Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

Balinese Culture Trip

Posted by Monica Johansen on November 14, 2010

Yes, I know… It has been quite a while since my last blog, but it is not because nothing interesting has happened. On the contrary, I have been so busy that I haven’t had much time to write anything but work documents lately.

Temple in the Monkey Forest

In October I spent two weeks in the UK (London and Birmingham) and a weekend in Oslo. The UK trip was work related, and since I happened to be in northern Europe I thought I could just as well spent the weekend in Oslo and see my friends. The entire journey was great, but so busy that I felt that I needed a holiday when I returned to Singapore. Work wise it wasn’t too bad, but when you try to spend time with all your new colleagues and at the same time try to meet all your old friends that you haven’t seen in years, then you quickly run out of time. Being jetlagged on top of it does of course not help on the situation. Nevertheless, I had a blast in Europe, and I hope it won’t be too long before I am going back.

 I also spent a few days in Kuala Lumpur for a project, and I didn’t have time for anything but work. I jumped on the plane to KL just 24 hours after returning from London, and I was struggling with the time difference the first couple of days. I was quite happy when the weekend finally came and I could spend a couple of days doing nothing.

Pura Besakih

Anyway, in this blog I was actually planning to write about my short holiday in Bali. My Swiss friend, Marius, who is currently living in Bali, invited me to come over and spend time with him and his Balinese girlfriend and do some sightseeing on the beautiful holiday island. Since Friday was a public holiday in Singapore and my manager gave me Monday off, I decided to fly over on Thursday night and stay until Monday, and I booked myself into Tjampuhan Spa, a nice little resort just outside the center of Ubud, which is located more in the middle of Bali not far from the mountains. I am not a typical beach person, and I wanted to stay away from all the party places in Sanur and Kuta, so Marius suggested that I stay in Ubud which is closer to the sights that he thought I would enjoy. He had also organized a car and a driver for the long weekend, so that we could get around easily.

I arrived in Denpasar around 10:30 PM on Thursday night, and Marius, his girlfriend and the driver were waiting for me at the exit. I must admit that I love having someone waiting for me at the airport, because it makes me feel welcomed, but unfortunately it doesn’t happen very often. We drove straight to Ubud, which is about an hour away from the airport (when there is no traffic), and I arrived at my hotel close to midnight. Tjampuhan Spa is a jungle resort built along the edge of a hill, and you had to walk down some rather steep stone steps to get to the bungalows. My bungalow had two floors, and I was in the top floor with a small corner balcony. The room, which was one of the cheaper ones in the hotel, had huge windows with no class, just a mesh to keep the bugs out, and at night I could hear all the sounds from the jungle so it felt like sleeping outdoors. There was no air-condition either, just a huge fan in the middle of the room, but it actually kept he room quite cool.

Balinese dance show

The next three days we traveled around in Bali and did some serious sightseeing. Marius and his girlfriend had prepared a list of places they thought I should see, and I was lucky to have a couple of local “guides” with me who knew the place very well. Bali is a relatively large island, at least compared to Singapore, so we didn’t have time to see everything, but the things we visited were quite nice. I enjoyed the sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud where the monkeys are so tame that will come and sit on your lap. I also loved the Balinese dance show we went to on Saturday night where I had a chance to take photos of the gorgeous traditional outfits.

We visited a number of interesting temples during the weekend, and the most famous one is probably Pura Besakih, also called the Mother Temple, which is the largest temple in Bali located in the mountains on the east side of the island. We were quite lucky because the locals had a ceremony there at the same time we were visiting, so we actually got to see how the temple is used. Another famous temple we saw was Pura Tanah Lot, which is a small temple located on a cliff in the sea. During low tide you can walk out to the temple, but at high tide the temple is surrounded by water, and it looks like it has emerged from the ocean. However, the prettiest temple was in my opinion Pura Ulun Danu, a small temple in Lake Bratan which is located in the eastern mountains. It was something peaceful about the surroundings, the air was rather cool because of the high altitude, and the fog covering the mountain tops made the place look a bit mysterious.

Pura Ulun Danu

A place I really enjoyed was the Batur volcano and Lake Batur which is a crater lake. When we were sitting at the wooden pier the place actually reminded me of the fjords of Norway. The air was cool and fresh, the water was dark blue, and the mountains were steep with dark green bushes rather than the tall palm trees you see everywhere else on the island. In addition, it was raining a little bit and the mountain tops were hidden in thick white fog. Very typical Norwegian, if you ask me…

Bali has definitely many interesting culture sights, which I always find more interesting than spending a holiday on a beach. However, I must admit that I found the place a little bit too touristy, not just because there were so many tourists there, but mostly because the locals were constantly trying to sell you stuff or find other ways of getting money out of you. I actually found it rather annoying, and in the end I just wanted to get away from all the hassle. I understand that people are trying to make a living out of the extensive tourism, but it was just too much for me.

Nevertheless, it was nice to finally have been there. I have heard a lot about the island, and so many of my friends have been there. At least I have ticked the box…

PS. You will find more photos in my Gallery… 🙂

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