Around Bali – Bali swings, Batur Lake and more
Our driver picked us up from the hotel at around 9.00 a.m. to take us to Bali swings. As much as I love travel, I am not a risk taker and will stay away from doing anything that requires me to dive into the ocean or fly in air. In that way you could call me ‘grounded’ 😉 As long as I have my feet planted on the ground, I can hop around happily like a rabbit.
Bali Swings – Central Bali
The pictures that I had seen of the swings while doing my groundwork before proceeding on holiday were beautiful; most of them showing girls in dresses swinging, their tresses flying and the valley below. I wasn’t sure though if I’d be able to do it considered it would require me getting my feet off the ground. However, once we were there, I knew it would be crazy not to give it a try. The rice terraces below the swings did not look dangerous. ‘At the maximum, if I fall, I’ll break a bone or two,’ is what I told myself. That is if the roots of the trees to which the swing is harnessed isn’t strong.’
Welcomed with a loud ‘Aloha,’ the slapping hands on thighs and stomping of feet, we stepped in to see the Bali swings, excited.
The swings are tied to palm trees with sturdy ropes and overlook the rice terraces and the forests beyond. With a belt fastened around the waist for safety and an instruction to the man in charge to start at a slow pace, there’s nothing to fear. The feeling of being in mid-air, with the sky above and the fields below is nothing short of exhilarating; its’ a feeling of flying away from the people who pushed it, people who are watching, free as a bird. Going higher and higher with the wind in your hair and being called back only to flash a smile so that the photographer can take a picture is what you have to do. The price at 300,000 Rupiah ( INR 1 = 205 Rupiah) per person, is on the higher side but with unlimited swings, it’s worth the experience. The photographer charges another 100,000 Rupiah per person which you can avoid. The pictures are unlimited and are transferred to your phone once you’re done.
The ride to Mount Batur from the swings took an hour. Mount Batur is Indonesia’s most active volcano and the Batur lake alongside has many hot springs. There are hikes to the crater which begin at 2.00 a.m. and involve a breakfast at the volcano, where the eggs are boiled in the steam emitted from the volcano. We reached Kintamani highlands where Mt. Batur is located, just in time to feast on an Indonesian buffet lunch with breathtaking views of the mountain and the lake. The area around is filled with vegetable and fruit farms because of the fertile soil (as a result of the ash settled after the volcanic eruption).
Holy Water Temple – Balinese Hinduism
Returning from Mount Batur, we stopped over at Tirta Empul Holy Water temple. One necessarily must wear a sarong to enter the temple premises. A separate sarong is given if one chooses to take a dip in the temple pond, which is believed to be holy and a dip washes off all one’s sins. The temple is built in a complex surrounded by flowering trees. At the entrance is a statue of Indra, the King of the heavens, a God like Zeus of Greek mythology. Hinduism followed in Bali and followed in India are like branches of a tree that cross each other at points and then diverge. There is no temple for Indra in India.
Prayers in the temple are offered in an open area which is restricted to the priest and the person offering the prayer. The priests here wear white- a white shirt, white sarong and a white scarf on the head. The priest sits in a sanctum and the person offering the prayer sits outside at a distance. There is no specific deity unlike the temples in India. Here, people pray to Trimurti – Brahma (creator of the universe, Vishnu – the God responsible for maintaining the universe and Shiva – the destroyer). They believe God exists in all things – living and non-living (animism).
Bali Pulina – Luwak Coffee tasting
The walk around the temple, the holy water lake takes around an hour if one is not taking a dip. From here, we visited Bali Pulina, to experience the making of the world’s most expensive Luwak coffee. We’ve been to similar places in Srilanka and Vietnam but the one in Bali outdoes them all. The entry to the place is free and so is the tour around the place and the coffee tasting. Luwak coffee is made from the droppings of Luwak (so I knew and hence had never tried). The animal is fed the coffee beans. These beans undergo fermentation in its digestive system but are not digested (broken down) and are excreted in a stick lump. Sounds gross? It really isn’t, when you know that the droppings contain the seeds with the outer covering. The dropping is collected, cleaned, dried in the sun and the outer covering is removed. The inner seed (the coffee bean) is roasted and this is used to make the most expensive coffee – Luwak coffee.
After an explanation, visitors are taken to the cafe’ in the premises for a free coffee tasting. The cafe’ at a height gives you a view of the village and the Tegalalang rice terraces below and around. After a tasting of chocolate coffee, Luwak coffee, lemon tea a Turmeric tea among many others, we had coffee ice-creams served in coconuts, which was a perfect way to end the tour for the day.
Gates of Heaven
With a day of rest in between and exploring Ubud at our pace, we decided to see the Instagram famous, ‘Gates of Heaven,’ in North Bali. Two and a half hours from Central Bali where we were stationed, we had to leave at 4.00 a.m. to catch the sunrise at the Gates of Heaven.
Leaving the hotel while it was still dark outside and driving through dark Bali roads was a unique experience. The roads are lit by lights outside people’s homes and shops. Street lights are few in number. This is when we noticed the number of 24 hour supermarkets, pharmacies, doctor’s clinics available. The Lempuyang temple is located on the peak of Gamongan Karangsem, 600 meters above sea-level. The car stops at the base of the mountain and then one has to walk up the slope. It isn’t too difficult or too long. At the top are the split gates (candi bentar) which serve as the entrance to the temple and are specific to Bali temples. The temple gates here provide a view of Mt. Agung, in the distance on clear days. It provides and opportunity for beautiful photography. Spoiler alert : The reflection that appears in most pictures you see of the place is not true and is created by putting a glass under the mobile. Ingenious?Yes!
Steps from the Gates of Heaven lead to the Besakih Temple.
We were done by 8.00 a.m.. A walk down the slope and a half hour drive brought us to the Bali water palace – Tirtagangga which is where we had breakfast looking down at lotus, water lilies growing in ponds stretching as far as the eye could see intercepted by sculptures. The palace was built and designed by the last king of Bali, Anuk Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem. The Rajah himself worked with the laborers to build the gardens.
The water gardens are royal. There are stones placed on one of the ponds for people to feed the fish. The fountains, the ponds, the fish, the flowers are absolutely stunning. Its easy to sit here and forget the passage of time. There are also pools here for people to beat the heat. One can swim by paying a small amount.
A drive through village roads and paddy fields on either side takes you to site of the waterfalls. One has to walk down to the falls past the souvenir shops and ‘warung’ stalls (shops selling snacks, gellato, corn and Balinese food. At the base of the stairs are the falls – surrounded by dense green foliage the white falls cascade and flow into a river with pebbles. Away from the road, down in the valley, despite the crowds, there is a tranquility here like coming upon a clearing in the jungle and sighting a waterfall. Its nature at its best with no man-made intervention.
I hope you enjoyed seeing the pictures and the post gave you a bird’s eye view of Beautiful Bali and its’ culture. If you’re planning a trip, stick on. In the next post, we go to Gilli Islands which has a completely different culture compared to Bali 🙂
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