Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bali Trip - Day 4 - Northern Bali

My wife and I are usually opposites,  but we woke up feeling something common - that we wanted to get the hell out of this hotel and Candidasa in general. We discussed a couple of options during breakfast. When the tour driver came, I checked that with a Rp 100k top up, he was willing to drop us at Legian tonight after the trip. It would have taken Rp 350k to get from Candidasa to Legian on a normal day,  so it was a good deal. I rushed back to the hotel,  booked my previous hotel in Legian (who even offered a Rp 5k discount per night due to repeat business), told the current hoteliers how unsatisfactory the experience was for us and packed our bags. My wife even managed to negotiate a 50% refund on the booking,  which was the sweetener.  We boarded the car feeling light and happy.

With the burden off our chest,  we were looking forward to the trip with the most scenic locations on the cards, including the biggest temple in Bali, a volcanic mountain and a waterfall. It started drizzling and we were silently that it doesn't become more intense. Weather reports had predicted rain on Wed and Thu, so we were concerned.  Although it did become intense, the rain stopped much before our 2 hour journey ended in the scenic Besakih temple.

Besakih Temple is called the Mother temple by the locals and rightly so.  It unfortunately also means that this place is highly commercialized with people creating business opportunities out of nowhere to swindle tourists.  It started out in the ticket,  where they swindled me of Rp 5k more. When I started questioning them, they conveniently started conversing in Bahasa Indonesia.  I waited for a while and realised that I am fighting a losing battle against pros, so I gave up.  But that made me more determined for the rest of the temple tour. Sarong is a pre requisite to enter any Balinese temple.  In all other temples we were provided free sarongs and people couldn't have bothered less if we did not return them.  However here, a whole host of shops charge you for renting sarong. We managed to get the best deal where they check the tickets,  with Rp 5k per sarong. Another novel idea is that they had blocked a 1 km stretch of perfectly driveable road leading to the temple and rent out motorbikes or offer rides from Rp 10k per person. We refused and carried our kid and bags uphill to the temple.

The temple was awe inspiring, set in a picturesque locale with an awesome view of Bali below. We went up the stairs just to find a self styled security guard blocking our way in. He gave some funny reason for us not being able to enter the temple,  although tradition can be "side stepped with a tip of USD 7 per person". Although it was blatantly obvious that he was lying, I went ahead with an offer to avoid any confrontation.  Inside the temple was mind blowing,  with 7 tiers of the temple each at a higher altitude than the previous.  We went all the way just for the experience although it was a bit arduous with the kid and bags.

The view from the top made us feel it was worth parting with the swindle money to get to the highest viewable point in Bali. It started to drizzle again so we hurried down. While coming down we realized that there is a path on the side which is not "guarded" and therefore is free to enter.  We also noticed the local guides, who charge upwards of USD 10, use the side path with their clients. Too late but no regrets. We had the best view in town for a small price!

Onwards from Besakih temple lies Kintamani, a single road township primarily revolving around tourism.  It has a lovely view of Lake Batur and Mt Batur, one of the active volcanoes in Indonesia. Our driver told us that anything that is thrown on the face of the volcano grts burnt within 15 minutes! Not sure how true it is, but it just made looking at the volcano that tweeny bit more exciting. Lake Batur formed a lovely backdrop to the volcano. Having a pretty decent buffet lunch while admiring these two natural beauties made it very memorable. This was my first experience looking at an active volcano close up, so I am pretty sure that this memory will stick with me for a very long time.

A long 2 hour journey from Kintamani to the famous Git Git Waterfall was quite strenuous as the car wound through numerous continuous twists and turns of the mountain roads, making my daughter throw up and both of us almost throw up. A timely suggestion by my wife to get Sprite Lemon from one of the shops helped me avoid one. Git Git waterfall is a 500m trek through mountain stone pathway.  Again, although it's only half a kilometer,  it looked quite long and was definitely more exciting than the uphill walk in Besakih.

The waterfall was majestic. Although people couldn't get too close due to the force of the falling water, the spray hit us almost 20m away. The shops along the way all sold spices which I believe would be home grown.  The irrigation system used for terrace farming on the mountain slopes is another thing that caught my eye and brought a smile remembering my geography lessons.  Bali's diverse landscape has made me rehearse a lot of my geography lessons during this trip.

It was a long 2.5 hour drive back to Legian where we felt like we are back home. I almost fainted at a slight stench that came from the toilet but that immediately disappeared. Maybe it was just my paranoia from our previous accommodation. All this unplanned accommodation changes had drained my cash, so I had to go to my dear neighbourhood money changer again. This time I played ball, hiding a $10 bill in the middle of $20 bills. He almost fell for the trap, but the teller found out. I just had a wry smile and walked out with my money.

I had a small accident when on my way buying dinner, being hit by a reversing car that was purely my mistake. However,  I escaped with a minor cut to one of my fingers. A very exciting day indeed. After a relaxing dinner,  I am just done cataloging my journey so far. No plans so far for the last two days, but we wouldn't mind taking it a bit easier after a busy few days. We still haven't explored the western side of the island, which is dotted with mountains,  but not sure if anything is interesting over there. Something for tomorrow.

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