Tuesday, June 8
Gunung Agung, Bali, Indonesia
I took a seven-hour guided tour back to the Central Mountains area of Bali, but this time much further East. As I climbed into the van, I was greeted by the driver, a guide and two women with a French accent. Naturally, I thought they were from France, but as it turned out, they hailed from Montreal, Canada. One was named Jen, who is a doctor, and Veronica, who is a grade school teacher. It was fun to hang out and chat with them all day. Our first stop was at Goa Gajah, the Elephant Cave, where I had already visited last week, followed by some little gardens I forgot the name of where a family grew coffee, cocoa, vanila and many other such crops and sold it out of a little shop. Third up was Tirta Empul, the holiest spring water temple in Bali that includes a bathing pool, and Pura Tirta Empul, one of Bali's most important temples.
Then came a stop up in the mountains at Penelokan for a superb view of the Gunung Batur volcano and Danau Batur. The air was so nice and cool with a breeze that felt refreshing. The souvenir sellers there were really aggressive. The driver dropped us off for lunch at a way overpriced tourist bus buffet joint with average food but a nice view of a rice terrace valley. Unfortunately, the view of Gunug Agung, Bali's highest mountain, was obscured by clouds and fog, but at least we got to see a random bat roosting right out in front of the restaurant as we left. When we shot photos, it flipped over to pee.
Next on the agenda was Pura Besakih, the most important temple in Bali at the slope of Gunung Agung. It's an impressive complex of 23 temples majestically crowned by Pura Penataran Agung, which is built upon a step-filled pyramid-like structure that dates back 2000 years. The local guides sternly demanded that we had to pay them to take us all the way to the top. We heard they hit tourists with huge fees, so we declined, shot a few photos and descended back into the aggressive souvenir selling zone to the van.
Next up came a quick stop at Bukit Jambul for a view of the sea and Padang Bay Harbor, followed by the last stop of the day at Klungkung, a palace that used to be the center of Bali's main kingdom. After Dutch attacks in 1908, all that's left is the old justice court in the Taman Kertha Gosa complex. After the van dropped us off back in Ubud, I said goodbye to Jen and Veronica and we went our separate ways.
I walked down to a new-to-me venue, Pura Dalem Ubud, for tonight's show by a troupe called Sekka Gong Karyasa, which was founded in 1962. For some odd reason, the gamelan was situated all on the right side of the stage instead of split between both sides. The dancers and musicians presented fine renditions of the Gabor Dance, the Kebyar Trompong Dance, the Legong Lasem Dance, the Baris Dance and a solo Barong Dance for a big crowd of about 50 people.