I woke up the next morning feeling strongly aware of the fact that it was our last day on this trip. Last day! Before I could allow myself to start feeling blue, we quickly got ready to head out. Our driver had arranged our itinerary for the day, deciding that it was best to go to the farthest location first before slowly making our way back down to the locations closer to Denapasar. And so it was with a rather heavy heart that I stepped out of our room to take on our last day in Bali.
I was still feeling a bit blue when we arrived at the Ulun Danu Temple two hours later. Little did I know that the trek toward the temple gates was going to be a mood-changer. Better known as the Floating Temple, the Pura Ulun Danu is located by the Lake Bratan, up in the mountains near Bedugul. You have to drive up a mountain to get there, thus the amount of time it took.
The weather is cool because a breeze is always passing through at this altitude, and it lifts my spirits somewhat. But the moment my feelings were really replaced with one of glorious bewilderment and wonder was the moment we stepped through the gates. Oh it was absolutely breathtaking! I took a moment to just stare dumbfounded at the scene before raising my camera to my eye to capture it. Or attempt to.
I admit to a fascination for temples but my heart has never really sang at the sight of one until this day. This is the very picture of how I imagine heaven might look like for the gods in Asian folklore and religion. There is a backdrop of clouds because we are so high up, giving the whole place the illusion of constantly being surrounded by magical mist. The silhouettes of the distant green mountain-tops plus the grass and flowers at the shore give off a lush and thriving feeling to the place. The water is a blue that reflects the beautiful sky. The temples themselves look as if at any moment someone in an elaborate Asian dress might glide out and greet visitors.
I love it because it tickles my imagination so so much!
The feeling the whole place evoked was amazing, up until the moment the first batch of loud tourists arrived. We were up here so early that we were lucky to have the place to ourselves for a short while, but it soon became impossible to enjoy the serenity so we moved over to another location to snap photos. Another thing I love about Bali is its temple facades and doors. They got some pretty amazing doors here.
It took us another hour to drive down the curving mountain to the Mengwi Village, which housed the Taman Ayun Temple. It is once again a huge grassy compound. This was a Monday so understandably there was very little people. I really love that we came here during the off-peak season because we didn’t have to wait for a million years to snap photos anywhere! I know Gilbert was super happy about that fact. 😉
Once again, the temple doors are just amazing in its detail. Also you can tell it’s been well-preserved because you can still clearly see the faces on each watcher statue! We even saw a man busy cleaning the carvings with gentle precision like one would clean an ear.
Inside the compound there is a small area where artifacts, trinkets, and paintings of gods are displayed.
This compound is very very small compared to the others we’ve been to, and it’s easy to quickly walk around the compound and be able to explore the whole area. We headed to the main temple, which had been the royal temple of the Mengwi Empire of the 1600s, with the architecture of its pagodas in the typical Balinese style.
We saw a big spider on our way out and Gilbert was like, ‘Oh my…’ I’m scared of spiders but I like how their webs look, so I’m grateful that my trusty long lens allowed me to capture this. That’s a pretty weaving!
This last day was admittedly our slowest day of all. We were in no hurry to get to our next place so there was plenty of time to think about where we were having lunch. Our awesome driver insisted that we could not leave without having the local specialty, so he took us to the famous Ibu Oka, which is somewhat of an institution in Bali for their Babi Guling (or so I’ve heard). Babi Guling is suckling pig, very similar to what Cebu in the Philippines specializes in too. It’s very different though, because while the Philippine lechon done-right is melt in your mouth, the Babi Guling has a much firmer bite. It also is served with a Balinese-style sauce. It is served with a side of mixed vegetables and rice.
Admittedly not my favourite Balinese dish but it is a must-try when in Bali nonetheless!
So now that we’ve had our fill of food we were super energetic and looking forward to our next location, which Gilbert had said would be a interesting one. The Goa Gajah is a cave that Balinese in the old times once mistook to look like an elephant, thus it is also known as the Elephant Cave. Well it looks nothing like an elephant but I must say I really like it!
I know the cave looks menacing thanks to all those carvings, not to mention the fact that you are walking into the mouth of what looks to be an angry creature, but I don’t know. I find its charm somehow. I appreciate the carvings a good deal. Also, this place was built as a sanctuary, so I reckon that expression is purposefully made to ward off evil. It can’t be more terrifying than our groupie right?
Inside the mouth of the Goa Gajah is actually quite simple and mostly empty. On both sides of the cave are altars with black statues of the elephant god Ganesh on one side, and statues that symbolize man and woman on the other.
Around the area are vase-bearing statues carved into the rock to serve as fountains for the bathing temple. With the moss clinging to them this way, the statues look like they have been undisturbed for quite some time. This site was excavated in the 1950’s by the way, while the cave is said to have been built in the 9th century. Wow! Guess that is the benefit of having stone temples, because they don’t deteriorate easily and are a part of nature.
So this last place we went to is probably familiar to many because it is the main shopping district of Bali. We drove back to Ubud Market as the last stop of our three-day journey in this wonderful wonderful place. And of course, what else would a trip there entail but shopping!
And just like most markets of a similar nature in the world, the amount of things here in Ubud Market is absolutely mind-boggling! At the time we came here I wasn’t at all very concerned about buying props for my food photography yet, but now looking through the photos I am plagued with regret over not buying any of the woven baskets and wooden plates! The great thing about markets like these is that you can haggle and haggle, and if you have a companion who can charm the sellers in Balinese then all the more should you haggle! Of course don’t haggle until the seller has absolutely no more earnings, but get them to bring the price down to what the item is actually worth instead of what they think you’re worth.
I was surprised at myself because I did not buy anything, though I did contemplate for a long while whether or not I should buy one of the lovely paintings from above. I’m a sucker for art but my luggage is another matter altogether so I decided not to. Maybe when I return? Those are lovely paintings though.
I ended up buying a cute little dreamcatcher from that lovely lady below for the sake of memory-keeping. It’s that blue one with the brown-dipped feathers. I have no idea if dreamcatchers work, but ever since being gifted with a dreamcatcher from the Grand Canyon by a friend I haven’t had many nightmares (or dreams for that matter). The superstition is that you have to be gifted a dreamcatcher as opposed to buying one for yourself in order for it to work. I just really like how it looks though.
Gilbert had a lot of shopping to do mostly to add to his wardrobe, but Marga and I were done. We decided to go our separate ways for a bit and meet back at the Ubud Water Palace, but not before we had a group photo with our driver Mr. Karyu! He’s the most patient driver in the world, I have to tell you. And he’s so accommodating to this bunch of crazy kids! We had to tip him well because not only did he work overtime without complaint, he was so helpful with planning out or itinerary. He also gave us some tips and warnings even though it’s technically not part of his job. I highly recommend his agency, the Bali Agung Tours and Travel! Gilbert found them through research and we couldn’t have been more pleased!
So Marga and I headed off to the Water Palace after buying ourselves some ice cream to sit and rest. And people watch. Haha! We played a game of guessing which tourist comes from which country to pass the time.
We waited until Gilbert was done with his shopping, but soon enough some ladies started assembling under one of the pagodas with musical instruments in tow. Marga and I sat and watched the performance for a bit and it was comforting to see all the ladies smiling at us as they played some traditional Balinese music. By the time Gilbert arrived, he could not resist but dance along! I know this location has a show in the evening but we did not stay and watch because we had to meet Gilbert’s Indonesian friend for dinner. Still, this was a great last moment to remember the trip by.
It’s really hard to round up the trip into a few words because it was all sorts of amazing and a first for me in terms of traveling without any family member at all. It’s also very hard to put into words my feelings as we headed to the airport to come home. I was really happy though to get to visit this lovely place with this particular pair of people who are like my brother and sister in so many ways! Also, I was pleased with the sheer amount of places we explored in such a short span of time.
We managed to visit about 4 locations in a day for 3 days, a number that made us feel like we were here for so much longer! It proved to be quite a tiring feat even if all we really did was sit in the car and chitchat and sleep. But at the end of every day we reviewed our photos and marveled at the sight we beheld just hours ago. Our three days felt very much like five, and with such great company, I felt a little wistful that it had to end so soon. I’m fervently hoping to more travels with my buddies though, because I feel like with this first trip we have crossed a barrier of trepidation, and we’re ready to make this a sort of habit! 🙂
Here’s a little travel video I made of all the places we visited in Bali!
To see the other places we visited in the video, check out the other posts in this travel series: