Temples Ulan Danu Bratan & Tanah Lot

Cactus garden at Bali Botanic Gardens

Cactus garden at Bali Botanic Gardens

Our final day of being ‘out and about’ on Bali with Kadek began with a drive north of Seminyak to the Bali Botanic Gardens (not the ones 2km from Ubud, the ones near Bedugul, up in the mountains). When we planned our journey, we had no idea that it was a public holiday, so there were huge crowds, all in groups identified by the brightly coloured t-shirts, from various banking organisations. It was family day, and all the employees and their loved ones were making the most of the glorious weather and the economic choice of entertainment, and were hanging out in the gardens. There were activities, bands, competitions and some really bad karaoke happening, but they all seemed to be loving it.

The gardens are so large that there were plenty of places for us to avoid the organised activities and wander on our own. It certainly was bliss to escape the heat of Seminyak for a while. On one of our walks on moss-covered, and quite perilous, paths, we found an ornate temple-like structure, beautifully carved from stone. There was a young family unpacking a picnic, and we smiled at each other and I made my pathetic effort at conversation, which consisted solely of greeting them in Indonesian. The mother offered to share their food with us, which was very touching and surprising. Out of politeness we declined…and then I fretted about whether declining WAS actually being polite in Bali! Kadek says offering to share food with strangers is a completely ordinary thing to do. The Balinese are such generous, kind people.

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We explored only a tiny fraction of what the gardens had to offer. We managed a cactus house, an orchid garden (it was the wrong time of year for most of them to be in bloom, but I can imagine that it would’ve been spectacular), some rainforest and a jungle of giant bamboo. I guess it really wasn’t a surprise that our presence was a novelty at the gardens. Most Australian tourists don’t venture beyond Kuta, Jimbaran, Nusa Dua, Seminyak and Ubud. The Europeans do, but not so much the Aussies. But Bali really does have more to offer for those who are looking beyond the next expensive meal in a Western restaurant (of which we had plenty – and they were delicious!)

Near to the Botanic Gardens was the Temple Ulan Danu Bratan, situated on the edge of the crater lake, Danau Batur. This is the second most important temple on Bali (the first being Besakih), and honours the goddess of the crater lake – Dewi Danu. The temple itself is a directional temple, protecting Bali from the north. Even though it was an overcast, cool, drizzly day, Danu Bratan was crowded with tourists and devotees, busloads arriving in a continuous flow. As impressive as this temple was in the atmospheric mist, which, after clearing, was replaced by theatrical slate coloured clouds, I can imagine how glorious this setting would’ve been in the full sun.

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The Bedugul Markets provided a vibrant diversion when we were leaving the area, but not at all teeming with tourists, which makes for pleasant browsing. Although, I am aware that I am a huge disappointment to vendors, as I often have no interest in purchasing, just looking – especially at the food stalls.

On our drive back down the mountains, we called into a little Kopi Luwak place – a family business that harvests, roasts and sells the famous coffee made from the beans excreted by the Asian palm civet. We began with admiring these animals in their 2 separate display cages (not together because they are cranky beasts that fight), before moving on to view the roasting process. The 2 animals on display were not the only ones they had – just the ones selected for public gawking for the day. The roasting process was pretty primitive – simply a fire, low cement hot plate, and a pan. From there the beans are ground with a gigantic pestle before being passed on for sampling at the outdoor wooden-tabled tasting station. As I am not a coffee drinker, it was John’s task to sample the wares. The odd thing about this coffee (and the other many samples of coffee with various flavours added) was that it was simply put into hot water like instant ‘International Roast’ – there was no brewing, as such, and as a result it was very ordinary. Am not sure if this is the Balinese way with all coffee, or whether when you are charged $25 for a cup of it at a fancy place in Seminyak it is actually brewed. Either way, John was not interested in purchasing a pack to take with us. I did buy some ginger and lemon teas as gifts that were part of the sampling process, but I think we may have been disappointing customers to this little business owner.

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The interesting thing about Kopi Luwak is that apparently the taste differs markedly, depending on a number of things, including the ability of the civet to select its berries, and its heath, such as any stress it may be under. In the coffee industry, this particular brew is viewed as a gimmick or novelty, and it’s quite interesting to read various reviews on it.

From our Kopi Luwak experience, we headed south through some truly gorgeous countryside where our next destination awaited us on the coast, north west of Seminyak. Pura Tanah Lot is particularly holy to the Balinese, and is the most popular of the temples for visitors. And the machine of tourism runs smoothly and constantly here, from the ring of souvenir shops and hawkers at the top of the cliff to the old guy charging for use of the toilets. Charging for a pee is not in itself unusual in a hot tourist spot, but having the ‘toilet tender’ tell a fib that his squat loos were the only sort available at the temple, only to discover on leaving that there were plenty of other Western toilets just around the corner, was not cool (especially for those of us with short Achilles tendons!).

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It’s pretty obvious why this pura is so popular – Tanah Lot perches on coastal rocky outcrops, flirting with her visitors whose pilgrimage is hindered or helped by the tidal water. Our arrival was timed quite well, with only puddles to navigate rather than having to actually wade through the lapping ocean. Once again, many gathered and posed and giggled and waved – all thrilled to be at one of the holiest places on Bali.

More than a tad tired from our exertions of the day, our trusty driver, Kadek, chauffeured us back to Kanishka Villas, safely navigating, smoothly driving and not minding that once more we dozed off in the back while waiting for him to conquer the afternoon traffic. Our experience with Kadek was a truly delightful one; his English is excellent, he has a cheeky sense of humour, he has great suggestions of what to see on Bali and how to spend our time, and he is a damned good driver. Now, this last point may not be important to many customers, but it is only when you experience others that you realise what you are missing – he is efficient, safe and smooth. We had to use another driver for our Ubud transfer (as Kadek already had a gig), and we weren’t even out of Seminyak before I began to feel woozy because of the jerky actions of the constant braking then accelerating of the driver. We wanted Kadek back!

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Our last dinner in Seminyak was at Ginger Moon – another excellent choice. The décor was stylish, yet relaxed, the food truly inventive and exciting, and the service was friendly and fairly prompt (it was completely full, so staff were flitting about all over the place serving happy customers). Ginger Moon ticked lots of boxes for me, but I was particularly happy with the unique take on Asian fusion. Dishes are clearly meant for sharing, and there really were so many options to suit all tastes. The favourite for the carnivores was the crispy pork belly with orange anise reduction and chilli salt, and the vegetarians were smitten with the surprising combination of curry and cauliflower on a pizza – brilliant! The eclectic menu really was one of the highlights of the whole holiday, and there were no disappointments in the any of the many dishes we sampled.

Now, on to Ubud…

Driver used for day trips: Kadek from Kadek Mishel Transport

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About bontaks

Nic is the the 'Bon' part of 'Bontaks.' Together we are Nic and John - two travel-addicted teachers who enjoy every opportunity to go places, meet people and experience life.

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