We’re up early today as we’ve a big day planned. After a great, somewhat traditional American breakfast, substituting watermelon juice for orange juice (a new yummy favorite), Gina, Barbara (a new friend Gina made here in Bali while working), myself, our guide, Dewa, and our driver (a longer Balinese name which, sadly, I forgot approximately two-minutes after he told me) head out at 8:00am. We’ve hired these guys for the day and have much planned.
First stop, Klungkung city, to visit the Kertagosa Court of Justice. This was the largest court of justice when Balinese Kings ruled. This is the place lawbreakers would be brought to for the king to hear the charges against them and rule on their punishment. It’s an open-air building surrounded by beautiful, well-manicured gardens. The ceiling is covered with traditional Kamason-style paintings which are created using a very specific process (read more about it here). While there, Dewa explains the history of Bali from the time of the Dutch ruling, through World War One, into World War Two, and the Japanese occupation, and onto when Indonesia became an Independent country.
Outside, we have a great time joking with some younger people who are as fascinated by our white-skinned, western look (not cowboy western, but world geography western) as we are with their Balinese beauty. We each request to take photos of each other and joke about who’s more gangsta’.
Next, we head across the garden and into a small museum filled with historical artifacts, textiles and depictions of gods, before climbing back into the car where we head to Satria Agrowisata Coffee Plantation. While you may know of the famous coffees from Java and Sumatra in Indonesia, you may not be aware of Luwak coffee. I’ve nicknamed this “coffee poo” with good reason. This is made by feeding coffee beans to a Mongoose-type animal called a Paradoxuris. The Paradoxuris digests, then excretes the coffee beans (he poops beans!) which are then harvested, cleaned, roasted and prepared into a fine cup of Joe. The only beverage I love more than red wine is coffee, and I simply must try some coffee poo. We walk through the path and down into the lush, green jungle where we’re led through a series of plants from which a variety of spices grow (much like that in India which I wrote about in Jungle Spice). We’re taught the coffee roasting, grinding and sifting process and then we’re led to the tasting area where we taste a variety of coffees and teas which are laid out before us and included in the admission price. I pay and extra $3.75 to try the $100 a pound Luwak coffee. It’s a bit bitter and gritty, and leaves a sludge-like substance on the bottom of the cup. (It’s coffee poo for goodness sakes!)
Following our foray into drinking animal dung, we head up into the mountains to have lunch with a beautiful view at the Lake Batur and the accompanying Mt. Batur volcano. It’s an excellent buffet and with an astounding view in the slightly cooler air which elevation gain brings.
Next, we head to the Besakih Temple. Built in 1285 by a Javanese priest, the Besakih Temple is the largest one in Bali. Every temple has their own festival on different dates and today is part of the ten-day festival at the Besakih Temple. It’s filled with thousands of Hindus who have made the pilgrimage here to share their offerings with the gods. The air is filled with the scent of incense, and men, women and children are dressed in white as well as in colorful sarongs. Music is played to accompany prayers and the combination of these is a treat for all the senses. Although thousands are present, walking up the many stairs and into the various sections of the temple is not noisy and everyone has a smile on their faces. The view from the top is extraordinary and I’m truly grateful to be here in this moment.
Also at the top are a few vendors selling the traditional magnets, key-chains, musical instruments and other tourist items. Dewa teaches me how to say “teeta,” which means “no” in Indonesian because, until now, I’m just a girl who can’t say no.
We walk across the top path on the outside of the temple – as prayers are going on, it’s not polite of us to enter inside, yet we can see fairly well over the wall to view the masses gathering – and head down the staircase on the other side. On the way down I encounter a lady, who is at least seventy-years old, walking up. She reaches her hand out to me so I politely reach back. We hold hands and she kisses mine while saying something that I’m later told is the name of the city she came from today. Her town is four hours away and she, like most here, will make the round-trip journey in one day. She’s climbing many stairs with an awful lot of other people in high-heat and humidity, yet is smiling and peaceful. These people are doing something right.
We arrive at the bottom and walk further down the hill to our car where we next head to another village to view the famous Balinese rice paddies. The paddies, which are grown on hillside terraces, are greener than can be described and even the irrigation system is beautiful, with water fed from pipes embedded in the uppermost terraces and allowed to gently trickle down to lower terraces. The scene is picturesque in the truest sense of the word in that, even while viewing in person, I’m not completely convinced it isn’t a painting. If you’ve ever visited the Grand Canyon, you’ll have a sense of what I mean. If you haven’t, then get yourself to the Grand Canyon or a rice paddy and inhale a bit of nature. It’s good for you.
Finally, at about 3:00, we head back to the hotel and take a quick dip in the pool before changing to wander through a few interesting shops (okay, it’s happy-hour and we may or may not test some of the happy-hour Mojitos being offered at some of the many bars and restaurants). We say goodbye to Barbara, stroll a little more, and sit down for dinner at Ubud Homemade Restaurant where we find good pizza and salad, cold beer, and a really spectacular Balinese jazz sextet. Both the variety and quality of music in Ubud is excellent and I can’t wait to explore more of the local talent.
Tomorrow – Exploring the town of Ubud by foot.
Next month – I go where you tell me so, don;t forget to vote here!