Sunday, February 19, 2017

Breathe in the Beautiful Island of Bali

An island where your inner pace slows down and peace trickles in.
It’s almost a year in the making. Yes, you read it write. I have booked my tickets for this Island Adventure during a seat sale last March 2016.  Anticipation started to build up few months before when I was creating my itinerary.  I googled it and tried to ask some friends’ advises who had been to Bali. I saw spectacular beaches and intricate art –  things that defines Bali.

But nothing had prepared me for the experience Bali was. I have been to several places in Asia but the pleasure is quite an insipid word to describe Bali, really. My eyes feasted here from beautiful beaches to temples surrounding the busy streets of Kuta and the artistic side in Ubud.

The flight from PH to Bali is close to four hours in duration. The breath taking and scenic views of the volcanoes and oceans was a sight to behold when we are about to land. The volcanoes are high, majestic. Gaping craters with very obvious molten matter inside. Mostly quiet but not inactive. A silent, mysterious, potential danger, yet beautiful.
Touchdown, Beautiful Island of Bali
At Denpasar International Airport, the first whiff of Bali touches you as you see a sparkling ocean on both sides of the runway as you touch down. You step out of the flight without a fancy air-conditioned jet bridge. Bali’s airport is a bit rustic. A bit run-down in a charming way. More character and less material investment. It sets the pace for Bali.
Welcome to Denpasar Airport!
You and everyone else has left behind all of that and is in Bali for some rejuvenation, some detox, some refreshment, a little escape that gives you enough energy to go back and say to life: “In your face, because I’ve just been to Bali”.

One of Indonesia’s 33 provinces, Bali is one of the country’s 6000 inhabited islands. Yet, none of the archipelago’s 17500 (estimated) islands has gained the romantic popularity Bali has. One of the world’s top-most tourist destinations, it attracts not hundreds or thousands but millions of foreign tourists each year. Many things make it worthy of this.

Scenic, green, full of beaches and volcanoes and rice-terracing areas and temples. And people with very distinct unique faces. A photography buff, Bali had me clicking non-stop.

Bali is a perfect holiday destination for all ages. It offers not just various customs but also adrenaline pumping activities in its parks. Many exciting amusements are available in Bali, with something new opening all the time.  The number of offshore and inland attraction is a bait to all tourist coming in to the island.  This tropical paradise is a blend of modern tourist friendly facilities with wonderful shopping blended with a rich past and heritage.  Topping it all, some of the best surfing beaches in the world can also be found here in contrast with its beautiful white sand beaches and gentle seas.

This small island, like many island in Indonesia has developed a world of its own. It not only captures what is special about Indonesia but also has a uniqueness of its own.

Balinese are unique as they were able to preserve their Hindu culture against the advance of Islam, the dominant religion throughout Indonesia.  This is still reflected in their day to day life and can be seen in the numerous ceremonies , festivals and magnificent temples and palaces.  Balinese are skilled people particularly woodcarving and in fashioning objects of gold, silver and other metals.  The Balinese are noted for their traditional dance and music too.

Our first day here in Bali is all about exploring the southern part of the Island.  First order of the day, upon arriving in the island is to taste something Authentic for breakfast.  Our guide took us to the nearby eatery. It’s a buffet style but you get to choose and pay whatever is just on your plate.
Spices all over!
What I got for breakfast is chicken and beef with sauce and spices. I don’t know what spices are in there but it’s bursting with flavors and I like it.  I paired it with a Balinese coffee. This is what you call “Balinese Breakfast” Smile
After having breakfast, we decided to freshen up first before starting to roam the island. We asked our guide if he can call the hotel in advance and check if it’s available for an early check in. Standard check in time is 2 PM. It was only around 9 in the morning when we called, fortunately, the room is already available for check in with no additional fee.

Our first 2 nights will be spent in Berlian Inn in Kuta. It’s a walking distance to the beach, the market and restaurant chain. It’s a spacious room for two person and can accommodate extra for a fee.  We had our own bathroom with hot and cold shower and a small veranda in front of the garden where we can chill after a long day in the island.
1 Superior Double or Twin Room with Garden View
I am Ready to Bali Island
Here’s the Blue Rider’s 5 Days 4 Nights Itinerary in Bali. Cick the links below to get to the details of each day tours.
Day 1 – Arrival in Denpasar and Southern Bali Tour 
  • Nusa Dua
  • Dreamland Beach
  • Uluwatu Temple
  • Kecak Dance
Day 2 – West and Central Bali
  • Taman Ayun Temple
  • Coffee Luwak
  • Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
  • Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
  • Pura Luhur Batukar
  • Tanah Lot Temple
Day 3 - East and Central  Bali
  • Barong and Kris Dance
  • Besakih - Mother Temple
  • Tirtah Empul
Day 4 – Ubud
  • Campuhan Ridge Walk and Bukit Campuhan
  • Ubud Market and Streets
  • Ubud Monkey Forest
Day 5 – Bye Bye Beautiful Bali
When to Visit Bali
Bali's low-lying regions are uniformly hot and humid year-round. Temperatures can reach 90°F (32°C) soon after midday, and they drop no lower than 70°F (21°C) at night. The weather at higher altitudes is up to 20°F (11°C) cooler.

The best months to visit Bali are April-May and September-October, when crowds are lighter and you're not so likely to get drenched: The west monsoon, from November through March, brings heavy rains. It can drizzle for several days in a row or pour half the day, with only occasional dry spells. Since most of Indonesia's attractions are under the open sky-temples and other architecture, beaches, and outdoor festivals-the monsoon can very literally dampen your enjoyment.
In the peak tourist months, June and July, popular areas crammed with visitors. Bali hotels also tend to be fully booked around Christmas and New Year's.

Visiting Bali is an unbelievable, colorful and elevating experience. Beauty, color, rituals, offerings, architecture, food, history, culture, enrichment is all around you like you’ve never experienced. This is the magic that will take your breath away.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Highlights of Eastern Bali and the Mother of all Temples

The day started a little too late though coz it rained. Nonetheless, the fun and exploration continues.  After having breakfast, the first activity for the day is to watch Barong and Kris dance.  It is one of the island’s most iconic  dance-dramas, on par with Kecak dance we watched during the first day.  The original plan is to watch this in Batubulan but due to time constraint we watched it somewhere near Denpasar. 


This show is all over the island, locally managed; dances  performed by villagers, and live gamelan orchestra  accompanies the full length of the show. 

The 12th century classical tale of good versus evil, Calon Arang, serves as the backdrop for the Barong and Kris dance. The Barong, a benevolent spirit in beast form must protect a kingdom against the vengeful wrath of the widow and witch queen, Rangda.IMG_0751


Pamphlets containing synopses are handed out at the ticket booths prior to the start of the show. Otherwise, it can be difficult to follow the story as the scenes unfold, due to the lack of narration.IMG_0757

Shows last between 45 minutes and an hour, and the end of the show features photo taking onstage with the performing cast in their full costumes, as well as with the gamelan orchestra.


Gamelan is the traditional ensemble music of Java and Bali in Indonesia, made up predominantly of percussive instruments . The most common instrumemt used are  metallophones played by mallets and a set of hand-played drums called kendhang which register the beat.



It’s still drizzling when the dance culminated. The choice to continue what we have planned for the day became a litte challenging, but I guess the man above wanted us to continue. We then head to Pura Besakih, know as the mother temple in the Bali, Indonesia.  This temple sits 1000 meters high on the southwestern slope of Mt Agung. It’s a complex consisting of at least 86 temples which include the main Pura Penataran Agung (the great Temple of State) and 18 others.


Besakih is the biggest and holiest of the island’s tempe. Besakih temple is the thing coz even our guide is required to wear his sarong inside the temple complex. The Balinese people have high regard to their culture and belief and visiting this temple is considered a special pilgrimage to them.


Pura Besakih features three temples dedicated to the Hindu Trinity.  Pura Penataran Agung in the centre has white banners for Shiva, the destroyer; Pura Kiduling Kreteg on the right side is with red banners for Brahma, the creator; and Pura Batu Madeg represents Vishnu, the preserver, with its black banners. IMG_0846

You can visit other temples in Pura Besakih, but many of their inner courtyards are closed to the public as they’re reserved for pilgrims. Pura Besakih is the only temple open to every devotee from any caste groups. This is because of its nature as the primal centre of all ceremonial activities.


Pura Besakih was nominated as a World Heritage Site in 1995, but as yet remains unvested. There are at least 70 ceremonies or religious celebrations held each year here, as each shrine has its own anniversary, plus the big holidays based on the 210-day Balinese Hindu calendar system.




After visitng the Mother Temple we stopped over for lunch. Along the road, we are talking about the Mt Batur Climb that we coulcn’t make because of the weather. We just content ourselves with the view from up here. It’s pretty cold all the way here.



IMG_0868Our last stop for the day is the Tirta Empul Temple in Central Bali. Tirta Empul is an important temple complex and holy mountain spring, located in the village of Manukaya in central Bali. The site serves as a legendary setting of a traditional tale about good versus evil. It is also a national cultural heritage site.


Tirta Empul, meaning ‘holy water spring’ is actually the name of a water source located within the temple. The spring feeds various purification baths, pools and fish ponds surrounding the outer perimeter, which all flow to the Tukad Pakerisan River. Various sites throughout the region and many other archaeological relics relate to local myths and legends.


Before you can enter the main spring temple you will pass by this pond with lots of Koi’s. There are also restaurants nearby for you to grab something while you roam around the vicinity. 

As is common with Balinese temples, the Tirta Empul Temple complex has three key divisions, namely a front, secondary and inner courtyard. Visitors to Tirta Empul first come upon the lush gardens and pathways adorned with statues and tropical plants that lead to its entrance.  After stepping through this typical 'candi bentar' (temple gate), a vast walled courtyard welcomes visitors to the bathing pools where a large 'wantilan' meeting hall stands at the right.



Inside the central courtyard, referred to as ‘madya mandala’ or ‘jaba tengah’, pilgrims first approach a rectangular purification bath where a total of 13 elaborately sculpted spouts that line the edge from west to east. After solemn prayers at an altar-like shrine, they proceed to enter the crystal-clear, cold mountain water. With hands pressed together, they bow under the gushing water of the first spout, carrying on to the eleventh. The water from the last two of the 13 spouts is meant for purification purposes in funerary rites.


The stillness of the water is so calming and peaceful and I can’t help but stay here for a while.



The simple Balinese temple visitor dress code is a traditional ‘kamen’ wrap around the lower body plus a sash around the waist. Women during their periods are prohibited entry to any temple or sacred site, and may enjoy the sights and attractions in the outer perimeters only.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Temple Hopping Day in North and West Bali

Travelers in Bali often seek its iridescent green rice terraces and beaches, but there is another way to explore the island: templehopping. That’s what I came here for.


Bali is home to thousands of Hindu temples with charming courtyards and intricate designs. More than 80 per cent of the locals are Hindu.  For the curious traveller, templehopping can be a delightful eyeopener. After all, each temple or pura has its own architecture, inspiring views and backstory.

We drove all the way to the West and first stop is Taman Ayun Temple. It is a landmark in the village of Mengwi, Badung regency, located just 17 kilometers north of Denpasar. This temple complex boasts magnificent traditional and architectural structures with expansive garden landscapes comprised of lotus and fish pond.


The temple was built circa 1634 by the ruler of the Mengwi kingdom, Tjokerda Sakti Blambangan, with Chinese architectural inspirations, and underwent a significant restoration project in 1937. Towering tiers from the temple shrines make up most of the profile of Taman Ayun and are a gesture of the people of Mengwi’s reverence to their deified noble ancestors, for the temple complex is considered the ‘mother temple’ of Mengwi.

The Taman Ayun Temple was to serve as a main site of worship among the Mengwi people who need not travel too far to the main large temples, the likes of the Besakih ‘mother temple’ in Karangasem, Batukaru Temple in Tabanan, or Batur Temple in Kintamani. It also served as a unifying symbol among the Mengwi royalty and the people.

This temple complex is comprised of four divisions one ranking higher than the other.  The first one is referred to as the ‘Jaba’ or outer division accessible only through a single entrance and walkway over the ponds. Inside, near the entrance is a small guardia shrine and the right is a large ‘wantilan’ hall where the communal gatherings take place.



On to the next court, a small temple compound by the name or Pura Luhuring Purnama can be seen. The second and and third terraces are slightly higher than the first. o enter, visitor must go through a second date where a shelter called Bale Pengubengan greets them with ornamental features that depict the nine Hindu gods that guard the nine points of the compass, referred to as Dewata Nawa Sanga. East of this court is a small temple called Pura Dalem Bekak while in the western corner is an eight meter high wooden bell tower known to locals as “Bale Kulkul.” A climb up will reveal two hanging rectangular wooden bells, plus a high and spectacular view of the complex.



The fourth and last court is considered the most sacred, thus ranks the highest. It is referred to as the Utama Mandala. The intricately ornate central gate is open only during ceremonies. Several tiers of different outlines and sizes rise up into the temple’s skyline.


The name ‘Taman Ayun’ translates as ‘beautiful garden’. The vast encircling pools were once royal recreational places for the palace maids who would sail small canoes. Now the pools and ponds are fenced and visitors are denied entrance.  This temple is a great place to marvel at the early and traditional Balines architectural features that prevail on the island.


Moving way up to the top, we dropped by for a cup of coffee. A cup of Must do, when in Bali. There are several seating areas where different flavours of tea and coffee are offered.  For only 50,000 IDR you can get your own cup of Luwak Coffee which is made of mongoose digesting the plant seeds.  The shop after the tour is filled with different drinks as well as herbs and spices and all at very good prices.


This is one of my favorite experiences in Bali as well because the guide showed us around the while explaining how the coffee is being made. IMG_1948

This man is roasting the beans before it gets grinded.


Teas and coffee for tasting Smile


A smile while I have my very own cup of Luwak CoffeeIMG_1965

Our guide Sri and the cousin of the owner of this coffee resto plantation (I forgot her name)IMG_1967

Some coffee, herbs and spices, and teas for saleIMG_1968

After tasting the famed Coffee Luwak of Bali, we then proceed to Pura Ulun Danu Beratan.  This temple or Pura is both a famous picturesque landmark and a significant temple complex located on the western side of the Beratan Lake in Bedugul.  Bedugul is known for it’s cool atmosphere.IMG_0607

Ulun Danu Beratan, literally ‘the source temple of Lake Beratan’, is easily the island’s most iconic sanctuary sharing the scenic qualities of seaside temples of Uluwatu and Tanah Lot.


The smooth reflective surface of the lake surrounding most of the temple’s base  creates a unique floating impression, while the mountain range of Bedugul region encircling the lake provides the temple with a scenic backdrop. Just a perfect spot for photo enthusiasts.


The temple was built in the 17th century in worship of the main Hindu trinity, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, as well as the lake goddess – Dewi Danu.  The sight and cool atmosphere of the Bali uplands have made the lake and this temple  a favorite sighseeing  and recreational spot  as well as a frequently photographed site.


Once a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site candidate, Jatiluwih Rice Terraces comprises over 600 hectares of rice fields that follow the flowing hillside topography of the Batukaru Mountain.  It is a famous attraction in the western part of Bali due to its dramatic and truly exotic landscape.


These rice fields are well maintained using a traditional water management know as ‘subak’, which dates back to the 9th century.


We have lots of rice paddies here as well in the Philippines but this one is also a sight not to miss when in Bali.


After Jatiluwih Rice terraces we continued to climb a little uphill – to Batukaru Temple.  It is called Pura Luhur Batukaru by the locals. One of the key temples  located at the foot of namesake  Mount Batukaru.  It has an altitude of 2,270 MASL, thus making the temple pretty cool and densely forested upon entry.


Spotted a local paying respect and praying inside the temple.  Guest who are visiting this place are required to wear a sarong and a sash  just like the one I’m wearing below. It’s a sign of respect to the culture and religious practices of the locals. IMG_0644

The main structure of Batukaru Temple features a multitude of shrines  with tiered roofs,  and complex  is filled with ancient structures.

The walled compounds contain several shrines, as well as high 'meru' towers, and 'bale' pavilions with unmistakably ancient Balinese features, such as the dark grass roofs and intricate wall carvings. There are different courtyards inside the complex, sparsely positioned and on different elevations, connected through a series of flowering gardens and statue-lined steps.


Within the main temple courtyard there is a freshwater spring that serves as the holy water source for prayers and ceremonies.  Another separate spring serves cleansing and purification rituals.


Munt Batukaru as a whole is considered a sacred site and the misty slopes of the heavily forested mountain enhances its spiritual vibe. The temple complex is frequented by visitors on any given day; however several parts of the temple’s inner sanctum remain off-limits to non-pilgrims. The temple is devoted to the Hindu god Mahadeva, considered the master of the air, water and plants. The 11th century Batukaru Temple shares the cool and quiet upland vicinity of the Wongaya Gede farming community in the Penebel Village of Tabanan regency. The best time to visit is during the temple’s biannual ‘piodalan’ temple anniversaries, which coincides each Thursday after the Galungan celebrations. Balinese families from adjacent villages in Wangaya Gede and from all over the island make pilgrimages to this mountain temple for blessings.


Moving on to the last and final stop of the day - Tanah Lot Temple.   It is one of Bali’s most important landmarks. Everytime you hear Bali, what comes to mind is always beach, temples and beautiful sunset. So far, I have experienced the three within 2 days.  Of course, Tanah shouldn’t be a missed when  you are in Bali.


Although you are not allowed to enter the temple grounds just like most of the temples I’ve been to, the panoramic views and cultural offerings  is enough to enjoy the place.  The crashing wave and the beautiful colors of the sunset is always a sight to behold. IMG_0716

Capping the day with another round of Mie Goreng. Goodnight, Beautiful Island of Bali. Last two days has been awesome!