Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bali: East Coast Discovery

Bali Fields
One of our days we stayed in Sanur we took a day drip of Eastern Bali that included snorkeling, a water palace and a bat temple.  We had the tour guide to ourselves, as nobody else had booked the same tour, which allowed us some flexibility on skipping things we weren't as interested in.

Our snorkeling started out at the site of a wrecked, Japanese PT boat, sunk in WWII.  It has since become a great ecosystem for fish and coral.
It was really fun to snorkel the wreck, and the water was very calm and clear. We paddled about for around an hour before deciding we should come in and either move on to the next activity or reapply sunscreen. After David got burned on the Great Barrier Reef, we're not taking any chances.
After snorkeling, we headed inland through some beautiful countryside.   We got to chat with our guide a lot too, and were able to ask him about local politics, gun control (very strict--not that anyone can afford to buy a gun anyway), and the differences between Bali and the rest of Indonesia.  Bali is unique in Indonesia; it's 80% Hindu, where Indonesia is 80% Muslim.  It also is a financial hotspot, mostly due to tourism, and there is some sense of resentment in the rest of Indonesia.  There was also an undercurrent of tension between the very relaxed, open Balinese society, with a secular government and what they perceive as a efforts by Indonesian immigrants to move to a more oligarchical system.  We commiserated with him about the difficulty in preserving an open minded society with fundamentalist constituents.  He was curious about aspects of American politics too--it was the kind of conversation we wish we could have with a local in every single place we go.


Our second stop was at the Tirtagangga Water Palace, which was originally constructed by the king, destroyed by a nearby volcanic eruption in 1963, and faithfully reconstructed.  It had the beauty and detail of a Japanese garden, but the esthetics were purely Balinese.

The water labyrinth was fun; the koi in the pond are enormous.

After enjoying the Water Palace we went to lunch on a secluded beach where the tables nestled in the sand and the menu was largely from the catch of the day.  It was nice to kick up our feet and watch the water, and take a little postprandial walk up the beach.

After lunch we had the choice of either going to a bat temple or to a village to see how the locals lived, which we've come to call a "show and sell."  We're tired of having to tell people that we don't want to buy anything, and besides, we're batty over bats (sorry) so this one was a no brainer. I think it was a bit more out of the way than the other option, but we were determined. Bats, please!

So we were off to Gua Lawah, which was founded in 1007 AD. The temple as it stands today is built in front of a cave filled with bats, but at some earlier period the temple was probably in the cave itself.

One of the best parts of the whole thing is that in order to go into the temple, you have to be wearing a sash and a sarong. Lana already had a sarong on after snorkeling, so she only needed a sash, but David got all kitted up at the entrance with a sarong and sash, which you basically rent for a nominal fee in order to go into the temple.

The photos of the bats in the bat temple didn't really come out, but this video gives you a sense of how many bats there were. It smelled pretty bad, as bats do, but it was still really neat to see.  We would have loved to hang around until sunset, but our guide wanted to go home to his family, so we said our goodbyes to the bats and headed back to Sanur.