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. 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. I 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. A temple inside Monkey Forest. I like the juxtaposition of such a beautiful statue against a “no parking” sign. 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.I arrive, and I’m seated to enjoy this view with my meal. The environment immediately instills relaxation.My order arrives, fresh and delicious vegetarian food, some it grown in the fields that surround me. 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. 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. 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. 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). 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. 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. 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. I find it endearing how chili sauce is dispensed through these baby bottles. 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. Temple on the lake. Lunch spot. With an EPIC view. Famous temple at the end of the day, where one can also enjoy sunset. The sunset draws a huge crowd. I’m glad so many people love sunsets.
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.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. 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.