We arrived in Benoa, Bali early on the morning of February 26 for a two day visit. Along with our tablemates we had rented a van, complete with driver and guide, for the full two days. This was quite economical compared to the alternatives (there is nothing you can walk to from the pier) and it also allowed us the flexibility to decide for ourselves where to go and when, although for the most part we followed our guide Gede’s excellent advice. This is definitely not a place where you should drive yourself, as the traffic is unbelievable. We were welcomed as we left the ship by a Gamelan orchestra and some Balinese dancers.
Last time we were here we took a day long excursion to several impressive temples and palaces in eastern Bali. You can see that here:
This time we set out for central Bali. The traffic around the port was horrendous but eventually our excellent driver got us through it and we headed for a monkey forest called Obyek Wisata Sangeh. There are at least five monkey forests in Bali that can be visited and the monkeys in some of them have very bad reputations for stealing items from tourists (like sunglasses or cameras) and even for biting & scratching. In others the monkeys stay away from visitors high in the trees. Ours was in the Goldilocks zone between these extremes, since the monkeys were very friendly and did not bite or steal anything. The forest was of nutmeg trees, very tall and imposing, and there were some sculptures and an old temple near the beginning.
The monkeys looked like the flying monkeys from The Wizard Of Oz, with points of hair on top of their heads. The monkeys appear to be well trained to climb on the backs of visitors, knowing that the fellows who work here will give them something to eat if they do. Still, it was fun and the monkeys made it onto the shoulders of everybody but Mary, who shooed them away.
Even without people, the monkeys were fun to watch.
From the monkey forest we drove on to a Hindu temple called Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. Bali is full of temples, some 10,000 in all according to our guide. And that doesn’t include small shrines in what seems to be just about every house you pass. Built in 1633 on the shore of Lake Bratan, Ulun Danu Bratan is some 3600 feet above sea level & one of the most important temples in Bali. It is dedicated to Dewi Danu, a water and fertility goddess, and is an important pilgrimage site for the Balinese. On the day we visited the weather was chilly & wet with the mountains behind the lake hidden by a thick cloud. You could not go into the temple & its grounds outside were thick with tourists. Despite all that it was quite beautiful.
Outside on the temple grounds there was a bit of a Disneyland atmosphere, with figures of beasts & birds, even Spongebob Squarepants. In the lake you could rent bird shaped pedal boats. Quite incongruous at a religious shrine. As you walked into the grounds there was a sign with rules, one of which seemed pretty offensive to women.
We walked around the temple toward the lake side. There were some small pavilions & some double outrigger boats near the path.
Around the back of the temple on the lake were several islands containing pavilions and sculptures. They looked like they were floating, but we don’t think they really were. One had bamboo surrounded by two dragons and the others had several pavilions and sculptures. They were quite beautiful, even with the mountains behind them invisible because of the low cloud cover.
Bali is filled with flowers, many of which we saw at this temple. So this is a good place for the flora section. Hang on, there are a lot of them!
Stone carvings are very big in Bali; you see them everywhere & often pass stone carving shops when driving around the island. There are many stone carvings at this temple, including a large Buddhist stupa with golden statues of Buddha in it facing in each of the four directions. We came across a Dik-Dik, a small species of antelope, that was penned on the grounds. There was also a large banyan tree dressed up in a skirt.
Given the choice of eating inside the temple grounds or outside we decided to go to a buffet restaurant not far from the temple. As soon as we stepped inside the heavens opened up & it poured rain; the rain stopped shortly before we left. So that seemed like a good omen. The lunch was very good & surprisingly inexpensive.
After lunch Gede took us to a produce market. Quite colorful, but really unnecessary. One fellow there was selling “Rolex” watches for $10 (with a lifetime guarantee!). He had them mounted on a board & when no one bought he lowered the price to $5. Still no one bought, so he went down to $2.00 without any success. As we wandered through the market, Bob encountered him again on another aisle and, apparently not recognizing him, the guy asked for $10. Bob said “What happened to the $2.00,” and that was the last we saw of him.
Next we went to see a landscape of rice terraces that is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. As we understand it, these are separate farmers’ fields, each with a storage building, but the Subak water distribution system is operated cooperatively. The water appears to filter down from terrace to terrace. At the top was a water trough with a tiny water wheel, & the water seems to originate from one of the mountain lakes, but we weren’t sure about all that. We were quite sure that this area is very beautiful.
Time was now getting short so we went to see another famous temple. We had wanted to see one called Uluwatu, which is perched on a high cliff. But road construction had made the traffic in that area impossible so we went to a temple called Tanah Lot. It is on an island just off the coast and is accessible from the shore only at low tide. It wasn’t low tide when we were there and we aren’t sure that non-Hindus would have been admitted anyway. The sun was getting low in the sky, which made for a beautiful vista.
A small temple called Pura Batu Balong was a short walk up the coast from Tanah Lot. It was on an island connected to the mainland by a natural bridge.
We left Tanah Lot & drove back to the ship after a very full day. There was a Balinese dance performance on the ship, but this episode is already too long so tomorrow’s episode will start with that show.