Friday, 15 June 2012

Bali, Indonesia (1)

Arriving in Denpasar around midnight on a Friday night I was a little concerned about finding a place to stay for the night, but one I got to the Kuta tourist area, any such fears quickly dissappated considering just how many guesthouses and hostels there were. Quickly found a place and headed out to explore.

Feels much more like I'm in South East Asia than in Malaysia here, touts everywhere trying to sell all the same stuff-T-shirts, surf boards, shoes, wooden cocks - the usual stuff you find out here. Bars on every corner is also another change from Malaysia, with it being a Muslim country and all.I quickly got myself a couple of 7/11 beers wandering around the tourist area, checking out the bars and the outrageously loud music which I've not been privy to for the past month. Can't figure out if it's a good or a bad thing, kind of got used to the quiet at night. Haven't missed the incessant touts though, although it's always entertaining when they try to sell you complete tosh.

During the day, the whole of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak comes alive, especially around the beach with everyone offering surf lessons, no point in doing one of those expensive surf camps when there are so many options right here on the beach.

Kuta beach

Out to sea

Along the beach

However, there is much more to Bali than just fun in the sun, once out of the tourist area there is so much more to see. Unless you are a surf enthusiast or really enjoy touts, there's really not much point in hanging around for too long.


Just 20 or so miles north of Kuta is the countryside town of Ubud, surrounded by rice terraces, small temple complexes and all side roads lined with Batik style houses and buildings, many of which are selling relics and building materials. Immediately it’s obvious there is a much more relaxed feel to the area: the distinct lack of touts as soon as you get off the bus, the main road isn’t lined with the same old shops and only the chunks of missing footpath to hamper your progress.

Coming by accommodation is easy, more relaxed guesthouse owners casually ask if you want to stay with them. A comfortable bungalow set off the main road and right in the heart of the town centre was perfect. 

As you would expect, there are more places of interest in the surrounding area compared to in the city centre and hussle of Kuta/ Legian for example. Tours can be booked virtually anywhere with many local Balinese men offering much the same tour for much the same price, so with a bit of hagling, you can't lose. Some of the following places were part of a tour.

Gajah Goa

Only a couple kilometres out of Ubud's centre is the sprawling Gajah Goa temple, Elephant temple, complex. After passing a few ineviatable stalls selling the usual bric-a-brac, you come across a set of winding stais that leads to the main outdoor temple area and a huge pumpkin tree; a pre-requisite for these type of places. There are plenty of smaller buildings where people come to worship and make offerings, plus a couple old caves which were used back in the day.

There is a small creek running through the complex and tucked away from the temple grounds lie some rice paddies, tended by locals who live on site and, I expect, help tend to the grounds as well.

Beyond the temple area is a beautiful garden where a narrow footbridge crosses the creek and leads to some stone steps which in turn lead to a jungle path, which in turn leads to some small caves where monks used to worship and further down the path, a Buddhist temple which is currently under reconstruction.

Large pumpkin tree

Small buildings around the complex

Stone steps leading through the garden

Pond within the garden

Steps to the jugle path

Old rock carvings covered in moss


Not far from Gajah Goa is the much smaller temple grounds of Pejeng. This is one of many temples which are dotted around the coutryside near Ubud, just off mainroads and easily accessible to anyone. As with many of these temples, it is still in use today with people coming to worship on a daily basis, when I arrived there was a sizeable congregation, many of whom were children, sitting down in the grass listening to some sermon. 

Main garden by the entrance

Buildings within the grounds

Places to lay offerings

Religious ceremony

Gunung Kawi

Known also as 'The Rock Temple', this one was a little more of an effort to get too. Although the entrance to the grounds was easily accessible, you have to decend many flights of stairs to get the to the actual complex where there are many caves for worship and shrines and buildings carved into the rock walls.

There is a river running through the complex with a bridge to cross and various other places where stepping stones are available, with both side bordered by towering cliff walls. There's an obvious area where the main hub of the temple is but there are various other sets of steps that take you to other vantage points to see the various courtyards and buildings from on top, while many other trails just lead aimlessly into the surrounding jungle.

Entrance to the temple complex

In the temple ground

View from on top

Rock carvings

Stream through the temple grounds

Tirta Empul

Close to the small township of Tampak Siring lies the holy spring and temple of Tirta Empul, a popular place for tourists and even more so for locals who come here on a daily basis to receive a blessing. The complex itself is quite big, but most people situate themselves in the main courtyard where they prepare their offerings and themselves for their blessing where they have to cover themselves before entering the water. Then they queue in an orderly fashion, cleanse themselves and receive their blessing.

Entrance to the main courtyard

Locals waiting for blessing

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