Two months passed quickly on Bali, and those were some great and productive months. I had the time to explore the island, experience local culture, combat nature and visit some very old temples.
Driving a motorbike is a great way to get around, and you get to experience much more than if you were driving a car. You get the same feeling from changing that motorbike for a mountain bike. With a private guide we got to ride around the small villages, where cars may not even be able to reach. Local schools, cock fights, peanut and flower farming in between vast rice fields were some of main sights along the way. I was glad to be on a sturdy mountain bike, with fresh tires and strong brakes, for some of the paths we had to take.
Trekking a volcano
The Gunung Batur volcano is an extremely popular trekking destination for many tourists, especially to catch the breath-taking sunrise coming up behind two other volcanos in the horizon to the east. As the volcano lies one hour away from my home, and the trek up is another two hours, I had to get up at 2 am to catch the sunrise that starts around 5 am in this part of the world. The trek itself wasn’t too exhausting, but being tired and not having a proper meal recently made it a lot more challenging. Bali is already a relatively cold part of South East Asia, so on the top of a volcano before dawn you better bring a jacket.
The sunrise was awesome, with the clouds in perfect balance for dramatic effect in combination with great visibility. Once the dark was gone, a whole new world appearing in front of me. Cheeky monkeys, great views and the great volcano crater, hissing with steam.
Fun fact: In the photos above Gunung Agung peeks out from behind another mountain. Agung begun its eruption the very same afternoon.
Temples, temples and more temples
It is hard to blame people who are easily bored by the many temples around Asia, but I can not help but be fascinated with the massive engineering feats dating back hundreds or thousands of years back, the astonishing faith in some of the locals, and how the temples are always slightly different from the last, adapting to their environment. The temples on Bali are really old, and far from as extravagantly shiny as temples often seen in Thailand. Many are built primitively from carved rock and using traditional methods.
Gunung Kawi is a 11th century temple and funerary site built by the river, surrounded by rice fields in a small valley. The great temple area is walled by funerary monuments that stand 7 metres tall. There are numerous “crying rocks” from the water springs inside the walls. The water is deemed holy water, and thus it makes a lot of sense why the locals decided to put such an effort into building this massive temple at this very location, 1 000 years ago.
Tanah Lot is a real tourist trap, but still worth a visit. Built 500 or more years ago, this temple was built on a rock off the coast of Bali. During low tide you can walk from the beach to the temple entrance. It is an impressive display of forces, as the ocean waves bash against the temple’s foundation.
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, in the Bratan mountain area much further from the touristy south of Bali, is another impressive temple, well worth a visit. If you visit around noon, or nearing evening, the clouds are ground level making for an eerily dramatic feeling. When the visibility is clear, you will get a great view of the Beratan lake. The temple area has many attractions in general, but one of the most interesting things is the temple building built just off the lake shore, requiring the local worshipers to use a canoe to do their prayers.