Friday, February 25, 2011

Bali (Day 2 / Night 3)

On this morning, we bade farewell to the frangipani-lined streets of Nyuh Kuning, as we would be putting up the remaining nights at a different accommodation.

We had a short stop at the petrol station and I was a little confused with what they had:

Motor and Roda Dua... hmmm..... for us in Malaysia, they mean the same thing, don't they?

And wow, Solar? They definitely are big on sustainability! But oh, okay, Solar meant Unleaded. Haha...

From that pitstop, we stopped at Pura Taman Ayun, which is situated in a beautiful park with trees and ponds, near the village of Mengwi.

Built in 1634 by the Raja of Mengwi, I Gusti Agung Putu, it is referred to as a Pura Kawiten or family temple, a special temple where the deified ancestors of the Raja and Mengwi Dynasty or religion or Other important temples are honored.

As it was a private temple, we were not allowed entry.

Pura Ulun Danu Batur was the next temple we visited.

According to our guide, this temple is considered a 'powerful' one because this is the temple of the supreme water goddess, Dewi Danu, who the traditional Hindu Balinese, who call their religion Agama Tirta, or Religion of the Water, believe makes the water flow into the rivers and irrigation systems.

The location of this temple is also of significance, as Lake Batur is the lake that provides fresh water to the majority of the rice irrigation systems in Bali. As we continued our journey, we passed through Jatiluwih, a picturesque village with a serene patchwork landscape of green paddy terraces.

Noticing cars stopping at the side of what looked like an eatery of some sort, we thought we might as well answer our hunger pangs and stopped to have lunch at Cafe Jatiluwih.

I gave the roasted rice tea a try, which to me was very fragrant. Glad I tried it.

Bro being the noodle-lover he is, ordered a bakmi goreng.

Dad, Mum and I ordered rice dishes, all local brown rice, like ayam goreng kalasan, ayam bakar sambal kecicang and nasi campur.

We also tried their tahu telor, which wow, was the best! Okay, I am exaggerating it a little perhaps due to my two loves, eggs and tofu, combined into one.

Tanah Lot is a rock formation off the main Bali island. It is home of a pilgrimage temple, the Pura Tanah Lot, and is a popular tourist icon.

It was not hard to gauge the popularity of the place - there were SO MANY people there!

Literally meaning "Land in the Sea", the temple sits on a large offshore rock, which has been shaped continuously over the years by the ocean tide. The temple has been said to be started by 15th century priest, Dang Hyang Nirartha. During his travels along the south coast, he saw the rock-island's beautiful setting and rested there. Some fishermen saw him, and bought him gifts. Nirartha then spent the night on the little island. Later, he spoke to the fishermen and told them to build a shrine on the rock for he felt it to be a holy place to worship the Balinese sea gods.

Thus, the temple was built and has been a part of Balinese mythology for centuries. At the base of the rocky island, poisonous sea snakes are believed to guard the temple from evil spirits and intruders. A giant snake purportedly protects the temple, which was created from Nirartha’s scarf when he established the island.

In 1980, the temple’s rock face was starting to crumble and the area around and inside the temple started to become dangerous. The Japanese government then provided a loan to the Indonesia government to conserve the historic temple and as a result, over one third of Tanah Lot's "rock" is actually cleverly disguised artificial rock.

The temple is one of seven sea temples around the Balinese coast. Each of the sea temples were established within eyesight of the next to form a chain along the south-western coast. Up the hill and round the bend sits Pura Batu Balong.

Where does it remind you of?

Precisely my reaction, too! I thought, "This looks like Great Ocean Road's London Bridge!"

Tonight, we started our stay at a homestay in the heart of Ubud town. Rumah Roda is run by Darta, his wife Suti and his family.

Our rooms were located on the first floor of the three-storey building.

Mum and I took the corner room with a double-bed while Dad and Bro took the other room with a double-bed and single bed.

They had a lovely dining hall, which they open to public on weekends.

Weekends is when they serve a buffet of local home-cooked dishes.

I really liked the rice wine and the fruits which they served with coconut shaving and honey. Yum, very.

We took to an evening stroll in town to digest the food.

And the night ended with something very familiar...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bali (Day 1 / Night 2)

Of course, the first thing Mum did was to check out if they fed the water lilies fertilizers to make them bloom so gracefully.

From the outside, the room I shared with Mum looked like this:

Despite the drizzle, I could not wait to gorge in a hearty breakfast. So, I made my way to the pavilion with the buffet breakfast.

In addition to the unlimited fresh salad, fruits, bread, coffee, tea and juice, we also ordered mi goreng, scrambled eggs on toast, sunny side up on toast and a banana pancake.

With sunlight, I could take a better look at the place. This was the pathway that led visitors to their rooms.

There was a separate pavilion for lunch and dinner with a lovely lotus pond.

Next to the pool sat the reception pavilion. Gosh, the patience involved in doing this...

We were thinking that we should incorporate this at school for the children to train not only their patience and emotions but also their fine motor skills, as well as art, patterning and sequencing, which will lead to improved algebra and statistical skills in future.

We took some time to explore the village that the hotel was situated in. Some of the houses had shop fronts and were done up really nicely.

Even residential houses were like hotels. To them, perhaps it is just part of life. But to us, it was unique. I guess it works the same way when other people get intrigued with how Malaysians are multilingual while to us, it is just part of life.

Throughout the walk, we noticed how in front of every shop, there was a little offering with a joss stick.

They had an ingenious way of keeping the offering on a 'tray' made of banana leaves. I was wondering what the shaving was and was told by our driver cum guide that those were pandan leaf shavings. The rest of the content, as you could see, consisted of balsam flower petals and a pinch of rice. Known as canang sari, these are small offering baskets that Balinese offer to their Gods three times a day.

This ritual is the Balinese Hindu way of showing gratitude to the richness of life. Offering appeases the spirits and brings prosperity and good health to the family. And in Bali, the most sacred act in life is in maintaining a good relationship between people and spirits.

Our first stop for the day was Gunung Kawi (poet mountain) in the district of Tampaksiring, which was reached by climbing down a flight of 371 steps girdled with paddy terraces.

Located on the river Pakrisan, this 11th century temple complex comprises ten rock-cut candi (shrines) carved into the cliff face.

Cut into the sheer cliff face and standing in seven metre-high sheltered niches, these monuments are thought to be dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana Dynasty and his favourite queens.

There was another part of the complex which required visitors to take their footwear off.

It was a series of caves, which I assumed was for meditation purposes, as one of them even had furniture in it.

After the hike back up the hill, our next stop was Tirtha Empul Temple.

Built in 926 A.D. during the Warmadewa Dynasty (from the 10th to 14th centuries), this splendid temple is one of the holiest in Bali. The site was built around hot springs that still bubble in the central courtyard. There are people who come here to cleanse themselves physically and spiritually, a process called melukat.

According to Wikipedia, legend has it that more than a thousand years ago, a powerful King named Mayadenawa ruled over a vast area which included Bali. Mayadenawa possessed the spiritual power to transform himself into anything he desired. Unfortunately, he misused his powers and became a cruel, black magician.

A priest named Sang Kulputih appealed to Indra to come to Earth to kill Mayadenawa. As he had many spies, Mayadenawa learnt about the upcoming attack in time and managed to organize his defenses. However, Lord Indra's forces were superior and therefore, victorious. Most of King Mayadenawa troops fled, leaving him almost without defense. The war was interrupted by nightfall. When Indra's forces slept, Mayadenawa stole into Indra's camp, walking on the sides of his feet as to leave no foot prints, and created a pool of poisoned water. This way of walking gave Tampaksiring its name, for tampak siring is Balinese for 'without imprints'. He left as he came and when Indra's forces woke up the next morning and discovered the water pool, they drank from it and became violently sick.

When Indra found out what happened, he created a large spring of fresh water by stabbing his flag pole to the ground.The clear water was able to cure the sickness of his army. The spring was called Tirtha Empul, which means bubbling spring.

Mayadenawa fled, chased by the forces of Indra. During his flight he transformed himself a number of times, but he could not trick Indra with his disguises. When he had transformed himself into a stone, he was shot by Indra with an arrow. A stream of blood flowed from the stone, forming the river Petanu. And for a thousand years, this river would be cursed. Rice fields irrigated with its water would make the rice grow fast, but once harvested, blood would come out of it and it would smell bad.
The death of King Mayadenawa is symbolic for the victory of good (dharma) over evil (adharma). The day of Mayadenawa's death is still celebrated, every 210 days according to the Balinese Pawukon calendar, and this day is generally known as Galungan Day. As such, during the Galungan, the sacred barong masks are bathed here.

Along the way to our next destination, we made a random stop at this place:

The words kopi luwak caught Bro's attention, which had us getting off our bums to visit this show orchard of coffee and cocoa trees, to name a few.

Did you know the origin of luwak coffee, which is the world's most expensive and low-production coffee? Well, also known as civet coffee, civet coffee, it is made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet and other related civets. A civet eats the berries for their fleshy pulp. In its stomach, proteolytic enzymes seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Passing through a civet's intestines, the beans are then defecated, keeping their shape. After gathering, thorough washing, sun drying, light roasting and brewing, these beans yield an aromatic coffee with much less bitterness.

If you ask me, it tasted like any other coffee. Nothing really out of ordinary. Or maybe I am not a coffee connoisseur.

We continued on to Mount Batur for lunch. The restaurant where we had lunch offered stunning views of the active volcano located at the centre of two concentric calderas north west of Mount Agung.

The south east side of the larger caldera contains a caldera lake. The inner caldera, which was formed during emplacement of the Bali (or Ubud) ignimbrite, has been dated at about 23,670 and 28,500 years ago.

The caldera contains an active, 700-metre-tall stratovolcano rising above the surface of Lake Batur.

The first historically documented eruption of Batur was in 1804, and it has been frequently active since then. The caldera is populated and includes the two main villages of Kedisan and Toya Bungkah. The locals largely rely on agriculture for income but tourism has become increasingly popular due to the relatively straightforward trek to the summit of the central crater. The lake, Danau Batur, is the largest crater lake on the island of Bali and is a good source of fish.

Situated within the powerful rims of the volcano is Pura Taluk Biyu Batur.

Within its vicinity is Pura Gunung Menak Batur (yes, there are plenty of puras on this small island).

As we were driving past, we stopped to try the fresh produce arranged nicely in colorful baskets.

We also stopped in one of the many shops selling handicraft to get a new bamboo windchime for our fish pond.

Before dinner, we took a stroll in Monkey Forest. The Ubud Monkey Forest is a nature reserve and temple complex just down the road from where our hotel was.

It houses approximately 340 crab-eating Macaques and is often visited by over 10,000 tourists a month. The forest comprises approximately a tenth of a square kilometer and contains at least 115 different species of trees.

I then went for a relaxing hour-long massage at Alam Wangi Spa before settling in for dinner back at the hotel. I would have to admit, that was the best spa service that I have ever experienced. They even served ginger tea, chocolate cake and fruits for each of us.

As for dinner, I am unable to recall what we had, other than the part whereby my brother needed to order a second serving.

I slept very well on this night. Gosh, how not to after all that?