesthouse in the small community of Kintamani without another tourist in sight, just us and the many cowardly barking dogs and the betel-stained blackened teeth of the locals who smiled at us with their remaining molars.We walked along the rim to take in the awe inspiring panorama of LakeBatur below us next to the volcanic Mt Batur.Peaks popped out of the clouds as sunset cleared away the last swirls of overcast to reveal Mt Abang and the towering Mt Agung in the background.We had stopped to visit the Pura Ulun Danu temple on the rim.It was also photographically inspiring with its numerous pagoda-style shrines as foreground.We donned the sarongs and temple sashes amidst a crowd of postcard sales girls who all told me I was beautiful so that I’d give them my lipstick and buy their tattered cards.We avoided them once inside and strode along the back of the walled complex taking in the small, neglected temples below, the winding paths into the valley and a binocular view of the lake villages beyond our reach. We had a bite to eat at a little “restauran” on the rim’s edge, again with a magnificent view nearly all to ourselves since the locals had long since taken their environment for granted.
Aug. 9 – Ubud
Ubud itself came up gradually from the east starting with some temples on the outskirts in rice paddy land.The road onward was dotted with art galleries then more densely with shops and restaurants.Very quaint and artistically oriented the streets were much smaller than I’d expected and charming side lanes led to Losmen tucked behind big Balinese archways into pretty landscaped gardens with bungalow-like rooms with inviting patios to relax and have tea in.We settled on the second guesthouse we saw and headed out for lunch.After a pleasant lunch of gado-gado, nasi goreng, and fruit juice Reid retreated to our bungalow to rest [a touch of Bali belly] and I explored the town.I got to know the town with my cameras and shopping encounters. The best spot I lingered in was a garden next to the Lotus Café with a huge lotus-flower/lily-pad pool in front of a temple complex.I waited patiently for the view to clear of other photographing tourists and just relaxed sitting on the pavilion floor.A flute-playing traveler walked up excusing himself to sit on the corner.I enjoyed the serenade while the sun popped out of and then back into the clouds again.I finally found my price on cotton sarongs here in the big market.They moaned about making no profit but agreed always when I’d walk away.Back at the room Reid had awoken still not feeling too well but we went toward getting transportation to Pejang for the temple ceremony at 6PM.With incomplete info I assumed we could hop in a Bemo pretty easily but this was not the case.We learned from another transport office that finding a way back would be difficult since most local transportation does not run after dark.We decided it would be better to stay in Ubud and go to the Legong dance performance at the palace.We had a good dinner by lantern light [electricity out for a while] at a small Warung on our side lane.We walked to the palace just before show time.The gamelan music had already begun and the palace was packed.Literally there wasn’t a seat in the house.We stood on the side and watched a very well executed variety of traditional dances we’d seen individually performed at LovinaBeach.The pieces are lengthy but it familiarized us better with the styles.The costumes are stunning with the elaborate gold chest and head pieces decorated with plumeria.Visions of Halloween costumes danced in my head.
Aug. 10 – Ubud
The roosters band together forming a chorus at daybreak.The Balinese like all Indonesian we’ve experienced rise early and the boy was already sprucing up the grounds and bringing us fresh hot water for tea before we emerged from our mosquito canopy.The mosquitoes aren’t too voracious here but it’s a nice security blanket to be tucked inside the net.Today we wanted to see some of the sights in the area so we set off walking down Monkey Forest Rd.True to its name, the forest contained many monkeys frolicking among the banyan trees.A moss-covered temple hid beside the stream and another neglected looking one crowned the hill.We joined the road which took us through Pengosekan a small artist community and wenta few more kilometers past shops, rice paddy fields and traffic galore to the Goa Gajah (or ElephantCave) which was discovered in 1925 and is believed to e a Buddhist hermitage but which now houses Hindu deities.In the square outside the cave’s entrance is a sunken bathing place with female shaped fountainswhich weren’t unearthed until the 1950’s.We went beyond up the road and down again to Yeh Pulu, a relief sculpture on a long wall of a hillside which was discovered around 1925 as well.The worn sculptural work wasn’t as interesting as the lovely walkway steps alongside a landscaped brook but what did it cost?$.50?Back on the main road we caught a Bemo north to Gunung Kawi, a group of burial towers carved out of a cliff among rice patties.We knew we were at one of Bali’s “best sights” because the souvenir stands lined the pathway down.Once passed the gauntlet the area was beautiful and quiet and we felt as if we were in a paradise meandering along the narrow paddy paths looking out at the palms, waterfalls, and large boulders in the stream.If paradise is a garden this would be a good candidate.The sheer size of the towers niched into the cliff was awesome – like a backdrop for an adventure film.
Aug. 12 – Ubud (eastern Bali)
On down the coast we turned our motorcycle inland a few kilometers to Tenganan, reputed to be the island’s oldest village.It is on display within the town walls.For a small donation one mey enter and stroll the long strip of land bordered with walled houses with long work pavilions down the center.Each of the houses now has their beautifully woven ikat cloth for sale, a tradition existing only in few remaining villages.The quality is exquisite.Ikat cloth is woven with threads pre-dyed to a pattern which is determined before it is woven.Double ikat is simply twice as complicated – the warp and the weft are both dyed in the predetermined pattern.We journeyed on past Amlapura, an attractive little town, to Ujung water palace.It was so quiet and peaceful as men painted dugouts, tended the fields, and stared at us with great curiosity.The abandoned water palace of the Raja of Karangasems was impressive.One could imagine the grandeur of the 1920’s complex with majestic stairways leading up to a crumbling pavilion overlook.Leaving the coast we headed uphill to our temple destination of Besakih.On the way we passed Tirtagangga, another better-kept water palace of terraced pools, fountains, and statues.We continued to climb heading back west toward Besakih.Between Selat, Muncan, and Rendang lay the day’s best scenery.As we climbed you could still see the water below and the rolling green hills.The cool mountain air reached us as we motored through more lush, green rice terraces and past panoramic view spots.We arrived at Besakih, the mother temple, at the end of the afternoon.The temple crowns a hilltop and is in good condition compared with many places of worship on the island.The grande4st, highest, largest Mt Agung revealed itself behind the temple as the cloud cover parted for few minutes as we were leaving.We rode down and back to Ubud as the sun set behind some more clouds on the horizon.
Aug. 14 – Kuta (Ulu Watu)
One more adventure tour with a rented motorcycle.After escaping the traffic of Kuta and the airport we headed down a small potholed road into the Bukit Penninsula.We passed through small villages and out to the temple of Ulu Watu.Perched atop a cliff jutting out above the ocean, it was one of the most beautiful complexes we’ve seen.The coastline is so much more dramatic at this southern tip of Bali.The morning overcast cleared and the deep blue waves crashed below as I balanced on a cliff’s edge to photograph the temple in the distance.
Aug. 16 – Cremation
Musicians led the parade followed by several paper mache temple decorations hoisted high, the cremation bull and the throne carrying the body inside.We followed along and climbed up the hill crowding and positioning with the rest for a good vantage point.The wrapped body was lowered into the bull’s cavity and anointed with holy water and many other offerings.From the glance I got at the head, this was the body of an elderly woman.Several other elders gathered on a mat below the cremation pyre for a series of prayers then larger offerings of elaborate paper decorations were placed beneath thebull and secured with large palm trunks.When they needed more wood they just cut down another small palm near the clearing . . . and the gamelan music played on.The sales didn’t stop during the preparatory rituals either.Cold drinks, bananas and table clothes still made the rounds.Women chanted below us as Reid moved so I could record the event.Two large gas torches were brought in and the bull and its passenger went up quickly in flames.I think I was more moved than anyone else.Reid even mentioned that the natives seem to have an acceptance for death as a logical end to life – cremation is just a necessary step to send the spirit onward.The bull was turned around several times by its corners in the procession to confuse the soul.The funeral tower containing the body is bounced, shaken, and spun as well as run all the way from the deceased’s home to the field.If the soul has not been sufficiently confused it might find its way back home.Since a funeral is an expensive affair the bodies are often buried for months or even years until the cremation can be afforded.Funerals are supposed to be fun in Bali with the animist influenced Hinduism are very colorful as well.However it seems to get a rather casual treatment from its own participants – confusing for our western way of thinking.
Once past the tourist stalls of souvenirs we gazed out at the dramatic cliffs and saw why the spot is renowned as the most spectacular.It really is stunning and as we walked down the headland a ways we saw Ulu Watu in the far disctance.