We left the intense, dry heat of Western Australia and stepped off the plane into a tropical land full of volcanoes, lush forests, and strange (but delicious!) fruits and food. We started our one month journey in Indonesia in the capital of Bali, Denpasar. We spent our first day relaxing on the beach in Sanur and were told by a friendly, Canadian tourist that we must visit the night market there.
The night market opens around 7pm and is home to several delicious food carts selling local delicacies. A group of Australians took us around and showed us their favorite eats and recommended that we sample food from a variety of carts, not just one. We dug right in sampling a noodle soup at one cart, and fried banana at another. Our favorite though was a vendor that sold martabak, which is a crisp dough wrapped around a savory egg filling that contains green onion, spices, and seasoned ground chicken. Sooooooo good! We regretted not bringing the camera, but we will take some food photos in the future.
From Denpasar, we headed to Ubud where we stayed in a beautiful family guesthouse, surrounded by gardens off of one of the main busy streets. The family served us an amazing breakfast of fresh fruit and a choice of banana pancakes or vegetable omelets every morning plus as much coffee as we could drink. All for the price of $11 dollars a night!
Our guesthouse was within walking distance to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. We spent the morning hanging out with hundreds of macaques. Visitors can pay for bananas to feed the monkeys and they will jump all over you. We opted not to feed them, but monkeys jumped on us a couple of times anyways.
That night we went to a temple to see the Kecak Ramayana and Fire Dance. Unlike most of Indonesia, the main religion in Bali is Hinduism. The Kecak Ramayana was a combination of traditional dance and drama depicting the story from the Hindu poem “Ramayana.” As dancers depicted the story of Prince Rama defeating the evil King Ravana and rescuing Princess Sita, 100 men chanted in unison. Listen to the audio recording (below) that Dan took during the performance for some of the chanting. At the end of the show, a man preformed a fire dance as seen in the video clip below.
The following day, the family at our guesthouse arranged a tour for us to visit several temples and a coffee and spice plantation. The first temple on our tour was Goa Gajah or Elephant Cave temple, built in the 9th century. The temple complex included several shrines and a large cave with a relief of creatures carved into the rock.
The second temple we visited was the Gunung Kawi or Rocky Temple, built in the 11th century. To get to the temple, you descend a series of stairs and pass rice terraces to reach the river and temple entrance. Once in the temple complex, visitors can view huge shrines chiseled into the sheer cliff faces.
After Gunung Kawi, we headed to Tirta Empul Temple (Holy Spring Temple), built in the 962 A.D. The temple is known for its holy water that is delivered by a bubbling spring to a pool. People come to the temple to purify themselves in the water that gushes from the outlets below the pool.
On the way to the fourth temple, we stopped at a coffee and spice plantation. Here we sampled a variety of coffees, hot chocolates, and teas that are made onsite. We even tasted luwak coffee, which is derived from coffee berries that have been eaten and defecated by a civet, a small, nocturnal animal. The civet apparently chooses to eat only the best coffee berries thus producing a better end product (literally). It’s one of the most expensive coffees in the world but, to us, it just tasted like regular coffee 🙂 The beans are cleaned and rinsed in boiling water twice before being roasted, in case you were wondering…
After being fully caffeinated, we headed to the last temple on our tour, Ulandanu Batur Temple. We were lucky to arrive during a ceremony, so locals were dressed in their finest clothes delivering offerings to the temple.
From Ubud, we headed to the small, coastal fishing town of Amed for three days. Our guesthouse was on Jemeluk Bay where coral reefs right off the beach provided awesome snorkeling grounds. Dan had never snorkeled in tropical waters before, so the wealth of brightly colored fish and coral was an addicting sight.