Bali is one of the most well-known islands of the 17,500 islands that make up Indonesia. It’s been a destination that we have wanted to visit for quite some time and we finally made it. We decided to stay in Ubud and make it our home base for our entire stay. Ubud is the cultural and arts center of Bali and we really liked it the minute we saw it. Although it was larger and busier than we had imagined it would be, and the traffic was fairly hectic, it had a great vibe. We were told that it was the quiet season so we can’t begin to imagine how busy it must be in the busy season, glad we went at the time of year we did.
We stayed in a 3 room Traditional Balinese house which the family turned into a guesthouse. The house is situated in a walled compound (common in Balinese culture) among beautiful gardens along with the family’s other dwellings. The design of the house was very traditional with some modern amenities and fixtures including a beautiful outdoor bathroom with a huge jetted tub. It had beautifully carved woodwork and rock art throughout. It also had a large common terrace out front where breakfast was served to us every morning. One thing that we really loved about Bali when you walk down the street is, the houses are all set behind walled compounds with beautiful rock art and ornate entry gates, it’s beautiful and mysterious all at the same time. Inside a Balinese compound it’s typical to find a few family dwellings, a house structure that serves as the kitchen, and a family temple. It was interesting to find out that when a daughter marries, she leaves the family compound and goes to live at her husband’s family compound. If the son marries, then he remains in the same family compound with his parents and his wife. We guess that some family compounds might get a bit empty if there was no son in the family. The family we stayed with only has one son which is why they turned this house into a guesthouse.
Our Guesthouse was only a few houses down from the famous Ketut Liyers house and he was still offering palm readings and healing. I walked by a few times before curiosity got the best of me and I just had to go for a palm reading. After reading the book Eat, Pray, Love how could a person not get a reading from Ketut? Well I have to say that Ketut is quite old now and he is not on top of his game anymore. My reading was fun but I couldn’t take it seriously when he kept asking if he could kiss me and then he would look at Gordon and tell me I have a good husband, this went on a few times during my reading. He did tell me that I was lucky, lucky, lucky and indeed I would have to agree with that!
Our first day we spent just walking around, soaking in the Balinese culture, admiring all of the art shops with their paintings on display, browsing all the silver jewelry shops, and perusing menus along the street (I love to browse menus). We walked through the Ubud Monkey Forest which is a nature reserve and temple complex that also houses some very cheeky long tailed macaques. We didn’t have any problems with the monkeys but we made sure that we didn’t have any food with us and we hung on tight to our belongings. We did see some monkey’s jump onto other tourists and thankfully they left us alone. The temple complex inside the monkey forest was interesting; there is the Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal temple, a Holy Spring bathing temple, and another temple used for cremation ceremonies.
During our day of walking, we also visited the Ubud Palace, The Lotus Temple, and a few other small temples that were scattered around the city. We had a nice lunch at one of the little eateries on Monkey Forest Road and bought our tickets for a Balinese dance show at The Lotus Temple. We chose to see a dance show at The Lotus Temple for the backdrop, seeing it all lit up at night was beautiful and the dance show was nice to see. There are many dance shows in ubud and some are held at restaurants but I think most of the dance stories are similar.
Rice Terraces and Temples
We hired a car and driver from our guesthouse with a family member who does touring as a little business. Our first stop was at the beautiful tegalalang rice terrace and village. We stepped out of the car and we were wowed at how gorgeous this rice terrace is, it’s not large but it’s very picturesque. We walked down the hill to the bottom of the terraces and watched ladies carry water on their heads (all the ladies on Bali carry everything on their heads). We walked through some of the little pathways in between each terrace and then made our way back up to the car.
Our next stop, Tirta Empul Temple is a Hindu Temple famous for its holy water and it’s believed that the sacred spring holds curative properties. This is where the Balinese people come to bathe in the waters for purification, healing, and spiritual merit.
We then carried on and visited an 11th century temple complex called Gunung Kawi. The walk down to the temple complex was really beautiful and lined with rice terraces on both sides of the stepped walkway. There were vendors all along the walkway selling souvenirs, water, and snacks because there are so many steps you might need a little break on the way back up. This temple complex was visually stunning, the temple is carved in the side of a mountain and is set alongside the Pakerisan River.
Our day finished with visiting the Mother Temple called Besakih and it’s the most important and largest temple on Bali. The temple complex itself is beautiful and the location is spectacular, it’s located on the slope of Mt. Agung Volcano. We were really put off by the aggressiveness of most of the vendors here and the fact that we were harassed excessively to the point that we caved and hired a tour guide that they said was compulsory but really isn’t (we were just so tired of arguing with the guy). We know people need to make a living and we always do our best to support this but the harassment is really the sore point. As it turned out our guide was very nice and informative so it was okay for us but this is definitely not a requirement to visit this temple.
On our way back to Ubud we made a quick stop to see the Klungkung Palace but all that remains of the palace are the Court of Justice and the Kertha Gosa Pavillion.
Bali’s Beautiful Interior
We start our day by visiting Taman Ayun Temple, the Royal Family temple in Mengwi. It’s located in a stately looking park with trees and ponds, and it’s surrounded by a moat.
On our drive to Pura Bratan, a water temple on the shores of Lake Bratan, we pass through some breathtaking countryside. Our driver takes us on a very narrow road that winds through mountains and valleys that are so green and lush. We pass through small villages and see the locals getting on with their day and we pass by several areas where Balinese are bathing or doing laundry in the rivers. With Bali being so busy and touristy, it really amazes us that this way of life is still prevalent and that the local people have been able to hang on to their culture and local ways.
Pura Bratan is an important water temple on the shores of Lake Bratan and it’s dedicated to the Lake Goddess to ensure plentiful water and good crops.
We stopped for lunch at a cute restaurant Ngiring Ngawedang and then after we ate we walked 1 km or so to visit Melanting Waterfall. We spent a while here and just admired the waterfall and enjoyed the coolness of being near the water.
From the waterfall we start making our way over to Lovina Beach area, along the way we stop at Brahma Vihara Arama Buddhist Temple which is a Monastery and Meditation Center. You had to be very quiet as there were many Buddhists meditating and there are signs all over to advise you of this. This temple was so peaceful and soothing that I can understand why one would come here to practice meditation. I personally would love to come back here and participate in a meditation retreat.
Lovina is a black sand beach on the northwestern side of Bali. It’s a quiet beach area with trendy looking restaurants and bars. There are many vendors set up along the beach promenade selling souvenirs and all the other nick nack touristy things. We took a walk on the beach and then enjoyed a nice cold beer at a seaside restaurant before heading back to Ubud. Back in Ubud, a day wouldn’t be complete without a Balinese massage and we found a great spa for those.
What we took away from our time on Bali was that the Balinese people are gentle and kind (even though some of the vendors are quite aggressive). They have miraculously hung on to their culture and way of life despite how touristy Bali is. Traffic is bad on Bali and one thing our driver told us was, in their culture, if someone cuts you off it’s because they really need to go first. For some reason this statement really stuck with me and I have actually put this into practice a little since leaving Bali. I often have been cut off or have had someone push their way in front of me and it’s a much more peaceful response to just realize that maybe they really do need to go first.
Restaurants we loved: Wayans Café, aside from the food being delicious it’s the atmosphere that really gets you here. When you walk in to the restaurant there are the regular table and chairs but as you walk further back it opens up to a beautiful garden with water features, little terraces of tables and chairs, and then private cabanas. Behind the restaurant is a rice field so you don’t even feel like you’re in a city.
Warung Biah Biah, we loved their Indo style Tapas. The tapas were so incredibly delicious and we couldn’t get enough of them. We were so sad that we only found this restaurant on our last night but at least we were able to enjoy it once!
Where we stayed: Uma Dewi Guesthouse
Written by: Tammy Hermann…Live~Love~Travel