Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bali - 3

Parts 1 and 2 be found here and here.

The rest of the second day was spent in visiting a couple of temples and watching a performance of the Kecak dance. The first temple we visited was the Goa Gajah temple. Goa means cave and Gajah means elephant. So, it translates to Elephant Cave. There are carvings on many menacing looking creatures at the entrance of the cave and one of them is believed to be that of an elephant. Hence the name - Elephant Cave.

Like most temples in Bali, one has to be dressed in a traditional sarong (a wrap around) to enter the cave so as to respect the religious sentiments. Everyone is provided with a  sarong at the entrance (which is included in the 10000 rupiah entrance fee), which has to be returned later. It is said that this temple was built more than 700 years ago but was discovered only in the 1920's. At the entrance of the cave, one can see many pieces of ruins arranged in a small field. The local guide told us that this was from the entrance of the cave, which was damaged due to an earthquake. One can also find huge pieces from a status of Buddha nearby, which is also believed to have been destroyed by an earthquake.

We then went to visit another temple, but I have completely forgotten its name. You see, temples are generally not high on my 'must-see-things' list when I am on a holiday. But, then again each of the temple we visited had this serene atmosphere, where one feels that he/she can think in peace. A place where one can contemplate on his/her life without getting distracted by the trivialities of everyday life. I don't know how most temples manage to have that atmosphere.

By now, it had started getting dark and we ended our sight-seeing day by watching a performance of the kecak dance performed at one of the local institutions. The speciality of this dance performance is that they don't use any musical instruments. Instead the entire background music is provided by the chants of many men, who seemed to chant many variations of the sound 'cak'. The dance is actually a musical drama which depicts some of the prominent scenes from the Ramayana. Now, the Ramayana is not new to Indians and hence we were able to understand what is happening. We were also provided with brochures which explained the scenes which were being enacted for the benefit of the non-hindu or a non-Indian audience. There was even a fire dance, where one of the dancers danced on a burning dry coconut skins. That kind of freaked me out a bit. Just imagine, this guy does it almost every day.

The day ended with a hearty dinner at this restaurant called Simpang Cafe, which is located quite close to where we were staying. Infact, we ended up going there for dinner on both the nights we stayed at Bali. Not only did they serve fantastic food, they had a vegetarian menu. They did great with the vegetarian versions on Nasi Goreng and Mee Goreng. One word - YUM! My dinner there on both days were accompanied with a glass of orange juice. I was pleasantly surprised that the orange juice tasted a bit different from what we generally have here in Singapore. It was like they had added some special/exotic herb to the juice. I thoroughly enjoyed it. My friend told me later that it was the natural taste of the oranges grown in that region and that no herb was added to the juice as such. It was fantastic! One should definitely try out a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in Bali. The dinner marked the end of a hectic day for me. While my friends continued partying at one of the clubs, I retired early to catchup on some much needed sleep. It was bliss.

The next day was spent shopping for souvenirs and getting a relaxing massage at one of the massage parlours around the hotel. Like I had mentioned in my first post on Bali, Jln Legian is a great place to stroll around and shop. Lovely stuff!

I will definitely visit Bali again to look at many places which I missed out on during this holiday due to lack of time. On my list are the black sandy beaches in the north of Bali and the towering Gunung Agung.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bali - 2

Part 1 of the series can be found here. 

While the day was spent in a quiet way, we all decided to make the night a happening one. Plans were promptly made to check out the club(s). My friend, who had visited Bali previously suggested that we had to visit Kudeta. But we couldn't get reservations since it was a weekend I guess. So we went to checkout the other places. As long as I got to drink alcohol, be a bit high and there is good music and company around, I didn't care where we went to :P

Looks like Bali has some of the most hip and happening nightlife and restaurants in south east Asia. They are all so chic and classy that its quite easy to get mesmerized. I just couldn't get enough of such places and was quite in awe! Not that Singapore doesn't have such places, but I had never imagined Bali would be that way. Not that I am complaining. I have always been a sucker for class and sophistication ;)

After partying most of the night away, I woke up quite sleepy-eyed. But there was no time to go back to bed. I was in Bali for just about three days and there was no way I was going to spend it sleeping in a hotel room. After a nice and refreshing breakfast, it was time to hit the road and soak in the other sights that Bali had to offer.

We had engaged a driver and a car to show us around and hence didn't bother to find out about the public transport options available. We started off with a visit to Sanur beach, which was just about ok. The beach seemed to be quite shallow and it looked like one could walk quite a bit into the sea with the water level still below the knees. But, the beach offered nice views of flights approaching a landing at the Ngurah Rai International airport. 

It was quite a hot day and we were more than happy to get back into the cool confines of our car and proceed to our next destination - Ubud. Enroute, we stopped at a Batik art centre, where we could see the local crasftmen making Batik prints. I was under the impression that batik was an exclusive Indian art, but apparently its not. A quick look at the wikipedia entry on Batik tells that it is extensively practiced in Indonesia too. The Batik art centre even had a huge showroom adjoining where one could buy shirts and other items of clothing with batik prints.

We stopped for lunch at this wonderful restaurant called as Adia Asri. Oh, what a fantastic place with a fantastic view and serving up some fantastic fare. YUM YUM YUMMY! They even had a separte Vegetarian section in the menu. I think I almost jumped up and down with joy. 

Whenever I visit a new place, I always do some research beforehand on the different types of food available there, the specialties, exotic stuff. But, somehow on this trip, I was not at all excited about the food. Probably because I knew that there would hardly be any vegetarian options other than gado-gado perhaps. Again, I was pleasantly surprised. Every restaurant we went to happily obliged us when asked for vegetarian versions. One more thing which I noticed was the way in which food was presented. Almost in every place, it was neatly arranged and so visually appealing. Perfect!

Karala Special

Ubud is the cultural capital of Bali. I believe there are quite a few museums but we didn't visit them. We spent most of our time looking around Puri Saren Ubud or the Ubud Palace. It was a cute and charming place. Somehow, I had a very relaxed feeling when I was around the palace. While my friends we busy taking snaps, I was quite content with observing the palace through my own eyes (Ah! The advantages of not taking a camera). I don't know much about the history of this palace, but we were told that some people still reside in the palace. Wow! Imagine that. It would be so lovely to stay there.

And oh! We also happened to meet a very very friendly and adorable dog, who seemed to enjoy all the attention that the visitors were bestowing upon him/her. Awwww! I think I almost dissolved into a puddle. If ever in my life I have a dog (maybe I should, Hmmmmm....), I want him/her to be just as friendly as this dog. I had always been scared of dogs my entire life, but ever since this happened, I have developed a soft corner for them.

We later visited the market situated next to the palace. It was a typical touristy market selling many souvenirs and other such stuff. It was very reminiscent of India with prices being quoted more than double. Significant bargaining is expected.

More in the next post.

All photos are by Srivats.