On the way to Kintamani we stopped at Besakih, which is the holiest temple complex for the Balinese people. And while on a clear day, it may be more impressive since the temples are situated along the base of Agung Agung; however, at the time we visited the clouds had come in, leaving a pretty murky and unimpressive sky. The temples themselves were indeed as our guide books describe, ‘schizophrenic” not only in the sense that there was no order to the construction of the temples (they’re positioned completely randomly) but also because of their juxtaposition. Although it’s the most venerated site, you can’t help but have a taste of disappointment as you must walk past hundreds of stalls along the way selling all types of goods, while “guides” sit around the temple deceptively telling tourists they must enter the holy temples with locals in order show respect (in other words, pay random people to take you in) . We didn’t spend too much time there, just a quick stopover to see it, but pretty unimpressive, and then continued on.
The drive towards Gunung Batur takes you higher and higher in elevation; however, the volcano remains unexposed until the very height of the drive on the crater rim, revealing an awesome site. We continually were wondering if our direction was correct since the volcano wasn’t in our horizon, but once we reached the rim, there was almost a gasp coming from us as the massive Batur Lake and Volcano came into sight. We spent the rest of the afternoon driving around the rim and resting near the lake for sunset views before sleeping in our car park awaiting the early sunrise walk to the highest crater for some apparently great views. However, there is an organization of guides that have a monopoly in the area that tell tourists they must pay for a guide up to the top. In our books, it mentions that strong opposition will be faced if you attempt the hike without a guide, but we took that as to signify they would constantly be hassling us (which they were already doing non-stop) so it wasn’t a huge deal. We also figured that since a lot of people usually hike up in the morning that we could simply follow them so as not to get lost. Long story short, this association of guides has a monopoly simply because they’re composed of a bunch of thugs, so after some altercations trying to prevent us from climbing alone, followed by an attempt to bargain a price with us, which at that point we were clearly not going to do, we decided to forget the hike up and watch sunrise from the rim, which was still a really nice view, and possibly better than on top of the volcano. We were even called terrorists from one of the thugs in the group, which was a first, and sort of speaks loudly for the intelligence of those idiots.
We left early that morning south to Ubud, a town most popular for its culture and artistic inspiration. While tourism has taken over in the last however many years, resulting in the central area transforming into store after store, only a few blocks away reveals the quiet rice fields and duck farms (smoke duck is their famous dish). Ubud is not only well known for it’s theatrics and duck farms, but also it’s boutique shops and restaurant culture. So for the day we were there, we spent our time walking all around the stores and rice fields, eating at some of the best restaurants on our trip (one place that only serves suckling pig), and watching another Balinese Kecak show at night. We were skeptical that the show would be similar to the ballet, which neither of us found too entertaining, but it ended up being really interesting and showcased multiple dance styles and performances.
Our last day with the car we quickly sped over to Pura Tana Lot, the most photographed place in Bali to take some pictures of the beach, surrounding black cliffs, and black sand, before dropping our car back off in Kuta. We immediately left for Sanur, the jumping off point to the small island, Nusa Lebognan, where we planned to spend the last two days on the island since it apparently had some good surf, which we wanted to try again, and dives to Manta Point, where lots of Manta Rays reside. We also heard the beaches there were some of the best in Bali, so for all these reasons it seemed like a great final stop. We were a bit disappointed to find out that since a major swell had just come in none of the dive shops were going to Manta Point for the week, and after quickly realizing the surf was way too advanced for us, the two main attractions were quickly erased. Because of this, we decided to rent push bikes and spend the afternoon on a few of Nusa’s beaches, Dream Beach and Mushroom Beach, both of which were really nice. Since there was no reason to stay an extra day, we left on the early ferry the following morning so we could spend a day in Kuta just relaxing on their famous white sand beach and using any modern amenities we needed before our flight the next morning. And we did just that.
The Kuta Beach can get pretty packed with tourists, but it’s pretty easy to escape the madness a short walk north. It’s no way near as crowded as the beaches in Rio, but for being the off-season there’s still quite a few people with just as many people outs on the beach renting out surfboards. I originally wasn’t going to surf that day, but the waves couldn’t be more perfect for beginners, so I set out again and successfully got up many times, sticking mainly to the white wash. I definitely recommend working on techniques in Kuta since the water is relatively shallow and the waves break early on so catching the smaller ones is easy and can carry you for pretty far distances. After eating our last Nasi Campur dish while in Indonesia (our favorite consisting of rice, peanuts, any type of meat, delicious sauce, egg, and vegetables), and had our third helping of the super cheap Mcdonalds ice cream cone we headed for bed, woke up early the next morning, and our currently on our flight to Hong Kong.