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Old 24th October 2014, 18:12   #1
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Default Story of the little piece of Bali in our hearts!

Indonesia never was a pretty picture in mind. All that came to mind was the mad rush of all sorts of vehicles, bad roads, rough drivers and the tropical heat. The image of a distant cousin of India which lagged almost the same distance or more in the development scale!
Against this back drop and with a heavily painted picture in mind we landed in Bali,armed only with a Linda Hoffman book that helped little to assuage our fears.
A little memoir here is an account of the key highlights of our 6 days in bail, and a progression scale of change and love

Day 1 : Strangers in a strange Land
We landed in Denpasar airport in the afternoon. We were welcomed by our car rental guy who took us to our Toyota Avanza. Found to our surprise that rented cars come with little or no fuel unlike other places where they come with the tank filled up. The order of the day was to fill her up on our way to Uluwatu temple.

The runway
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The roads we met fit the mental image to a Tee. The traffic was horrific and the roads could not be narrower. Only relief was road signs which were plenty and clear enough. Went to the first pump and found that there is nothing called Petrol or Gasoline here in Bali. There was "Premium" and "Solar". The pump will not fill us up for some unknown reason. With fears of fuel running out and being stranded on day one itself, I started making contingency plans in mind! But in a short while we reached a good fuel station and filled to the brink with "Premier". What a relief!


Then we started on our way to Pura Uluwatu, the temple on a cliff at the
Bay.This temple complex covers the entire bay area, which has a Plateau like shoreline. In fact, the ridge of the plateau runs along the shoreline for as long as you could see. At a distance is the main temple stands on the top of the ridge, where the bay projects into the see little more than the other areas. This gives a fantastic visual impact when viewed from a distance. At sunset you could get a photograph covering the ridge, the temple and the sea with the evening glory of the sun going down the sea!!
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We reached in the evening around sunset but were a wee bit late for sunset. What a sight it would have been! Took a few shots and we were on our way back.

The day and our minds started cooling down now and priority #2 surfaced. This time it was simcards to knock the doors of Sat Nav open. Saw a shop on the way and bought Sim cards and recharged for data plans. Google Nav started working like a dream and we were set free.

We decided to halt for the day near Kuta for the night, and checked in to a decent hotel. The hotel guys arranged for a seafood diner by the beach, which, while being high on the expensive scale but did not disappoint on the WoW meter.

By this time we were tired and in full anticipation for the next day. We tucked into our beds and slept over.

Day 2 : The story of a Temple and a little roasted Pig

New day, new plans. Armed with Google Sat Nav, we were on the way to the real Bali. Away from the madding crowds of Denpasar, the target was the UNESCO world heritage site of Mt Batukau and its Ancient temple. Tasted some yummy Bali street food on the way and also saw some glimpses of Rural Bali. But most of the route to Batukau is covered in the main highway lined with towns every few kilometers. The traffic as usual was heavy and the driving quite rash. It seemed that Bali was teeming with life everywhere!

We reached the temple by afternoon, and were welcomed by the cool breeze coming downhill from the mountain. The narrow road to Mt Batukau leading from the main highway is a nice drive and as you go uphill the weather change is quite pleasant. The temple itself is majestic and has that stamp of ancient honor and pride all over it. We soaked in the elegance of the place for a while, taking a few pics, but mostly admiring its stone and wood architecture.
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Candi Bentar(the split gate)-two halves of a solid, elaborately carved tower cut clean through the middle, each half separated to allow entrance into the temple.
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The gates are guarded on both sides by these 'Rakshasas'
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Padmasana:An open seat-type shrine,adorned with cosmic turtle and serpents honors the sun god.
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The merus(Balinise Pagoda):
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There is also a temple pond with a small sanctum built in the middle. Water itself is a running theme in the Balinese temples, with most temples being built near the sea or life giving waters of a lake or river.

The man made lake completes the ''cosmic'' design.The lake goddess and the lord of Mt.Batukaru sit in the central pavilion.
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We left Batukau to Jatiluwih, the famed Rice Terraces of Bali. An ancient form(art?) of rice cultivation which was perfected by the Balinese over centuries . Aided by a complicated system of irrigation and making full use of the hilly terrain, rice terraces are a defining feature of Bali that must not be missed. There is a sharp turn into the main Jatiluwih area and as you turn in, the scene is nothing short of breathtaking. Unending hills carpeted with the intense greenery of rice plants, with different elevations being clearly separated by brown stripes f mud. As you look further out, the elevation changes do not register and you feel like looking into concentric circles of intense greenery converging into infinity.
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Our motor finds green-peace over here
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Young weirdos on scooters twice their size!!You see 10 year olds driving scooters all over rural Bali
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A water temple
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A self sustained fish-crop-livestock farming system
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Last edited by rahulsukesan : 27th October 2014 at 19:04.
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Old 28th October 2014, 18:31   #2
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Default re: Story of the little piece of Bali in our hearts!

With the beauty of Jatiluwih beckoning to make halt, we made a tough decision to go back to Kuta in the interest of time and also to taste BabiGuling or whole roasted piglets, a Balinese specialty, the best of which can be tasted in the markets of Ganiar Town. Another rough ride for a few hours and we were in Ganiar. We checked into a street shop to taste the delicacy. But the roast pig turned out to be a disappointment for our Indian tongues accustomed to intense flavors in meat.
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Our share
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Accompaniments for 'Nasi Goreng'
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A spoonful of 'Esteler'
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Only after the Babi Guling misadventure that we realized we had no place booked for the night. We drove from Ganiar to Ubud looking for a hotel. But unfortunately there were no hotels or home stays by the roadside. We reached Ubud town in about 30 mins and by some stroke of fortune got into a street filled with home stays. There were phone numbers available in the billboards, but no one picked up calls in most of the places. Already running late and exhausted, it looked as if a long dirty night was ahead of us. Finally we could establish contact with one home stay tucked deep inside a narrow lane. The palace was decent though, with a nice balcony and we checked in at 12.30AM, suspecting little about the nasty surprise awaiting us. The surprise was that the room had no locks. Too exhausted to look for another rooms and with very low probability of actually fining one, we decided to stay put. I slept on the floor against the door, with our large suitcase tucked between me and the door for added protection.
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Old 28th October 2014, 18:53   #3
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Day 3: A volcanic caldera and a life giving lake
By the third day the ravages of Balinese roads no longer seemed to be a challenge and I started enjoying spinning our Avanza around. The fact that we were heading into deep country also helped. We started out from Ubud after a fantastic breakfast of Pancakes and fruits prepared lovingly by our hosts.
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We were negotiating the narrow streets of Ubud when we caw a commotion in a small ground near a temple. We stopped our car to have a look. It was cock fight!. Never having seen one earlier, I was really excited. A fight was in progress as we moved in and we could see the feathers flying around. The cocks fight quite viciously and it is a gladiatorial fight to death. All the cocks have a small spear shaped blade fixed behind their legs. The sharp side of the blade points backwards so that when the cock strikes backward with the leg, it pierces the victim. So the first strike I crucial. Before each fight there is a lot of noise made by the organizers to pep up the atmosphere and entice people to place bets. It seems that quite a lot of money is involved in the betting, we could see big bundles of 100,000 Rupiah being thrown around. The actual fight is quite brief and lasts only a few minutes. It is quite fast paced action with the cock striking lightning fast blows with their deadly legs. Finally after a few minutes you see one poor bird lying badly wounded and half dead from the injuries. It I not quite enjoyable and a lump comes up the throat. We saw two bloody fights and took a video of one of the fights. Finally after having our share of blood, we left the fighters to their business.
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Old 28th October 2014, 19:27   #4
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The next destination was the sacred temple of the TirthaEmpul. The temple is dedicated to Siva and has a series of elaborately carved 15 stone showers(Tirtas) lined up over the temple pond. Devotees queue up to wash themselves on each of these showers one by one offering prayers and betel leaves at each stop. Itís a magnificent sight altogether. After the shower you enter into the main temple complex which was decorated with palm leaves for the Bali version of the 'Ayudha Pooja'festival. We spent a few hours in the temple enjoying the ceremony and striking up small conversations with the local people.

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Old 29th October 2014, 18:33   #5
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Our next stop was Mt Batur , whose claim to fame is that of being an active volcano overlooking a majestic lake. The lake itself lies in the caldera of the mountain which was formed as a result of a landfall caused by an ancient explosion of the mountain. At a height of about 1700m, Mt Batur is the third highest peak in Bali. But it is now believed that before the explosion that formed the lake caldera, it was well over 3000M and was the tallest mountain in Bali.
We reached Batur in the afternoon and took vintage seats(In a restaurant) overlooking the mountain and the lake at the edge of the caldera. At the center of the caldera is the lake and adjacent to the lake is the smoky blackened come of the volcano piercing the sky majestically. You sit on the edge of the caldera on the top and can have a look at the lake below and the mountain at its side. It is like sitting on the edge of a saucer and looking down,the only difference is that the saucer is over 10KM across and a KM deep with a mountain of fire at the center which towers above you! Sitting there and sipping a cool drink :P, I knew we are in it for real!
Mt. Batur’s blackened cone,surrounded to one side by the long blue waters of Lake Batur and on the other by lava fields and cultivated vegetable patches.
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Mt Abang on the shores of Lake Batur
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After the lunch we went down the caldera via a winding road. The whole are is enriched by the rich volcanic soil provided by the mountain. But as we go into the center of the caldera there is little life to be found. The terrain changes to sharp lava rocks and black, rough volcanic soil.
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Happiness is posing in front of an active volcano!
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Much of the expansive crater is now being farmed;cabbage,onion,tomato and chilly patches can be found here and there.
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The houses here are wooden or cement blocks with tin roofs to soak up the sun's rays during the day to fight the chilling mountain climate at night.
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Peace!
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We slept early after a dinner of deep fried Mujair fish caught fresh from the lake.
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Last edited by rahulsukesan : 29th October 2014 at 21:36.
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Old 29th October 2014, 19:27   #6
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Day 4: A hike and a drive to remember for life
We got up early in the morning (3 AM) for our sunrise trek to the top of the mountain. The climb was quite difficult, not at all helped by the rough terrain with large boulders spawn around like the lunar surface (!!) or the hustle and bustle of huge crowds of climbers from all over Bali, brought over by tour operators in bulk. My guess is that at least 1000 people leave their foot print on the top of the mountain every day. After quite a struggle we reached the top of the mountain and the scene from the top was, to be fair, quite ordinary. It is the sense of actually climbing a volcanic mountain that overwhelms you rather than the scenery. But here was our chance to see a good sunrise after we missed the sunset at Uluwatu. We were not disappointed and were rewarded by a beautiful sunrise, which we indulged with some black tea and banana sandwiches prepared by our guide. We walked around for a while to see some steam geysers around the main crater and after a few shots were on our way down. This time via a different route.
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The crater
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Bruce Wayne,we found you!! :P
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Old 29th October 2014, 19:52   #7
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Pura Ulun Danu Batur dedicated to Mt.Batur is the second most important temple in Bali

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Mission accomplished, we checked out of our hotel and were on our way to the Next Mountain and lake. Our target this time was Mt Bratan and the beautiful temple by its side.

The drive was by all means one of the most scenic ones we have ever done, and we do have quite some drives in our list! We pass through orange orchards initially, covering you in a sea of orangey spots all over, then it is flowers and slowly the scene changes to the terraced rice fields, before the elevation changing northwards once again bringing with it another patch of oranges , vines and pines in that order. All this is stuffed into a few hours of a hell of a ride. The spectacular drive really added to the growing picture of Bali in our hearts. The initial apprehension and doubts now fully cleared, we now knew why this is the world's best tropical island.

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Old 29th October 2014, 21:25   #8
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Pura Luhar Ulu Bratan is the temple honoring the Spirit of Lake Bratan, which is another volcanic lake like Batur. This is one of the most photographed temples in Bali and can be seen in the back of one of an Indonesian banknote as well. Generally regarded as a symbol of Bali and its architecture and culture, the temple, the lake and the mountain lie in the area called Bedugul Highlands and can be reached by a 3 hours drive from Mt Batur area.

We reached Lake Bratan area by late noon and after a short nap, took a dig at the temple.

Pura Bratan , true to other accounts of its beauty, stands imposingly in an idyllic setup up made up of a vast expanse of blue water and a majestic volcano standing tall to guard the temple, the lake and the woodlands around it. The view of the temple from the lake itself is really a picture out of a postcard from heaven. Architecturally Pura Bratan is similar to other Balinese temples, but here the utilization of space is quite expansive. You do not find one structure after another crowding a small plot of land. Each area and shrine of the temple has its space and distinct identity, summing up beautifully along with the lake and the mountain to provide that wholesomeness of beauty.

Devi Danu,the lake goddess is worshiped as source of fertility here.
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The three tiered 'meru'(Balinese Pagoda) represents Siva Linga and the eleven tiered meru is dedicated to Devi Danu
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Old 29th October 2014, 21:48   #9
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Lake Buyan
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Lake Tamblingan
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Ghost house???
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After taking a few pics and enjoying the overall weather, we were back in our beds for an early nap. Tomorrow will be a busy day, we plan to start early to beat the traffic in the main national highway!
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Old 29th October 2014, 21:56   #10
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Day 5: In the beach, at last!
Bali gives you two choices, fun on the beach or sense of awe and wonder in the mountains and the temples. Unless you are on unlimited time, it is difficult to enjoy both in a single trip. So our beach adventure was squeezed into a single day in Kuta.
We started early and after a small breakfast at MCD drive in , checked into our beach side hotel. We took a small scooter and roamed around like hippies for a while. We filled gas at one of the ubiquitous roadside shops selling petrol/premium in ĎAbsolutí bottles!
Afterwards we took a dip in the cold waters of Kuta beach and played in the waves for some time. Also took some dashing beachside photographs. Overall we really felt squeezed for time as Bali beached have a lot more to offer than can be enjoyed in a few hours.
By nightfall we had our showers and roamed around the shops in Kuta town, taking a dig at some of the hip hop party areas.

The homemade Absolut Petrol!
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Kuta beach
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Day6: Back to Singapore, Sigh! Sigh!
Finally, after five days of amazing fun, adventure and a completely changed picture and newly grown respect for Indonesia, we boarded the flight back home. We were sure that this will not be our last trip to this magnificent little piece of paradise. So until next time, its Dasvidhania Bali!!
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Old 30th October 2014, 12:25   #11
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 3rd November 2014, 12:43   #12
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Bali in more ways than one seems so similar to India - culturally as well as geographically. I must confess that I didn't have much info about Bali, hence your travelogue proved quite insightful for me. Thanks for sharing

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Originally Posted by rahulsukesan View Post
The palace was decent though, with a nice balcony and we checked in at 12.30AM, suspecting little about the nasty surprise awaiting us. The surprise was that the room had no locks. Too exhausted to look for another rooms and with very low probability of actually fining one, we decided to stay put. I slept on the floor against the door, with our large suitcase tucked between me and the door for added protection.
I remember a similar story about a village near Banaras which my friend was telling me about - no house had a latch/ lock on their main door and were 24x7 left unlock. Apparently, their ideology was to welcome the gods and goddesses to their house at all times.
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Old 3rd November 2014, 15:01   #13
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Hi rahulsukesan,

Thanks for providing lovely insights about Bali, Indonesia. Make me want to go there for a vacation. The pictures that you have posted are quite detailed.

Also let us know more about your driving experience in Indonesia in your rented "Toyota Avanza".

Thanks.
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Old 3rd November 2014, 17:37   #14
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Nice log Rahul, it reminded me of my visits to Batam & Bintan islands of indonesia back in 2008 when i was living in Singapore. I missed visiting Bali then.
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Old 3rd November 2014, 19:11   #15
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Well rahulsukesan,

Definitely a nice travelogue! This has refreshed memories of my visit to the island, about 7 years ago with the family.I remember we had rented a Suzuki Wagon-R to go about.

Kuta beach is THE best beach I have ever been to in my entire life.

And to anyone who is thinking about going there, or living in S'pore or Malaysia or anywhere nearby, I would highly recommend a visit to the place.
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