A weekend in Bali

Bali, the land of temples and beaches was awarded by Trip Advisor as the world’s top destination in the Traveler’s choice category. With the beaches, amusement parks and night life on one hand and the temples, dances and artwork on the other, Bali presents itself as a perfect gateway for both the modern and the traditional. But for photographers like us it presents itself as a go to location for fantastic architecture and awesome sunsets at the beaches overlooking the temples. In one word, Bali is a photographer’s paradise. For us it was a quick weekend gateway and hence we were unable to explore much. But nevertheless, it was a memorable holiday with awesome pictures, great food and most importantly the friendly Balinese people.

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Accommodation: Adi Dharma Cottages, Kuta, Bali.

Partners in Crime: Riju and Antara

Day 1: After a 2 and half hour’s flight and all airport formalities, we finally checked in to the hotel at around noon. The welcome drink served was refreshing and definitely reduced the travel exertion.Lunch comprised of traditional Indonesian cuisine - Bakmi Goreng, a delicious vegetarian preparation and Indonesian lunch platter Set Nasi Bali. There is a misconception that it is difficult to find good vegetraian food in Bali. But trust me, I was served some mouth watering vegetarian Indonesian dishes during my course of stay in Bali. A travel to Bali can never be complete without tasting the local cuisine. Post lunch, we booked a cab from the hotel and went to explore Uluwatu and other surrounding areas.

Lunch

While in Bali, you will never miss the flower offerings or "Canang sari", in front of every temple, houses, shops and also inside the cabs. These flower offerings are placed after offering daily prayers to God "Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa" , the creator.

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The first stop was Bukit Sari, an organic tea and coffee joint. It was here that we were introduced to Luwak coffee, something I would not fancy having after knowing the preparation method. Luwak coffee is made from the coffee cherries eaten and excreted by Asian Palm Civet. The excrete is collected, washed and dried to get the coffee beans. It is believed that the digestive juices of the Civet adds flavors to the coffee. The coffee joint welcomes each visitor with a palette of tea and coffee varieties. Luwak coffee, being quite expensive was not available in the welcome drinks platter. The flavored tea and coffee preparations were awesome and freshened us up. We also got a few packets of mangosteen and lemon grass tea home.

After, the wonderful tea break we headed to the Padang Padang beach, entrance of which is a white limestone cave. You descend a narrow staircase,through which only one person can cross at a time to reach this clean white sand beach with calm seawater.

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The last destination for the day was the Uluwatu temple. Uluwatu temple is best visited at sunset, wherein in addition to the beautiful sunset one can also witness the Kecak dance at an amphitheater located at the south of the temple. The dance performances are based on snippets from the epic Ramayana. At the start of the show, around 75 male dancers enter the stage with their hands in the air chanting cak-ke-cak in chorus. No instruments are used in the dance. The dancers dance to the tunes of the chants. The show is based on 5 episodes taken from the Ramayana. The story unfolds with the characters of the Ramayana Ram, Sita and Lakhsman in exile. Ravana, the demon king had a crush on Sita and kidnaps her in the absence of Ram and Lakhsman. The story concludes with Ram and Lakhsman rescuing Sita with the help of the monkey god Hanuman.

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Uluwatu

Once back in the hotel, we had traditional Indonesian dinner and roamed the nearby areas, crowded by tourists. In Kuta market, you get really cheap look alikes of the branded items and are worth buying. We did not shop much as each shop crowded, 

 Day 2: On the second day we booked a cab from the hotel and after a delicious Indonesian breakfast which included Mie Goreng and fresh fruit juice headed towards Ubud, located in Central Bali. Ubud is also known as the cultural capital of Bali cultural centre of Bali as it is an arts and crafts hub of the Island province. There are abundance of artists workshop and galleries in Ubud.Much of the town and nearby villages seems to consist of artists' workshops and galleries. Our first stop was a boutique of Batik artifacts. Batik is a technique of wax dyeing the cloth. We had the priviledge of witnessing an artist working on it and also purchased quite a few of the artifacts. We also visited a silver jewellery workshop and witnessed the amazing work of the artisans.

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Ubud is also famous for stone carvings and you would see lot of stone statues on the roads. These stone statues are handmade and takes about 6 months to a year to complete.

After admiring the artisans of Bali, we made way to the Monkey Forest. As the name suggests the place is full of monkeys and you need to be a bit careful. The monkey forest is also famous for the three temples located in the forest premises. The main temple is the “Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal”, dedicated to “Hyang Widhi” an avatar of Lord Shiva. The next temple is “Pura Beji”, dedicated to goddess Ganga, personification of the river Ganga in India which is regarded as the most sacred river by the Hindus. This temple is used for spiritual and physical cleansing and purification prior to religious ceremonies. The third temple is “Pura Prajapati”. This temple is also dedicated to “Hyang Widhi” also called Prajapati. A cemetery adjacent to this temple receives the bodies of the deceased for temporary burial while they await a mass cremation ceremony, held once every five years. The temples are not accessible to the tourists but can be viewed from outside. The temples, the jungle ambience and the Balinese long tailed monkeys form the core of the monkey forest and the trip to Bali is incomplete without a visit to this important tourist location.

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By the time, we were out of the Monkey forest, it was lunch time and we stopped by at Adi Asri restaurant for lunch. Lunch constituted of local indonesian dishes - Oseng Oseng Tahu and Sayur, A sautéed bean Curd and vegetable curry served with white rice and Ayam Goreng Gurih, Sauted chicken pieces cooked in sweet soy sauce and served with steamed rice. Post lunch we headed to the Ubud palace, the official residence of the royal family of Ubud. 

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 In the vicinity of the Ubud palace you have the Pura Taman Saraswati with it's lotus ponds. This temple also hosts the traditional Kecak dance in the evening.

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 Approximately, six kilometres out of central Ubud is Goa Gajah or the Elephant Cave temple, built in the 9th century. The man-made T shaped cave has shrines of Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesh at the two ends of the T and Goddess Yani at the center. Opposite to the cave are two square pools with six females holding vases as waterspouts.

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We returned back to Kuta after Goa Gajah and spent the rest of the evening by the picturesque Kuta beach.

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Day 3: After a quick indonesian breakfast at the hotel, we started for the Taman Ayun temple. It was a nice little journey through the countryside, however, Taman Ayun is as commercial as can be. When we reached, it took us a whole 20-25 minutes and a couple of trips round a roundabout before our driver could park the car. A walk through a crowded place, a tumble of yours truly and a couple of bottles of water later we finally reached the temple. The temple itself is built over quite a large area comprising of the main temple which is surrounded by a narrow body of water, and an area which was originally the place where the King used to hold cock fights. It is quite a large area and unlike many places where they have such events, actually has a shade built over it. Its quite a nicely built temple - we did have to wait quite a bit to get a few decent photos of it considering all selfie-mongers who never want to leave.

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After the tiring walking through this lovely temple, we decided to have a stopover for lunch. Our driver took us to a wonderful place which by the way was an attraction in itself! The restaurant is a place which is built around a pond which has hundreds of fish. We ordered our meals and thoroughly enjoyed them! The place to sit was even more awesome with the place having enough space to actually lie down and sleep (which unfortunately we did not have the time for!). After having lunch and enjoying the fresh watermelon juice, we enjoyed a throughly engrossing conversation with the fish before heading out through some small rice fields onto Tanah Lot which literally translates to "land in the sea".

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Tanah Lot is a beautiful temple built by a once traveller on a lonely rock which has been shaped over many years by the waters of the sea. Its a temple which is visited by many locals and is open to locals only. This temple can be visited only during low tide, since at high tide, the temple gets isolated from the mainland. Its quite a mystic place (although we should have probably reached very early on a misty morning to experience the mystique - here it just felt overcrowded!). 

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So the idea here was to shoot the sunset. We had seen so many images of the sunset here, that we knew we just had to shoot the sunset here. Being clear skies, it offered the best possible opportunity for us to do so. We visited the smaller temple and settled down on a spot which offered a good view of the sunset at Pura Batu Bolong, which is the small temple on a rock formation a small walk from the main temple. We had to wait for a bit since sunset was still some time away. But it didn't disappoint! The sunset was so beautiful! Although we wanted to actually go down to the ground level, but unfortunately with the tumble I had taken in the morning, it was not possible. We did see some people jump the "do not cross" sign and climb down. Well...sunset finally arrived and we kept clicking pictures of it until our "friendly neighbourhood driver" came in to remind us that we had to start before the buses started. We did manage to start before the buses, but still managed to land in a massive traffic jam which lasted quite some distance. Dinner was a quite affair at the hotel since we were both exhausted and already sad about returning. 

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We started the next morning with a silent promise to ourselves to make our way back soon, since we still had the volcano to climb and take photos of the sunrise at the rice terraces - the actual ones, not the small ones! And more of course! So until the next trip...