Bali – Mount Batur (Volcano)

 

Let me make a confession first for I know once this post is published, it’s going to be public information and the truth will be out. My family trusted me with the planning of the itinerary and yet there’s something which I didn’t tell them. But there’s definitely no hiding anymore; that Mount Batur (or Gunung Batur) is actually an active volcano!

It erupted almost every year in the sixties / seventies (1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1976) and the last time it erupted was in the year 2000. When will it erupt again? Is it dangerous to visit an active volcano? I don’t know but the idea of  visiting an active volcano sounds exciting, doesn’t it ?  

Ok, enough of pulling your leg. Actually those recent eruptions were considered minor ones. It should be relatively safe to view the volcano from a distance and I am glad we made it back safe and sound. 🙂

Mount Batur

Lake Batur, which is a crater lake formed more than 20,000 years ago

It was a rainy day and the thick cloud spoiled the view

There are many restaurants in Kintamani which offer a bird’s eye view of Mount Batur and most of them serve buffet lunch. Since we did not have any preference, our guide brought us to a restaurant which he claimed to have one of the better views of Mount Batur. It was only after our trip that I realized that this restaurant (Tepi Danau, Rumah Makan) has very bad reviews on tripadvisor, especially on their exorbitant prices. However, we only paid about 100,000 IDR each, which was quite alright. I suspect our guide might have something to do with our reasonable pricing. 🙂

Inside Tepi Danau restaurant

We may not be caught in the (tourist) trap, but there is no denying that the quality of food was quite bad. The variety was ok but most of the food were cold and flies were all around us. On the whole, don’t expect too much from the food, just enjoy the weather and view, and you should be fine, or at least not grouchy. Just another tip for you.

Below are some of the food selection for your reference.

Cold, cold and cold

Useful Information – Mount Batur : 

Weather:

  • Note that it is much cooler up in the mountains and thus do get ready a light jacket / sweater.
  • During our trip in December, I guess the temperature was between 15°C to 20°C.

Admission Charges:

  • 50,000 IDR per car
  • Buffet at 100,000 IDR per adult

Other information:

  • There are many other activities that one can do in Mount Batur, e.g. Sunrise treking tour, Hot Springs and Cycling. We didn’t opt for any of these adventurous activities as we preferred a more relaxed itinerary. 🙂
  • I was told that the hot springs is a very nice experience. Overnight stay is preferred but not necessary.

Estimated traveling time by car:

  • Tegalalang Rice Terrace  Mount Batur: 40 minutes

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Bali – Wood Carving Village (Mas Village)

Nearly every native of Bali is an artist, in one form or another. This is especially evident in Ubud area where there are art and crafts aplenty, ranging from paintings to wood/gold/silver carvings to batik printings. I am not a person who appreciates art but I have travel mates who are. Thus for this trip, we planned to visit some of these artists at work.

Our first stop was the gold / silver carving village. I was actually quite disappointed as it was more like a shopping trip than educational one. We didn’t see anybody doing their usual craft. Instead, we only saw cabinets of gold and silver accessories selling at ridiculously high price. There were no demonstrations, no guides and nobody doing any craft. We left the place in less than 10 minutes.

Luckily our next stop was much better where we were brought to a family in the wood carving village. There was, at least, a spokesperson who brought us around his work-place and made some introductions to his craftsmen, all of whom are his cousins. He also introduced  the various types of wood and their characteristics, but I was just busy enjoying the architecture of the house while my travel mates were the better students. ◕ิ‿◕ิ

A family of wood carvers

Is artistic talent hereditary? I think it can be learned. For this family of wood carvers, every single member of the family started wood carving at a young age and by the time they turned into adults, they would have picked up a trick or two from their seniors.

The two tones on this piece of wood is natural

Their skills and control of strength are simply amazing

Young children start their wood carving training with animals like these

These are more advanced carvings

Another wood carvings with lots of details

More variety

Art is generally a family business in Bali and many family members (children, uncles, aunties, cousins, etc) typically stay together within the same compound, which is typically self-contained with temple, rooms, farms, and so on.

This man is the head of the household

This is the master bedroom for the grandparents

 

A group photo in front of one of the bedrooms

Useful Information  : 

Artist Villages:

  • Wood Carvings: Mas Village
  • Silver & Gold Carvings: Celuk Village
  • Stone Carvings: Batubulan Village

 

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Bali – Kecak Dance Uluwatu Temple

Planning for a family trip with people of diverse interests has never been an easy job. I would love to visit all the temples and watch every dance performance in Bali as each of them presents an unique opportunity for photography enthusiasts like me. However, I am sure I would be faced with a group of grouchy and sulky mates if I had really planned the itinerary my way. 😦

So if I had to choose only one dance performance for the entire trip, I think the Kecak dance at Uluwatu Temple should be it. This dance is a combination of ancient ritual, dance, drama and even has a sense of humour in it. These, plus the backdrop of a setting sun over a cliff, makes this performance one of the  most spectacular ones. 

There are 5 acts in the drama where it started with how Sita (wife of Prince Rama) was captured by another king, Rhawana, and the entire rescue process. Like I said earlier, there is also humour injected into the show as there was a scene where the Monkey King made fun of the audience. It doesn’t really matter where are you seated, in case you think that the upper few rows are “safer”, as the Monkey King  will randomly pick his “victim”. 🙂

It’s full house every day, as I was told

As you can see, the theatre is quite small

The almighty Thor was not in a good mood that day and he sent rain crushing onto us shortly after the show had started. Although the performers were very professional and continued with the performance, the audience were not prepared to brave the rain. We didn’t finish the show, FYI. Sigh.

Grand entrance by the performers

No musical instruments were used in the performance. These forty-odd men just chanted “chak chak chak” throughout the entire performance

Prince Rama and his wife Sita entering the enchanted forest of Dandaka

Prince Rama and his wife Sita

Movement and facial expression are 2 very important aspects of Bali dance

Sita captured by the demon King Rahwana

Key characteristics of Bali dance – bend knees and back, keeps shoulders wide open.

The Monkey King Hanoman

The Monkey King Hanoman making fun of the audience

 

This was the final act we saw before we had to disperse due to the rain

Useful Information – Kecak Dance at Uluwatu Temple :  Admission Charges, Rules and Advices:

  • Adult 70,000 IDR
  • Child 35,000 IDR

Performance Hours:

  • Kecak Dance at 1800 hrs daily

Rules and Advices:

  • It’s free seating and do go earlier (20 minutes should suffice) if you want the central view
  • I didn’t see any restrictions on the usage of cameras. In fact, my DSLR should be quite prominent and I didn’t get any warning. So I guess it’s perfectly alright to use camera during the dance.
  • Sarongs are required to enter the sacred area
  • Women who are having their period can only go until the steps of the temple
  • Loose items such as glasses, sunglasses, handbags, etc should be handled with care. Leave them in the car if possible. Monkeys snatching these items from the visitors is a common sight. I witnessed a tourist’s pair of glasses being taken away from a monkey. See my previous post for evidence. *** You have been warned ***
  • A lot of vendors will be selling you food like bananas and peanuts to feed the monkeys. You DO NOT HAVE to buy from them. In fact, these items are “monkey-magnets”.

Estimated traveling time by car:

  • Pandawan Beach  Uluwatu Temple: 30 minutes

 

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Bali – Uluwatu Temple

 

Our final stop for the day is none other than the famous Uluwatu Temple, one of the seven famous (important) sea temples in Bali. Pura Tanah Lot is another one of the seven sea temples and we already covered that in the morning. You can refer to the post here for more details.

There are many reasons why I was so excited about this attraction. First of all, this temple is situated at the top of cliff (70 metres above the Indian Ocean) and I was told this is the most spectacular temple with the most stunning sunset view. But like what my guide had warned me prior to the trip, the probability of rain is very high in Bali during December and to catch sunset would really require the help of the almighty Thor. He was so right and it really rained when we visited the temple. Nevertheless, the view was still awesome even with the overcast sky.

The cliff of Uluwatu

It can get very crowded as you get nearer to the theatre where the Kecak Dance is to be performed

Now, there is one thing that you should take note of when you are visiting this temple and that is the danger of the wild monkeys snatching your loose belongings. I have read about this in many blogs and websites and I can tell you from a personal experience that this is true!

You have been warned …

This is also the second reason why I was so looking forward to visit this temple – watching the mischievous monkeys at work. Having been to the Monkey Forest (Day Four of my trip) and also seen many monkeys in Bali, I can tell you that the monkeys in Uluwatu Temples are probably the most aggressive and “fun”. If I were to rate the monkeys in a zoo as level one (i.e. domesticated),  then the mokeys in the Monkey Forest (Ubud) should be level three and the monkeys in Uluwatu temples should be at level five.

It’s also probably interesting to share our experience at the Uluwatu Temple Ticketing Office with you. There were a lot of people who were selling foods such as bananas and peanuts for feeding of the monkeys at the ticketing office. Initially, we politely declined their offers but some of them became more “pushy” and even said that it was compulsory to buy the food. We ignored all these nonsense and had no problems in the temple at all.

 Upon entering the sacred ground, we were given a glimpse of what to expect from the monkeys. The first scene was a monkey grabbing the sarong of a visitor, who had bananas in her hand. When she refused to give any to the monkey, it just sat there and refused to let her go. It was like watching a live comedy. 🙂

A lady and her “pet”

Well, not all scenes were fighting ones though. Just look at the lady in the photo above and how they (the monkey and her) lived in harmony. The lady was basically peeling the orange, slice by slice, and the monkey just waited patiently for its food.

Monkeys scratching each other’s back

Have you wondered how did the phrase “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” come about? I strongly suspect we learned this from the monkeys. Monkeys scratching each other’s back is such a common scene in Bali. 🙂

A monkey with a pair of glasses snatched from a tourist

So I told you to be careful with your loose belongings, right? See what happened to a tourist in the photo above? He just lost his glasses and I doubt he got his glasses back as this monkey ran away with its loot. Please be warned and keep your sunglasses away …

A monkey with its loot – a packet of peanuts snatched from a tourist

Like a boss

And for goodness’ sake, please do not litter. Let’s do our part to keep the place clean and also to protect these wild monkeys from junk food. Bali is a nice place and let’s keep it that way; not only for ourselves but also for our future generations.

A monkey rummaging through a bag of rubbish

Finally, the last but not least reason why visiting this temple is a must for me – Watching the Kecak Dance in the setting sun, which is my next post. Stay tuned !

Useful Information – Uluwatu Temple : 

Admission Charges:

  • Adult 20,000 IDR, inclusive of rental of Sarong
  • Child 10,000 IDR, inclusive of rental of Sarong

Opening Hours:

  • 0900 to 1800 hrs
  • Kecak Dance at 1800 hrs daily

Rules and Advices:

  • Sarongs are required to enter the sacred area
  • Women who are having their period can only go until the steps of the temple
  • Loose items such as glasses, sunglasses, handbags, etc should be handled with care. Leave them in the car if possible. Monkeys snatching these items from the visitors is a common sight. I witnessed a tourist’s pair of glasses being taken away from a monkey. See the photo above. *** You have been warned ***
  • A lot of vendors will be selling you food like bananas and peanuts to feed the monkeys. You DO NOT HAVE to buy from them. In fact, these items are “monkey-magnets”.

Estimated traveling time by car:

  • Pandawan Beach  Uluwatu Temple: 30 minutes

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Bali – Pandawa Beach

Our plan was to reach our next destination, Uluwatu Temple, at dusk as we wanted to watch the Kecak Dance at 6pm. However, we were too early; it was barely 12pm after our educational trip to the turtle conservancy centre. We had 2 choices to keep us occupied for the next few hours, we can either visit the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park (GWK for short) or a  beautiful “secret” beach recommended by our guide; one that is unknown to many. We opted for the latter.

So this “secret” beach turned out to be Pandawa Beach, which is located at Kutuh Village, en route to Uluwatu Temple. This beach was originally a “secret” as its accessibility was limited. But now, the government has already earmarked and developed this place into another tourist attraction with good accessibility to the beach front via a wide road. There are even scenic stops along the way for shutterbugs like me ! 

Shops selling everything that you will ever need at a beach, ranging from swimming gears, costumes, snacks and drinks.

Beach chairs are available for rental at 50,000 IDR for 2 chairs and 1 umbrella

BBQ corns at 10,000 IDR each. This is very good. A must try!

 

Temples are everywhere in Bali, including beaches.

Depending on what would you like to do at a beach, I believe there are activities aplenty to suit everybody, ranging from eateries to seasport activities like kayaking. For us, walking along the beach, picking seashells and enjoying the cool breeze was good enough to spend a few hours. 🙂

Relaxing under a beach umbrella

Kayaking or walking or swimming ? You have them all.

Another interesting observation in Bali is that seaweed farming seems to be a common trade in Bali. I saw a lot of them at the fishing town near the turtle conservancy and again, they were spotted here at Pandawa beach.

Interesting algae patch by the sea

Seaweeds found on the beach

Nice, clean sand

Useful Information – Pandawa Beach : 

Estimated traveling time by car:

  • Serangan  Pandawa Beach: 100 minutes

Some useful links:

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Bali – Serangan Turtle Conservation and Education Centre

One thing that you may know is that 6 out of the 7 sea turtle species in the world today can be found in the Indonesian waters. In other words, there is a good chance that you will spot some wild sea turtles when you are snorkelling or diving in Bali. And if you prefer to see these gentle creatures in a drier environment, there are also some conservation centres where you can have close encounters with them.

One thing that you probably do not know is that not all turtle conservancy programmes, societies, initiatives, etc in Bali are genuinely set up to protect and provide welfare for these turtles. Some are probably set up as a tourist attraction or tourist trap, in my opinion. If you do a google search for “turtle in bali”, you will find lots of information and most of the links bring you to this place called “Turtle Island”, which is accessible via a glass-bottom boat. The boat ride itself is about 20 minutes and the fare varies, aka, depending on your bargaining skills. Besides turtles, you can also see some other animals such as snakes, falcons, bats, pythons and many others on the island. These animals are part of the “wildlife” collection and are “domesticated”, i.e. you can take pictures with them (safely) for a fee. If these don’t sound fishy enough, go through all the reviews in tripadvisor (links provided below) and make your own judgement call.

Disclaimer: I have not been to the “conservation centre” mentioned in the tripadvisor and thus I can’t comment about it. The one that I went to is a real conservatory; one that is sincere in conserving and helping the turtles. How do I know? Read on and I am sure you will agree with me. And by the way, I went there by car, not via any fancy glass-bottom boats.

The super-long bridge that links Serangan to Bali main island

So the place we went is The Turtle Conservation and Education Centre (TCEC) of Serangan, on the resort island (Pulau Seranga) of Bali, just off Denpasar/Kuta area.  You will definitely need a local guide to bring you there as there is no public transport, as far as I can see. That place was so deserted that we practically had the entire centre to ourselves when we were there.

I chose this centre over the more touristy “Turtle Island” as I want the kids to learn more about conservation and its importance, and not the “fun” experiences of a zoo. This centre is run by volunteers and there are no admission charges or whatsoever; everything is based on goodwill. Thus, do not expect any touristy stuff like photo booths, animal shows, cafe, etc. Instead, be prepared to learn more about the turtles in the region and why/how are the centre set up. During our visit, we had a volunteer from the centre who provided a guided tour and a fantastic question-and-answer session.

Please donate generously to a good cause

This is the place where the hatchlings are bred until they are old enough to be released back into the ocean

Sick turtles (adult ones) are kept in this pool for observation

A sick green turtle

With the myriad of sea sports activities in Bali, it’s no surprise that accidents involving turtles are not uncommon. Some of these injured turtles will be brought to this centre for treatment, before being released back into the ocean. Some, however, may never make it back to the ocean. This huge turtle, for example, (see photo below) lost two of its flippers during an accident and will not be able to survive in the wild on its own. Thus, according to the guide, it will never leave the centre. It’s quite sad, actually.

This turtle lost its right fore flipper during an accident and is unlikely to leave the conservation centre (into the wild)

Other than treating sick or injured turtles, the centre’s other responsibility is to collect the turtle eggs from the wild for hatching. Unfortunately, it was not the right season when we visited the centre and the hatchery was empty.

The hatchery

Like the more touristy “Turtle Island”, this centre also allowed us to hold and feel the turtles. Turtles are really cute creatures and they didn’t really struggle (as signs of distress) when we held them in our hands. And of course, we also didn’t hold them for an extended period of time. 🙂

That’s me and the cute little creature

This is one of the juvenile turtles

This is a baby one

Useful Information – Serangan Turtle Conservation and Education Centre, the one we went : 

The Other Turtle Conservation, aka Turtle Island via a 20 minute glass-bottom boat ride : 

  • Trip Advisor Thread 1
  • Trip Advisor Thread 2
  • I think both of the threads above and many of the complaints about the tourist traps, cruelty towards the animals, etc refer to the same place, aka the so-called Turtle Island. I am not sure where’s this turtle island cos I have not been to that place. But I am sure that place is not the one I went.

Estimated traveling time by car:

  • Kuta  Serangan : 40 minutes

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Bali – Tanah Lot

Our original plan was to visit Tanah Lot in the evening as I heard it has one of the most beautiful sunset in Bali. However, my guide advised me against the idea as the place is usually very crowded in the evening and it will be very difficult to get a photo without passers-by. Besides, December is a rainy period in Bali and there is a high probability that we won’t get to see the sunset anyway. I agreed with his analysis and he was proven right again; read on to find out why. ◕ิ‿◕ิ

A typical facade in Bali

There are 2 entrances to the famous Pura Tanah Lot (aka Tanah Lot Temple) and our guide brought us to the one that is further away from the temple. If you look from where we were (facing the sea), Pura Tanah Lot will be on your left, and on your right will be a smaller temple (Pura Batu Balong) located at the end of an arch. As a tourist, I find Pura Batu Balong more scenic than its more famous counterpart. However as a devotee, Pura Tanah Lot is definitely more impressive. 🙂

Pura Batu Balong on top of an arch

Pura Batu Balong (Temple)

There are many “sea temples” in Bali and Tanah Lot is one of them. What’s spectacular about these sea temples is the scenic coastline and most of them are built on top or near a cliff. If you like, you can even go down to the beach at Tanah Lot for a dip. For us, a group photo at the midpoint is good enough. 🙂

Another temple at Tanah Lot

A group photo with the famous Pura Tanah Lot in the background

A closer look at Pura Tanah Lot (The temple)

So I said in the beginning of this post that it is not a bad idea to visit Tanah Lot first thing in the morning, right? It was about 10am when we reached the temple and as you can see from the photos below, it was already quite crowded. Can you imagine the crowd in the evening, when everybody will be there for the sunset? Besides, it’s true that the weather in Bali is unpredictable during the rainy season. It was scorching hot when we were at Tanah Lot and then thunderstorm came just before we left; all in a matter of 2 hours. I guess a hot and sunny morning is any time better than a (potential) rainy or cloudy evening. Thus, I am glad that we took the guide’s recommendation and switched our itinerary.

A small crowd at the “foot” of the famous temple, Pura Tanah Lot

It was quite crowded, actually.

Useful Information – Tanah Lot : 

Address and Opening Hours:

  • Address: Jl. Tanah Lot, Canggu
  • Opening hours: 7am ~ 7pm

Admission Charges:

  • Adult: IDR 60,000
  • Child: IDR 30,000

Estimated traveling time by car:

  • Kuta  Tanan Lot : 1 hour

Best time to visit Tanah Lot?

  • I think the best time is during the low tide so that you could get real close to the temple. In our case, the tide wasn’t low enough and we couldn’t make it to the temple without getting wet.
  • Sunset will be good, but I think the crowd and weather should be considered as well.

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