Welcome to Indonesia: Bali!

While doing some research about where to go after Thailand, I learned quite a bit about Indonesia. Seventeen-thousand islands over a three-thousand mile span! How did I almost overlook such a huge country? Filled with natural sites such as numerous active volcanoes, Komodo dragons, orangutans. Indonesia is the world’s 4th most populated country with about 230 million people, 87% being Muslim (as of 2010).

I choose my first destination in Indonesia to be Bali, a place I’ve heard quite a bit about from friends: stunning views of rice terraces, tropical beaches, and a largely Hindu population. I was in for a treat. I go straight to Ubud, the most spiritual part of Bali. There’s not too many hostels here, but I find one called The Happy Mango Tree. Across the street is The Honeymoon Cottage, and there were many more romantic cottages and resorts throughout town. IMG_2601 On my first day I walk down Monkey Forest Road to visit the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. I have heard a lot about mischievous monkeys here, snatching food from people. As I pay for the ticket, I make note of a warning, that states, “Do not smile at the monkeys. Displaying teeth is a sign of aggression.” Fine, I won’t smile. As I walk inside, I enjoy the lush greenery, temples, and moss-covered statues.IMG_2388 IMG_2407I notice a lot of tourists smiling at the monkeys, or getting too close to take a photo; naturally the monkeys hiss. Luckily, I don’t see anyone getting bitten.IMG_2399 A temple inside Monkey Forest.IMG_2397 I like the juxtaposition of such a beautiful statue against a “no parking” sign.IMG_2410 I leave Monkey Forest and wander through the streets. After wandering around for a bit, I begin to get hungry. I try to find a restaurant recommended to me called Sari Organic. I fail. I’m about to give up, when one of the many moto-taxi drivers asks me where I’m from. This starts the usual conversation where I say I’m Indian, but raised in California. He then asks where I want to go, and I say Sari Organic. He says, “oh too far!” I’ve heard this line too many times before, so while I doubt him, I’m hungry. We haggle over the price, and in two minutes I’m on his motor-bike en route to Sari Organic. Along the way the scenery changes from busy streets to beautiful rice fields.IMG_2650I arrive, and I’m seated to enjoy this view with my meal. The environment immediately instills relaxation.IMG_2417My order arrives, fresh and delicious vegetarian food, some it grown in the fields that surround me. IMG_2416 The following day, as I walk around the streets of Ubud, I feel amazed at lush greenery, the giant lilies, the beautiful architecture of Balinese temples.IMG_2512 IMG_2513 In the Royal Palace I encounter the following shrine after a large religious ceremony. As I look closer I smell something afoul, and I’m amazed to see the head of a pig. Definitely way different the the Hinduism I know from India.IMG_2499 IMG_2497 I continue wandering around the streets (wandering is like a hobby now), and I find an interesting sign for Hubud. Curious, I decide to walk up the stairs and check it out.IMG_2600 The first person I run into is a Usability Researcher from San Diego. Whaaat?! As I speak to her I learn she has re-located from San Diego to Ubud, and does consulting from this co-working space, Hubud (seriously, click the link and tell me it doesn’t make you want to relocate to Bali for work).IMG_2592 I walk around the space, it feels like a co-working space one would find in San Francisco, except it’s set in a tropical climate, and there’s lots of bamboo. EPIC! And immediately, my mind begins to have dreams about living in Ubud, a place where I can work and play.IMG_2597 I continue my wandering, admiring the beauty, the art; below is a pattern of leaves and flower petals floating in a large fountain in front of a store.IMG_2590 I enjoyed dinner many times across the street from my hostel at Uma Pizza. I haven’t had such good pizza in months, and to top it off Uma’s pizza is baked in a wood-oven.IMG_2493 I find it endearing how chili sauce is dispensed through these baby bottles.IMG_2494 Later in the evening I stumble upon a Ramayana dance show. The audience is seated on simple fold-out chairs in a quad in front of a temple. As the show begins, I get super-excited realizing the chant is from Baraka, a must-see artistic film if you’ve never seen it. While the dance is based on the Ramayana, an Indian epic story I know, I hardly can follow it; the Balinese-style throws me off. It’s very enjoyable nonetheless.

Temple Tour Around Bali

One morning I wake up, and spontaneously decide I want to do the Sunset Temple tour around Bali. I haven’t booked anything in advance, but I find out one of my fellow backpackers from my hostel is going, and a van will be here shortly. When the van arrives, I ask the driver if there’s an empty seat; and there is one! I pay $20, and off I am on an eight-hour tour with seven other people. Below is the first temple we visit. IMG_2438 IMG_2446 Temple on the lake.IMG_2458 IMG_2460 IMG_2827 Lunch spot. With an EPIC view. IMG_2454 IMG_2867 Famous temple at the end of the day, where one can also enjoy sunset.IMG_2474 The sunset draws a huge crowd. I’m glad so many people love sunsets.IMG_2476

Hiking up Mt. Batur

A popular thing to do in Bali is watching sunrise from the top of one of the volcanoes. I book a tour with two fellow backpackers. Our van arrives at 2:30am at our hostel to pick us up.

We arrive at the base of the volcano at 4am to begin the hike. We begin the two-and-a-half hour ascent up the volcano, in the dark, our feet slipping on the loose rocks. One would think that such a popular trail would at least be free of loose rocks to make the ascent easier and safer.  I’m grateful for the cool air, a worthy tradeoff to having to do this in the dark.

We arrive at the top. At sunrise, we are rewarded with a magnificent view. IMG_2910

We have a breakfast of banana bread and volcano-steamed eggs. By 7:30am the sun is beginning to get intense, and so we begin our descent back down. IMG_2562 Descending down the volcano is harder, despite it being daylight now. Damn these crumbly rocks. I take it slow and easy not wanting to twist my ankle or risk any other injury.IMG_2568 After backpacking through Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, just as I was beginning to think that I had seen it all, Bali surprised me. The culture, architecture, food, and natural beauty. After spending a week in Ubud, I prepare to head off to my next destination, a small island off the coast of Bali called Gili Air.

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One thought on “Welcome to Indonesia: Bali!

  1. Wow, these experiences sound amazing. I’m making notes on these, so we can try to do some of the same!! I’m amazed how picturesque everything is.

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