Bali Road Trip

by Johnny

During one of our days in Ubud, Madde’s nephew took Anna and I on a driving tour of Bali. Unfortunately, we were both feeling pretty miserable that day and spent most of our time in the backseat blowing our noses, but it was still really cool to get to see some other parts of the island, particularly the tiny villages we passed through in the middle of nowhere.

Our first stop was a nearby coffee plantation, famous for its kopi luwak (aka cat-poo coffee). Similar to Vietnam’s weasel coffee, this coffee is named after the civet (luwak) that feasts only on the ripest coffee cherries. The still-intact beans found in the civet’s droppings are then used to produce a super strong (and expensive!) blend of coffee. While we didn’t get to taste any of this cat-poo brew, we did sample a selection of the plantation’s other coffees and teas as well as tour the garden where they grow all their ingredients.

After getting our caffeine fix at the coffee plantation, we made our way out of the rice paddies and into mountain country, finally arriving at Lake Bratan and its Pura UIun Danu Bratan (aka Temple on the Lake). Built on tiny islands and surrounded on all sides by the lake, this temple has to be one of the most picturesque in Bali. The half-Hindu, half-Bhuddist temple is dedicated to Dewi Danu, the Water Goddess, and ceremonies are held here to ensure an adequate supply of water for the rice harvest.

The undisputed highlight of our tour was the UNESCO-nominated ancient rice terraces at Jatiluwih…which literally translates to “truly marvelous.” Terraces of seemingly every shade of green slope as far as the eye can see, interrupted occasionally by a small temple, shelter or buffalo. Beyond being stunningly beautiful, Jatiluwih is also an example of engineering genius, and Anna and I were mesmerized watching the water move through hand-dug channels and bamboo pipes from one plot of land to the next all the way down the valley.

Next we snaked our way along the road next to the Jatiluwih rice terraces until we reached Pura Luhur Batukau, one of Bali’s holiest temples. After slipping on some sarongs, Anna and I explored the temple (which we had all to ourselves) and discovered similar Hindu-influenced architecture to that which we saw at the temples of Angkor in Cambodia. We also got caught in a little downpour, but sitting under some thatched temple roofs with the rain pouring down only added to Batukau’s spiritual mystique.

Finally, we headed towards the southwest coast to Pura Tanah Lot, one of Bali’s famous sea temples that form a chain along the island’s south coast. Tanah Lot, also Bali’s most visited temple, sits on a large offshore rock that’s been shaped by the ocean tide. While beautiful, Tanah Lot was jam-packed with souvenir stands, touts and other tourists. Anna and I couldn’t make it two steps without being asked to have our picture taken with a group of Asian tourists. Kinda weird. I mean, I know I look just like Brad Pitt, but enough is enough. Maybe we were just cranky from feeling a little under the weather, but we were happy to snap a couple quick pictures and hit the road.

Our driving tour was a great way to see some other areas of Bali…we only wish we had some extra time to see more of what this amazing island has to offer.

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