Friday, May 21, 2010

Last Weekend in Bali: Keliling, Keliling!

We sprinted to the finish of Bali with a two-day extravaganza tour, swinging out west, then north, then east, and finally back to Ubud.

Our first stop was a palace area:

I almost thought I was in Japan, or some other first-world country, until...

A burning pile of trash.  You can't escape the lovely smell, even in temple-palace areas.  But the charm of the moss-covered stone carvings still remained:

Bali is truly remarkable for the penetration of artwork, especially stone carving, to every corner of the island.  You could say it's part of their architecture.

Our next stop was the celebrated Tanah Lot on Bali's west coast.  The temple's excellent location gives it an epic charm.  You can walk to it when the tide is out:

The pounding surf makes this stretch of beach popular for surfing as well.

When we'd had enough of the fabulously photogenic Tanah Lot, we were off to a monkey/bat forest temple.  Akin to monkey forest temple in Ubud, this area featured even more human-like monkeys and positively enormous fruit bats.  Check out the faces on these guys.  Sittin' around, hangin' around:

I love these statues with the bugged-out eyes:

Getting your arm groomed while holding the baby.  If this were in the US, it's a lawsuit:

Hangin' out with the adults:

Serious trust going on here:

What balance!

So we round the corner and hear this rustling and hushed screeching.  Then the guide points out hundreds of enormous bats "sleeping" way up in the trees.  They were rocking back and forth like maniacs.  It made my skin crawl:

The people were surprisingly comfortable with monkeys:

At the end they had bats that you could pick up and touch and take pictures with.  I politely refrained:

Hangin' out, muchin' down.  Clearly this guy has an enormous personality:

By lunchtime we were stranded in a downpour as we headed north into the mountains.  After a 40-minute wait the rain relented.  This mountain lake temple, shrouded in mist, reminded me strikingly of Japan.

The view from the restaurant porch where we waited out the rain:

Under an umbrella to shield us from the lingering pitter-patter:

The temple!

There was a temple ceremony happening right as we arrived.  Some late arrivals came across the lake by boat:

The temple procession:

They kept the barong nice and dry from the drizzle by throwing a blue tarp over:

A final take:

By mid afternoon we were on the north face of the mountains and stopped to view Gigit waterfall, one of Bali's largest air terjun:

On the way back up from the falls, we had the strangest encounter with a crazy warung owner lady.  We stopped at her stall/restaurant area for a late lunch and ended up eating lots of dessert we never asked for; buying pounds and pounds of coffee beans for cheap that she said she grew, harvested, and roasted herself nearby; and signing a guest book that contained short quips from hundreds of her "friends" who had also eaten there.  Weird!  As we're walking out, she says to Alison that she's just had some kind of spirit vision about her, and gives her a crappy Hindu-looking handicraft:

I think we were puzzled, weirded out and a little charmed.  And pounds of coffee richer.

We arrived at Lovina Beach, famous for the dolphins that hunt in the ocean nearby, as the sun was setting.  A long time ago, Nina and Herul visited this same beach, and its name has some bearing on choosing the name 'Lavina.'

The central dolphin statue greets visitors:

The sunset, over Lovina's black volcanic sand, was a nice capstone to the action-packed day.  The distant landmass is Java:

That night we contributed what we could to a lifeless Lovina nightlife.  Tourist low season left most places completely empty.  As so often happens in Indonesia, we were offered the chance to take the stage!

Day 2.  We kicked things off with dolphin-watching followed by snorkeling at dawn:

The sunrise was beautiful as we and the other tourist-bearing boats headed several kilometers off of shore.  The water was remarkably calm, more like the surface of a lake than an ocean:

At last the golden king reared its head:

Before we knew it, we were engaged in a whack-a-mole style contest where we and the other boats would scan the horizon for groups of dolphins surfacing to breathe.  When one boat would spot them, it would immediately race off to get as close as possible.  The other boats would all follow suit:

We did get to see dolphins, and one time from pretty close.  They would surface in small groups of 3-7 or so.  I managed to get one shot of them without other boats in the picture:

The snorkeling was also great.  Morning lighting makes for a different show, and we didn't get baked by the sun nearly as much as we did in the Gilis.  By 9am we were off, first stop, a local hot spring:

Then, a Buddhist/Hindu temple complex.  The "Borobodur of Bali"!  Seriously, how great are those bugged-out eyes?

The lower part was the Hindu area.  Statues along the stairway recall Besakih, and the flat-line gates are pure Bali:

Freaky moment: is this guy alive?

I don't really get what the point of this is, but it creeped me out:

The innards of the Borobodur-like structure reminded me vaguely of being inside an Italian cathedral:

Some weird trees outside:

The Borobodur structure herself!  Cool, but it doesn't really measure up to the real thing, if you know what I mean:

Next was another mountain temple.  Check out those crafty offerings.  Hanging-over bamboo poles like these adorn the sides of many streets in Bali.  It takes on either a Lord of the Rings or a Dr. Seuss-like quality, I can't decide which:

This statue got lopped off in the middle:

Here's a building full of women making offerings.  They don't kid around with this stuff:

Before we knew it we were back to the Land-Before-Time-like Gunung/Danau Batur area:

Here's a clearer shot from further around the bowl-shaped valley.  This has to be one of the most epic shots of the whole trip:

Shortly afterward, we were stopped when a Balinese woman stood in the middle of the road.  She hastily blessed us, putting offerings in the car and sticking rice to our foreheads.  I was thinking, how cool, she's just making offerings on our behalf out of the goodness of her heart!  But then she started asking for money.  I gave her a paltry sum, since the whole thing suddenly seemed quite disingenuous indeed.  And I hate having rice stuck to my face anyway:

Next stop was a water palace.  Cool:

Randomly, they had a great statue of a barong (with its human feet sticking out, just like you would see in performance!):

There were groups of Balinese gathered here, swimming.  It's like a Balinese take on a public pool - lots of stone carving, cool fountains, no lifeguards!

After driving through some more mountains all the way to the eastern tip of Bali, we swung back through and stopped at one of the oldest known villages on the island.  Apparently, they continue their traditional way of life here as they have done for thousands of years.  The headlining traditions include rare double-ikat weaving, practiced in only 3 places worldwide; a ceremonial yearly fight where competitors must draw blood with their cactus-like stick-weapons to end the contest; naturally, lots of cockfighting; and a scroll-writing technique.

An enthusiastic guide led us about the village:

Doesn't matter where you are in Bali, you can still find these guys close by:

This cool scroll carving/drawing/writing narrates the Ramayana epic:

The process involves carving and then filling the negative space with a black coal-like substance:

Gotta love the pride - all his examples he did for both us and the tourists that came before were the word 'Bali':

The famed double-ikat weaving!  I don't really get it, but it takes them like six months to produce a decent-sized piece.  The cheapest, smallest double-ikat they had was about $70.  Here it is in the works:

We stopped briefly in Candidasa, an eastern beach, for an otherworldly sunset:

Next up was a bat temple.  Basically they found a bat cave, where thousands of the creatures spend the day, and they built a temple around it.  Now they bow and pray at the bat temple.  Here's a bugged-out eye statue on the way in:

Immediately in front of the cave itself:

Yep, there are definitely bats in there:

Adornments remind you of the temple theme, if you couldn't hear or see the little guys wriggling around inside:

The last place we drove through before arriving back in Ubud was a city called Klungklung.  For some reason, this intersection made a sudden vision of a first-world Indonesia, with wide, clean streets and beautiful buildings, jump into my head.  It was pretty cool.  I confess I have a hard time recalling it:

And that was our final, action-packed Balinese smorgasbord.  I definitely left a part of my heart there.

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