Bye-Bye Bali (For Now…)

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

-Maya Angelou

It’s been a few more great days in Bali.  Genny and Andy are back safely in the US, and I’ve had a few days to myself,  I planned to spend the time editing photos and getting descriptions written of all the Bali photos in my gallery; I’ve done some of the former, but basically none of the latter–mostly I ended up just relaxing.  But I head to Java tomorrow, so I figure it’s a good time to write about the last few days in Bali.

After my last blog post, we spent another day in the Munduk area, guided once again by our wonderful driver Eka.  He took us first to a local market (not one for tourists) where we were able to see people selling fruits, vegetables, flowers, meat, and countless other necessities.  Wherever I go, I always find markets fascinating.  They are always an interesting glimpse into real life in an area, and I enjoy seeing the different and exotic goods available.  Plus, they’re social places, so I love watching people interact with each other.

After the market, we spent the rest of the day taking in the scenery of the Munduk area.  We drove around to see vistas of the beautiful lakes nestled in the mountains, and we visited Munduk waterfalls.  There are more falls in the area, but we were told they were a farther, steeper walk, and since it had been only a few days since we braved the trek up the volcano, none of us were quite up for it.  (My knees have only just forgiven me.)  But the walk to Munduk was relatively short and easy, and we enjoyed watching the powerful falls, as well as the walk through the woods to get there.  As most places we’ve visted in Bali, the path was dotted with places to leave offerings.  The song of a man playing a type of xylophone made the short walk even more pleasant.

Finally, we wrapped up the day with a visit to the Bali Botanical Gardens.  Although there weren’t as many flowers as we expected, the sculptures throughout the park are beautiful and fascinating.  We also enjoyed visiting a large ficus tree.

The next day we headed to our next overnight stop in Canggu, visiting Taman Ayun and Pura Tanah Lot along the way.  Taman Ayun is a temple surrounded by a beautiful garden and separated from the streets by a small moat.  It was a rainy day, but we enjoyed the picturesque setting, and were entertained by watching some cats help themselves to the offerings.

Pura Tanah Lot is a temple set on the rocks along the coast.  At high tide (as it was when we visited), the temple is on an island, while at low tide, it can be reached by foot (although visitors are not permitted to enter unless worshiping).

Apparently the best time to visit is sunset, but we opted to avoid the crowds and spend sunset on the beach instead.  So we headed from our villa to Echo beach, where we ate at a grill along the black sand beach, watching the surfers catch waves with the sunset in the backdrop.

The next day would, sadly, be our last full day together, but it would be a good one.  Eka invited us to his home to meet his wife and daughter, which was an honor.  I have found that wherever I travel, I always meet wonderful people in every corner of the world.  Eka and his family are shining examples of that.  Eka has been so kind to us during our week of exploration, going out of his way to make sure we had everything we needed.  (Even Pokemon cards as a souvenir for Parker.)  The car rides to some areas of Bali were quite long, but we truly enjoyed talking with Eka and exchanging stories about our respective cultures and ways of life.  The visit to his home was a wonderful way to cap off our days together.

Finally, it was off to the Uluwata temple, where we would see the famous Kecak Fire dance at sunset.  Uluwatu was probably my favorite temple we visited in terms of the natural setting.  While Tanah Lot has a mystical effect being an island at high tide, Uluwatu is a small temple set on a stunning cliff.  But beware the monkeys–a PA announcement warns you that they’ll steal your glasses and other valuables, yet asks you not to attack them (or the officers?  Is this something that happens a lot?)  It seems they are a bit more aggressive or problematic here, where you’re asked not to feed them.  We didn’t have any close encounters, but we enjoyed watching them.

Finally, it was time for the kecak dance, which turned out to be one of my favorite things in Bali.  Eka kindly got us our tickets as we explored the temple, but after the venue opened at 5:00, we made our way in to nab some good seats.  We were gladly did, as it ended up being a packed house.  The kecak dance is set to the sound of dozens of men singing chants (hence the name–the chant repeats “cak” quite often).  While I certainly did not pick up all the intricacies of the story (they do hand out a synopsis but I didn’t do a good job of reading it very closely), it essentially tells the story of a prince whose wife is kidnapped by an evil demon.  The story culminates in a battle between the demon and a monkey army.  (Incidentally, it is this battle depicted in the photo of the sculpture from the botanical garden above.)

Dances of this nature are always some of my favorite things to see in Asia.  (A few years ago, I was lucky enough to see many dances and costumes at festivals in Bhutan.)  The costumes are always stunning and colorful, and the talent is remarkable.  And as you can see from the plethora of photos that I’ll let close this post (only a tiny fraction of the photos I actually took before my camera battery finally died), these dances and costumes make some of my favorite subjects to photograph.

This dance surpassed my expectations, and I plan to visit again when my parents and I return to Bali.  It’s not the only kecak dance on the island, but with the backdrop of the sunset and the Uluwatu temple, I can see why it’s the most popular.  But for now, I am off to fly to Yogyakarta tomorrow to meet them in Java.  We’ll spend a few days visiting the temples of central Java, before catching a plane to see the orangutans in Kalimantan.  Then it will be back to Bali where I’ll share some of my favorite things about this beautiful island with them.  So it’s bye-bye Bali, but only for now!

As always, if you’d like to see more photos, click here for the full Bali gallery, or click on any image to view the full-size version.

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