Monthly Archives: January 2014

Ubud Monkey Forest

Our next stop on the trip was Ubud, but first, a few more pictures of A Village Above the Clouds:

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From Village Above the Clouds, we headed to Ubud… another touristy place mostly made famous by eat, pray, love. It was known to have all sorts of cuisines and cultural and artsy trinkets– the best place to get souvenirs. Ubud was going to serve as our base for the last part of our trip… it was supposed to be really cool…and it was. We loved it and could have easily spent 2 weeks there alone. This first day, we just wanted to see the downtown area, so after being dropped at Swasti Eco Lodge [another stellar hotel– more on it later], we started our walk into town, only to get sidetracked by the ever massive “Monkey Forest”. Naturally, we had to take a look. I have. never. seen. that. many. monkeys. in. my. life. There were so many monkeys! Seriously— tons of them. They were very handsy– one of them kept trying to put its hand in my purse. The forest is a really big place and there are a number of temples within it as well. We walked down to a water-related temple that was known in the tourist world as the Indiana Jones Temple- surrounded by trees and water, you have to hiked down a bridge of steps. There are monkeys and statues… you know the drill. Very cool and very worth the trip. A warning though– if you go to Monkey Forest, don’t pick up the old pieces of banana from the ground and hand them to a monkey– chances are that if it’s on the ground, they already rejected it for a reason. I made the mistake of picking up 1/2 a banana and holding it out to a monkey who bit into it and then proceeded to charge me with his teeth hanging out.

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After taking copious amounts of Monkey pictures, we worked our way towards the exit of monkey forest, where we came upon the preparations for a cremation. Remember my post about the importance and tradition of cremations, offerings, and death ceremonies? Well, this was the day before the event- tons of people were around and setting things up for the event. We spoke with a few locals during our time to understand the whole process. As it turns out, giant wood carvings of lions and horses are created to carry each body to the cremation. The entire carving is lit on fire and cremated and then the ashes are moved again into a smaller ceremonial temple of sorts. Additionally, large cremations only happen every so often, so this cremation was  to involve many many bodies. The colors were bright and people seemed generally happy– they were naturally, celebrating lives and through a rich cultural tradition. This particular cremation was not open to the public, so we did not get a chance to watch. Additionally, we had plans to hike Mount Batur the next morning for sunrise! We walked around town as well just for a few minutes, before heading back to Swasti to prep for our 3AM wake up call.

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Exploring Bedugul by Scooter

After a wonderful sleep, we woke up to the sun shining and a gorgeous view of the farm from bed through a wall-sized window. Just gorgeous. We got dressed and headed to the kitchen for breakfast; by the way, if you stay at Village Above the Clouds, I highly recommend that you get to breakfast before the other folks staying there– if you do, you get to sit at the sole table that is outdoors and has a wonderful view over the farm! Breakfast was filled with coffee, fruit, and coconut crepes for Andrew and Mie Goreng with an egg for me. After breakfast, we spoke to one of the employees and in about 10 minutes, we had hopped onto our scooters and we were ready to go. It was about a 25 minute ride back into the town of Bedugul– up and down mountains and around turns and although the scooters seem really easy- it took us a bit to get the swing of things. Luckily, it seemed up in the mountains of this area, traffic wasn’t as bad as in other places [thankfully, since I ended up on the wrong side of the road several times]. After the day of scootering around, we decided that next time we come to Bali, we’re going to ride scooters everywhere- they are awesome! Anyway ,back to the day…

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We first road up to the land of the monkeys- up the mountain on the other side of the valley- there they were. Just hanging out and wanting snacks from people. There was one really really fat monkey [I dubbed him fatboy] that would tug on people’s pants to try and get a snack. Most of the monkeys were pretty mild, but some of them had personality to say the least. If you go after the monkeys, just a warning- don’t get too close and don’t try to tick them off :).

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After checking out the monkeys, we headed back down the mountain into the valley with at least three purposes still for the day: 1] eat something with strawberries because this region is known for their strawberry growing, 2] check out the Ulu Danu Water Temple [one of the more famous temples], and 3] check out the open air market on the way back to our cottage. On our way back down the mountain however, I quickly became distracted by a tiny little stand next to the road that had two GIGANTIC bright orange iguanas sitting outside and sunning themselves. Naturally, I had to stop. We pulled over and it turned out to be some really weird touch zoo… at least that’s the best way I can describe it. The deal is you pay to have a picture with the animals. Before we could decide what to do– the guy working there took out a mongoose and promptly put him on Andrew’s shoulder. I’m not going to lie– I was kind of in love with that mongoose and he really seemed to like Andrew. Andrew’s picture day ended there and I jumped in. First, I got a picture with one of those orange iguanas I was talking about… then I got a picture with a giant bat hanging onto my belt loops. Next up was a boa constrictor– to be honest, I had no real desire to have the boa on me but I didn’t really have a choice- the guy just put him on me. My last animal was a little hedgehog… it was awesome. Naturally, it was bad that these poor animals are here and so tame when they could be in the wild and what not… but I still liked holding them :0) What can you do?

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After we played with the animals for a while, we were hungry…. so we went off in search of a strawberry place. We ended up at a small hotel/restaurant called Strawberry Hill where we promptly ordered strawberry pancakes and a strawberry milkshake– both delicious and fresh and just yum. After our snack, we went off in search of Ulu Danu Water Temple. This is one of the more famous water temples in Bali so we knew it would be crowded…and it was. It’s located on Lake Bratan. We read about some sunrise trips you can take on the lake that give you great views of the temple- didn’t get to them this time, but perhaps next time :). Anyway, the temple was positively gorgeous and the detail and designs were so intricate. The views were amazing and even though it was crowded, the temple area is large enough that you don’t really feel all that crowded unless you are in the “big picture” areas. Even still, we got a number of photos and were very happy with our visit to the temple. Bonus– the painting that Andrew had been talked into purchasing in Lovina… it was of Ulu Danu Water Temple! So it all worked out in the end- we got a painting of place we had visited…that really could have turned out worse :).

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After the temple, we made one more stop on our way back to Village Above the Clouds– the outdoor market. I have a real love of seeing different markets in different places in the world… [read about this historical market in Fremantle, Australia… I also need to post about an amazing Sunday Asian Market in London that we visited in 2012, as well as our hometown markets…]. Anyway, this was a small open market on the side of the road that was touristy but so cool. They sold all sorts of things from garden plants to masks to kites to spices to fresh fruits and vegetables to jewelry. While we ended up only purchasing some fruits [ok, a lot of fruit], we did also snap a few cool pictures of the various wares… afterwards, we bought a hot corn on the cob [they sell them a lot around here– it’s a bit on the tough side but still tasty] and then headed back to Village Above the Clouds for our dinner.

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Village Above the Clouds

After a great and relaxing evening, we woke up at Puri Mangga in Lovina and had a delicious breakfast that consisted of fresh fruit plates, coffee, fruit juice, pineapple pancakes for Andrew, and the more traditional Mie Gorenge [Fried Noodles] for me.

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We then loaded up our stuff and headed towards the sky…. Village Above the Clouds, more specifically [also known as Desa Ata Sawan]. It’s located past Bedugul, in the center of Bali– up in the mountains, above the clouds, as it may be. Andrew found this spot and I am so glad that he did— it consists of a main hut that is just a sitting room with a view over an organic farm, three separate huts [we stayed in one of these], and then a kitchen building with two separate rooms above the main floor. It is tiny and a hidden gem- tucked away in the mountains, far away from the hustle and bustle. It is well worth the drive and I would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone [website here: A Village Above the Clouds]. On our drive there, we again saw gorgeous rice terraces and tobacco plants as well as…. a new item to check off the list- monkeys. Lots and lots of monkeys. More on them later.

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When we got to A Village Above the Clouds, we asked one of the employees if they had a map of the area so we could walk around and his response was, “oh you don’t need a map. Just go get lost and have a great time.” Ummm awesome. We were allowed to wonder through the terraced organic farm and surrounding areas. Ugh just gorgeous. There were all sorts of veggies and plants growing in all different stages. We saw integrated pest management [ a way of naturally dealing with pests rather than spraying] or perhaps it was just shade tolerant plants growing in between non-shade tolerant plants. Either way, I loved it. We saw some intricate bamboo watering systems that carried fresh water from the stream nearby and diverted it down into the farm rows. Bamboo, of course, was also used as growing trays for seedlings. In the mornings, from our hut, we could watch as farmers picked the fresh produce and took portions of it into our kitchen to place on the menu for the day or night. The menus for dinner at A Village Above the Cloud are pre-set but they let you see the menu earlier in the day so you can provide comments or choose not to eat there… it’s very “Americanized” in the sense that they didn’t serve anything too exotic while we were there and the first night it was actually Mexican-Themed [and delicious, by the way]. Our first afternoon here, was spent as mentioned above- exploring and walking and relaxing and deciding that the next day we would rent scooters and ride back into town: destination: Monkeys, Straberries, and Water Temples.

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North Bali: The Drive to Lovina and Some Downtown

When we departed from our seaside eco resort of Puri Dajuma [website here: http://www.dajuma.com/en/eco-resort], we headed towards Lovina. We knew that Lovina was going to be at least a bit of tourist trap. It’s a town that is frequented by beach tourism. Andrew had found us a place that was a hidden gem, so to speak, up on a hill with a view of the beach, but not in town. The name of the place was Puri Mangga Sea View Resort and Spa it consisted of rooms and houses and somehow Andrew swung a house with a private pool. The drive there was via Bunut Bolong Tree. Roughly translated, this means hole tree or a tree with a hole in it. It is a sacred tree in Bali- located near the area of Pekutatan. It is related to the Banyan tree is quite simply, a massive tree with a hole in it that is large enough to drive through… there is a clove plantation on one of side of tree [located on a hill of sorts]. In addition to tree, there were also two offering temples. We had requested that the driver go by the tree, as I had a lot of interest in seeing it– it really is quite cool, reminded me of a strangler fig. However, as you might guess, it also has become somewhat of a miniature tourist traps and locals are plentiful, willing to sell you anything and everything… or to take your picture with the tree. We declined and after snapping our own photos, moved on with the trip.

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The drive to Lovina was full of all sorts of great views and picture moments. We saw a ton of rice fields, which really do appear to be placed anywhere there is spare space. Many of the rice fields are in different phases of growth– some fields just being plowed, some with baby rice, some with full grown. Based on what we saw, it would be extremely interesting to do some research on how much water is used each year for growing rice on Bali… and where it comes from.

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We also continued our list of usefulness of bamboo for everyday purposes. On this section of the trip, we saw bamboo being used as a fence, as scaffolding [to hold the building up], and as a billboard sign stand. In addition to the bamboo views, we saw a number of other awesome sights, including massive bunches of bananas, massive bags of rice, street-side stores selling roosters in large woven baskets, statues, and temples, and beautiful architecture. We also saw roadside stands with what looked like homemade dishes in pots and bowls— I’m sure they contained something most delicious!!! Perhaps some Nasi Goreng [fried rice]?

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As I mentioned earlier, we were headed for a house with a private pool. We got there fairly early and it was absolutely gorgeous. I highly recommend Puri Mangga if you want an awesome time away from the crowds [website here: http://www.puri-mangga.de/en/]. Our house was beautiful. Complete with two bedrooms [next time, we’ll have to take a friend!] and two outdoor bathrooms that each had toilets, sinks, and shows. I have mentioned lately how much I LOVE outdoor showers and bathrooms? I’m not sure I have in a few posts– I love love LOVE them. They’re so nice and there’s so much space, and it’s just awesome with the sun shining down. I digress… the pool was also phenomenal. The “resort” itself [I put that in quotes because it’s not like a Sandals resort… it’s much cooler. By that I mean, it’s smaller and remote and just beautiful]. Anyway, the resort itself has a pool and tub that were beautifully sculpted, but we instead, turned our attention to our own rectangular infinity pool that looked down into a valley and you could see the coast. On either edge of the pool was a giant papaya tree and to finish it off, there were lounge chairs to sit in and watch the hours pass by… We swam for a while and read a bit before deciding to head down into the town of Lovina.

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A driver was around almost immediately and told us he would drop us at the Dolphin statue and when we were ready to be picked up, just give them a call and they’ll meet us back there. Easy enough. We stepped out by the “dolphin” statue… I put that in quotes because most of the dolphins on the statue, appeared to have had a run in with the Queen of Hearts [as in, OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!].

We also noticed immediately, that we were no longer in seclusion. We were immediately approached by three different people wanting to sell us things– fruit, jewelry, and paintings. We assured them that we would look again later but that we were looking to get lunch and had other plans. We happened upon a thai place in Lovina called Jasmine Kitchen. I highly recommend it– fantastic fresh dishes and drinks. It was down an alley of sorts and well, away from the mayhem of the beach. We were the only ones at the restaurant and as we found out later, since it was the off-season, we were hit up by all the locals trying to sell goods [fewer tourists to take them on]. Our lunch was amazing… really. We sat upstairs on giant pillows on the ground around a low table and we ate, admittedly, way too much but it was sooo good! They also have homemade ice cream on their dessert menu which a little different from our Western-style ice cream, but still worth the taste. They also will fill your water bottles for a low price, so it’s worth the stop even if just for water [why not grab a snack, too?] After stuffing ourselves, we walked around a bit more [avoiding the beach] so that we could hopefully avoid the sales. Eventually, close to sundown, we decided to head back to the beach because we wanted to watch the sunset. It was worth it. True, we came out of it with some jewelry, a bag of fruit, and a painting that we hadn’t planned on initially… but we also made three locals very happy and took some AMAZING shots of the sunset on the water.

After sunset, we decided to look for a bar with some music for an hour or so before calling Puri Mangga to pick us up. We found an open-air spot [Kantin 21] with not a soul inside other than the bartender and a few waiters. There was a stage and a banner outside said there would be music. We stepped in and were seated at a table with an umbrella. They gave us a MASSIVE drink menu– the second they gave them to us, it became apparent once again that Lovina is not “true Bali”… it is built to appease the tourists– a fact that is made obvious by the multitude of cuisines in town as well as the bars themselves and the extensiveness of the bar menu. Most Bali folks don’t drink at all or at least not a lot. The fact that this drink menu was larger than most American bar menus is saying something. But we didn’t care. We were excited to grab a crazy drink and maybe some food and some music. One of the drinks we ordered was called the Kantin 21 Level 17— 17 alcohols mixed together. We figured, why not, right? I’m not sure the bartender even knew they made that— but they mixed one up for us and we drank it down– bright green, really funky, not sure I recommend it :). We both ended up ordering pizzas [they had an outdoor brick oven]– although I got their special pizza which ended up being a square pizza dough covered in greens and veggies [delicious]. The live music turned out to be a main singer and some back up band. The main singer was apparently a massive America fan– as he kept giving us shout outs and yelling “Obama” and “I love your movies”. Needless to say, we had a great time- as always everyone is super friendly. By the time we left, a few other couples had joined us– representing France, Australia, and Germany. Our driver met us as promised, by the dolphin statue. All in all, a great day and night!

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Summary of Day:
Route: Pekutatan to Lovina [Southwest to North-central]
Breakfast: Puri Dajuma Hotel [included with room]- delicious and fresh, fruit and hot, cooked food
Lunch: Jasmine Kitchen [Thai Food], Lovina Beach; Cash Only; Fresh and Delicious; 5 Stars
Dinner: Kantin 21 [Open Air Bar], Lovina Beach; Small Food Menu/Huge Drink Menu; 3.5 Stars
Hotel: Puri Mangga Sea View Resort and Spa, Lovina; House with Private Pool; 5 Stars

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Pura Dajuma: Mention of Illegal Sea Turtle Harvesting

As described in our post on the first day of the trip, things didn’t go exactly as we had planned; namely, biking around Bali appeared to be perhaps, not the best choice. So, we decided after arriving at Pura Dajuma [our destination for the second night], that we would spend an additional evening there so we could regroup and figure out our plans for the remainder of the trip. This extra evening, unfortunately, meant that we would skip out on the far northwest Bali trip we had planned, but we decided it was for the best and that we’d keep that on the “to do” list for our next trip to Bali. The map below shows the travel route from our first night to our second night [Legong Keraton Beach Resort on night #1].
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Because we had another night at Pura Dajuma, we decided to simply check out the plot of land that we were on— it was naturally located down a dirt, bumpy secondary road… getting back up to the main road would require a chunk of time to walk or a taxi… we opted to check out the coastline and we are really glad we did. The day turned out to be a relaxing one and we saw a lot of cool sea life. Of course, the day also included us watching two young boys who walked down the beach to a box looking object in the water. They opened it up and one of the boys grabbed what was inside and threw it over his shoulder. We took a lot of pictures since we couldn’t see exactly what it was… after we reviewed the pictures at home… sure enough, it was a sea turtle. Further googling online also revealed that the killing of green sea turtles is illegal. We do not know if the turtle we saw was a green or other type, nor do we know the in-depth policies of sea turtle catching and killing in Indonesia. We do, however, know that Indonesians prefer to eat green sea turtles and that in recent months there has been a push to stop eating and killing of green sea turtles. Obviously, there was nothing we could really do, especially after the fact. I would, however, have liked to have a conversation with those boys to get a better understanding of what they were doing with it, why, etc… Naturally, I [Meghan], love sea turtles, am an environmentalist, and an avid animal lover. I also would like to uphold regulations such as not allowing green sea turtle harvesting. However, I also recognize that every person’s story is different. Part of the reason I enjoy traveling to different places around the world is that things like what we saw today make me stop and think. Is there a deeper reason other than “they just want money” for breaking a law? Perhaps they don’t have enough money to eat and this turtle will feed a family of four for many days. Perhaps selling the turtle will make a better life with less poverty. Perhaps, they just hate sea turtles. I want to be clear- I’m not okay with breaking the law, especially when it involves animals… I’m just saying that I would have liked to have the other side of the picture and the story to go with it.

Below are some pictures of the crazy things we saw during our day…

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