Break 3 – Ubud Temples & Dance

And here is the remainder of our Bali experience – this time the Dance and Temples from our Ubud part of the trip.

En route to Ubud, we took a tour into the ‘Mother Temple’ of the island at Besakih Temple. It is located on the slopes of Mount Agung, the highest peak (volcano) on the island at over 1000 metres, and is over 1000 years old. There are actually many temples here. There are temples for each of the 8 regions of Bali, temples dedicated to Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu who together exemplify the 1 God, and even temples to specific groups of people. For example there is an iron workers temple where the colour red is used extensively to symbolize the fire used by iron workers.


The Hindu priests are both men and women of the highest caste. Typically, they live their ‘earthly’ life first by having a family, and then once the children are grown, they become a priest. At that time, they give up all their worldly possessions and move to the temple sanctuary and become priests.

The entire complex is built up the mountainside. Temples are routinely maintained, and just as the churches of Europe are often surrounded by scaffolding, so are the temples here. The thatch roofs need to replaced when they wear thin. If local materials are used, a roof will last about 50% longer than if imported materials are used. But it is harder to get local materials, so they end up replacing the roofs every 50 or so years. Once the repairs are complete, the temple cannot be used until a special ceremony has been held to bless the new building. The same is true of any new building in Bali – it cannot be used until it has been blessed.

There is a yellow flag draped at the entry to signify that the building can now be used – and you often will see one on new homes and hotel buildings to let you know that it is now usable.

There was a cremation ceremony at one of the regional temples and Mike was allowed to photo although we could not enter the temple where the ceremony was being held. This was likely a more important or wealthy person since it is expensive to hold a cremation ceremony. More commonly, group ceremonies are held in local villages, usually twice a year.

All temples consist of the same basic layout. There is an outer temple, a middle, and an inner temple. The entire temple is surrounded by a wall, with large gates marking the entrance to each section. The gates are framed by statues often indicating the type of temple. Each area contains different types of buildings. The outer section is used for group gatherings and there are often shelters for dancers and drum bands (see photo below of a drum band at the dance we attended). The middle area contains buildings where food is prepared and ceremonial items are stored, and the inner temple contains the large pavilions for the gods. There is a large open pavilion where the gods are supposed to assemble to watch over temple ceremonies. And there are open bales where offerings are made in many places. When making offerings, the person must wear their sarong, sash around the waist and be shoeless (as seen at left). Visitors to temples must also be appropriately covered – usually a sarong is worn which can be rented if necessary (we brought our own). Incense is usually included in the offering along with a blessing of holy water.

Once in Ubud, we arranged to see one more dance performance. This time we went to an evening performance (along with MANY Japanese tourists who are everywhere here in Ubud) to see the Legong Dance performed by a professional troop.

The performance had several ‘acts’, the main one being the Legong dance itself. The Legong (at right) is performed by several young women (girls actually) and the movements – both body and facial are very intricate. There is a lengthy story of the Legong – if you are interested, click here

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There was an entry procession, a welcome dance, and a warrior dance – the Baris Tunggal (photoed at right). This dance included a solo depicting the moods of a young heroic warrior. The other dances included a Barong dance (photoed above left), as well as performances by the drum band(below left), and a dance with the Jauk (at lower right). The Jauk is a masked character with long hair and

fingernails who openly expresses his feelings – it is a kind but crude character which is loved by the Balinese for its openness.
And once again, we had a lovely room in our hotel – Tegal Sari in Ubud. We were at the end of the complex, and our room looked out over the rice fields. We could hear the chanting at the temples in the distance, the clacking of the bird chasing windmills and smell the fires which were set in the rice fields once they were harvested.

The fields were totally worked by hand and we saw them harvesting the fields right beside our rooms. All of the supplies were hauled in by hand in the morning, and carried away at days end. Of course, all on their heads 🙂

And with this peaceful scene, we headed off from Bali. It was the perfect break for us and Mike and Kyle both were much rested to head back to school. Definitely somewhere we would highly recommend and will hopefully return to one day.

Break 3 – Ubud Monkeys and Markets

I’m splitting our Ubud experience by topic rather than days. We visited the markets and the monkeys on several occasions, but I’m grouping them all together to give a more concise review.

Surrounded by all the skilled and talented people of Ubud, the Monkey Forest is a beautiful rainforest sanctuary. There are several temples on the property and as you can see, hundreds of monkeys. They are very well fed by both the visitors (you can buy bananas on the way in), and by the staff in addition to their scavenging. The offerings put out at the temples are quickly enjoyed by the monkeys. There are so many bananas that many of the monkeys don’t even bother with them. Even the ones who like bananas do not accost you to get one – they are happy to just approach and take from your open hand.

Mike watched this one mother and baby (at left) at length. She found a whole coconut, and then as he watched she proceeded to crack it open, drink the milk inside, and then peel it open and eat the meat. It was fascinating.

Although they will take food from you, they are definitely wild animals. There are staff walking the grounds ‘keeping an eye’ to make sure none of them get unruly. It is amazing to walk among them and watch their behaviours – and it is very noisy. They are so used to humans that it is like we aren’t there. They groom, eat, nurse, mate, play, bathe, fight, and socialize all around you. Every now and then they will hear a call or fuss and they will all run off to check out what’s going on – often a dispute between two or more others. But just don’t get them mad – I saw several occasions of aggressive teeth baring at visitors if you anger them.

The temples in the Monkey Forest were varied – there was a funeral temple and a graveyard along side. The graves were interesting as they only bury their dead for a short time until they hold the cremation ceremony. So the headstones merely marked the date of death (not birth), and the oldest was just a couple of years ago.

While we were here, it was a full moon, and in addition to the full moon ceremony, it was a 6 month celebration at the local temple. Each temple has it’s own cycle of special celebration dates – but they occur every 6 months (the Balinese calendar has 35 day months and is very complex). On these dates, there are 3 days of larger ceremonies and family members return to celebrate. There are 3 days of special offerings including animal sacrifices – which are eaten after the ceremony. Since there were ceremonies ongoing, we could not enter the temples. But as you can see from a couple of shots, they were very nature oriented and rustic. It felt like we were walking in an Indiana Jones movie!

Back out on the streets, Ubud is the cultural capital of Bali. You can take courses of many kinds, and the stores and markets are full of wonderful handiwork. Just prior to our arrival the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival was held, so we missed out on that one. There are many shops, just as there were in Legian, but here they are much more upscale and the quality of the wares is much better (and less harassing to buy).

And at the top of the main street, is the market. Both tourists and locals shop here. There was everything from food to furniture, clothing to crafts. And everywhere the women (and some men) carried their loads on their heads.

The market opens around 5am with the food sections, and while they close up by about 3pm, the rest of the market stays open till at least 6pm or later for the tourist booths. We spent both time and money in market!


Kyle and I took a Balinese cooking course on Friday (Mike went photo shooting of course). Our lesson started with a trip to the market to discover the local ingredients and spices. They use many of the same foods we use, but their varieties are quite different and unique. For example, their eggplants are about the size and shape of a plum, their cucumber much smaller, and their beans much longer (about 3 feet!!). So despite having the recipes and learning the techniques, we will never be able to totally replicate the dishes since we don’t have the right stuff 🙁

Hopefully we’ll still be able to whip up some decent dishes though. We learned how to make the base gede (spice), and several dishes, all of which we enjoyed. And Kyle has become quite the pro at origami napkin folding. Any restaurant we visit where the napkin folding is unique, Kyle deciphers it and learns to create it. He now has 3 or 4 decent designs under his belt. Can you tell he is getting bored of his parents company?

Break 3 Days 6-10 Amed – the Real Bali

Our drive to Amed took about 3 1/2 hours – again taking us past
spectacular scenery – including roadside monkeys! By now we had learned why the name Wayan – our driver’s name this day – was so common. First born (male or female) are named Wayan, second born are Made (pronounced maudeh), third is Nyoman, fourth is Ketut and then if necessary, the fifth name cycles back to Wayan. Families are not overly large, but obviously Wayan would be the most common!

Our second place of rest in Bali was on the east coast in Amed. Here we were away from the tourist chaos of the south, and were surrounded by the sites and sounds of the ‘real’ Bali.

Our rooms were idyllic. Kyle had his own room with twin beds and Mike & I had our own room (photo). Each room had it’s own bathroom – Kyles complete with a family of geckos who lived high up on the walls. They were nice ‘pets’ except for their noisy nightly chorus of throaty ‘ohhh ohhhh’ which woke Kyle (and us) up at times! Between the rooms was an outdoor sitting area where we spent much time lounging, reading and playing cards.

The restaurant at Anda Amed was very good and the menu while not excessively long, had great variety. We ate several meals there, although we did venture out to try a few other hotel restaurants also. Meals were accompanied by Punkie and Holly (the ducks in the photo). They loved the popcorn given as a pre-dinner snack! There was also Daisy and Creamball the two dogs who were often around. Although they did not beg as such, they sat under your table waiting patiently for any handouts.

Kyle spent endless hours in the pool which had an infinity edge overlooking the ocean. The gardens were again spectacular – with orchids, frangiapani, huge hibiscus trees and many others which I can’t even name.

Amed is a fishing village. On a couple of the mornings, Mike rose early to venture to the beach to see the fishermen. The fishermen went out twice a day – morning and evening. When they returned with their catch, the women would meet them on the beach and carry the fish up the steep hill in baskets on their head. Needless to say, there aren’t a lot of overweight people here!

During the day the locals would work on fixing their nets, maintain their boats, act as chauffeurs to the tourists, or otherwise occupy themselves. On Friday evening we joined several of the locals and other tourists at a bar to see a live band – quite impressive rock ballads (although we suspect that the lead singer learned his English by copying Bon Jovi), some Jimi Hendrix and even they even entertained us with their own creation.

In addition to fishing, there was also lots of local farming, and many of the rice paddies had been ‘upgraded’ by adding a well – this allows them to farm sweet potatoes, corn or other crops which require more routine watering rather than flooding.

School runs in two shifts – morning (7 am to 12:30) or afternoon (12:30 to 6:00). So you often see kids coming or going to school around the noon hour as they shift change. The older kids often share a motorcycle – the younger ones walk or get picked up by motorbike. Rush hour at the school consists of many motorbikes!

The area where we stayed was also a great diving and snorkeling spot. Having a more laid back holiday, we didn’t spend as much time snorkeling this time around. We did get down to the water twice however – once off the beach in front of the hotel, and once we took a drive down to a Japanese ship wreck where there was good snorkeling. The fish were quite good and there was a lot of coral, but after the Ningaloo reef, we found this one to be quite bleached out. But it was still fantastic swimming amongst the schools of fish and seeing the brilliant colours of the fish. It really is a whole other world which you don’t appreciate until you are under the water.

In Amed, Mike and I again visited the local spa – I had a pedicure and Mike a reflexology session. We even returned for another massage, scrub, moisturize, facial, floral / herbal bath treatment. It’s hard to resist since it is so affordable – and there is nothing like having a spa outdoors surrounded by the wonderful aromas of the flowers and the sounds of free roaming chickens, cows and pigs 🙂

With each sunset, we became more relaxed. Bali really is paradise!

Break 3 Days 4&5-Tour from Legian

The camera got a rest day on Tuesday as Mike & I further relaxed at the spa. I had already had my nails painted at the hotel poolside, but now we went for a wonderfully relaxing 1/2 day. We started with a foot bath, followed by massage, then a body scrub, and finally a body moisturizing treatment. Mike and I came back very jello-y and smooth. It was lovely!

On our last full day in Legian, we hooked up with Ketut – a friend of one of the teachers at Pinjara. We did a ‘cultural’ tour with Ketut of the central area of Bali.

We started the morning with a drive to Batubalan – a district where they excel in Balinese dance. We saw the Barong & Rangda performance. This dance is the classic battle between good (Barong) and evil (Rangda). The dance is performed to ensure the balance between good and evil is maintained. The masks are sacred – stored in the temple between performances. The Barong is a magical mythical creature – the protector of mankind. The Rangda is the widowwitch who rules the evil spirits and haunts and possesses people.

Different areas of Bali are experts in different skills. Our next stop was to the batik and weaving area near Denpasar. We saw both the making of the batiks with the wax painting and dipping of the silk, and also the weaving which is still done by hand.

Next we were off to Cheluk where they specialize in silver working. The work is very hard on the eyes – certainly not something I could do all day every day! And of course I could not resist buying a pair of earrings….

Then off to see the paintings in Batuan. The master here has been at exhibits all around the world (in person). His work along with all of the members of the co-operative were beautiful. There was a variety of styles from traditional black and white, modern bright colours and everything in between (sorry no photos – we felt guilty not buying, so taking photos was a bit awkward).

Further up the road, we came to the area where they do the stone carvings. The roadsides were full of all styles of stone carvings – these are the traditional, but modern carvings are also available. They are magnificent – but obviously not something we could easily bring back!

We then visited a wood carver in Mas. They use a wide variety of wood – ebony, crocodile wood (bark looks like crocodile skin), teak, mahogany and even frangiapani. Most is imported and has to be quarantined and seasoned first. Again the styles varied with the artists – everything from carved golfers to the elaborate traditional pieces.

We reached our furthest destination for a late lunch looking out over Mount Batur and Lake Batur. The volcano most recently erupted in 1994 (also in 1917,1926, and 1963) and the lava flow can be seen on the mountainside.

As we headed back we made sure we stopped by some of the rice fields for photo ops. We first stopped by a flatter area and Mike roamed into the middle of one of the fields. It was very calm and peaceful. And we also stopped by a mountainous area where the hillside has been stepped for the rice paddies. We passed through some amazing terrain en route. Steep riverbanks with rain forest vegetation in the valleys and houses balanced along the cliff edges overhanging the banks. Unfortunately we could not stop as the road was very narrow and winding.

Finally we made it to Sukawati to visit a temple late in the afternoon. There are several types of temple – family temple, village temple, regional and mother temple (for the whole island). This temple was a village temple but was a good one to visit as it had all the features of a higher temple. It was quite old at 400 years. Kyle and I were attentive to Ketut as Mike roamed and photoed. I had to explain to Ketut that Mike was not being ‘rude’, and it was not that he was not interested in the stories – just that he was drawn away by the strong magnetic force of his camera to the photo opportunities!

And on our final drive back to the hotel, we continued to pass wonderful sites – this was a statue in the middle of the roundabout near Denpasar – about 40 feet high I’d guess. The black and white cloth represents the balance again between good and evil. Similar to the ‘ying’ and ‘yang’ of the Chinese culture.

So after a rather expensive day of souvenir shopping, we were ready to head to Amed on the east coast to lay back and enjoy the sun and check out the north east coast of Bali.

Break 3 Days 1-3 Legian, South Bali

We arrived in Bali on Saturday evening and hired a taxi to get us to our hotel in Legian. Jayakarta is one of the larger hotels here and so finding it was no problem. It was a hazy evening and approach in the dark was all the more alluring.

It is a large complex of buildings, and we were in the apartment style rooms with a bedroom, kitchenette (not used or needed at all), and living room where Kyle slept on the bed sofa. None of the buildings are taller than about 5 stories, so the skyline is kept quite clean. We were on the 4th floor, so by avoiding the elevator and taking the stairs, we at least forced a little bit of exercise upon ourselves.

Driving in Bali introduced us to a whole new style of driving! We quite wisely did not drive, but learned from observing. Although there are lines on the road, they are mostly for show. Cars, bicycles and an abundance of motorcycles share the space very effectively without the use of lines. It seems chaotic at first, but the courteous, random method of driving seems to work quite well for those who are accustomed to it. The speeds in town are much lower than we would normally use, and even on the larger roads, no one is in too much of a hurry. Honking here does not mean ‘get out of the way’, rather ‘just to let you know I’m here’ as you pass someone. We were quite happy to leave the driving to others.

Along the roadside there were ‘gas stations’ for those in need of a quick fillup. Rather unorthodox by our standards – liquor bottles full of petrol! There are proper stations out on the main roads also, but these roadside stops are what you get in the crowded streets. And as previously mentioned, there are numerous motorcycles which are used to transport anything or anyone – from singles to whole families, or even large loads of materials!

The grounds at Jayakarta were well kept and very peaceful. Sorry, but no photos around the pool since Mike was too busy just relaxing – although you can see one of the pools behind Kyle & I at the breakfast table here. There were 3 main pools – lap pool, one with swim up bar, waterfalls and Kyle & I enjoyed the large poolside chess game also.

We walked around the neighbourhood which is primarily shops and restaurants. But everywhere there are statues, carvings and cultural icons. Offerings are made once or more often twice a day – from simple offerings at entry ways to more elaborate offerings at the temples. I’ll talk more about them in future postings.

Breakfast was included with our hotel room, but for lunch and dinner we went off site to check out the many restaurants. We enjoyed Thai as well as Balinese but tended to avoid the ‘western’ food and preferred to experience the local fare. Beer was a very cheap and enjoyable drink. It was very low alcohol content by our judgement. The bottle says 5 % – but that is not very likely given that I could drink 3 large bottles and not even feel it! So given the lack of a drinking age, even Kyle enjoyed the odd ‘cold one’ with dinner when he tired of plain water or cola.

Dogs and cats are very common here. Although kept as ‘pets’, they are not integrated into the household. They are left to fend for themselves, and not really coddled or petted. They just sort of have a place to lay their head. Our dinner this night was accompanied by a family of kittens looking to fill their bellies – and we could not help but oblige with our leftovers.

The second day in Bali was my birthday. We had agreed not to ‘celebrate’ given that we were in Bali which was enough of a celebration on its own. But it still had its marking event! There was a very funny fiasco of birthday cake swapping. We arrived back in our room after some shopping (I did order a custom leather handbag as my gift despite not celebrating 🙂 to find a cake addressed to Mrs. Thompson. Not sure if this was really meant for me we asked the staff who, equally confused, took it away. We returned later to find another cake – this time addressed to Mr. Montgomery. Deciding this one was meant for me, we went ahead and ate this one. Although very decorative and the cake itself quite nice, we all found the icing to be inedible since it was pure lard!!!

And so after the first couple of days of lounging and browsing the shops and restaurants and relaxing poolside, we were winding down and slowing our pace and stretching our stomachs!

Bali Bound

Time for another adventure! We leave Saturday afternoon for Bali. I have had my wrists slapped since that is the exact time when the Footie Grand Final is on. I guess a real Aussie would have known to check. Oh well, Mike’s team is not in the final, so it’s not too bad I hope.

For our stay in Bali, the plan at this point is to sit by the pool and relax – nothing that takes too much effort allowed I’m told. To let us at least see some of the island without much effort, I have booked us into 3 separate places. You can click the hotel names that follow if you want to check out where we will be staying. We spend 5 nights in Legian (mid-bottom left of the island) at Jayakarta Hotel. Then we head to Amed on the east coast for 5 nights to Anda Amed Resort where we may even do some snorkelling – but I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull myself away from the ‘infinity edge’ pool! Finally we head to the cultural centre of Bali in Ubud for the last 4 nights. We stay at Tegal Sari Resort here, which seems to have excellent reviews, so I hope it lives up to them.

During the two weeks we hope to indulge in a few spa treats which are supposed to be quite affordable (cheap even) in Bali, and to check out the temples also when we’re feeling adventurous. Once again, I’ll post photos and stories on our return, so catch you in a couple of weeks!

And in the meantime HAPPY THANKSGIVING to everyone in Canada. That is a holiday which does not seem to have an equal down here. Although Oct 1 is the Queens Birthday celebration this coming Monday in Western Australia (the rest of the country celebrated back in June I think).