We have houseguests in Bali!
Amy and Charles, a lovely Kiwi couple who hosted us when we Couchsurfed in Auckland, departed on their own Around the World trip in January. Though they weren’t planning to visit Bali on their travels, our offer to host them in our villa in Ubud was too good for them to pass up. They came down from Malaysia about a week ago and have been hanging out with us since.
A few days ago we all decided to hire a car and driver for the day to do some touring around the island. Our main goal was to see Mt Batur volcano, but the driver suggested a few additional places to visit on our tour. Figuring we’d make the most of our day, we agreed to his suggestions. The first stop for the day was the lovely waterfall above.
We then headed to Goa Gajah, or the Elephant Cave Temple. The mouth of the cave is ornately carved, and inside are a few small shrines and small spaces where people come to meditate.
The temple also has a number of fountains and fish ponds, though they aren’t very large. The larger fish actually have to swim sideways to keep immersed in the shallow water.There are several massive trees around the temple. They are wrapped in the red, white and black checked cloth that symbolizes the three main Hindu gods – Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. The root systems that support these massive trees are impressively large.
Next we stopped at Pura Tirta Empul, the sacred water temple.This was probably the most beautiful temple we have visited so far.
This temple is quite ornately decorated compared to other temples we have seen.Water bubbles up through a spring in the ground into this large pool. You can see the grey sand bubbling up beneath the surface as the water rises. Locals believe the water coming up from the spring is holy.This holy water then flows from the main pool out of fountains into a lower pool, where people pray to the gods. Here they bathe in the water to rid themselves of bad dreams or bring good luck into their lives.After the temples, we stopped at a coffee and cocoa farm, where they also grow spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger, vanilla, and ginseng.I have seen loads of coffee growing, and pretty much know the process from start to finish (thanks to my brother in law and our time in Nicaragua.) However, this is probably the most low tech roasting process I’ve seen yet – just a woman and a pan over a low flame.The most prized product from this area is kopi luwak, which is known for being the world’s most expensive coffee. The process for making it relies on the luwak (which is an animal sort of like a cat) who eats the coffee cherries and then excretes out the coffee beans. The beans are then roasted and ground like regular coffee, but sold at a premium price. We saw some of the animals in sad looking cages, knocked out asleep from the heat. They were quite cute, and I felt terrible for them because every guide that walked past them felt the need to rattle the cage and throw rocks at them to wake them up for tourists.
From everything I’ve read, kopi luwak is not really that good and is actually expensive because it is produced in a novel way rather than because it is actually more delicious. After seeing the sad luwaks, I didn’t really want to contribute to the system, anyway, so we decided to skip the expensive tasting of kopi luwak. Instead we enjoyed our free samples of things like coconut coffee, red rice tea, ginseng coffee and lemongrass tea.With a caffeine buzz going strong, we stopped at a roadside fruit stand for a much needed pre-lunch snack…This dragon fruit was delicious.Finally we arrived at the crater near Mt. Batur volcano. Unfortunately, the clouds had rolled in, making the view much less interesting than I had hoped. Supposedly you can see the whole island from this vantage point, but we didn’t have a good day for the view.Our last stop was at the viewpoint for some famous rice terraces. They were gorgeous, but by this point the four of us were dehydrated and a bit tired of sightseeing. If we’d had a bit more oomph in us maybe we would have gone for a walk through the rice fields, but instead we just stared out at the view from afar.
It’s amazing how tiring a day of sightseeing can be. (I know, you feel so sorry for me, don’t you.) The four of us crashed as soon as we got back to the house. Satisfied that we’d seen enough sites for a little while, we’ve been lounging in our pool and relaxing for the last few days. With only ten days left until we leave Bali and go back into travel mode, John and I are enjoying taking it slow for just a bit longer.