Saturday, June 8, 2013

Bali, Arts and Soul

An English playwright and composer, Noel Coward, once wrote to Charlie Chaplin, "It appears that each Balinese native from the womb to the tomb is creative".  And so my trip to this infamous land, where Elizabeth Gilbert culminated her soul-searching voyage and found love, discovered this to be true. Let's drift to Bali...


Art pieces are common items in Bali street shops

It was May of 2012 when we flew to Bali for an all-girls trip. There was no direct flight to Bali from Manila then so we had to fly KL first which was great too because it was my first time to visit the city and we had loads of fun there. Blog post on KL trip to come up soon.

We stayed at Hotel Lumbung Sari in Kuta. It was a good choice.  Hotel Lumbung Sari was indeed a perfect place to stay if you want a true Balinese experience.  To read more about this hotel and our stay, click here.

Hotel Lumbung Sari, Kuta, Bali

Where we stayed



BALI TOUR
We availed a package tour for IDR 450,000 which pretty much covered our first day of tour in Bali.  I really could not recall what tour operator, but I'll ask my friends and update this soonest I can. The tour brought us to see the following:


BARONG AND KRIS DANCE
Fee: IDR 100,000

It's a colorful theater play in Bali which exhibits the battle between Barong and Rangda.  This battles represents the eternal battle between good and evil.  I think this play lasted for about an hour. 






BATUAN TEMPLE
Donation only

Batuan Temple is a beautiful Hindu temple set in the middle of Batuan Village located just beside the main road from Denpasar to Ubud. It is a local village temple and a part of three major temples in a village that is called Tri Khayangan. Batuan Temple is beautifully designed with Balinese architecture and antique Balinese ornaments d├ęcor entire temple building including the entrance gate.  You are in Bali, so the beautiful temples you must see.  It's a must-visit stop.





If you noticed we were wearing sarongs in the photos, it's because we were actually wearing shorts and these were not allowed in the temples, even short skirts and revealing tops.  Good thing I guess, these colorful sarongs go perfectly with the beautiful "art-chitecture" of Bali. You will see more of the sarongs in the next stops. :)

GOA GAJAH
Entrance fee: IDR 15,000

Goa Gajah or Elephant Cave is located near Ubud and serves as a sanctuary.  It houses an extensive bathing place which appears to have been built to ward off evil spirits.





BUFFET LUNCH AT MUTIARA RESTAURANT
Buffet: IDR 60,000

IDR 60,000 or approximately PHP 260 for a Balinese buffet lunch, not bad at all.  We were taken by the tour operator to this buffet place overlooking the beautiful Mt. Batur for lunch.  

The only thing I did not like was there were too many flies when we dine there.



This one's worth including. She's a little girl we found at the bathroom of the resto just waiting for customers and assisting them in using the bathroom any way she could - she would show you the way, open the faucet for you to wash hands, put soap on your hands, hand you tissue, etc.  She's just so adorable.


BATUR VOLCANO
Entrance fee: IDR 12,000

UNESCO has made this a part of the Global Geopark Network.  Lies beneath this is Lake Batur which is considered holy and so no water activities are allowed here.



COFFEE PLANTATION
No entrance fee

We did a coffee plantation tour and free coffee sampling, definitely one of my favorite stops!  We sampled almost all their coffee products - ginseng, coconut, vanilla, ginger, Bali. Coffee Luwak, that from the droppings of Civet Cat, was also available, but was not offered in free sampling as this was expensive, most expensive coffee in Bali in fact . They also had teas.  My favorites were the coconut coffee and lemon tea. 

They have a shop where all the drinks sampled can be bought and many more.

Sampling different types of Balinese coffee with friends overlooking Mount Batur - just awesome.


Coffee plantation tour


RICE TERRACES
IDR 1,000

The rice terraces are found right at the entrance of Gunung Kawi temple in Tampaksiring. Minimal fee is required as a "donation".

GUNUNG KAWI TEMPLE
Entrance fee: IDR 15,000

Gunung Kawi is a temple-complex comprises of carved monuments which thought to be dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana Dynasty and his favorite queens.

I forgot why I did not have photos in our last two stops, maybe my cam ran out of battery.


CYCLING TOUR IN UBUD
The next day came the highlight of our trip. We were so excited to bike downtown of Ubud like Julia Roberts did in Eat, Pray, Love. Feeling the wind against our faces, seeing the locals wave at us as we drive by their homes, passing by fields and lush plantations - priceless.

The story of our biking tour to go up soon!




KUTA BEACH

One good thing about our hotel is it's just walking distance to the public beach.  After the biking tour, we went straight to the beach and our timing could not be better. We were able to witness the spectacular sunset in Kuta Beach. 

When the sun has completely took its rest, we sat by the benches and grabbed a couple bottles of Bintang, just talking and staring at the sea, thinking of nothing else but just how wonderful it is to be in that place at that particular moment.

We did not swim at the beach so when we got back in our hotel, we immediately jumped into the pool.








Hanging out at Kuta Beach


NIGHT LIFE IN BALI

Even if we were really tired, we would not miss the night life in Bali. So we went out to find some place nice that will still suit what remained of our budget.  We went to this bar called Sky Lounge to have dinner and a few bottles of Bintang Beer, once again before leaving - never leave Bali without drinking this. Entrance fee was IDR 50,000, consumable.

We did not stay too long though, the tours and activities took a toll on us, and tomorrow is yet another day to make the most of Bali.




ONE SHOPPING TIP.

The following day was the day of our departure from Bali.  We went back to Krishna Oleh-oleh Khas Bali in the morning to do more shopping.  It's like a department store full of souvenir goods for pasalubong. Oleh-oleh Khas Bali means Bali souvenir shop, and you will come across this sign at many places number of times.  If there is one shopping tip I could give, it's do your shopping here.  It's weird that the prices of the items here were much more cheaper than those in the street side shops or bazaars. For instance, the Bali canvas tote bag only costs IDR 12,000 in Krishna, while vendors in bazaars sell it for IDR 100,000! Not only it's far more convenient to shop in oleh-oleh because it's air-conditioned and you do not need to hop from one to shop to another, it will also save you the hassle and stress of haggling. Prices here are fixed as in most department stores, and fair.  I had a great time shopping for myself and my loved-ones and friends here.  However, I was also able to buy few items at the side street shops, but only because they were on big sale and they were rare finds.


TRANSPORTATION
Get ready to shed off some bucks for cab rides as there are no train system connecting the places here unlike in HK, Singapore or Taipei.  Getting a package tour is recommended. Traveling in a group is highly recommended (preferably in 4s - always the magic number), this will save you money and will also keep you safer.


SAFETY
This was a concern before we went to the trip, especially that we were all girls, four girls. We have read a blog by a Filipina tourist who had a bad experience at the airport, I have recounted her story here.  This made us nervous, and very cautious when we arrived.  But during our stay, all we have met were really nice and kind people. We were never harassed nor ripped off, unless you will let the bazaar vendors sell you overpriced items.  But still, be very cautious and do not disclose info like hotel address, etc. to strangers, you know the works.  We did have friendly chats with the locals here and there, this is part of any travel experience, but we made sure that we did not get too close especially if we can sense that the person/s might be up for something fishy.


Let's re-cap, shall we?
Our 3 nights in Bali basically went like this:

Day 0
Arrival in  Denpasar Airport, Bali

Day 1 - Package Tour
Barong and Kris Dance 
Batuan Temple
Goa Gajah
Buffet lunch at Mutiara Restaurant
Batur Volcano
Tampak Siring
Rice Terraces

Day 2
Cycling tour in Ubud
Kuta Beach
Nightlife

Day 3
Shopping in Krishna Oleh-oleh Khas Bali


Few interesting facts I have learned from the locals:
  • Babies below 3 years old are not allowed to touch the ground because they still smell like blood and evil spirits could smell them.
  • Placentas are not thrown away, but are buried within the compound of one's home.  They are believed to have souls too.
  • Banyan Trees are holy and can only be planted in temple grounds.
  • Women who have menstruation are not allowed to enter temples. This goes to tourists as well. It's because the temples are sacred, locals even have to cleanse their bodies before entering.
  • It is usual that a household only cooks its meals once a day, and the family members do not eat together. They just eat in silence whenever they feel like it.

I admire how Balinese people really respect and continue to cultivate their culture and religion.  All of the people that we've met were really nice to us from the moment we stepped into the airport to the moment we left.  We have never been harassed in any way.  In fact, few people did not only treat us well, but have gone beyond our expectations of hospitality and kindness.

I loved Bali not because it was a sudden-hit tourist spot due to Eat, Pray, Love, but because it was  truly a laid-back place where you can be yourself, care-free, appreciating and wearing the arts you love, and yet still mindful of the respect that their culture and religion call for.  I will definitely go back to Bali. ♥

See all TRAVEL posts.

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xoxo, Monique

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