The Last Wonders of Bali: Gates of Heaven and Mount Batur

As they say, ‘save the best for the last’, and thus the two best places were saved for the last day of my Bali sojourn. Both the Gates of Heaven and Mount Batur were quite a distance from Kuta and I had to start off very early to have enough time to reach and explore these beauties.

Gates of Heaven 

The Lempuyang Temple nestled amidst the slopes of Mount Lempuyang in East Bali is probably the most photogenic place I have seen so far. Also called The Gates of Heaven, it does take a lot of determination, strength, sweat, and toil to overcome almost perpendicular roads, around 1700 steps and reach the height of 1175 m above sea level to knock on the Gates of Heaven, on Earth!  It takes skills to climb up to the temple from the mountain base where the Agung temple is situated; but there are facilities for car parking, local transport and shared transportation making life easier for tourists. The entry to the temple costs 20,000 Rupiah per person. Being a temple, it is also mandatory to wear a Sarong, cover the shoulders and tie back your hair.

The Temple is so named because it seems as if beyond the doors of the temple one would enter the portal to heaven. The altitude and sky-touching height give it an illusion that one is nestled between the clouds.  It makes for a very popular tourist destination in Bali and clicking a photograph here is a must.  There are also special photographers whom you can hire to take your photos. The film is developed and handed over instantly. But, mind the line it often amounts to hundreds waiting in the queue.

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Way to the Temple 
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Gates of Heaven

Mount Batur

Never did I ever think that while studying volcanoes in Geography I would be able to see one with my own eyes. What was instantly thrilling and scary at the same time was the fact that the Batur Volcano was an active one and the last eruption was not so long ago.  It takes almost 2 hours to reach Mount Batur from the Gates of Heaven. Bali in October can be really hot but Mount Batur’s ride uphill made up for it- it was freezing cold! Do carry warm clothes even if you visit during summer for you would need it.

The first documented eruption from Mount Batur took place is 1804 and then again in 2000. In September 2012, it was declared as a UNESCO Global Geoparks Network. It is interesting to note that there are settlements surrounding the volcano. I was not so daring as to visit the volcano from these villages but it was still a beautiful sight, seeing it from the mountain slopes. It almost resembled the mall roads of Indian hill-stations.

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Mount and Lake Batur 

Lake Batur

It is the volcanic Crater Lake formed due to the multiple eruptions in Mount Batur. The settlements around the Lake influence the agriculture and aquaculture of the region. It is also a source of several hot springs.

Batur Geopark Museum  

Previously called the Museum of Volcano Batur, it was renamed after Mount Batur was given a status among the UNESCO sites. It showcases the history of the region through dioramas. The entry fee for the museum is 20,000 Rupiahs. It is open Mon to Fri – 8 am to 4 pm, and Sat and Sun 8 am – 2 pm. If you are interested in Geography or Geology, then a visit to this museum is a must.

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Batur Geopark Museum 

Rice Fields

I had previously written to you about my experience visiting the Tegalalang Rice Fields. While that was a touristy experience; this was a rustic chanced sighting of the entire harvesting process. On my way to Kuta, I just happened to see numerous men and women working on the rice fields tending to it. The various different processes opened up in layers in front of me. What more, I could go closer and take photographs.

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Work in the fields 

Bali Foodgasm

Food in Bali varies to a great degree reflecting cosmopolitanism. You would find small shacks serving meatballs, soups, and rice with vegetables and meat; and you would also find pubs, restaurants, and branded cafes and hotel chains. I would personally recommend meatballs, sticky rice, and pork ribs. These three were my favorite. Another interesting find was flavors of drinks and snacks from known brands – Grape and Apple Fanta, SeaWeed Lays, etc. Of course in India, these are unheard of, probably because the market has not been very welcoming to them.

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To the best Food in Bali – Smoked Pork Ribs 

And with a planeload of memories and experiences, it was time to bid goodbye to this beautiful island. My departure coincided with Halloween and it was a wonder to see costume flash mob at the Bali airport. Young men and women were dressed up as witches, wizards, draculas, and widows to entertain the passengers. This time too it was Malindo Airlines with their perfect hospitality. A three-hour journey from Bali to Kuala Lumpur; and then another four hours to Kolkata- to home. It was almost past midnight when I landed in Kolkata- the streets were vacant and peaceful but in my head, numerous thoughts were buzzing about Bali, about the experience, about telling my close ones about the stay and of course, about writing it down on my blog!

That was all about my Bali Travels. I would soon be back with other travel stories. Due to the global crisis of the Novel Coronas Virus, it is an unsafe time to travel at the moment. In a country experiencing Lockdown, this is the time to think about self-improvement, spending time with family and pets, catching up on reading and some tips for self-sustainability. Till the situation is better, take care and do catch up on my book reviews from next week.

Bali: Up Close with Scenic Marvels, Thrilling Bridges and Shoppers Paradise

You bat an eyelid and days go by during vacations. After going on a whirlwind sightseeing spree in Ubud, it was time to explore places closer to Kuta and go down south. Breakfast was noodles as usual and before the clock struck 10 am, I was on the road. Though the number of destinations might be lesser than the day before but the travel time and the quality of the destinations made up for everything.

Bali Zoo:

It is the home of conservation, smart education, research, and recreational activities. With over 450 species of animals housed in the zoo, it is the perfect place for getting close with your favorite animals. The regular entry fee for an adult is approx. INR 356,500 Rupiah. This apart, there are several special packages which include special activities like ‘Breakfast with Orangutan’, ‘Night at the Zoo’, ‘Elephant Mud Fun’, animal presentations and birthday celebrations. Each package is differently priced and would have different inclusions like hotel transfer, zoo entrance, special activity and the like. The activities require pre-booking and are usually open from 6:30 am. For more information on the Bali zoo, you can check out their Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Website.

Tegenungan Waterfalls:

Waterfalls are truly a beauty. Adding another one to my list of sightseeing, The Tegenungan Waterfall which remains open every day from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm. The entrance to the same is 15,000 Rupiah for adults and 10,000 Rupiah for children. Should you not want to take a bath, do not worry. You can enjoy the scenic beauty, take a walk around the land; bathe, soak, swim; take great display photographs for your social media; try the waterfall swing or jump, and of course indulge in some local food and shopping.

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Tegenungan Waterfalls

Bali Bird Park:

If you love your feathery friends, then the Bali bird Park should garner a mandatory visit. Housing over 1000 birds of around 250 species, the park reflects the natural habitats of Indonesia, Latin America, Africa, Australia, and other places. To satisfy your hunger pangs there exists a restaurant and a café within the precincts. Informative documentaries and short films are screened in the 4D AC cinema hall. Special activities with birds can be pre-booked. The entrance fee for the park is 385,000 Rupiah for adults and 192,500 for children. For more information, you can visit their Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Website.

Bali Toll Road:

If anyone was to ask me about a near-death experience, I would probably say this toll bridge. It’s a scientific marvel and also scary for a first-timer traveling on the bridge surrounded by pristine waters around as far as your eyes can go, planes zooming right above your head and cars and bikes swooshing past as if you are in a race arena. If you love thrill and adventure, then the Bali Toll Bridge is a must for you. Built over the Gulf of Benoa this 12.7 km long bridge was opened by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in September 2013 and has been busily used since then by thousands of locals and tourists.

Garuda Wisnu Kencana:

The Garuda or the eagle is the national emblem of Indonesia signifying freedom from oppression. The 120 m height of the statue of Vishnu on Garuda makes it one of the tallest statues in the World. The structure has been designed by renowned Balinese artist Nyoman Nuarta. The park is situated on a hillock with the car parking area quite a distance away from the main statue. Car/bike parking costs 10,000 Rupiah while the entrance fee is 125,000 Rupiah. You can walk down the entire stretch or avail the timely bus services provided by the Park between 8 am to 9 pm daily. Vishnu and Garuda are two important mythological icons shared by Hindu-Balinese culture. Here, both adorn Gold Mosaic Crowns. More information about Garuda Wisnu Kencana can be found on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Website.

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Garuda Wisnu Kencana

Going on a Shopping spree:

Bali can be called Shopper’s Paradise.  You would find beautiful curios in the alleyways and shopping lanes of Kuta and also designer dresses, multi-cuisine restaurants and branded cafes and hotels in places like Ubud. Hereunder is a list of things that caught my eyes and some of them made it to my suitcase back home.

  • Colorful Dream catchers
  • Bali Fridge Magnets
  • Sleek and Chic Side Bags
  • Knitted Shrugs
  • Bali curios- Tshirts, Postcards, Caps, Bags, etc.
  • Last but not least local snacks.

bali shopping

It’s that time of the vacation when your heart starts pounding over the thought of having to leave it soon. With only a day left for me to spend, I wanted to spend it well and wisely.  If there was anything about volcanoes that I had read about in the geography books but could not practically see it before- I was about to witness the same. Also, did I mention it’s an active volcano?

More about it next week. . . . . . . .

Bali Day 4

Exploring Ubud: The Culture Hub of Bali

I completely do not agree with time when it zooms by during holidays. With a day gone I had only three more days to spend on this lovely island. Without wasting even a minute I set off for Ubud. Situated around 34 km North of Kuta, there are lots of attractions in and around Ubud which are a must-see during your visit.

Bali Swing:

One of the most popular attractions in the country is the Bali Swing. Though you would find a swing in almost every tourist spot, but this is the best! The Swings are of 10m/15m/20m/78m above the ground. They come in various shapes and sizes including Hanging Nests overlooking stunning views. Most people come with friends or families to sit and relax and take great photographs up in the air. The Bali Swing is open every day from 8 am to 5 pm and the entry charges come in packages 150,000 Rupiah onwards.

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Bali Swing

Campuhan Ridge Walk:

This 6 km Ridgewalk stretched over cobbled roads, water streams, lush fields, and thick foliage is ideal for trekkers. Campuhan translates to the convergence of two rivers. Along the walk, you would come across the Gunung Lebah, a temple at the site of the convergence. Should you be lucky you can also witness the holy ceremony of offerings being performed there. Since this is a trekking road, it is recommended you carry water bottles, boots, wear light but covered clothes, caps and the camera.

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Ridgewalk

Campuhan Waterfall:

Not sure when was the last time I witnessed a waterfall –up close. The Campuhan Waterfall is free-flowing, beautiful, picturesque and armed with of course a Bali Swing. There are special lockers to store your clothes should you be willing to take a dip. The entrance fee is 10,000 Rupiah per person.

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Waterfall

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary:

This isn’t my first tryst with monkeys, but definitely the first with well-behaved ones. The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a place that speaks of economy, religion, education, and conservation. With over 700 monkeys and 186 species of biodiversity; the sanctuary welcomes people every day of the week from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm. The entrance fee for adults is 80,000 Rupiah and children, 60,000 Rupiah. It runs on the philosophy of ‘Tri Hita Karana’ or happiness among three parties- humans and humans; humans and environment; and humans with the Supreme God. The conservatory holds three temples- Pura Dalem Agung, Pura Beji and Pura Prajapati. Sharing a quick tip, should you want to save money on entrance fee just ride past the sanctuary on a bike and you’ll almost every time spot monkeys crossing the road.

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Spot the Monkeys!

Goh Gajah (temple):

The Goh Gajah Temple or the Elephant Caves were a 9th-century marvel. This elephant sanctuary depicts Hindu-Buddhist faith motifs throughout the temple structures. The entrance to the temple complex is uniquely marked by seven statues of ladies holding water pitchers. It is said that these ladies depict the seven important rivers of India- Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Godavari, Sindhu, Kaveri and Narmada. The Temple is a site of archaeological interest as it was re-discovered by Dutch archaeologists in 1923 and the bathing pool was unearthed in 1954. Wearing a Sarong is a must in the temple. Although it is available for hire, but remember I got my own. The entrance fee for the temple is 10,000 Rupiah.

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Main Temple Entrance
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Bathing Pool

Tegalalang Rice Terrace/ Bali Rice Terrace: rice Fields:

If you are looking to spend time amidst a picturesque location, swing on the relaxing Swings, walk along the rice-fields during sunrise/ sunset or shop and eat overlooking rice fields, this is the place for you. With an entrance fee of 20,000 Rupiah per person and a parking fee of 5,000 Rupiah, the fields make for a perfect destination for lovebirds and nature lovers. It is open every day from 7 am till sunset for the visitors.

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Rice Fields

Tirta Empul:

This Hindu-Balinese water temple comprises the main temple, holy spring, and the petirtaan or the bathing structure used for ritualistic purification. It is where the people come for ritual purification. I was lucky enough to witness the same. From children on their mother’s laps to the old, everyone took a dip in the waters of this holy spring. Built around 962 AD during the Warmadewa dynasty, the temple is dedicated to Vishnu. A hill overlooking this temple houses a villa built for President Sukarno’s visit in 1954, which now hosts important state dignitaries.

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Main Temple complex
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Holy Spring
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Ritual Purification at petirtaan or bathing pool

Ubud Palace:

Built during the 1800s by Late Ida Tjorkorda Putu Kandel, the Ubud Palace is the house of the rulers of Ubud. It boasts of intricate Balinese architecture complete with a beautifully pruned garden. Today, it is the cultural hub of the city and hosts various cultural shows. Entry to the Ubud Palace is free and open to all from 9 am to 6 pm every day. However, the various cultural shows might require an entry fee and this can be enquired at the entrance.

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Inside Ubud Palace

Ubud Writers Festival:

Unfortunately, I was one day too late. Nevertheless, I would be happy if someday I could return to the Festival. Started in 2004, the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival is one of the most celebrated literary festivals. Conceptualized as a healing project after the 2002 Bali Bomb blasts, the themes of the festival are drawn from the Hindu-Balinese philosophy. In 2020, the Festival is scheduled from 28 Oct- 1 Nov and the theme is Mulat Sarira or self-reflection.  More information about the Festival is available on Twitter, Instagram, and Website.

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A Glimpse of the hoarding for 2019 edition

Despite traveling for almost 70 km and more there were still many unexplored areas. My third day in Bali was close to Nature, Culture and the Roads! Leaving some glimpses behind.

Bali Day 3

Setting out on an adventure to Bali

My travels have mostly taken me to the West – in terms of residence or academics- but I got my first opportunity to travel to the East rather South East when Bali came to be on my travel charts. The Island of Bali, in Indonesia, reverberates scenes of romantic holidays in the first go, but it is much more than that. During my initial research, I found almost all kinds of geographical landscapes (except deserts) to be present in Bali. From pristine beaches to freezing volcano; from mesmerizing waterfalls to trekking ridges – you name a place and it is there! Being an international destination, and one which cannot be visited very often (call it time restraints or financial), it needs good research and planning before actually laying foot on this scenic terrain.

Research Essentials:

  • Dates
  • Flight options
  • Visa Formalities
  • To check the Weather and pack your luggage accordingly (Cannot be 100% accurate but we can always go with an idea)
  • Hotels/ homestays booking
  • Exchange rates and convert some INR to Indonesian Rupiah
  • International SIM cards
  • In-land transport options
  • A bucket list of places you really want to visit, their timings, entrance fee etc.
  • To check the local Traditions and Rituals and dress code if any
  • To make a list of Emergency Contact Numbers (including embassy etc.)

Planning your visit:

With a hectic work schedule in events, I hardly get time for holidaying around. But October being a festive month with a large number of holidays was my chance to sneak away to a much-needed vacation. Settling for 25th – 31st October 2019, the next immediate step was to scout for budget flight options. For this, Malindo Air was chosen. We had a 12-hour halt in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur International airport before catching the connecting flight to Denpasar, Bali. The best part was since it was only a journey of 6 days; I did not require a Visa with an Indian Passport. Clearing immigration was enough.

Malindo Plane

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia commons

Accommodation and In-Land Transportation:

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Sekhar Bali Homestay

The weather in Bali during October would be hot and dry during the day but cool during the night. Surrounded by water bodies on all sides gives Bali a pleasant climate throughout the year.  This was a complete budget trip; the best in the lowest was my motto. After checking many options which at one-time included a villa I opted for Sekhar Bali Homestay, in downtown Kuta. Kuta is the most happening place in Bali, two-minutes from the beaches and the most envious nightlife you could ever imagine. The best exchange rate was from Dollar to Indonesian Rupiah and hence I converted the INR to USD to IR. Exchange Rates differ and it is best to check right before you are planning the trip so that you can get the best returns.  Like every place you have the options of hiring cabs and taxis- Grab and Blue Bird; but what most individuals prefer is to hire a bike that is available from 60,000 IR to 75,000 IR a day (oil on the individual).

Making a Bucket List:

Bali is a country to be geographically lauded for. From rice fields to forests; to palaces to islands; from volcanoes to museums; to beaches and waterfalls to temples – such diverse scenic landscapes to see everywhere. I jotted down quite a few places to visit but then not everything was physically possible nevertheless I have seen at least one tourist place from every category- from the famous Bali Swing to Ubud Palace; from Kuta Beach to traveling on the toll bridge; from Goh Gajah Temple to Monkey Park. Bali is a country steeped in rituals and hence in all religious places women are expected to cover their bodies and wear a Sarong.

Setting out on an adventure:

The common notion is that an adventure begins when you reach your destination; I believe the real adventure is during the planning phase, it just culminates when you reach your destination. Thus on a rain-washed evening, I set out with my back-pack to the Kolkata airport to catch a flight to this unknown destination. International flights are often scheduled in the evenings to post-midnight- a trend which I have generally seen. My flight was at 12:05 IST with Malindo Air. This was my first time with them and they were truly hospitable. In fact, they upgraded my seat to a Window seat with more leg space and a fine view. What More, they even added a meal to it!  The first leg of my 4 hours journey from Kolkata to Malaysia was smooth and without any turbulence. I reached Malaysia at around 8 in the morning (remember time zones change). Since I did not have a transit visa I had to wait for the connecting flight at the airport.

Malaysia Truly Asia to Bali:

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Model Planes at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 

Kuala Lumpur International airport like most international airports is cosmopolitan. With branded shopping arcade to clean toilets and huge waiting areas, especially for transit passengers – the airport provided all facilities to the visitors. After almost a 12-hour wait and several cuppa noodles later I caught the connecting flight – again a Malindo Air – to Denpasar.

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Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar

A three-hour journey later I reached Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar well past midnight. The view from the window was beautiful- twinkling lights and risings waves in the high tide! Of course, it was too dark to see anything properly but I did have the next four days to explore. After clearing the immigration and booking a Grab through the Free WIFI at the airport I reached Sekhar Bali homestay – my home for the next five nights. It was indeed a long journey and it was best to sleep it off to reenergize for a new day where many adventures await.

Lastly, I give glimpses of my travels ahead but would talk about them in greater detail in the subsequent blog posts.