We flew Korean Air from DFW to Seoul, South Korea and then on to Denpasar, Bali. It was 23 hours of travel time, most of it on a plane, in economy class. The layover in the Incheon International Airport in South Korea was only two hours. The flight was uneventful and at least we sat together and there was plenty of legroom.
Wakatobi assured us someone would meet us at the airport and they did, even though it was nearly midnight and would be a few days before we started out for our Pelagian dive cruise. We received truly VIP treatment at the airport. We turned over all the dive masters gear that we had packed with our gear so they could get those regulators out to them right away and hopped a taxi to our Bali hotel. We spent three nights at The Hotel Kumala Pantai on Legian Beach in Bali. It was well worth the $50/night for a lovely private and quiet room with a full private patio, a big beautiful hotel pool, nice restaurant overlooking the beach, right near the action of Kuta Beach without the noise.
Saturday August 25th
The next day was spent wandering around the Kuta/Seminyak/Legian Beach areas. I wasn't feeling very well and I'm sure was a royal pain in Bill's side but he endured. We had a private tour guide booked for Sunday for the entire day so took this day to walk the beach and check out the restaurants, where Bill started his investigation of all food that is Indonesian. We generally relaxed from the previous days travel. We found a tour company while walking around near the hotel that had some great photos of their activities and chose to book a river rafting adventure for Monday morning. We walked the entire beach from one end to the other, took in some sun at the pool and acted like we were on vacation.
Sunday August 26th
On Sunday morning our driver, Komang, picked us up in the hotel lobby for a full day of touring Bali. Komang was an entertaining guide providing stories from his personal life as well as Bali history and comments on the sights we passed along the road. We visited a wood carving company, a silver jewelry maker and a textile factory specializing in Batik. Each place had demonstrations, very friendly workers and of course a large shop where you could purchase their quality products. We bought only a couple of small carved wooden masks and explained to Komang that we would rather see some something of Bali that didn't involve scheduled tourist shopping. Our next stop was Mandala Wisata Wenara Wana, or Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary and Temple outside of Ubud. This was an interesting place, home to a large number of Balinese Macaques, that would not hesitate to see if you have some food for them. You could buy bananas or nuts to feed them but there seemed to be plenty of food laying around and they were a pretty healthy looking bunch so I don't think they needed more.
In addition to the monkeys, the forest is home to three temples, dating from around the 14th century. The largest is the Pura Dalem Agung, or Temple of the Dead. There is a Holy Bathing Temple and the third temple, the Pura Prajapati, is a cremation temple next to one of the two graveyards in the monkey forest. We donned the necessary sarongs and sashes and entered the temple grounds to see the ornate carvings and hear Komangs explanation on the meaning of some of the statues. You can read about the particular statues present at the Monkey Forest Temple and their significance by clicking on the underlined link above.
There are more pictures of the monkeys and the Pura Dalem Agung on the Bali Photo page. Ubud is considered the cultural center of Bali and there are many surrounding areas specializing in wood carving, painting, jewelry making and batik printing. In the center of town is a large open market with winding paths through vendors booths of every imagined artifact for sale. The market is two stories and in addition to the aforementioned crafts you can find many booths of clothing, from intricately embroidered and hand beaded traditional outfits to knock off board shorts and screen printed t-shirts. We wandered through the market for an hour or more and picked up a large wooden carved mask, a purple batik printed sarong for me and a pair of board shorts for Bill. It was the kind of market you could get lost in and lose and entire day to the vibrant sights and sounds.
But we were off through the winding hills to the overlook at Kintamani to see the volcano and the lake between Mount Batur and Mount Agung. It was about an hour and a half drive up the winding mountain roads. We passed many villages and terraced rice fields along the way, once passing a large group of villagers in elaborate dress heading to a temple for a celebration of some kind. At the overlook we were accosted by some aggressive villagers selling souvenirs, but as soon as someone new showed up they would move on. We took pictures of the beautiful scenery and had some snacks at a make shift booth selling coffee, sodas and 'tape'. The tape is fermented cassava root. This dessert is made by first boiling the cassava, pouring yeast powder over it to help the process of fermentation, and storing it for several days to allow the fermentation process to take place. The result is sweet and aromatic, quite nice, though I would think you would have one heck of a stomach ache if you ate very much of it. The root cannot be consumed raw, since it contains chemical compounds which are converted to cyanide. Hmmmmmm that explains the numbness we felt around our mouth and lips...........
We decided to stop and visit the zoo as we made our way back toward Legian. The Bali zoo is undergoing some construction of new areas to house the larger animals that previously have been kept in rather small cages. The gardens throughout the zoo are very nice and they have quite a variety of animals. Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my. There were very few people there and that made the stroll around the grounds very nice. They have set up small interactive areas where you can hold a bat or an iguana or snakes among other things. Of course Bill took advantage of this but I passed on the reptile holding and opted to just take photos of him. They have a large Orangutan who got tired of getting his picture taken and proceeded to throw chunks of papaya at us and the loudest Barking Deer I have ever heard. I thought it must be some gigantic animal and was surprised to find a small docile looking deer making all that noise. Pictures from the zoo and the gardens surrounding the zoo are on the Bali photo page.
After our leisurely stroll around the zoo we headed back to the hotel with Komang's entertaining stories and set up an appointment for him to take us to the Uluwatu Temple for sunset the following day, after our river rafting trip. We had a nice dinner and several beers overlooking the beach at the Blue Ocean restaurant, a few doors down from our hotel. Then we called it a night preparing for our 8am morning pick up to go up to the mountains for some rafting.
Monday August 27th
After grabbing breakfast at the hotel restaurant, (full buffet, eggs to order, included with room), we head to the lobby with a small bag packed with cameras, sunscreen and bug spray. The van picked us up and along with four others and our guide we were off for our first ever river rafting trip. We stopped at the Tour Company office to pay our balance and pick up drinking water for the van ride up Mount Agung, where the rafting would begin. Once we arrived at the site we were offered coffee and tea, while we suited up in lovely life vests and helmets and were given our paddles. We were told the ride would be over two hours on the river, through rapids ranging from class 1 through possibly class 5 or 6. uhhhh ok. We popped our cameras into the dry bag and four to a raft (plus guide) made our way to the river. We were given about two minutes of instruction, primarily related to listening to the guide and following his direction. He assured us that as long as we do as we are told no one would probably drown........
It was a blast!!!! We twisted and turned and bounced and became air born more than once but lost no one to the watery depths of the river. Occasionally another raft would catch up and the river would throw the rafts into each other or into the cliff side, bumper car style. At one point we had to climb out and walk around while the guides pushed the rafts over a steep waterfall and then we climbed back in to continue. We stopped at a beautiful waterfall about half way down the river to rest, take pictures and drink some water or soda. During the last half of the ride we would ride over the 15 foot fall of Bajing Dam into the churning white water below. It was incredibly fun. At the end of the trip we had to climb up hundreds of steps (didn't count them but felt like hundreds) where showers, changing rooms, warm towels and a full buffet lunch awaited us. The view over the river and the rice terraces from the open dining area was breathtaking and it was a beautiful ending to a memorable morning of fun.
Arriving back at the hotel we got cleaned up and prepared to meet Komang for our trip to the Temple of Uluwatu.
Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple, dedicated to the sprits of the sea, is perched on steep cliffs at the South East coast of the Island and is one of the oldest and most important temples in Bali. Built in the eleventh century it is one of the six original 'Kahyangan jagat' (directional) temples on the island, guarding Bali from evil spirits from the Southeast. It is also home to a group of very aggressive monkeys that are said to steal sun glasses, hats or anything they can hold hostage for treats from tourists. The Temple is an impressive site, high above the crashing waves and secluded beach below. Since I was wearing a dress I only had to put on the traditional yellow sash while Bill donned the usual sarong for our tour around the temple grounds.
We enjoyed the beautiful sunset while watching a performance of the Kecak dance or Monkey Chant. The dance is a form of Balinese music drama, originating in the 1930's. It is performed by a circle of 100 or more, primarily men, wearing checked cloth around their waists, chanting "cak" and throwing up their arms. No instruments are used only the chanting of the circle of men. The performers are depicting a battle where monkeys help a Prince fight an evil King. A Balinese dancer, Wayan Limbak worked with a German painter, Walter Spies, to create the Kecak dance.
The performance has roots based on movements and themes in a traditional exorcism ritual. The artists collaborated to create a dance that was both authentic to Balinese traditions but would not upset the narrow views of western tourists of the 1930's. In the version performed at Uluwatu they follow the basic Kecak Dance with the Sanghyang Trance Dance, a short ceremonial dance, directly related to prayer and ceremony and the Sanghyang Jaran Dance, involving men dancers who trample a fire of coconut husks presumably without feeling pain from the fire. In the rather startling show we watched, large chunks of flaming coconut husks were kicked up into the stands and crowds of people. Impressive if a bit frightening.
Click on the photos below to see some short video of the Kecak Dance and the Fire Dance at night.
After the performance, Komang accompanied us to Jimbaran Beach where we had dinner at one of the restaurants on the beach. You choose your seafood from the tanks of fresh caught (and sometimes live) sea food inside, then find a table on the sand and they bring your dinner choice out to you all grilled up with a side of vegetables and a salad. We had some drinks and headed back to the hotel to pack back up for our departure the next morning. There were many more things to do in Bali that we just didn't have time to enjoy. Easily one could spend a week just exploring not to mention there is quite a bit of diving available around the island as well. Food, lodging and getting around is very inexpensive in Bali and there is certainly no need to pack any clothes, you can buy anything you could possibly need much cheaper than in the states. Its a casual place, a relaxing place but filled with so many things to do that we look forward to returning in the future. Maybe some diving in Tulamben next time or mountain biking or that sunrise hike to the top of the volcano, hmmmmm
For now we were off for two and half weeks of diving.
Don't forget to check out the additional pictures of Bali on the Bali Photo page by clicking the tab at the top of this page.