In the clouds
Trip Start Jun 25, 2012
12Trip End Jul 24, 2012
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With a bright blue sky, the taxi drove us to the ferry terminal. We were impatient to go ahead on our trip and dive into the next chapter: Bali. Neglecting the touts offering transport to Denpasar, we bought the boat tickets to Gilimanuk. Boarding the ferry, it seemed wider than long. We were the only tourists on board. The karaoke was shouting on the passengers' deck for the whole ride. Bye Bye Java, it was a fantastic encounter.
About 30 minutes after departure we docked in Gilimanuk. Walking from the boat to the bus was quick and without hassle. There were less touts than expected: one. Not sure whether the man at the bus was an official or not, we hesitated to take this bus; however, it was the only one with Singaraja indicated. Red busses or bemos which do the north line - as indicated in the guides (LP, RG) - were nowhere to be found. For 90.000Rp (30k per adult, kids half price) we were on a bus that was BEOL (beyond end of life). But! It was the local's bus and as we were seated at the back (= entrance of the bus) we came in contact with everyone who was picked up or dropped of, with packs of veggies or bamboo baskets. And everyone smiled to us, and to Sietse in particular. This is what we wanted - to be submerged in authentic local life. It was bye bye in Seririt where we had arranged a pickup by the guest house driver, at Hardy's supermarket. Also an occasion to rack up on some basics - like drinks, cookies and chips (for the kids, ahum). On the first floor was clothing dept, and while strolling through the shirts, there were some at 29000Rp (=2,9€), with a Vogele brand ticket and European price ticket of 19,95€ (a good example of differential pricing?).
Pickup was on time and after a 40 minute drive through rice fields, hills and valleys we arrived at Karangsari guest house in Munduk. The air is fresh at this altitude (700m), and feels like home. And the panorama ! From the terrace of the guest house the view is magnificent; at this altitude it is like sitting in the clouds.
We had booked the Dutch colonial rooms; spacious clean rooms with wooden frame beds and mosquito nets.
Tuesday 10 July
Three days to do the unspoiled north of Bali. On day one we hired a car and driver to combine a dolphin tour, visit Bali's largest Buddhist monastery Brahma Vihara Arama and have a dive in the hot springs at Banjar.
Wake-up at 04h30 for the tour. We reach Lovina before sunrise. After a short negotiation we embark on a fisherman's boat for a 2hr trip. We all get life-vests and try to get in the boat without getting our feet wet. We are not the only ones. All along the coast, small boats are setting off before sunrise to spot wild dolphins. We are a "small" group of about 15 fisherman's boats heading for a km or two from the coast.
And there they are ! Wild dolphins swimming about 5 meters and then closer to our boat. Gently they come out of the water to breathe, showing their head and back-fin, disappearing into the deep water after a few seconds again. Another group of dolphins, first three then about ten shows up a bit further away. This time they jump out and one makes a pirouette. The group of boats sprints to get there as fast as they can. Photographing dolphins is not that easy, you have to click before the moment they jump but most of the time you only get their tail. They jump every 3 seconds or so when moving in a school which leaves some room for anticipation. Filming them is recommended. And most importantly you have to be on the right spot at the right time. The dolphins are out there to feed on shrimp and then head westward. It is on their move to the west that we spot them. At some moments it feels like we are chasing them when 4-5 boats - 2 on each side and one behind come closer to the dolphins in the middle jumping up. However, dolphins are known to use the waves created by boats to accelerate and jump out of the water. A few times the boats align parallel with about 10 meters in between and wait, slowly floating forward. It works and the dolphins show up. Then we pick up speed as do the dolphins and they jump out of the water. After almost 2hrs of dolphin-spotting with much success we return for breakfast in Lovina.
Back in the car and off to the Brahma Vihara Arama Buddhist monastery.
Serenity and respect when we enter the monastery built in the 70ies as local people are praying in the temple. The gold plated statues of the sitting Buddha are housed in 2 buildings.
Next are the hot springs of Banjar. Not many tourists there yet. Local people are bathing and kids are having fun. We dive in as well. The water of the biggest bath is lukewarm. Warmer water flows in from the smaller warmer bath above through lion heads.
The heated water has a volcanic origin and has a light sulfurous smell and a taste of copper. Copper sulfide ? In a third bath, lukewarm water is pouring in from about 3-4 meters high which gives a nice massage!
Driving back to the guest house we are all sleepy and slightly smelling like rotten eggs.
Wednesday 11 July
Today we have rest and a walk around Munduk. We go on a small hiking tour. The path goes downward through clove and cacao plantations. After about an hour we we see the Munduk waterfall through the trees.
North Munduk is located along the main road, as it is on the rim of the hill. Left and right it goes down steeply and besides the shops, warungs and guest houses along the street, there is no side streets. The main street gives a lot of noise of scooters and the heavy trucks transiting. Our room in Kasangari guest house (as are all the others) was located around 10 meters down from the road, not making the street noise bothersome.
As public transport is limited to one or two bemos early in the morning, we have to rely on hiring a car&driver to get around. Getting transport is not really a problem, there are many locals offering tours or Munduk to elsewhere. They are all called Putu. Munduk to Bedugul or Singaraja is around 200.000 Rp per person, other destinations up to 500.000 Rp. Car&driver for one day was 450.000 Rp, and the dolphin boat 400.000 Rp.
We chose Munduk as a base to explore the north, as it is central to all the things we wanted to see, is not a tourist-flooded location and it has a nice cooler climate because of its altitude. Having a few days of Belgium-like temperatures would certainly do good to the kids and us.
Munduk not being a tourist flooded attraction, we found authentic Balinese daily life.
Thursday 12 July
Today we booked a car&driver - via a friend of a friend who could help for travel - for the following trip: the Ulun Dana Bratan Hindu temple in Bedugul - Singaraya (Gedong Kyrtia library, Hardy's supermarket, ATM, Ling Gwan Kiong Buddhist temple in the harbor) and east of Singaraya the Meduwe Karang and Dalem Jagaraga Hindu temples.
On the way to Bedugul, we have a photo-stop at the top of the crater-rim to have a look at lake Tamblingan and lake Buyan, the two crater lakes.
The Ulun Dana temple complex in Bedugul is a well maintained temple and it has clearly profited from its tourist income. We arrived at around 9 am, before all the other tourists, and before souvenir shops or touts were active. Known as "one of the most photographed temples of Bali", it is indeed one of the iconic images of Bali, with one of its temples located at the shore of the Bratan crater lake. None of the temples is accessible to the public (or non-hindu), but you can have a walk around the complex and take pictures. There is also a restaurant, souvenir shop and kids playground on site. After having had a look around, the kids wanted to have fun at the playground while I took some more pictures. Built in 1633, it is devoted to the goddess of the lake.
Then we headed to Singaraya, and as we descended to sea-level, the heat of tropical Bali left us no choice but to turn on the AC of the car. First stop in Singaraya was the Gedong Kyrtia library where about 3000 manuscripts on lontar palm leaves were kept. This is the only lontar library in the world. They also have a small collection of old dutch books from the colonial era. The lontar manuscripts are about 5 cm high and 40-60 cm long. The manuscripts read from left to right and tell the stories of old Balinese kings and demons, religious texts and stories around black magic. Anja wanted to see these scripts and it is indeed more interesting than I thought. The manuscripts are made by engraving words with a sharp knife-like tool into the dried pressed leaf of the lontar palm, then wiping them with a carbon containing cotton wool. The result is a black writing. However, the library only has copies and few originals. The originals are kept by their respective owners across Bali. The librarian showed us one of the few originals of 600 years old.
Next was an uneventful stop at Hardy's supermarket which had Yakult (from our friend Bart), ATM and the driver then dropped us in a tourist-trap restaurant in Lovina.
A word on Lovina. The Lovina area was named after the words "Love" and "Bali", and stretch along the north coast over several villages, 10 minutes driving west from Singaraya. From the moment you enter the Lovina area, you will find a myriad of tourist hotels, tourist souvenir shops, tourist restaurants, tourist cocktail bars, tourist tattoo shops, tourist fitness shops, tourist realty sellers, tourist scooter rent&repair, tourist tour operators,.... It depends from who's point of view you would use "Love Bali", but in my humble opinion this is NOT Bali anymore, this is a tourist trap selling as "unspoiled north of Bali and please come here we have a hotel". I have heard it is still better than Kuta, but hey, Kuta is not selling as unspoiled Bali.
After an overpriced lunch, we left for the Ling Gwan Kiong Buddhist temple in the harbor of Singaraya. Ah, incense and serenity perfume the air as we enter the small temple. We are kindly addressed by a monk in regular clothing, apparently not having received tourists for the first time, who gives us a tour around. Photographs are permitted, but no close-ups. On the left and right are a description of the Chinese horoscope and in the middle are the 3 alters and an island for candles and worshiping. Another tourist wants to lit an incense stick, but a breeze of air prevents him doing so, and he gets frustrated - patience my friend. Artifacts are scattered around. You can hold turtles for a long life - we almost squished them to death.
Then we move out of the city. Ten minutes further to the east is the Pura Meduwe Karang, for a good harvest of coconut, mais and peanuts. It must have been a beautiful temple and it still is today, imagining away the grass and moss that has grown on the stone statues and walls over the years, but these do give it a feel of authenticity.
The last visit today is the Pura Dalem Jagaraga, devoted to Shiva the destroyer and his wife Durga. Our three-toothed official guide shows us around "tellin waefery litlll detaiilll of dish templll, wiff ish de templl of def !". The theme of the temple is based on a big battle of 16.000 Indonesians against 3000 well armed Dutchmen in 1848. The images show traditional indonesian life on one side of the temple, being disrupted by the Dutch in a Ford-T, airplanes and boats depicted on the other side of the temple.
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