Our time in Asia was coming to an end, but before we started the long journey home, we had one more stop in Bali. Bali is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go because of their culture, cuisine, and scenery. While I was in other parts of Asia, however, I began hearing that Bali was dirty and not as enjoyable as I’d always imagined. Of course, we wanted to see for ourselves and I’m glad that we did. There is something about their commitment to tradition that is incredible to see and the food did not disappoint. In the future, I hope to return to Bali to explore the yoga scene, but for now, I hope you enjoy reading about our tour-packed visit last November.
When we arrived in Bali, we went to a boutique hotel called Griya Santrian. We were starving so we had a quick lunch, pizza for Scott (I think he needed a break from Asian food) and Beef Padang for me, and then took a nap on the beach until the rain came. The rains in Bali were unlike anything I’ve ever seen and they kept us indoors for the remainder of the first day. The opportunity to relax and watch a movie was just what we needed because the following day was FULL.
We ate a quick breakfast at our hotel and were picked up in a van for a Temple Tour. In the end, we saw so much more than temples. Our first stop was a wood carving studio. We watched talented artists carve masterpieces in very short periods of time. After touring the shop, we purchased several wood sculptures to bring back to our friends and family. We moved on to a painting studio which was even more incredible. The building itself was extremely ornate and stunning to look at and it had room after room of gorgeous original paintings. We brought home several pieces from there as well and many of them hang in our home as focal points. Apparently, Bali is known for it’s art and artists and it wasn’t hard to see why.
The next stop was Tanah Lot, an amazing temple right on the ocean. It was given to the village by a priest. I made sure to dress appropriately for temples (shoulders and knees covered for women), but we never did get to enter any of the enclosed Hindu temples. It didn’t dampen the experience any because these buildings were amazing to look at from any vantage point.
We happened to be in Bali during a special time. It was the week after Galungan which is a Hindu Temple Festival that symbolizes the victory of good over evil and offering thanks to the gods. It is also the time with the gods come down to Earth. During this celebration, all statues are wrapped in sarongs to clothe and acknowledge them. Also, penjors are erected all over town (bamboo poles with offerings) and huge parties are held at the temples throughout the island. We got to see a lot of the preparations for these events.
After Tanah Lot, we had lunch overlooking a rice field and watched the fog start to roll in on our sunny day.
Following lunch, we went to my favorite temple called The Lake Temple or Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. There was the most torrential rains I had ever seen during our visit to this temple. We were walking through flash floods that sloshed up to our knees and it was surprisingly warm. The umbrellas we are carrying in these photos did very little to keep us dry, but we had fun taking shelter under beautiful gazebos on the temple grounds. As we snuggled up under these roofs, we had the interesting experience of having Asian tourists ask us to take photos with them. We had several groups of people say we looked like movie stars and they kept commenting on our height and our teeth. Apparently, they weren’t very used to seeing Westerners, and we had fun chatting with people and taking photos with them.
The last temple was called The Royal Temple or Taman Ayun. This temple was totally different! Each pagoda had an odd number of tiers symbolizing a certain member of a royal family. The entire compound was surrounding by canals and gorgeous gardens. We got to get up close to the architecture more at this final stop. One moment of note was the slaughtering of the pigs. Our guide was very excited to show us this cultural event of sacrificing the pigs and preparing them for the festival. Knowing that I might offend our guide and his culture, I had to walk away, but I did appreciate the significance of the event and their heritage. Scott watched the event and took photos, but I won’t share them here. Instead, I’ll post the photos of the incredible scenery and other festival preparations we were able to watch.
My personal favorite part was the Barong. The Barong is a lion-dog-man creature who represents good in the fight against evil. He is the king of spirits in Hindu mythology. The Balinese do a Barong dance at these festivals to represent his fight against evil.
The Royal Temple was our final temple to visit, but not the last stop on this tour. We continued to drive around with our guides who gave us so much interesting history about the island. Such as, Bali is a Hindu island in the Muslim nation of Indonesia and there are some tensions regarding those differences. We learned more about the Penjor and that they are built by the men and the offerings are made by the women. Then we discussed Luwak Coffee (some of the most expensive in the world) and decided to stop at a Luwak coffee farm for a sampling. Basically, kopi luwak are lemur-like creatures that are so picky that they only eat the most perfect coffee berries. Then when the coffee passes through their digestive system, it is harvested, roasted and turned into a coffee that costs between $100 and $500 per pound. We got to meet some kopi luwaks and sample several different types of coffee made at this particular farm. We did bring some back for family, but unfortunately, it was instant and not quite as good as the fresh brewed stuff at the farm.
After an amazing cup of coffee, we were finally done with an awe-inspiring day of touring. We had a light dinner and an early bed time because the following day would be full of even more touring an a lot of eating.
Our last full day in Asia was our pork tour! We were guided by a really sweet Balinese girl throughout the island to taste the most famous Balinese dishes. Bali is famous for their pork and, thanks to Anthony Bourdain, we knew we had to experience these delicacies. We made several different stops on this tour and they were ALL amazing, the captions on the photos below describe the place and the dishes we had.
When the pork tour was over, we slipped into a food coma for most of the afternoon on the beach outside of our hotel while the weather was still nice.
The next day was our FINAL day on the most epic trip. We got up, watched the sunrise, bonded with some stray beach dogs, and took it slow while we geared up for another very long day of travel.
It’s going to be really hard to beat our first time in Asia. The food, sights, culture, and experiences were unforgettable. I can’t wait to revisit this corner of the globe over and over again…if I’m lucky.