The Beauty of Bali

For the final leg of our 5 1/2 week SE Asia adventure, we decided to spend 10 days in Bali (not near enough time, by the way).  In order to capture the most of our short time here, we opted for 5 days in the mountains and 5 days on the ocean (this would be our first ocean visit here, if you can believe that!)

As I said, our first 5 days in Bali were spent in the mountains in a town called Ubud.  We had been living pretty frugally throughout this excursion (I know it hasn’t seemed that way, but let me tell you….if you want to really explore an amazing part of the world on a “dime”….this is it!)  Let me take a sidebar and elaborate a little bit for those of you who might be considering exploring this part of the world.  We lived a little more upscale, meaning we stayed at very highly reviewed hotels for $40-$75 per night in Thailand and Cambodia.  We later learned that you could stay in a private room, in a very nice hostel, for $10-30 per night.  If you are willing to share a room, dormitory style, we are talking $4 per night.  Meals at the street vendors could be as little as a dollar or two, and nice meals in a restaurant could be done as cheap as $7.  We hired personal drivers who took us around all day long to all the sights, with ice cold water waiting for us, for as little as $20 per day.

So back to Bali….After a little more than 4 weeks of running ourselves ragged, seeing as much as we could in the blazing hot heat and humidity, we decided that Bali would be our splurge.  We found a villa in the jungle mountains of Ubud.  Our villa had an outdoor bathroom (it was a fully enclosed bathroom attached to our bedroom with an open air roof); it also had a living room area, and a private backyard complete with gazebo and private pool.  It was absolute luxury (for a whopping $110 per night)!  Like I said, this was a splurge!  We were set amongst the jungle and rice fields….soooo peaceful!  Not only that, we had a multi-course, decadent breakfast delivered to our villa every morning (included in the price).  It was truly paradise.

Our own private oasis overlooking the rice fields.
Yep this travel thing ain’t too shabby

We didn’t “chill” as much as we said we would.  Thanks to the new friends we had met in Thailand, we were hooked up with another great driver.  We spent 3 days touring the mountains of Bali with his expert guidance.  We spent our first day enjoying our villa and private pool (successfully achieving my first sunburn of the trip).  The next day we met our guide and headed out to some of the sights of Bali. We started at the famous Tegallalang rice terraces (absolutely stunning).  From there, we went to the Pura Tirta Empul temple.  As in previous posts, I will let the pictures and captions tell the story.

The famous terraced rice fields. A must see spot in the mountains of Bali.
Preparing to enter the temple.
Before entering the temple, every person must wear a sarong (provided at the temple, if needed) and women must tie their hair back. This was our awesome guide, Arya, during our stay in Ubud.
Dan’s turn
People stand under the mouth and let the holy water wash over them as they cleanse away their sins/wrongdoing.
Each person makes their way down the line to be washed under each spout. The two spouts where you see no people, are reserved for the monks.

After the temple, we went to Satria Coffee Plantation.  As we wandered through the jungle grounds, our guide told us about the various coffee beans, cocoa beans, tea, spices, and fruits that grew along the grounds.  After, we were told how the beans were processed.  Here is where things get interesting….we were here for the kopi luwak coffee (better known as civet cat poop coffee).  This coffee is made from beans previously eaten, partially digested, and then excreted by the Asian palm civet, a small tree-climbing animal.  It is among the most expensive coffee on the planet (thanks to its undeniably gross production method!)  Here is the cliff notes version:  the civet cat eats the coffee “berries” (coffee beans are encased in semi-hard berry looking fruit);  the cat poop is a log of coffee beans which is collected and the beans are cleaned and dried out;  the bean casings are removed and then roasted by hand over a fire; roasted beans are then ground in a giant mortar and pestle looking piece of equipment. After seeing the process, we were treated to a tasting of 15-18 different teas, cocoas, and coffees from the plantation.  We also had the option to purchase a cup of cat-poo-chino….haha!  Yep….we did.  It was quite a bit smoother than the traditional Balinese coffee but still a bit strong for my taste.  I did love the variety of teas (unfortunately, they were all sweetened).  Before we left, we held a sleepy civet cat (soooo cute), but I’m pretty sure he was “stoned” on a flower bloom that was sitting beside him.  Our guide had told us earlier that if we sniffed the flower for 5 minutes we would get high.  Made me sad to see the flower laying beside this beautiful cat.

Heading into the coffee plantation….which also included cacao beans, many tropical fruits, and a variety of herbs.
Arabica coffee beans
Luwak (asian palm civet) cats taking an afternoon nap. These little guys are known for making the world’s most expensive coffee.
Teaching us the process of preparing the coffee beans prior to roasting.
Kopi Luwak poop! I kid you not! It’s a coffee bean turd. Those sweet little kitties eat the coffee berries and poop out the coffee beans which are then carefully cleaned, husked, and then roasted.
Here, the coffee beans are slowly roasted over a wood fire for hours. Constant stirring is required.
Luwak (civet cat) and the coffee bean berry prior to being consumed.
Now that’s “punny”
And here it is! The world’s finest cup of cat-poo-chino! Yep, we drank it.
Luwak getting high! According to our guide, if you sniff this flower for 5 minutes, you will get high. I later realized that they had this bloom sitting next to the kitty that we were allowed to hold. Now I know why 🙁

Next stop was another beautiful temple- Gunung Kawi.  While the temples up until now have been predominantly Buddhist, we were now seeing Hindu temples.  As always, these were beautiful temples steeped in amazing history (and a horrendous number of steep, steps).  Check out the photos and captions!  At this point, we had been running around for 6 hours straight in the heat and humidity.  We decided that it was time to rest, so back to our slice of heaven we went.  Since the next day had a number of evening events planned, we arranged to meet our guide a little bit later.

Gunung Kawi

Day 2:  We met our driver at 6:30 for a fabulous dinner overlooking the rice paddy fields.  After, he took us to the Royal Palace where we watched a traditional Balinese dance show.  Similar to Cambodia, the costumes were spectacular.  Our driver then wanted to take us to see his friend’s reggae band perform at a local bar.  We spent the rest of our night listening to awesome music (with major participation by our guide and Dan….lol).  Dan decided to order a cocktail made with Arak….which we later learned is basically Balinese moonshine.  We also learned, after the fact, that if it is made improperly it can be deadly!  Apparently it’s estimated that 10-20 Indonesians die daily drinking it. It was known to be safe in the touristy areas (which we were), but two cocktails made for reggae Dan!  It was a lot of fun and a late night by our standards (midnight…haha).

Traditional Balinese Kecak dance in Ubud
Handing Dan a mike never ends well…
This guy had quite the Hindu shaman vibe.

Day 3:  We met at 1:00 and headed for another temple with a secret cave and waterfall.  As we trekked down the hill and headed into the slotted canyon, we came upon a beautiful, tropical entrance.  We had to go barefoot at this point (in the squishy mud….ewwww) through the water and under this spectacular waterfall to a hidden cave.  Unfortunately, we were also soaking wet for the rest of our day!  It was totally worth it!  Next was the monkey sanctuary.  This temple was nestled in the jungle and housed over 100 “wild” monkeys.  I say “wild” because they are use to tourists, but you are not suppose to feed them or touch them.  It wasn’t long before one scampered up the side of my body and rested on my shoulder.  Believe it or not, I remained calm (other than bitter beer face, yet again) and stood perfectly still.  He moved down onto my camera that was sitting around my neck.  At that point, our guide threw a peanut to the ground, and the monkey scampered down.  We then made a stop at our guide’s aunt and uncle’s home.  We were treated to coffee, homemade rice treats, and a giant Balinese orange while we learned about their village and how their homes are structured (very little is indoors).  It was quite a treat to learn how the local villagers lived.  Every home has it’s own little temple dedicated to their ancestors.  I promised to keep this short, but I really feel the need to share the story of how they deal with death.  In this village, when someone dies, they bang out a specific pattern on a wooden drum and everyone is expected to come.  Every house has an open air room with a single bed for the “final sleep.”  When someone dies, their first night is spent on this bed in the family home.  Afterwards, they are buried in a hand dug grave that is only about 4 feet deep.  Because the villagers cannot afford cremation, the bodies are dug back up after they decompose, and a mass cremation is done where the cost is split amongst the villagers.  The bodies are still cremated individually even though they are all done at one time.  The ashes are then spread in the ocean.  After, they create a “statue” which will house the spirit of the deceased who will reside in the family temple.  I’m sure I have not done the story the true justice it deserves, but it was pretty amazing to listen to this personal account of their death ritual in their home and village.  Our last stop of the day was another magnificent temple on the Indian Ocean.  We timed this to be here for sunset which was totally spectacular!  I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Pathway to the secret temple
Through the water fall to the other side…
Sacred Monkey forest king
Statue telling the story of monkey’s aiding a Hindu god
Then this happened….
Hello baby!
There were several wedding photo shoots in progress
Traditional Balinese open air home
Tanah lot temple at sunset
Don’t mind me and my pet snake
Still chasing sunsets!

Sadly, it was time to leave our mountain hideaway for an hour and a half drive to the ocean.  Here, we took things up a notch one more time.  We will spend 5 glorious days, beachside, at the Westin.  Our plan…..to just chill before the long journey home….haha!  Care to take bets on how much “chillin” we actually do??!!

15 hotels and 13 flights for this tour of South East Asia!

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Nora Espenshade

What is the significance of the orange belt?

Again, thank you for your blog. Words cannot express how much I enjoy reading of your adventures.