1YoT: Bali Part 1: Touring the Island

Bali was not part of our original itinerary. None of Indonesia was. But our Airbnb host in Sydney was Indonesian and she talked the country up so much; we knew we had to go.

The reason we didn’t include Bali in our original itinerary was because we thought it was touristy and expensive. Thankfully, our Indonesian Airbnb host gave us lots of advice on how to do Indonesia without spending a lot of money. Which was great because outside of expensive tourist resorts, Indonesia (Bali included) is super-cheap! Super-cheap and amazing!

So, without further ado, here is part one of our trip to Bali.

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Bali was beautiful. Here is the neighborhood we stayed in, where restaurant dishes were $4-10, hour-long massages were $7, and hotels were $30 per night.

This is the $30 per night (breakfast included) hotel we stayed in (the bottom picture is the view from our balcony). In the western world, this hotel would probably go for $150+ per night!

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Remember those $7 massages I mentioned? Inna and I got them immediately. Then Inna followed hers up with a $15 mani-pedi.

Indonesia is a majority Muslim country, but Bali remains a majority Hindu island. The most interesting aspect of Hinduism (and Buddhism, which we experienced in Hong Kong and will experience again later on our trip) is that they don’t worship through services the way Western religions do; instead individuals pray on their own whenever, wherever, and however they want. Because of this, religious altars were everywhere in Bali, we often saw multiple altars on a single block.

If all the altars weren’t enough, prayer offerings were everywhere! Here are some offerings we saw, one on the dash of a tour van and several others in the middle of the street.

Funny story: at one point Inna and I stopped by a convenience store to buy snacks, and Inna grabbed one of these prayer offerings, thinking it was food. Confused, the store owner and asked Inna why she wanted to buy the item. She told him she wanted to eat it, to which the store owner replied (very kindly) “Those aren’t for you, they’re for God.” 

Here’s something I didn’t know: Bali is not a city, it is an entire island! The island isn’t big but it has a ton to see and do, so we booked a private tour and visited its best sites. Above are some rice patties we drove by on our tour.

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First up, Bali’s most famous temple: Tanah Lot. Located just off the rocky shore of southeastern Bali, Tanah Lot was built in the 16th century to worship Balinese sea gods. Tanah Lot is one of seven “sea temples” along Bali’s coast, each one visible from the one next to it, their purpose being to create a chain of spiritual protection around the island.

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Here is the temple, viewed from the nearest point on the mainland. Unfortunately, despite being a major tourist attraction, the Tanah Lot Temple is off limits to visitors.

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Because the temple was off limits, praying occurred at nearby altars on the mainland.

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Here is another temple near Tanah Lot, this one also off limits to visitors. I love the location of this temple: on a rocky outcropping, connected by a natural bridge. We actually saw several natural bridges in Indonesia, created by extremely strong waves impacting the land. Some of the waves were so strong they made the coastline where they occurred unsafe to swim in.

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From Tanah Lot we went to Pura Taman Ayun, a huge 17th century temple and garden complex. And lucky us, visitors were allowed inside here, so we got to check this place out up close.

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Pura Taman Ayun was huge, way too big to capture in one photograph. It was also stunning. The gardens were some of the most beautiful we’ve seen, and the temples were incredible too.

Now that we’re inside, we can show you some detail work. Hopefully this shows just how intricate Bali’s temples could be.

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From Taman Ayun we headed to our third destination. Unfortunately, our tour guide’s car broke down along the way. Fortunately, his car broken down outside a home with a pet money in the front yard, so even though Inna and I were stuck, we were highly entertained.

Before long we were up and running again. Our third destination actually wasn’t a temple, it was a coffee plantation.

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Traveling the world, Inna and I noticed that almost every country thinks they have the best coffee. But they don’t, Indonesia does. The coffee here, the coconut and ginseng coffees in particular, were so good, it was unbelievable. 

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This animal, a civet, is the source of one of Indonesia’s most famous delicacies. What happens is, civets eat coffee beans, then poop them out. The partially digested beans are then extracted from the poop and used to make coffee, the result of which is the most expensive and supposedly best tasting coffee in the world (the Dutch discovered this when they set up their spice trade in the 1600-1700s). However, when Inna and I tried the coffee ($5 per cup, pretty expensive by Indonesian standards) we couldn’t taste any difference.

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After coffee we were back on the road, our next stop being a restaurant for lunch. This was our view from the dining area.

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After lunch, we continued to Lake Bratan, the final destination on our tour. This lake, located deep in Bali’s central mountains, lies 4000 feet above sea level; it was one of the most peaceful and spiritual places Inna and I have ever been.

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In addition to its beauty and isolation, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan was another major contribution to Lake Bratan’s spiritualness. This temple, built around the same time as Pura Taman Ayun, is dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva, although the complex also contains several Buddha statues. The whole thing, while small and simple, was breathtaking.

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In addition to the temple, there was some (but not much) development in the area. This is what it looked like. 

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One last picture before we call it a day. We loved this place so much, it was like a different world, peaceful and serene, the epitome of secluded Bali.

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With our tour complete we were finished exploring Bali. The next day we actually left the main island, our next destination being Nusa Lembongan, a smaller, cheaper, more secluded island our Sydney host recommended. We would spend most of our Bali visit here, and these were the boats we used to get there.

And with that, we come to the end of part one in Bali. But more is coming, for after exploring Indonesia (Nusa Lembongan and Yogjakarta specifically, Indonesia is way too big too see everything) we returned to Bali before leaving.

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