Continued from Part 1.
On the second day, we began with all the predictable touristy stuff – the Barong dance was first and we saw Sahadev and Kunti take on prominent roles in local mythology! On the way we had also seen a statue of Bhima battling snakes at a city circle. Our driver- guide looked barely out of his teens and required prompts to get talking.
A batik gallery was next, and after the silver workshop that followed, we begged off the wood carving center which was on the itinerary and moved to Lot Tunduh village for some paintings. Very interesting stuff, but seemed too costly for our meagre wallets! On hindsight, we could’ve bought at least a small one – Tanah Lot or a local Rama/Sita version. In case you plan to, do some heavy bargaining. The rice fields at Tegallalang Village were up next. Picturesque stuff, and we trekked a bit, refusing help from kid guides, before it suddenly started to drizzle. We were then off to Kintamani, Mount Batur (an active volcano) and its neighbouring lake.
Lunch was arranged as part of the package at The Grand Puncak Sari. It was a buffet and we couldn’t complain much, consuming fish, pork, beef and chicken while enjoying the splendid view.
A coffee plantation was up next and we managed to see (well, the later parts at least) one of the world’s most expensive coffee being made – Kopi Luwak! Or poop coffee, since it’s courtesy a civet that consumes the berry and shits it out in the morning. The berries are collected in the morning, even as the civet sleeps as part of its call centre shifts. In addition to several free flavours we got to sample, we tasted a pot of the famous poop coffee for Rp 50000. Strong stuff. We liked the vanilla and coconut coffees best though.
The last official item for the day was the Tirtha Empul temple, which had a back story involving Indra. As if to prove the point, it started raining heavily. Thankfully, umbrellas were part of the package. The watchful attendants asked us to wear a sarong, but that and the rain made us all too lazy and we just ambled around a bit before walking through a conveniently placed collection of shops near the exit where shopkeepers just shouted out a price without even asking whether we were interested and in what! We saw very few people buying anything, and I wondered aloud if any of them made any money!
Though we had a dinner option in our package, we had asked for a package without, but there was still some confusion. So we decided that we would take a call the next day and would buy our own dinner. And thus back in Kuta (where Legian is located), we dropped in at The Kopi Pot. I tried the local Arak while D ordered a Bali Cooler. The former was standard strong arrack fare. I don’t know about the rest of Bali, but both of us felt distinctly cooler after we drank the latter. Excellent stuff. The food consisted of Ikan Balado and an Ayam Betutu. The first being fish (ikan) in stir fried chilli paste, that was spicy and tasty and the second being a traditional chicken dish, mostly bland except for the sambal accompaniment. We felt Rp 189420 lighter.
On the way back, several shady people (separately) kept popping out and asking if we wanted hashish! To the point when I said my name wasn’t Ashish. Yes, a very bad one, but strangely, that worked like a charm every single night! Thus ended day 2.
Day 3 was the one I’d been dreading! Wake up time was 3.30! We were supposed to be on vacation, but the dolphins at Lovina Beach couldn’t care less, I guess. So wake up before 3.30 we did, and set out for the 2 hour+ journey to catch the dolphins dropping their kids to school. We were dressed in readiness for getting wet during the boat ride, and our young driver decided to set the a/c to full blast. We spent some time shivering before asking him to unfreeze us. D’s spare sarong managed to save 2 lives!
We reached the beach around 6. Thanks to the sub zero car temperature and the journey, we had to use what was euphemistically called a toilet there. Scarred! And someone had the temerity to charge money for it going by the sign, though they seem to have backtracked on that! It was just before sunrise when we set off on one of the many boats out for the same purpose. Typically one person per plank with about 6 planks and some kind of wooden structures on both sides would describe the boats. The Japanese were out in full force!
Sometime during the ride, we witnessed the sunrise. We stopped the boat in about half an hour, hoping to catch the dolphins. And see we did, though unlike in the movies, they don’t jump too high. The moment someone in a boat spotted a dolphin, all the boats would rush there, scaring away the creatures. Both of these meant that I got just a couple of Loch Ness like pictures! Our ‘captain’ had about 10 English words in his repertoire, but he insisted on chatting to us in his language. I tried Hindi and Malayalam and gave up! He was very excited about the whole trip though, to his credit and told us to shush even if we saw a dolphin so that the other boats wouldn’t rush there. He also took us to a part of the ocean where the water was clear enough for us to see some very colorful fish and a few corals! As we landed back at the shore, one of the boatmen introduced himself as Rahul, and further started humming KKHH for good measure! Heh, SRK apparently is a very popular figure here!
We returned in about 2 hours, appetite whetted, and quickly went for breakfast at the neat and clean Melamun Hotel nearby. It was run by an Australian lady who had been here for over 4 years now. She soon started chatting with us, and asked us where we were from. She had apparently been to Bombay once, when it was still called that and had found the in-the-face poverty too tough to handle. She said that in Bali, the poverty was a little less obvious, something that I’d ponder over and agree with in the next few days. Two sumptuous Continental breakfasts cost us Rp 80000 and kept us well nourished till lunch.
Stop 2 was the Banjar village – hot springs being the attraction. This time we had to pay to pee as well as store the extra set of clothes. The water was lukewarm actually and we thrashed about for a while in the 1-2m deep pool, with local college kids (some of them ogling from outside the pool) and a few foreigners – one couple with a baby, before moving on. The next stop was the Gitgit waterfall, which included a 500m walk. Quite a nice sight, and it began drizzling as we walked back.
The Ulun Danu Temple and Lake Beratan in Bedugul was next, an extremely click-inducing venue. The Japanese were relishing this and it was fun watching the various experiments in poses. They had their uses though, since we got them to take good snaps of us together. This is also a kid-friendly place and we saw several animal shaped boats, which D refused to let me try! There was a good restaurant on the premises with an awesome view of the lake, but our destiny was elsewhere.
As we continued for lunch, the area looked familiar and we wondered whether we were being taken to Kintamani again for lunch. That wasn’t the case, lunch was at Pacung, but the food was almost an exact replica! Once again, the view was fantastic. The journey immediately after was also the beginning of Ayam wordplay. Ayam meant chicken, and the inevitable ‘Ayam Chicken. who are you’ kind of nonsense happened.
By this time, I had picked up this habit of snoozing off in the car between venues. Quite a useful habit, I must say.
The penultimate stop for the day was the royal Taman Ayun temple, which seemed to have just finished hosting some event as we got there. We got the feeling that this was what it had been relegated to, a pity since it seemed a calm, serene complex, despite the bustle of the event paraphernalia, and with gardens and forest areas behind it. Entry into the actual temple was also restricted to temple staff, so we had to satisfy ourselves with snaps from the outside.
The last stop of the day was also the highlight of the tour, especially for D, who had taken a fancy for Tanah Lot, from the time she first saw the pics on the web. The place is indeed awesome, and you have to walk a little through the mandatory shopping area before reaching the temple area. A good time to mention that the traditional rabbit cliche has been taken by Ralph Lauren Polo in Bali! One of every 3 outlets belongs to that brand!
We roamed around the temple a bit and thanks to a low tide, could even walk to the temple platform. There was also a cave which apparently housed a serpent tasked with guarding the temple. I heard a foreigner telling a would-be guide that he’d rather let the snake do its duty than disturb it. Since there was yet time for sunset and we had already clicked away much, D went off to shop a bit, leaving me to guard the place from where we could catch the sunset. We had initially thought of watching it from a cafe along the cliff, but this seemed good enough. D returned in a while, but the sun cheated us by slinking away into a corner for its setting procedure! But here’s a few thousand words that could describe the scene better.
In our research, the name Karthika Plaza had kept cropping up, and confirming that it was walking distance from our hotel, though a long walk at that, we asked to be left at the Discovery Mall there. The mall was like any other mall with known brands, eateries and versions of our own clothing retailers. On this street is the famous Bubba Gump restaurant which plays Forrest Gump on its screens in endless loops! But for dinner, we chose another name that had been praised much – kafe Batan Waru.
And it was here that I discovered a drink that will remain my favourite for a long time to come – the Es Cendol. Made from shaved ice, coconut milk, a green jelly and palm sugar, this is superbly refreshing as well as unique in taste. Must must try! D also ordered a Soda Gembira, and thought it was good, it was easily eclipsed by the cendol. We then asked for a Bebek Goreng and a day’s special – Ayam Panggang Bumbu Rujak, duck and chicken respectively. The former was a crispy dish, accompanied by the usual suspects and the latter, a spicy dish. For dessert, we asked for a Klapert Tart, a divine dish with a splash of rum. In essence, at Rp 304843, this was our best meal during the vacation.
We started on our way back, via Kuta Square and its many brand outlets, dashing in and out of a few, before crashing at Tanaya, after a looong day!