Bali is a heavenly place. Each time I come here, I feel so relaxed and all I want to do is lounge at the pool, the beach or at one of the many beachside cafés.
Only Bali can separate me from my blog (for two whole days!) :-). I’m not sure how to explain it – when I arrive at the airport, I feel an instant wave of serenity wash over me. Even the chaotic scenes on the roads fail to faze me. Maybe it’s the deeply spiritual character of this island, or its gracious people, or the abundant use of water ornaments, fountains, ponds or waterfalls – the calming sound of flowing water is never far away, at hotels, cafés and spas. Whatever it is, elaborate plans to explore the island simply fade away and I soon find myself asleep under a swaying palm, with a cold beer at my side, in a blissful state.
And that’s exactly what I did on my recent trip there.
A day out
After a few days, I managed to tear myself away from my lounger and hire a car with a driver for a day trip with some friends. I wanted to go back to a place I’d visited on my first trip to Bali twenty years ago: Gunung Batur. Gunung (or Mount) Batur is an active volcano in central Bali that rises dramatically from inside a massive caldera. It’s a stunning place that’s absolutely worth a visit. The drive to Mt. Batur takes a few hours from the Seminyak (beach) area and there are many places of interest along the way such as temples, silver and batik factories, picturesque rice terraces and an astonishing number of handicraft stores and art galleries – indeed the road from Batubulan to Tegallalang (about 12 kilometres) has got to be one of the longest stretches of handicraft shops in the world. The number of stores selling rock and wood carvings, jewellery, paintings, glassware, furniture and batik is simply astounding. It can be quite overwhelming if you want to find something here – the town of Ubud (Bali’s cultural centre) is a better bet for a leisurely shopping experience.
We stopped at a family temple (a small temple in a private compound) and a village temple – the intricate gold-gilded wood carvings that decorate the temples are perfect examples of the sublime craftsmanship of the Balinese. We also visited silver and batik factories, a must for the first-time visitor. The UC silver factory was especially noteworthy – watching the masters at work really makes you appreciate the fine ornaments they create so much more. If you have some silver jewellery that needs a good polish, just ask one of the workers and they would gladly polish it for a tip. We made a quick stop at Tegallalang to admire the verdant rice terraces before continuing up to Mt. Batur.
We arrived at Kinatamani, the hamlet at the edge of the Batur caldera, right in time for lunch. We sat out on the deck and took in the magnificent view of the volcano and the caldera lake. We watched as the clouds rolled in like a massive wave over the caldera rim and into the basin. Simply breathtaking.
“Cat poo coffee”
After lunch, we headed back to Seminyak, stopping at a coffee/cocoa plantation along the way. We were treated to a tasting consisting of various types of coffee, tea and hot cocoa. My favourite was the ginseng coffee whilst the most unusual (and most expensive) was the Luwak coffee. Luwak coffee is made from the droppings of the Luwak cat (a type of civet-cat that loves eating coffee beans). This ‘cat-poo’ coffee is dark, rich and has a distinct aroma.
The Sacred Water Temple
We then continued to another highlight of the day: the Tirta Empul temple or Sacred Water temple is one of the holiest places on the island and is certainly my favourite of the many Balinese temples. It was fascinating to see the locals perform their cleansing rituals in the crystal-clear, petal-filled pools. We chatted with one of the locals and he explained the ritual of going from one fountain to the next whilst saying a prayer at each to cleanse both the body and soul.
We slowly made our way back to Seminyak, passing the Elephant Cave (another tourist attraction). The Balinese countryside, with its rice terraces, forested hills, quaint villages and temples, is absolutely gorgeous.
If you’re visiting Bali, I certainly recommend this day trip to Mount Batur. There are group tours but it’s much better to arrange a private car and plan your own itinerary. It’s very easy to arrange a car and a driver/guide – the hotel concierge can help but that is often a pricey option. Instead, check with the other guests for recommendations.
See some of the photos I’ve taken of the stunning sunsets in Bali.