Yogyakarta - Solo - Mount Bromo - Ijen crater - Bali
06.12.2014 - 25.12.2014 33 °C
Saturday (6/12/2014) I am looking forward to my Indonesia trip as I will be going on an overland tour from Java to Bali and since it's my first time to Indonesia, I am not sure what to expect actually. Unfortunately, I was on the same flight to Denpasar with a big group of China tourists who were not only very loud and also very impatient at airport. Fortunately, they weren't that noisy on the plane. We arrived in Denpasar, Bali at 11.10pm (not a perfect time to arrive in a foreign country but then, that's the only flight per day available) and the immigration was very efficient and fast as it only took a few minutes to pass through. However, waiting for the luggage to come out on the carousel took ages. I was advised to find Bluebird taxi as they are the cheapest among all the Bali taxis but couldn't find any and ended having to take the Airport taxi where the driver charged 100,000 rupiah at first but in the end, he agreed to lower it to 90,000 rupiah so that he could go home after that. The Airport Kuta Hotel and Residence was only a few minute drive from airport. For transiting purpose, it is alright but not for long stay.
Sunday (7/12/2014) I had to wake up at 5.30am to catch the Airasia flight to Yogyakarta at 7.50am. The bellboy was nice enough to call the Bluebird taxi for me and I was charged only 30,000 rupiah which was 1/3 the price of the airport taxi. The driver told me that Bluebird taxis are only allowed to go in to the domestic terminal but not the international terminal. After a 2 hour flight, we landed at Yogyakarta airport which was even smaller than Pontianak's airport at 8am (Java is 1 hour behind Bali) and saw Wisnu holding a paper with my name on it. He's a friendly guy and told me that I'm his 1st client from Brunei and thought I was a German at first because of my name. He took me to have breakfast first and we had soto campur which looks more like cooked rice soaked in soup to me since the soto we have in Brunei consist of noodle.
To start off the trip, we went to Prambanan temple, a UNESCO world heritage site first which used to have 240 Hindu temples but most of them were destroyed by the 2010 earthquake. Only the main complex temples were restored while rest are still left in ruin. Each of the 3 Trimurti (main) temple is dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma where as the 3 vahana temples which is in front of the Trimurti temples are dedicated to the vahana of each gods: Nandi, Garuda, and Hamsa. After taking some photos and talking about the Java kingdom based on my memory about the Majapahit kingdom we learnt in school decades ago, we slowly walked towards the exit where it so happened that there is a cultural performance since it is a weekend. According to Wisnu, there are different groups performing every Sunday and this time, it is the Kuda kepang Peramban group which put on quite an interesting performance because of the energetic dance movements by the 5 dancers who wore mask, then followed by the kuda kepang dancers who were possessed by spirits which were called by the dukun.
We then headed towards Mount Merapi (Fire mountain) and on the way, we stopped for lunch in an open bamboo hut. I tried the minuman raja which is a spicy herbal tea with lemon grass in it. After lunch, we made our way to Mount Merapi whereby the 2010 eruption was the largest in the history as over 350,000 people were evacuated from the affected area and 353 people who remained behind or returned to their homes while the eruptions were continuing were killed during the eruptions. We stopped at the last village, Selo and took a jeep tour towards the base camp of Mount Merapi where the bunker is at. By then the clouds had come down and covered Mount Merapi while the wind was getting colder. It was a bumpy ride all the way but fun. We stopped at a private mini museum whereby the owner of the house displayed all their personal things that were destroyed by the volcanic eruption on 5th November 2010. The owner also set up a sign for people to reflect on the meaning of life after seeing the aftermath of the 2010 volcanic eruption. Since Mount Merapi is known to be active every 5 years, I wonder, would an eruption occur again in 2015?
We then finally head back to the city where I checked into Whiz hotel which is less than a minute walk to Maliboro road. It's a pretty nice new hotel, and although the single room is small, it still more spacious than the hotels in Singapore and Hong Kong. After resting for a while, I went and checked out what is happening along Maliboro street. There were lots of shops selling batik and souvenirs of the same kind. I bought 2 boxes of the dry type of bakpia pathok which are small, round-shaped Indonesian Chinese-influenced sweet rolls and I chose the various flavors (pineapple, red bean, cheese and durian) and as well as a unique batik blazer with blue patterns which was only sold in that particular batik shop. Since Wisnu recommended to have dinner at Legian garden restaurant, I decided to give it a try. It has a nice interior setting overlooking Maliboro street and the price of the food price is moderate. I ordered Padang gulai kambing which is Padang style lamb curry which was nice and minuman raja again which this time they added ginger instead of lemon grass into the herbal tea. Interesting start for first day in Java.
Monday (8/12/2014) I had to wake up at 4am as Wisnu said he will come at 5am to pick me up since it is a 1 hour drive to Borobudur, a Buddhist temple which is another UNESCO World Heritage site and then another 3 hour drive to Dieng Plateau. On the way, it drizzled a bit but by the time we arrived at Borobudur at 6.15am, the sky was clear and the sun came out. I hired a guide, Dariyat who is very friendly and very knowledgeable in the history and structure of Borobudur. He explained about each set of picture carvings and the missing parts of the Buddha statue as well as the interlocking system of each stone which was genius for the olden days. There are altogether 10 levels which is divided into 3 parts that represent the human body. The bottom 2 levels with no carvings represent the lower part of the body (the worldly desire), the 2 sets of 4 levels with Buddha sculptures and carvings represent the upper body (the control of our worldly desires and the top stupa represents nirvana. Borobudur is also the holy site for Buddhism where Buddhists from all over the world come to do pilgrimage during Vesak. I was also told by Dariyat that Vatican city has a miniature model of Borobudur. After taking some photos, we headed to the car park where I had breakfast before we headed towards Dieng Plateau.
After 3 hours on the road, we finally reached to Dieng Plateau which is a marshy plateau located 2,000m above sea level that forms the floor of a caldera complex on the Dieng Volcanic Complex near Wonosobo. The name "Dieng" comes from Di Hyang which means "Abode of the Gods". Being high up, the weather was pretty cool even though the sun was shining brightly. The first place we stopped to see is the colour lake which Wisnu suggested that we climb up higher to see the colours rather than paying 100,000 rupiah just to walk to the edge of the lake and see the green colour only. When it is cloudy, the colour of the lake is very clear light green colour at the edge and darker green in the middle but when the sun is shining fully, the colours seen are yellow, green and purple. Unfortunately, since it was cloudy when we were at the top, we only saw green colour. Even at the top of the hill, I could smell something like chicken manure which I thought the farmers used for growing vegetables nearby. However, when we reached to Sikidang crater, the same smell was there but more stronger and that's when I realised that the smell at the colour lake was actually the sulphur smell instead of chicken manure. Sikidang crater is named after a deer as the crater moves from 1 spot to another after all the sulphur has reacted with the hot water. According to Wisnu, the main crater has gotten bigger after being active for 17 years already. I asked Wisnu about the strength of sulphur smell at Ijen crater and he said it is even stronger there compared to what we smell here. Our last stop for today is the Arjuna temple complex which is a small group of the oldest Hindu temple found in Java. We arrived back at Whiz Hotel at 5.30pm. Since it was still early, I rested for a while before going out to find the souvenir shop that Wisnu recommended which is at the end of Maliboro road. After walking some distance, I finally found Mirota Batik shop which is just opposite Beringharjo market. They have various batik clothing on the ground floor and Javanese souvenirs on the first floor. I bought some souvenirs to be given away as well as Javanese dolls for my doll collection from each country.
Tuesday (9/12/2014) I tried nasi gudeg, made from unripe jackfruit boiled with palm sugar and coconut milk for breakfast which was nice as it is not so sweet. Today would be a pretty relaxing day as Wisnu picked me up at 9am. We went to the Keraton where the Sultan of Yogyakarta still reside with his family. It is a bungalow wooden structure complex built since the 1st sultan and I was told that the wood have never been replaced as they are made of teakwood. It is pretty impressive as there are lots of carvings covered with gold leaf. At the entrance of the palace, there are 2 palace gods; the one on the right side is the good god whereas the one on the left is the bad god. There are altogether 2000 staffs who works for 24 hours 2 times each month and I was told that the youngest guard is only 6 years old. We were not allowed to step on the area where the sultan and his family still lives which looks pretty simple from the outside but I was told that they have their own swimming pool and garage for their luxurious cars behind the compound which cannot be seen by the public. The wedding palanquin used by the 7th sultan is also on display but not used anymore as the 8th and 9th sultan used a mercedes when they got married while the current king (10th king) used a lambourgini during his wedding procession. There were displays of souvenirs to the king from other countries and the marble floors at the reception hall which is still used was given by Italy while the Chinese vases around the compound was given by China. We then listen to a group of musicians playing Javanese music with the traditional instruments which the sultan listens to go to sleep but I didn't stay long to hear the ladies sing.
As it started to rain again, Wisnu suggested we go to Ganjuran church first instead of the Water Palace which is in open air. Ganjuran church is the oldest catholic church in Yogyakarta that has Javanese influence. The church is an open building with extravagant carvings on the ceiling. The altar is also nicely carved but the funny thing is that the sculpture of the angels and Jesus has the face of a Hindu man. Even the Jesus statue in the temple look like a Javanese man. The most impressive thing about this church I would say is the striking colour and the detailed carvings on the ceiling in the middle of the open air church. There were so many pews that this church can easily fit at least 1000 people. Then we headed to see the coffee luwak home industry. They have the dried faeces of the civet cat and the form the coffee bean seeds came out. The owner kept 3 civet cats where 1 is from Java while the rest is from Sumatra. The black tame civet cat was with them since it was 3 only months old and it is bigger than the other 2 cats. I ended buying the strong and mildly roasted powder luwak coffee even though I am not a coffee drinker. But since it is said to have health benefits and no caffeine, just adding 1 teaspoon of it is ok I guess. It wasn't cheap at all as 100g cost 500,000 rupiah but since I bought 2 different types of luwak coffee, I was charged only 450,000 rupiah for each packet. The owner is a very friendly guy, used to work in a cafe in Holland for 6 years and is also an artist which he told me that he will be holding an art exhibition in Hong Kong. I also took the opportunity to ask him if I can take photo with his tame civet cat which fortunately he said ok.
Then we went to the Taman Sari Water Palace which was pretty small. It has 3 swimming pools. 1 for the wife and children and another for the concubines which is opposite of each other whereas the sultan's pool is on the other part of the building. There were also individual changing rooms for the children, wife and the sultan as well as a sauna room only for the king! Then comes the selling part, batik. Although it is hand drawn and very nice especially the dragons, Hindu gods and phoenix, they are also very expensive. I only bought a small batik sheet with picture of parrot which cost 500,000 rupiah. Then my guide wanted me to buy batik again which he said is drawn by his daughter which I only bought 1 as it is expensive also for a small piece of drawing. After that, since Fort Venderburg museum is near to Beringharjo market which is not too far from Whiz hotel, I told Wisnu that he can just drop me at the fort and I can walk back to the hotel. This gives me the chance to take my sweet time taking photos. So I went inside Fort Venderburg which was built by the Dutch but now it has been turned into a museum. It mostly shows how the Indonesians overthrew the Dutch and how they formed their own national party after that. A few buildings were locked as they were doing maintenance so basically, there were only 3 gallery for the public to see. Then I walked to Beringharjo market where there were people selling food, snacks and bakpia (without even covering them). Can you imagine how hygienic the food is in these type of stalls with lots of people passing by every second. Inside Beringharjo market, there were batik stalls everywhere. Since I am not a big fan of batik clothes, I went to see the other levels where they were selling clothes, dried snacks and there's even a food court on the very top floor. Then I went to the opposite market which is linked to Beringharjo market. This market is much more older and quite dirty. A lot of food stalls on the ground floor have closed as it was already 4pm. After a hot day outside, I went back to the hotel to pack all of my stuffs since we will be going to Solo and staying overnight at Sarangan lake area before heading towards Mount Bromo.
Wednesday (10/12/2014) Today, I checked out from Whiz hotel and proceeded to Solo. This time, Wisnu asked his friend, Nepo to come along as he would be tired after hiking with me. We drove 2 hours to Solo to visit Mangkunegaran Palace, the residence of the Solo sultan who has no power unlike the sultan of Yogyakarta who is the governor. However, the main hall is bigger than the hall of Keraton palace and has more western ornaments. The sultan has a private collection of limited edition things including a stuffed Sumatran tiger. Then after the tour, I watched the dancers rehearse for their performance a bit which was very different from the traditional Javanese dance as they have very slow but elegant moves. Then we drove 1 hour to Sukuh temple which is located on the western slope of Mount Lawu, 910m above sea level on the border between central and east Java province. Since it was drizzling slightly, the wind was cold. Sukuh temple is a Javanese Hindu temple with elements of the Mayan architecture. It also has sex ornaments which is the womb and the penis since life before birth and sexual education are its main theme. We decided to have rabbit satay for lunch since we were going to pass through a village that sells rabbit satay which is on the way to Sarangan lake. Like frog leg, rabbit meat actually tasted like chicken. Since we were in Tawangmangu area, Wisnu asked me if I am interested to see Grojogan Sewu waterfall. Since it was raining and we were already there, I decided to go and check out the waterfall. I didn't know we have to climb so many steps down to see the waterfall and so many steps up again just to go to the car park. Wisnu did warn me about monkeys and sure enough, a male monkey snatched my folded raincoat away thinking it was food but I managed to snatch it back from him. It was a good thing that it rained while I climbed down the steps or else I will be sweating because of the high humidity. With the height of 81m, the waterfall is quite impressive. After taking some photos, it was time to go back up which took quite some time also since there were also lots of steps. At the last step, a signboard inform visitors that they have climbed down and up 1250 steps which is a very good workout! After that, we drove another 30 minutes to Sarangan lake where we stayed at Sarangan hotel which looks pretty old but has nice rooms. I stayed in a superior room which has a large double bed, toilet, wardrobe and living room with a fire place. The scenery was nice and the wind was cold. After settling down for a while, we walked down to the lake to see what people were doing. Some took a speed boat ride around the lake whereas few men were fishing. After that 3 of us sat at the patio of the hotel area and just chatted before going for dinner. Since it was cold, it was so nice to eat nasi rawon, rice that is soaked in black broth with meat.
Thursday (11/12/2014) After waiting for a long time for the water in the shower to get hot, I went for breakfast at 8am. I hardly have rice for breakfast in Brunei but in Indonesia, every breakfast consist of rice and today, it was no different but bigger portion as it can be eaten by at least 2 person. We then got ready for our 9 hour journey to Mount Bromo. For a break from the long drive, we had lunch in a restaurant which also sells Indonesian snacks. It was my first time seeing strawberry, grape and mango mixed with kiwi crackers so I decided to buy each flavour. It was funny to taste the strawberry cracker because it has strawberry smell and taste and it taste sweet also. When we reached to Bromo Permai, it was already after 5pm. The clouds have come down and the wind was very cold. There were people selling woolen hats with the Bromo word, scarf and gloves and since it was already cold now, I felt that it would be even colder when we go and watch the sunrise early in the morning so I bought a pair of gloves and the woolen hat as souvenir. Wisnu arranged for the Bromo jeep to pick us up at 3.30am which will bring us up to Mount Panajakan first to see the sunrise and then to Mount Bromo before going back to hotel. I went to bed at 9pm since I had to wake up at 2.30am later on.
Friday (12/12/2014) Our jeep came at 3.30am and the driver drove at least half an hour before we reached to the dropping area at Mount Panajakan where a lot of jeeps were already there. Since the sun start to rise 5am and we reached to the top at 4am, we had a hot drink first while waiting until close to 4.30am before going up to the view point. There were already a lot of people taking photos while waiting for the sun to rise. The sun finally came out slowly for a while before it was covered by the clouds. The view wasn't that clear because of the thick clouds but I could see the peak of Mount Semaru, the highest mountain in Java while the top part of Mount Batuk and Mount Bromo were covered by the clouds. After taking enough photos, we headed towards Mount Bromo where the driver first stop near to Mount Batuk for me to take photos. I really loved the jeep, it was so cool! Then we drove to Mount Bromo where we had to walk quite a distance for almost half an hour before reaching to the 250 steps up to the top of crater where there is a 1m wide ledge for people to gaze into the steaming crater. . While walking, I felt so hot so I had to take off the jacket and enjoyed the cool breeze. Going up the steep, small steps were torturing and most people have to stop a few times along the steps to catch their breathe before finally reaching to the top. The view from the top of Mount Bromo is just spectacular. You can see Pura Luhur Poten, the miniature people as well as the neatly parked rows of jeeps. Going down Mount Bromo was more easier than going up and we were done with it by 7am. We headed back to hotel for breakfast before checking out at 9am for another 5 hour drive to Ijen crater. On the way, we stopped by at a restaurant at Pasir Putih beach to have lunch. The sands were white and there were many Javanese traditional wooden boats. After lunch, we continued our journey and by that time exhaustion sets it so I took a nap for a while.
By the time we reached to Arabika homestay that produces Arabica coffee at 4pm, since it was still bright so I decided to look around. I went down to the strawberry farm to check out if there are any strawberries are for sell and on the way, I met 2 girls riding a motorcycle. After talking for a while, they offered me a lift to the strawberry farm. The man in charge of that strawberry farm told me that the ripe strawberries have already been plucked in the morning but I can still pluck any ripe ones that I see and eat it. They only sell the strawberries for 10,000 rupiah which is less than B$1.20 whereas a punnet of Indonesian strawberries sold in Brunei is about B$5.60. Since there weren't much ripe strawberries, I decided to head back to the homestay and on the way back, I met and chatted with some local boys who were playing at the football field next to the strawberry farm. They were friendly and very funny because a few of them tried to impress me by speaking in English but they do not even understand at all when I spoke English to them! I took some of photos of them which they were so eager and excited and they showed me the waterfall in their village. Then I headed up and have to rest early because we will check out of the homestay at midnight to go for the Blue Fire tour which will start at 1am!
Saturday (13/12/2014) Cahyo was my guide for the Blue Fire tour and we started the hike at 1.30am where we trek for 3km upwards to the top of the crater and then going down the crater for 1km to see the blue flame. It's a big challenge as i have never hike this early in the morning plus lacking of sleep from the night before but I'm glad I managed to do it even though it took me 2 hours to reach to the bottom of the crater as the second km was very steep and the hike down the crater is very stony and pitch black. Unfortunately since it drizzled earlier, the clouds were very heavy and there were a lot of fumes which couldn't rise up so the sulphur smell was pretty strong especially if the wind was blowing. We saw a bit of the blue flame when the wind died down for a few second but the fumes became so strong that a lot of people couldn't stand it. Cahyo brought me up towards the crater half way already before deciding to head back down to the crater again to hopefully have a better luck to see the blue flame better this time. The wind did not die down at all but at least we got to see the blue flame stronger this time even though it was for a short while. When the sky was getting a bit brighter and it became so smoky, we couldn't even see the clear blue lake so we slowly hike up to the top of crater at 5am and the sulphur carriers have started to carry their load up also. It's amazing how they could stand the strong fumes and carry the heavy sulphur which weight up to between 70kg to 100kg per trip up the crater whereas we were already coughing and the fume were burning our eyes just for the short time we were there. Cahyo is a nice chatty guy and he was talking about his hiking experiences up the mountains in Indonesia and even introduced his specialised mountain tours. It is very tempting to follow him especially to climb Mount Semeru but I need to do more hiking and build up my stamina first before I attempt it since it will take 2 days to hike up that mountain. We got back to the parking area at 6am and rested for a while and chatted with Wisnu. Then we left for Ketapang at 7am since Wisnu has arranged with my Bali driver to pick me up by 10am. I was very exhausted and straight away slept the whole time in the car and was glad that I managed to catch 1 hour of sleep. By the time i woke up, we were almost near to Ketapang harbour. After bidding farewell to Wisnu and Nepo, I bought the ferry ticket for 8,000 rupiah to Bali. On the ferry, I had to leave my luggage at the bottom of staircase and went up to sit. A lot of local people were going to Bali whereas it was only me and a foreign couple who were foreigners. We arrived at Gilimanuk at 10am and the first thing that hit me was that weather is extremely hot! I met up with Buda who is not bad looking but unfortunately, his service is not as good as Javanese drivers cum guide. For lunch, he tend to bring to expensive touristic restaurants and does not know much information about each place.
Before checking into the hotel in Lovina, we went to see Brahma Vihara Arama, a Buddhist Monastery which I expected Buda to introduce the history a bit or at least know something when I asked him questions related to the temple but he doesn't even know much at all since his experience is on managing restaurants and has only worked in this line for 3 years. There is a miniature Borobudur. Next, we went to see Banjar hot spring where people were swimming in it and if I was not that exhausted, I would have actually wanted to take a bath there since not only do I feel hot and sticky but also smelt of sulphur since I didn't have the chance to take a shower after climbing Ijen crater. I was so glad by the time we reached to the hotel which was a small simple one but the service and the room is pretty good and even the toilet is nicely decorated in Balinese style. I took a rest for a while before going out to check what is near to the beach. Even though it was close to 6pm, the heat was still there. By the time I got back to the hotel, I decided to just eat in the restaurant as I was lazy to walk out. After dinner, I packed a bit and slept early as the dolphin guide will fetch me at 5.55am to go for the dolphin watching tour.
Sunday (14/12/2014) At 5.45am, the dolphin boat driver came and picked me from the hotel. I didn't even realise his boat was parked so near to the hotel I was staying. It was a first time experience sitting in a Balinese wooden boat with balance on both sides. As we headed out to the sea, the waves were pretty strong as the boat was going up and down continuously until further out where the waves became slightly calmer. We rode for about 30 minutes offshore before reaching to the point where the dolphins are usually observed. Once a dolphin fin is spotted, all boats started their engine to chase after the dolphins. So it was like playing cat chasing the mouse game. It was pretty amazing to see so many schools of dolphins but at the same time, I felt sorry also for them as they have to constantly swim away from the boats surrounding them. After having enough of chasing after the dolphins, we headed back to the shore. By then, the sun was so hot and the air is so dry. After arriving back to the hotel, I took breakfast before going back to my room to take a shower and pack my things since Buda was coming at 10am to pick me up.
Before heading to Sanur, we stopped at a strawberry farm which I thought I would have the chance to pick strawberries myself but he just brought me to a small strawberry shop/farm and told me that I can order a strawberry drink after just showing me the greenhouse where the strawberries are planted and we can't even go inside it. What a disappointment and I am beginning to regret having him as my driver since his service is not that cheap either! Then we went to Pura Ulun Danu with Beratan lake which has a nice scenery located 1,200m above sea level near to the mountains so the weather was a bit cooler but once again, no explanations from Buda. After that, we went to Candi Kuning market which is a traditional fruit and vegetable market. There were also a few tourist shops behind the market and I bought a lot of postcards about places in Bali as they are cheap, a pair of wooden puppet Javanese dolls and a silk dress. Our last stop is Pura Taman Ayun and I was dropped off at the gate and was told that I could either walk all the way back to the parking area which is a few hundred meters away or he could pick me up at the gate. This temple has many smaller temples within the temple complex but unfortunately not open to public. After Pura Taman Ayun, it took us about 3 hours drive to Sanur to where I have booked for a room in a villa which Buda was not familiar with the area but eventually we found it. The room and the bathroom was spacious and I talked with Leenie for quite a while before heading out to check Sanur. I first went to Hardy's and did some groceries shopping as well as checked out the 1st floor which sells souvenirs and clothes.
Monday (15/12/2014) Today, I was picked up by Gusti who will drive me for 4 days since Buda was involved in carrying out some ceremony for the Galungan festival. Gusti was more chattier than Buda and we drove 30 minutes from Sanur to see the Barong Dance at Batubulan village. It was a pretty interesting story performance and the men who were possessed with the spirits were trying to stab themselves with their kris but didn't get injured. After the performance, we went to the Bali Bird and Reptile Park which has variety of birds from all parts of Indonesia as well as from other countries but my main target is to see the komodo dragon. Unfortunately, the Komodo Experience performance is only held on Tuesdays so I could only see it in its enclosure. At the Reptile Park, I was given the opportunity to carry an iguana which is 5kg for photo taking which was cool. For lunch, I tried the famous babi guling at Ibu Oka and it wasn't too bad though the sambal was a bit too spicy for me. Then we stopped by Tegalalang village to see the rice field but unfortunately it was a heavy down pour so the paddy field was not clearly seen. We then headed to Ubud Palace, the kingdom palace of the Ubud empire. By the time I had finished checking out Ubud Palace, it had started to rain heavily so I didn't go to Ubud market. Then the final destination we headed to is the Batuan Temple which is one of oldest village Temple in Bali. While searching for money for donation, 2 Japanese guys started to talk to me who were also there to see the temple. We decided to go together since they do not understand Indonesian nor know much about the temple. Pretty funny, cool guys I should say. By the time we head back to Sanur, it was still early so I decided to check out the restaurants. I found a Japanese restaurant and decided to try the salmon rice which was yummy!
Tuesday (16/12/2014) After being picked up by Gusti, we drove 1 hour to Gunung Kawi (Rocky temple) which is a Hindu Temple Complex with old omission from the stone. Going to the complex requires one to climb down lots of steps and the sun was very hot. The carvings on the stones were amazing that one do wonder how they were done and how long it took to complete them. By the time I had finished going around the complex, it was noon time and climbing up the steps were torturing especially when the sun is right above you. On the way to Kintamani, we dropped by a coffee plantation and I'm so glad that the weather was cooler here. I was introduced to the crops that was planted there and explained about the steps for making coffee from the coffee seeds. Then I was given 8 different cups of different drinks to taste. I ended up buying mocha, coffee ginger ginseng and saffron tea as well as a bottle of vanilla extract. We then headed to Kintamani where I had lunch buffet at a restaurant where we were supposed to be able to see the fantastic view of Batur volcano and the lake while enjoying our food. Unfortunately it was so misty and rained heavily that everyone had to move inside the restaurant. Fortunately, I spent a long time eating so the sky started to clear slowly and visibility also improved. Everyone started to take photos of the scenery which looks nice on a clear day. Gusti told me that people can trek up Mount Batur and he can drive and arrange a guide for me if I am interested which is a pretty interesting idea since I have 3 free days in Bali before I fly off to Brunei. We then went to Besakih temple which was the first Hindu temple built in Bali. Gusti explained to me about the 3 different levels of the temple according to the Hindu caste but nowadays, Balinese do not follow the different Hindu caste strictly. By the time we reached back to the car, it had started to rain again. We drove 1 hour to Penglipuran Village, a Balinese traditional village with unique culture, social life and building structure. It wasn't as old as I expected but they arranged the houses neatly in 2 rows. The houses are pretty modern though the kitchen and place where they keep the dead body is still pretty traditional. By the time it started to rain heavily again, we left and headed back to Batubulan village which was an hour drive to see Kecak and Fire Dance. The story is pretty long and similar to the Barong dance but the exciting part is the ending where a man, possessed by a spirit was able to step barefooted on fire and eat burning fire without anything happening to him! What a rainy day today but we did managed to go to many places.
Wednesday (17/12/2014) Gusti pick me up at 1pm from the villa to go to Krisna shop to do some souvenir shopping. There were many kinds of food products, trinkets and clothes as well as lots of tourists. It was hot and stuffy because of the number of people in the shop that you can't even feel much of the air con. After enough of shopping, Gusti took me for a drive through Kuta which has more shops, bars, pubs and discos that is non existence in Sanur. I wanted to see the Bali Bombing Memorial at Jalan Legian but we missed it while talking to each other. Then we drove 45 minutes towards Uluwatu but before that, we stopped by Garuda Wisnu Kecana park first. Gusti showed me the copper head statue of Wisnu which was not fully complete yet. The complete statue is supposed to be Wisnu riding on Garuda but because of financial problems, the investors have not being able to complete it yet. However, once it is completely, it is supposed to be more higher than the Statue of Liberty. At 4pm, there was a Balinese parade which I thought was as big as the Hong Kong Disneyland but it was so short and simple. Then we drove 20 minutes to Pura Luhur Uluwatu which is a temple on the coral hill stick out into the sea. There were a lot of tourists and some local Balinese were still bringing their offering for the Galungan festival. The temple is very simple and not even big but the colour of the sea is just so breathtaking, very clear blue waters! If it wasn't for the cliff next to the sea, I don't think many tourists would want to come all the way just to see it. Since it was almost sunset and time for dinner, we then drove 20 minutes to Jimbaran Beach. Most restaurants were closed because of the Galungan festival so Gusti brought me to the other side of the bridge where only 2 seafood restaurants were open. So it was good business for them since all tourists have no choice but choose either one of the restaurant. It was a lovely view of the beach as the sun sets down and it was a good thing that it wasn't raining. Food were delicious though a bit pricey.
Thursday (18/12/2014) Today's itinerary is to see the rice terrace in Jatiluwih which is 2 hour drive from Sanur. On the way, we saw a procession with a barong in 3 different places. Gusti told me that the barong have different type of faces; dog, dragon, monkey and pig which I didn't realize at first. The road to Jatiluwih was pretty bad as the heavy rain had washed some of the tar away. However, the scenery is spectacular unlike at Telalagang. After enjoying the tranquility of this village, we drove 20 minutes to the Butterfly Park. I am surprised that for a small park like this, it has a lot of butterfly and insect collection as well as stick and leaf insect. At the pupa house, the butterflies and moths that just came out of the pupa were not able to fly yet so it was easy to hold them and they don't fly away. Our last destination is the Tanah Lot (Temple In The Sea) which is a 1 hour drive from the Butterfly park. While having lunch there, it was nice to enjoy the cool sea breeze. After lunch, we slowly walk towards the temple and taking photos. The view of the sea is just as breathtaking like in Uluwatu. The sea was also blue while temples were found on several cliffs. The highlight of this place is actually the temple that was built on a rock further off the shore where people can walk across during low tide. Unfortunately, it was high tide and the waves were quite strong so we couldn't walk towards the temple.
Friday (19/12/2014) Today, Buda came to pick me up at 9am. We went to Bajra Sandhi, the Balinese Struggle Monument which was built to commemorate the struggle of Balinese people against the Dutch. Black and white photos showed incidents and the Indonesian kings in 1905. The Dutch landed in Sanur and then attacked Denpasar. The Indonesian hero is Ngurah Rai where Bali airport was named after. I went up to the watch tower but there wasn't anything interesting to see around Denpasar. Most buildings were quite old and the lanes were pretty dirty. On the way out, there was a Chinese couple who came to this monument to take wedding photos which was nice but pretty hot to take wedding photos. Then we went to the Bali museum where they have artifacts and the bones of the earliest man found in Gilimanuk. There's also an egg shell sarcophagus where the people in the olden days were buried in. Then we went to the bird market which is pretty small but there were a lot of birds, quite a number of iguanas, a few monkeys, cats and dogs. After lunch, we headed to Badung and Kumbasari market. In Badung market, you could find fruits, dried spices, crackers, vegetables, seafood, clothes and temple accessories whereas in Kumbasari market, you could find more of clothes and souvenirs for tourists which they sell in bulk. A lot of mother of pearl products are also sold there and I ended up buying a mother of pearl tray for 100,000 rupiah and coasters for 20,000 rupiah which is reasonable. Then it started to drizzle so I decided to call it a day instead of going to Sanur beach just in case it rain. Instead, I requested to be dropped off at villa and rested for a while before I went out since the sun came out again. This time I tried walking towards Pantai Karang and I didn't realize it was so close to the money changer. After walking a short distance into the road, I finally saw the beach and quite a number of people were swimming. The sea breeze was cool so I decided to sit on one of the hut and took photos of the activities going around. Since there was nothing to do, I just sat there until 6pm, waiting for the sun to set which it didn't happen but the sky was dark. Then I did some shopping at Hardy's, bought some spices to give away to friends and a bottle of Smirkoff Ice Raspberry Splash which cost less than B$2.50 for a 275ml bottle which I am going to try on a free relaxing day.
Saturday (20/12/2014) Today, we started our trip at 9am and went to Goa Lawah first where people were still doing offering in the temple. We didn't go into the temple since e couldn't go into the bat cave either. So we went across the road to the sea area. They were having reincarnation ceremony which is done by the high priest. It is said that people go through this ceremony to collect back the soul of the person in their family who have just passed away before going to the Goa Lawah and then to the Besakih temple before they can bring the soul back to their family altar. Then we went to Tenganan village where it is the oldest traditional Balinese village. Tenganan Village is more traditional than Penglipuran village as the people still rear animals such as chicken, ducks and water buffalo in the compound. They also specialized in ikatan (weaving) which to me looks like the Iban tenunan and drawings on wooden scripts which depicts Hindu gods. Then we went to Ujung Water Palace which was privately owned by the king of Karangasem. The palace has 3 large pools where there is the Gili Bale in the middle pool which is connected to the edge of the pool by a bridge. The next water palace that we went to which was also owned by the king of Karangasem and used to be the formal royal palace in Eastern Bali is the Tirta Gangga which literally means water from the Ganges. There is a maze of pools, fountains surrounded by a garden, stone carvings, statues and the centrepiece of the palace is an eleven tiered fountain. The last place we headed for the day is the Klungkung Palace. Unfortunately, the palace was largely destroyed during the Dutch colonial conquest in 1908 and only the court of justice, the Kerta Gosa Pavilion and the main gate that bears the date Saka 1622 (AD 1700) still exist. There is also a floating pavilion, the Bale Kembang in the compound and a small museum which displays the farming equipments used by the farmers, the royal palanquin, antiques as well as the barong and Rangda.
Sunday (21/12/2014) I managed to arrange with Gusti to go for the trek up Mount Batur to see sunrise in Bali. In order to do so, I woke up at 1am to get ready for Gusti to pick me up at 2am since it takes an hour to reach from Sanur to Kintamani. By the time we reached there, there were already guides and some trekkers waiting to go up. According to Nyoman, my guide, it is 4km up to the viewpoint and it usually takes about 2 hours to reach there. I wouldn't know whether Ijen Crater is tougher or this is tougher since both trekking distance is similar. The weather was not very cold so I had to take off my jacket because it was too hot for me and the trail was not as tough as Ijen crater but very stony as there were a lot of small pebbles. It only took us 1.5 hours to reach to the viewpoint and the sky was still pitch black. Those who were already there just waited around while more and more people were still coming up. A young guy was selling sprite and coke which is bad idea to drink very early on an empty stomach after trekking. While waiting for the sun to rise, Nyoman prepared banana sandwich and hard boil egg which was all dry. Good thing there are dogs around so I fed the last small piece of my sandwich to the dog while I kept the hard boiled egg at the side pocket of my backpack. When the sun finally came up, everyone took photos of it but honestly speaking, after watching the sunrise at Mount Panajakan, the sunrise here is not as lovely as what I saw at Mount Panajakan. Then we went to see the crater below the viewpoint area which partially covered by trees so we only saw the hot steam coming up from the side of the mountain and from some holes on the ground. A lot of monkeys started coming to the crater area and tried to get food from people. While standing to see the crater, one of the monkey jumped onto my backpack, trying to get the hard boiled egg. It was pretty heavy for a small monkey and it was dragging my bag downwards. So Nyoman took the egg from my bag and hid it in her pocket. Yet that monkey was smart and knew where it was hidden so it tried to reached into her pocket for it. In the end, Nyoman gave the egg to the monkey and it ate it right away. Going down the mountain was pretty difficult for me because the small pebbles made my shoes slippery so Nyoman took me to another path with lesser stones and half way downwards, it was tarred. By the time we reached to parking area, the sun was already so hot.
Then Gusti drove to the boat terminal and asked how to go to Truyan village, a Bali Aga village and was told that there are 2 routes; using a motor boat ride for 20 minutes to reach to that village or driving all the way to the nearest village but road is very narrow and then use a paddle boat to go to that village. The boat ride directly to the village is expensive though as it cost 1,000,000 rupiah but the price includes the guide, entrance fee and donation to the village. When we arrived at the village, the village people kept on looking at us since they hardly receive tourists visiting their village as people are just interested in seeing the cemetery. We were unable to go into the temple compound so we just walked around the village. The water near the houses were pretty dirty and there were rubbish in the water but yet there were a lot of fish fries living in them. To go to the cemetery, we have to use the boat again to go further down the lake. It was a gloomy shady area with a few men fishing. The guide who is also our boat driver told us that only people who die of natural cause are laid here whereas those that die of unnatural cause are buried the normal way. The cemetery can hold up to 11 corpses, each covered by a bamboo cage to prevent animals from eating them and when it is full, the oldest corpse will be remove to give way to the new corpse. He also said that the big Menyan tree absorb the smell of the rotten corpses which is why the cemetery does not smell at all. There were rows of skulls being displayed and lots of rubbish from previous offerings. We peeked into the cages and could only see 1 mummified corpse clearly as it was under the cool shade so the body has not decomposed completely even after 1 year. I couldn't see the new corpse which just passed away a week ago as it was covered very well but according to Gusti, he said that the face had turned totally black with maggots on it. The rest of the cages were only filled with clothes and personal belongings. However, we noticed a stench once in a while depending on where the wind was blowing but we were not sure if it's from the rubbish or the newly decomposed corpse. I personally believe that people did not smell the stench as the wind blows mainly to the lake but there are times when wind blows towards the Mayan tree which is why people thought the smell was absorbed by the tree. Well, interesting to know about their burial culture but an expensive boat ride actually.
Then Gusti drove to Ubud so that I can try bebek at Joni's. The restaurant was very crowded and the service was slow. I tried the crispy duck which was very dry and the chilli sauce very spicy. After lunch, we headed to see the Tenganan waterfall. From far, even though the waterfall was not high but the impact was very strong. In order to get a closer view of it, I had to climb down the steps and there was a small alter and a place with holy spring water where an old lady took a bath. I did not go near to the waterfall as I didn't want to get all wet since people got wet while taking photos. After enjoying the natural scenery and watching people posing while getting wet, I headed up to the parking area. Going up the steps were torturing and the high humidity of the area did not help at all. Well, that's enough for the day as exhaustion started to set in. Gusti drove me back to Sanur and I slept early that night.
Monday (22/12/2014) Today was just a relaxing day for me as I had no specific plan so I stayed at the villa and watched tv while enjoying my ice cream since it was so hot outside. When the day got cooler, I headed to the Sanur beach and walked from Pantai Karang all the way to the other end of the beach where is also 2 huts. Along the way, there are restaurants, seating areas, Balinese boats, hotels and people just sitting around and watching the sea. I sat at one of the hut for some time and just watched what was happening around. The currents have also washed different types of seaweeds to the shore so it was interesting to see their different shapes and colours. I waited for the sun to set but once again, it was a disappointing sight. This time I tried creamy sphagetti with garlic bread for dinner and it was also yummy.
Tuesday (23/12/2014) I booked a Seawalker activity for today and the driver came and picked me up from the villa at 8.45am. There was already a Japanese couple whom he had picked up before me. The driver dropped us off at the Seawalker base which is located at Puri Santrian Hotel. We were told to wait for the Seawalker staff and while waiting for him, we sat at the hotel lobby. He showed us a video about what to do underwater and the signals we should be giving to the instructors underwater to indicate if we are ok or having problems. Then we changed into our swimming suit and waited for the boat to take us out to Seawalker boat which was parked at a particular spot. At the Seawalker boat, we had to wait for the instructors and divers to check out the equipment before they went into the water. I do not know how to swim at all so this was a very good experience since I didn't need to stay afloat in order to get some air. Then each of us were asked to go down the steps before they place the helmet which was pretty heavy but under water due to water buoyancy, it wasn't as heavy as when we were out of water. The water only came up to the neck level since the helmet was filled with oxygen. While going down the steps slowly, I had to frequently clear the pressure in my ears but when we reached to the bottom, this problem disappeared. We were told to hold on to the metal ring each while the instructor pulled us to guide where we should be going. The scenery under the water was just magnificent. Fishes kept on swimming near us but we couldn't touch any of them. We were then told to kneel down and hold on to the metal rail at a spot in front of a big rock which was full of corals. We were then each given a bottle of fish feed to feed the fish and all of them came to get it at once. I also tried holding the fish feed with my fingers and let the fishes eat and boy, do they have sharp teeth. You can just touch the fishes once they are on a feeding frenzy, how cool is that! Then each of us were asked to do coral planting and went back to the kneeling place to wait for everyone to have their turn. Each of us were then given a pretty unique starfish to hold while our photos are taken. I have never seen a starfish as big and bumpy as this one. Before going up to the boat, we walked passed by all the rocks with corals. What a sight, just breathtaking! Then it was time to go up and face the hot weather again whereas underwater, it was so cool. It took us 30 minutes to reach back to the shore and we took a shower before we checked out the video and photos that was taken underwater. We then had a light meal which was included in the package at the hotel restaurant and by 12pm, the driver came and pick us up to send us back to our accommodation.
At 3pm, I headed out again to go to Legian and Kuta area. It took 30 minutes to reach there from Sanur by taxi and I told the driver to drop me off at the Legian bombing memorial. The memorial monument was not so obvious that i walked passed it until I asked a security guard and he told me that it's just in front. After taking some shots, I started walking down towards Kuta. There were a lot of shops and restaurants which were more cheaper than in Sanur because of fierce competition but traffic was just horrible as the cars wouldn't stop and it was so difficult to just get across the road! It took me quite a while to find Kuta beach but in the end I found it. When I got there, the sight was the opposite of Sanur beach. Lots of people on the beach as well as in the water. Some people were trying to get me to do surfing and I didn't expect to learn surfing myself since I didn't know how to swim and also didn't bring any swimming clothes. However one of the surfing instructor was so persistent that I ended up learning surfing with the swimming clothes he lent me. Balancing on the surfboard wass tough especially if your arm muscles aren't as strong like mine since you have to push your whole body upwards and balance. I kept on falling after getting up on the surfboard and since I kept on falling on the shallow area, my right knee was scrapped by the sharp broken seashells. I only managed to stand long enough once for his friend to take picture of me balancing on the surfboard which was at least some achievement. By then my arms were getting tired so I couldn't get up and balance well anymore plus the kids just won't go away when my surfboard was heading towards them. I even had a collision with another kid also balancing on the surfboard as we didn't know how to control the direction of the board and his mother who was waiting to take photos of him just laughed at us when both of us fell into the water. In the end I called it a day and told the instructor I will come again tomorrow afternoon when it's not so hot since I have nothing to do also and also to learn again 1 last time before I head back to Brunei.
Wednesday (24/12/2014) In the morning, I packed ready most of my stuff since my flight will be at 7.10am the next morning and waited for the day to be slightly cooler before going to Kuta beach again. This time the taxi driver dropped me off at another side of the beach so I had walked and find which direction I was at before arriving at the beach. Learning surfing 2 days in a row was a very huge mistake for me. My arms were already aching from yesterday's lesson so today, I was not even able to lift up my body at all. Instead I told the instructor that I will balance in a squatting position first which doesn't require me to push my body upwards and then try to balance. However, I didn't managed to improve and call it quits earlier than the day before. Since I was going to treat the surfing instructor dinner as it was Christmas eve also, I waiting at the beach until he got off work and I finally saw the sunset. Apparently, Kuta is in the west and Sanur is in the east which was the reason why it was difficult to see the sun setting in Sanur. For dinner, we went to a local restaurant and ordered a set menu which was quite a lot for 2 person and talked about life in Bali since he was actually from Bandung. By the time we had finished and I reached back to the villa, it was already 10pm and I had to do packing for the rest of my stuff that I haven't packed yet.
Thursday (25/12/2014) The driver was supposed to come at 4am to send me to the airport but he didn't turn up until 4.30am and by then, it was raining heavily. He was not happy that Leenie did not inform him that my flight was at 7.10am but fortunately, when we arrived at the airport, there was still time since there was no traffic on the road. After being in Indonesia for 22 days, I would say that it's full of unplanned adventure as I've never intended to hike up 3 volcanoes very early in the morning but it was a fun experience. I would love to go back to Java again though I would not go back to Bali at all since the weather was extremely hot and it is too commercialised and everyone kept on asking you to introduce them to your friends when they come to Bali since all of them wants to be the guide/driver for tourists.