The view from the van.
Today was another day to venture out. Ms. Kumquat, Mr. Ibu Oka, (names changed per request from a friend) Ms. Cupcake and I packed ourselves into the van for a day around Bali. We were to actually cover much of the island with the goal a late lunch at what was purportedly an excellent organic fusion restaurant up in Lovina, on Bali’s northern tip.
We set out early from Candidasa, our east coast town, up to Gunung Batur and Danau Batur. As we rose into the mountains, we noticed dozens of large tour buses flying down the road. At first we were disappointed that throngs of other tourists were already enjoying the clean, cool, fresh air of the mountain before we noticed that they were all full of Balinese. Turns out that it was a pilgrimage from Lovina to Bat Cave temple, a temple located about 15 minutes from our villa.
Bali is a fascinating place in that respect. Despite the zillions of tourists that seemingly come each year, it has steadfastly held on to its traditions. The arrival of western influence has not at all infringed on the practice of Bali’s traditional practice of Hinduism. You pass through many towns where men are adorned in sarongs and crisp white hats on their way to temple. We got stuck in more than one traffic jam due to processions for religious ceremonies along the road. This is not at all what I expected from Bali.
When we arrived at the vista point for Gunung Batur and the lake, Bali looked almost like Switzerland. It was actually pretty chilly up there, but the lake shore looked very inviting. As we were reflecting on that, our driver explained that one of the villages along the lake, Trunyan, was actually not so inviting. They are the Bali Aga people, similar to those of Tenganan, but are not fans of tourists. They are very isolated and the only way to arrive in their village is by boat. One of their rarer traditions is to leave dead bodies to decompose under trees instead of burying them.
From there we learned that Bali has essentially no roads that go across the island from east to west. Perhaps not the most efficient way of travel, but we did get to traverse more of the island this way! We went down south to Gunung Kawi, a temple and nine shrines hewn into a mountain side that is about 20 km from Ubud. You feel a bit like Indiana Jones descending the stairs into the valley of the mountain as a temple rises out of the jungle.
Fruit stand on the road.
Jatiluwih rice terraces.
Our relaxing lunch was followed by a meandering journey home all the way around the coast road. Throughout the whole journey, Bali’s magnificent sea views were to our left. We passed several beautiful temples, with ceremonies or processions in progress, and underneath massive Gunung Agung for almost half the ride.
Today we experienced the full beauty of Bali. Having now been to almost every part of the island though, I can say with certainty that East Bali is our favorite bit.