– JUNE 05-06, 2015
While in Ubud we have organized a tour to cover multiple places in the northern region of Bali.
TRADITIONAL INDONESIAN DANCE PERFORMANCE
First we were taken to a small theatre for a traditional Indonesian dance performance. It told a story of love, greed, power, indifference, acceptance and success. They have the various parts of the dance explained on a printed paper in multiple languages, which makes sense while watching the performance. If you didn’t have the paper explanation then it would be visually stimulating, but confusing to follow.
The entire performance took just under an hour. It was interesting, but not as impressive as the fire dance we saw back in South Kuta.
GOA GAJAH (Elephant Cave Temple)
Goa Gajah, or the Elephant Cave, is located on the island of Bali in the mid-north region. It was built in the 9th century and served as a sanctuary. In 1995 this site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage site list. The site has partial stones excavated, but also whole sections for visiting. The façade of the cave contains a relief of various menacing creatures and demons carved right into the rock at the cave entrance. The primary figure was once thought to be an elephant, hence the nickname “Elephant Cave“. The extensive bathing areas were built to ward off evil spirits.
TIRTA EMPUL TEMPLE (The Holy Spring Temple)
Tirta Empul Temple is a Hindu temple near the town of Tampaksiring, on the Indonesian island of Bali. Tirta Empul means Holy Spring in Balinese. It is famous for its holy water where people go for purification. People collect the water into containers to take away, as well as jumping into the pool to purify themselves there on the spot. The temple pond has a spring which gives out fresh water regularly, which is considered as holy by the local Hindu Bali people.
The temple was built in 962 AD, at a site where there was a large natural water spring. The temple is divided into three sections: Jaba Pura (front yard), Jaba Tengah (central yard), and dan Jeroan (inner yard). In Jaba Tengah there are two pools with thirty showers. The temple is dedicated to “Vishnu“, a Hindu god.
GUNUNG BATUR (The Viewing of Mount Batur)
Mount Batur is an active volcano located at the center of two concentric calderas north west of Mount Agung in Bali, Indonesia. On September 20, 2012 UNESCO made Mount Batur a part of the Global Geopark Network. The first historically documented eruption of Batur was in 1804, and it has been frequently active since then. A substantial lava field from the 1968 eruption is visible from the town Kintamani. Our driver took us to Kintamani for lunch to see the view from a lunch spot, but it turned out that he was offered a kick-back if he took us to a certain place. This place was nice, but they had the same Indonesian food as we see everywhere else but for western prices. For Jill and I to dine would have cost $50 Cdn, which we were not spending here. We left the restaurant and figured out food elsewhere. The driver was not happy, but he had to deal with it. There’s almost always a scam in Indonesia when you’re dealing with the locals, which is sad.
THE MOTHER TEMPLE OF BESAKIH (The Biggest Temple in Bali located at the slope of Mount Agung)
This was quite the experience…not in a good way. First the information, the Temple of Besakih is the most important and largest holy temple of Hindu religion in Bali. It is located nearly 1000m up the side of Mount Agung and contains an extensive complex of 23 separate but related temples. The entrance is an imposing split gateway with a second entrance to another courtyard.
The driver got us close to the entrance, but then two random guys blocked the road and demanded we pay for our tickets in advance of getting to the temple. As a practise, we insist on only buying our tickets at the entrance gates of sites (this happens all of the time in Indonesia and usually you end up paying more for your tickets through the drivers than if you buy them yourself). This time was different, as they would not let us pass otherwise. We reluctantly paid the ticket fees (about $3 Cdn each) and were handed our tickets.
The driver pulled into the parking lot and told us to NOT pay anyone to guide us through the palace as it will be a scam. We walked about 20 feet and of course we had a gang of thugs tell us we had to pay for a guide (what they called a “guardian of the temple” if you can believe that garbage) and I told them we were not interested. They blocked us from entering the temple grounds, so I went back and got our driver to help us. He was useless! He told them to get lost, they yelled back at him and he buckled like he was being stomped on by Godzilla! I stood firm and they demanded a “donation”. I told them we would donate 1,000 rupiah (about 10 cents Cdn) and they told us the “donation” had to be 50,000 rupiah (about $5 Cdn). I asked how a “donation” could be a mandatory amount, then they got angry with me. I stood firm and a stare down ensued.
We were standing with another couple, so the four of us agreed to split the 50,000 rupiah cost between us just to end this madness and get on with viewing the temple. The “Guardian of the Temple” wanted 50,000 from each of us, but we told them to go pound sand. They finally agreed and walked us to the entrance. A different “Guardian” then took over and when we asked questions he would answer them, but otherwise did not teach us anything about the temple as we walked through it.
These scams are everywhere in Indonesia and it really, really ruins the tourist experience. You need to leave it be, but coming from the western world these kind of actions would put you out of business so fast it wouldn’t be funny. In Indonesia it seems they must have a “con the white tourist” school, because it gets old fast dealing with people with the same routine who think we are completely stupid.
Anyhow…on with the temple pictures. It was a cool structure, but be aware they are building new pieces to it today and pretending it was all original.
BUKIT JAMBUL (View of Rice Terrace)
We had arranged for a viewing of a rice terrace, but the driver seemed to forget about this at the end of our day. We had to have a very frank discussion with him, then he relented and drove us to this location. The view was pretty far off and was obstructed in view by large trees. Jill found some better rice fields within walking distance from Ubud.
At this location we were allowed to use the public washroom. Yeah….take a look below. Sadly, this is pretty much standard across Indonesia (unless you enter a nice restaurant or a nice hotel).
It was a tour that did not live up to our expectations, but if we had to rent a vehicle ourselves and drive to these spots it wouldn’t have worked. The maps on paper and online are not accurate, as Indonesia changes so quickly maps are not current. Roads exist where they are not on maps and vice-versa. Plus the police stop tourist vehicles and demand 50,000 rupiah payment for you to continue…in a shuttle bus it isn’t a problem. Be careful in Indonesia.
For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.