Monday, January 10, 2011

Travel log - Bali, ... sizzle on!

Well gentle readers, I regret leaving you in suspense for over 7 days... but here I am... and I warn you, there is a very long photo-blog like post ahead!

So Darling and I stayed in Jimbaran, at a handy distance from all the happening places. The sari Segara Hotel was a great deal for about US$60 per night, which included breakfast. The first thing you notice from the moment you step into the arrivals lounge of the Denpasar airport, till you check in is how wonderfully intricate and artistic Bali is. Everything that can be carved is carved... and that includes wood, metal, cement and stone. Bali is probably the only place in Indonesia with traces of the original Hindu and Buddhist cultures, unaffected by both the colonials as well as the Arab traders. This is reflected in their artwork, their dance and just about everything in the island. Most carvings are based on some part of the Ramayana chronicle, with the Garuda receiving high veneration as the vehicle of Vishnu.

Statuette at the airport

Our digs

Saraswathie like carving at hotel

Demon mask in lobby... notice the similarity to our own "yakas"

Fountain, conference hotel

Ramayana mural, conference hotel

Gatekeeper, conference hotel

Fire meets water, entrance of the conference hotel at night

Welcome dance, conference hotel

The two young ladies stand in front of the entrance all day, and as soon as a new guest arrives at the hotel, they dance in welcome. This is seen in almost all the classier hotels.

Somehow, one cannot speak about Bali without mentioning the beaches. I honestly do think that our golden sandy beaches with the crashing waves are much better... but the beach at Nusa Dua was just a calm, clear expanse of water extending a good half kilometer outwards, perfect for doggy paddlers like me who do not know how to swim... The surfer dudes head towards Kuta or Lombok which are supposed to have impressive waves.

Beach, Nusa Dua

The absolutely clear water

There is virtually no public transport and travel is either via taxi (slightly more expensive than a Sri Lankan tuk tuk), scooter or foot. Many tourists as well as locals opt for the scooter since petrol is highly subsidized at about SLR 60/- per liter. It's not uncommon to see women drive by with kids clasped between their legs, or tourists in abbreviated swim wear zoom off in search of more sun, sea and sand.

I spent a good half day exploring the by roads around the hotel, mostly because in search of drinking water, yoghurt and a top up for my simcard. The inner streets are quiet and tranquil... and reminded me strangely of Balapitiya... bare land full of coconut trees and scanty undergrowth, cement brick walls with women peering over them, a few stray dogs. The main difference is that walking around Bali is like walking around a huge art gallery. Every other shop or garden is like something out of a landscapers dream... I'd stop to admire some carved pillars and realize that they are part of the entrance to a scooter repair place or a shut down bakery. And on every major intersection, there would be these HUGE statues towering over the traffic, illustrating some scene or the other from the Ramayana.

Statue at intersection : Ravana challenging Rama while standing on the heads of terrified horses


Darling and I traveled inland to Ubud, which is like the craft capital of Bali. Throughout the 2 hour drive the roads were lined with miles and miles of wooden, stone and metal carving. We first visited Goa Gajah elephant caves, which are the remains of 9th century Hindu and Buddhist monastery. Affected by earthquakes, only the Hindu part of the temple and some of the stairways and pools remain intact, whilst the Buddhist temple is nothing more than ruins.

Entrance to Goa Gajah

Carving of Ganesh, inside the cave

The three lingams, inside the cave

Bathing pool for devotees, Goa Gajah

Ruins of the Buddhist temple

Remains of the rich carvings that adorned the Buddhist temple

On the way, we stopped by at a silver factory, and were amazed at the sheer beauty and the intricacy of the carvings. The gems set into the jewelry are imported mostly from Sri Lanka and were very expensive. However, Darling bought me an intricately carved pair of earrings for quite a reasonable price.

Silver factory, Ubud

Polishing the silver... note that in spite of the mask and the "chest guard" there is absolutely no protection for the fingers.

Silver jewelery

Silver ornament

One of my gorgeous orchid design earrings

Entrance decor, silver factory

Entrance decor, silver factory

Another highlight was the famous Uluwatu temple that sits at the highest point of a cliff. The blue waves break against the sheer cliff walls, throwing up swirls of white foam. I took the picture of the waves by lying flat on my tummy with my head over the cliff while Darling kept clutching at my ankles, horrified that I would fall over. Uluwatu is well known for its monkey menace which we witnessed first hand when a monkey grabbed a pair of glasses from a tourist, inspected it and then started showing off to the other monkeys.

Uluwatu temple from the bottom of the path

The foot of the cliff

Monkey business 1

Monkey business 2

Monkey business 3

Uluwatur is also famous for the Kecak (pronounced "Ke-chak") fire dance. Kecak involves the relating of the Ramayana, in a ballet form and is enacted around a fire. The principal actors are surrounded by about 70 bare bodied men, who sing with the peculiar clicking note that gives the dance its name. The clip below is the bit where Sita tells Rama and Lakshman of the golden deer, and they prepare for the hunt. remember to turn the sound on!

Kecak dance, Uluwatu

Another highlight was the visit to the Garuda-Vishnu gardens where we saw more of the amazing carvings and another Balinese dance performance in front of a giant statue of Vishnu.

Giant Garuda

This gives an idea of the sheer size of the carving

Balinese dancer, musing

A tiny part of the performance

The trip to Ubud also included a visit to a batik factory


Colourful batiks I brought back to SL

I guess no travel diary would be complete without an account of the food! :) To be honest, Indonesian food did not impress me much as it contained a lot of oil and beef. The vege dishes usually included boiled vegetables floating in what looked like dishwater. Bali on the other hand was a sumptuous delight, with the food containing fish, chicken and plenty of vegetable, usually cooked in coconut milk and in short, very pleasing to the Sri Lankan palate. Balinese coffee is to DIE FOR and was among the best I've ever tasted.

Snake fruit... Darling placed the taste somewhere between jambu and pineapple. Notice the scaly skin

Fish broth

Seafood and sweet potato

Seafood noodles

Genuine Indonesian nasi goreng

Soto... a thick chicken broth served with rice or dumplings

Cendol... a drink made of coconut milk, treacle and some type of noodle

A final short word about the spas. Massage parlours and spas are dotted along every street and you can get a traditional Balinese relaxation massage for anything between SLR 600/- to SLR 6000/- depending on how posh the place is. There are many variations on offer including fruit scrubs and an astonishing "beer cocoon massage" where you first bathe in beer, then will be massaged with beer while sipping beer! Darling and I went for a special "couple aromatherapy massage", which left me so overwhelmed, I quite forgot to take pictures! ;)

Well... I think that's about it for this loooong post. if you have stayed with me for this long, gentle readers, I can only be grateful. I took over 1000 pictures in Bali, and this post is just a glimpse of that wonderful place...

Await more travel logs... soon!


T said...

omg looks fabulous!

Hoot-a-Toot said...

I wanna gooooooooooooooooo!!! You make it sound so wonderful, they might think of hiring you for their travel writing!

Jack Point said...

Looks lovely. Javanese coffee is famous so I guess that is what you drank.

Dee said...

oh COOL carvings! specially the garuda and Goa Gajah :) :D nice!

Sach said...

Seems you had a great time!

PP said...

looks like you had an awesome time :) is that the coffee you had, by any chance? i hear it undergoes an interesting production process :D

Gadgetgirl said...

strolling strolling while the mouth opens wider. love it

Knatolee said...

Wow...brings back great memories from my honeymoon. Talk about heaven on earth! I am insanely jealous.

Angel said...

Glad you enjoyed the post guys!

PP : it was most certainly NOT kopi luwak that I drank! Not only is it horrendously expensive (like Rs. 10,000 per 100g) the production process is so "intersting" I would decline to touch with a 10 foot pole! :)

Millie said...

These photos are gorgeous. I'm quite jealous!

Chavie said...

Bali sounds amazing, and you've written it in such an interesting way. Love the pictures, hope we get to see more! :D

gutterflower said...

Loved the pictures, the silver jewelery looks fab and the food looks even better!

Lady divine said...

WOW! I want to go to Bali!! the pics were gorgeous!!

Jack Point said...

Hi Angel,

Sorry to butt in like this but I could not find your email address on your blog.

Would you care to support a cause?

I'm not sure if you are a visitor to the Galle Lit Fest, but this year Reporters without Borders called for a boycott of the festival. We have set up a Facebook group opposing the boycott call and we will write to the signatories once we have enough members.

Sunila Abeysekera, an award winning human rights activist makes a good case as to why the boycott call was a mistake, see her letter here:

My own post on the matter is here:

If you think the call for the boycott of the literary festival was wrong, please add your friends to the group below.

This years festival went well, but if properly organised next years could be sunk by a boycott, which would be a pity. About 312 people so far have signed the RSF appeal, we are hoping to grow this group to something larger than that. If each new member can add 5-6 friends we will be there.

"Whether you like the literary festival or not, whether you support the government or not, if you feel that Reporters without Borders' boycott was damaging to the cause of free speech, please join this group, to prove that most people oppose the boycott."

Please pass this on


Serendib_Isle said...

Excellent photo-post, makes me want to take my lovely wife there...

Talking of great coffee, the yankee term “java” comes from Java, Indonesia - no wonder they taste so good.

Pybus said...

You ever found out how the yakas came to resemble ours so much?

Suri said...

I love all the sculptures, looks super cool! :)

Angel said...

LD, Chavie, GF, Millie : glad you enjoyed!

Serendib : yes, do go there for a holiday. If you look around a bit, you can find great places to stay and fantastic seafood cheaper rates than SL!

Pybus : I think it's because we share the same heritare i.e. early hindu and buddhist influece plus colonialism. Such art is virtually wiped out from other parts of Indonesia.

Suri : I'm so glad you enjoyed the sculpures. Any artist would go into a creative frenzy just walking around!

TSC said...

just two words, "OH MY!!!" lol
looks like you had a fabulous time =D

Anonymous said...

..................NICE.. ^_^v.................

Bali Pictures said...

I like these all. I really enjoyed.