Category Archives: Indonesia

Chasing the sunrise at Bedugul Lake Temple

We had grand plans for our last day in Ubud, Bali. We were to be up hours before the crack of dawn, and ride through the shadowy darkness to make it 46 km north to one of Bali’s most famous and picturesque temples – Pura Ulun Danu Bratan or the Bedugul Lake Temple.

This plan was an impromptu alternative to our initial aim of witnessing the sunrise unfold over the volcanic Mount Batur at Kintamani. We realised that there was a long trek involved to get up to the summit and we’d have to leave in the middle of the night to make it in time for sunrise. And after a day filled with exploring the Sacred Monkey Forest, Goa Gajah Cave Temple and Tegallalang Rice Terraces, we didn’t really find the time to book ourselves on a group tour to Mount Batur. Besides, riding on our own in the wee hours of the morning sounded like a more exciting prospect.

And that was how we ended up rubbing the sleep out of our eyes at 4:30 AM on day six of our Balinese honeymoon.

Maya Ubud to Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

At 5 AM, the darkness was yet to pierced by the first semblance of light. Our route took us through various little roads, involving so many turns that we lost count. It was also surprisingly cold at that time of the morning, a fact we hadn’t accounted for. It was summer after all, with day temperatures hovering at a sunny 28 degree Celsius. But combined with the gusty wind and the light fabric of our summer overalls, we were left yearning for the fluffy jackets in our winter wardrobe back home!

Advice to travellers: Carry a warm jacket for early morning trips, regardless of what time of the year you travel to Bali.

Eventually, we left all the little roads behind and caroused smoothly for a good 26km on Jalan Baturiti Bedugul, with beautiful vistas passing us on either side of the road. It was nearly 6:30 AM now and Mohit was pressing down on the accelerator hard so as not to miss the first rays of dawn. The sun had begun to announce its presence and I was able to feast my eyes on the misty Bedugul mountains in the distance. Other cars and a few bikes/scooters kept us company as we finally made our way to Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, the water temple dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvathi.

Note: Google Maps asked us to ride further ahead but we soon asked a local and turned back. Take a small right when you start nearing the temple, as per the map.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Bedugul Lake Temple, Bali

After confirming with a guard that the temple was indeed open, we entered. There was no entrance fee or the compulsion of a sarong. A handful of tourists were already there, all seemingly mesmerised by the golden brilliance being cast from the high heavens. In silence, we walked around the banks of Lake Bratan, admiring the 11 storey tall Meru tower of the temple and its wobbly reflection on the water.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Bedugul Lake Temple, Bali

The pagoda-like Meru tower is made of wood and always the primary shrine of a Balinese Hindu temple. While Pura Bratan’s Meru tower is dedicated to Shiva and Parvathi, the temple is also used to worship the Balinese water, lake and river goddess Dewi Danu as Lake Bratan is the chief source of irrigation in central Bali.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Bedugul Lake Temple, Bali

It is also possible to go boating on the lake for a price and we did see some colourful canoes lined up on the banks but there didn’t seem to be a boatman available. A lone boat carrying a couple of western tourists slid through the water while the rest of us looked on. After having our fill of watching the sunlight glimmer over the temple, we took a walk, circling the lake as far as we could. There was no one on the other side and we had the view of the mountains and the sky streaked with haloed clouds all to ourselves.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Bedugul Lake Temple, Bali

While the main shrine is on the water, there are many other temples inside the complex, accessed by well-maintained gardens strewn with large animal statues and tall coniferous trees. We walked through the garden, admiring a dolphin and a tiger, lavender fields, a couple of fighting pigeons and an Indonesian woman wearing the local straw hat.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Bedugul Lake Temple, Bali

Presently, we encountered an arresting pair of gates which we presumed to be the main entrance to the temple complex. In all, there are four groups of shrines housed within the complex, dedicated to the Gods Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma and Goddess Danu.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Bedugul Lake Temple, Bali

A pair of beautiful snarling dragons awaited us on this side of the lake, surrounded by a cluster of short bamboo trees.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - Bedugul Lake Temple, Bali

Witnessing the sunrise over the mountains on our way to Pura Bratan and then immersing ourselves in the scenic serenity at the lake temple was a deeply spiritual and satisfying experience for us in Bali. After our invigorating walk and exploration of the temple complex, we rode back to Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, thankful for the warmer air and the promise of another destination waiting to be explored before we bid goodbye to Indonesia’s favourite honeymoon destination.

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Maya Ubud, Bali: Wooded wonderland

No trip to Bali would be complete without a visit to the forested, mountainous Ubud. And in our humble opinion, no visit to Ubud would be complete without a stay at the magical Maya Ubud Resort & Spa. Lined with traditional Balinese-style cottages that come with private gardens and pools as well as a serene golf course, gym and ethereal riverside spa, this resort is an extension of Ubud’s prime attractions such as the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Goa Gajah Cave Temple and Tegallalang Rice Terrace. Ubud was our second stop in Bali after Sanur, and so large and enticing was Maya Ubud that we changed our hectic travel plans and spent an entire day simply enjoying the various sights and pleasures the resort offered.

Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
The way to the reception

We reached Ubud after an hour-long drive from Maya Sanur and the change in landscape was remarkable. Gone was the easy, seaside rhythm of Sanur and in its place was an older, deeper music, personified by stunning paintings on display outside art galleries at Ubud market, little roads fringed by whispering trees and a cloudier sky. A long path within the gate led us to the bright and cheery reception area of Maya Ubud Resort & Spa. All the staff wore the traditional dress of kebaya (fitted lace blouse) and sarong for women and sarong, shirt and udeng (head dress) for men. After a brief wait during which a refreshing welcome drink kept us company, we were taken to our cottage in a golf buggy.

A luxury hideout in the woods

Petanu Villa, Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
Petanu Villa, with a longer version of our pool and multiple settees

Our cottage was so vast and the room so wide that we were simply not able to contain it all in one frame. Photos really don’t do justice to this resort but we’ll endeavour to give you a glimpse of its loveliness, even if we did have to pan each time to include the high ceiling crisscrossed with Balinese wooden beams! Our cottage had a high, four-poster bed, a large LCD TV hidden within a multi-purpose unit, writing desk, wardrobe with self-sensing light and a luxurious bath-tub and entrance to the outdoor shower in the bathroom. Yes, we had a completely private outdoor shower adjoining the cottage pool, both of which were surrounded by thick, protective foliage. But the fixture we ended up using the most was the comfy, long settee outside the cottage, perfect for listening to the birds and bees and dozing the afternoon away.

Early morning jottings

Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
In contemplation at Petanu Villa

Tiny blackbirds slice the Balinese sky
Even as a golden orb peeks
From behind the trees –
It’s divine light so all-powerful
That even the neighbouring clouds aren’t immune.

The sun rises early at Maya Ubud, as do the little spotted doves and other myriad birds on the elven property. Last night, we glimpsed the tinkling Petanu River and waterfall in the indigo moments of a passing day. This morning, the light flutters in through our shuttered door and reminds us of lovelier joys ahead.

Pool at Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
Smaller pool beside the infinity pool

The day we arrived, we kept up our exploration of Maya Ubud’s infinity pools, walking trails and hidden sanctuaries well until darkness took over. We raced against time to make it across the wooden bridge over the robust Petanu River, close to the spa and the riverside restaurant. We felt like we were in a rainforest, surrounded by lush greenery and the soothing gush of the waterfall. Another favourite moment was when we climbed a large mound in the middle of the resort garden so we could be silhouetted against the setting sun. We also toured the prestigious Petanu Villa and observed red and orange fish swimming around in the L-shaped pond between the gym and golf course.

High tea and breakfast

Laklak during high tea at Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
The chef prepares laklak, a Balinese pancake

Maya Ubud offers complimentary high tea for its guests at Bar Bedulu, the garden restaurant, consisting of tea, coffee, iced tea, cakes and one Indonesian specialty such as laklak, a delicious pancake served with grated coconut and palm sugar. We chose a table on the terrace where a sweet breeze kept us company and panoramic views of the forest and mountains enveloped us on all sides.

Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
The scenic resort

Breakfast was always served at Maya Sari, the signature restaurant with a variety of dining spaces. One counter was dedicated entirely to local delights and some of the dishes we tried and enjoyed included pisang goreng, banana fritters served with custard; bubur sum-sum; pandan rice pudding with palm sugar; pumpkin pudding and potato and vegetable coconut curry. We also loved the organic yoghurt with coconut and honey. We’d always choose a table overlooking the garden even if it became sunny because one simply can’t get enough of the scenery at Maya Ubud.

Balinese massage at the spa

Spa at Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali

Our second day at Maya Ubud began with a rejuvenating couples’ Balinese full-body massage. We were given a choice of three different oils – jasmine oil, ginger oil and a traditional Balinese flower oil with curative properties. The last one smelt heavenly and so, the Balinese oil it was. The cooling lemongrass drink we were offered on arrival put us in a great mood, as did the artful massage room, where we could hear the tinkling of the Petanu River. We’ve enjoyed several Balinese massages in India but to experience the real thing in Bali was a revelation. We wished we could learn to massage the soles of our feet the way the therapists did! After our session was over, we were asked to let the oil stay for an hour. In the meanwhile, we munched on a platter of fruits and relaxed by the infinity pool outside River Cafe.

Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
View from the restaurant

Every morning at 7 AM, the resort conducts complimentary yoga classes at the open-air yoga pavilion overlooking the gardens and terraced rice fields. But if like us, you like to linger over your mornings, it might be a better idea to take a dip in the infinity pool outside Maya Sari (there are three different pools at the resort) and swim up to the rim to look over all of the surrounding forests.

Practical information:

River Cafe, Maya Ubud Resort & Spa, Bali
River Cafe

Getting there: It’s a one hour drive from Bali’s international airport to Maya Ubud Resort & Spa.

Getting around: Rent a bike at around 75000 IDR per day or book a sightseeing tour from one of the operators at Ubud Market. You can go up to Mt Batur, an active volcano in Kintamani or Pura Bratan, a scenic temple in the mountains near Bedugul.

Bookings: Rooms at this five star hotel start at around 19000 rupees per night. Please visit their website for bookings.

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Sanur: The Bali you haven’t seen

Sanur doesn’t figure on any tour operator’s must-see places in Bali. Yet, this sleepy seaside town has a beguiling charm and it’s not just due to its glorious blue beaches. Sanur is the gateway to a chain of untouched islands and offers close proximity to offbeat attractions that let you discover Bali’s rich biodiversity. Here are our top seven picks of things to do and places to visit in Sanur, the non-touristy part of Bali that offers the best money exchange (better than market rate) and bike rental rates (50000 IDR per day)!

1. Go on a walking trail through the Mangrove Forest (Suwung Kawuh)

Bali Mangrove Forest
You may see locals fishing with rudimentary rods.

Beautiful board walks, observatories and serene pools of water and greenery replete with marine and avian species make the 1300 acre Mangrove Forest a rare treasure. Mangroves are crucial for maintaining the ecosystem as they provide sustenance for hundreds of types of animals. This forest has been funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The entry fee for foreigners is pretty steep (200000 IDR per person) but we managed to get a 50% discount so do try bargaining. Once inside, you’ll be glad you paid the price. Because the Mangrove Forest is a secret web of nature in its undisturbed glory.

Bali Mangrove Forest
One of the trails leads to a mesmerising view of the sea and the city in the distance.

You may see locals fishing with rudimentary rods, young couples huddled in the huts named after birds in the forest and many strange creatures in the undergrowth. Pointed growths typical of mangroves compete for space with larger trees in the water on either side of the shaky wooden bridge. There are two or three trails that you can follow within the forest and one of them leads to a mesmerising view of the sea and the city in the distance. We were there at sunset and stayed until twilight cast its moody shadows on the water.

2. Feed baby turtles at the Turtle Conservation and Education Centre

Turtle Conservation and Education Centre Bali

The Turtle Conservation and Education Centre on Serangan Island is home to six different species of rescued and baby turtles. These include the leatherback sea turtle, the largest of all living turtles; the large green sea turtle; the flatback sea turtle with a flattish shell; Olive Ridley sea turtles, the smallest of the marine turtles; the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle and the commonly found loggerhead sea turtle. For a nominal entry fee (around 25000 IDR if memory serves right), one can observe these turtles at close quarters and even feed the tinier ones from little buckets holding powdery turtle food.

Turtle Conservation and Education Centre, Bali

We enjoyed analysing the patterns on their shells and were awed by just how huge these cute creatures could be. In a little pond outside the main shelter, many medium-sized turtles swim lazily. And there’s even a hatchery to welcome new turtles into the world. This centre was opened by the governor of Bali, Mr Dewa Barata in January 2006.

3. Surf the waves at Sanur Beach

Sanur Beach

There are a host of water sports available at Sanur Beach but the real joy is in finding a good spot on the sand and soaking in the perfection of the blue beyond. We loved how clear the sky was in the summery month of May and how well the water of Sanur reflected its azure magnificence. You can spend half a day at the beach, swimming in the sea, surfing the waves or simply sun-bathing to acquire a healthy tan.

4. Watch the locals play football at Lapangan Puputan Renon

Lapangan Puputan Renon

Did you know that Bali has its own worthy answer to London’s Hyde Park and Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens? Lapangan Puputan Renon in Denpasar is a sprawling garden that comes alive with joggers, walkers, football players and yoga practitioners in the evening. Part of the garden often serves as a venue for concerts and other events and when we were there, there was a Yamaha company event adding to the festive spirit of the park.

Lapangan Puputan Renon

Lapangan Puputan Renon is also home to the towering Bajra Sandhi Monument, dedicated to the struggles of the Balinese people throughout history. There are three courtyards within the monument but unfortunately, entry is restricted and one has to be content with admiring the carvings on the gate. Interestingly, a lot of fitness enthusiasts prefer to do their crunches and spot jumps on the steps leading up to the monument.

5. Listen to the mesmerising temple chants at the Pura Blanjong temple

Pura Blanjong, Bali temple
The temple

Hinduism is the dominant religion in Bali, unlike other parts of Indonesia where most residents are Muslim. However, the temple chants in Bali are quite different from those in India. Sung in the Indonesian language with bells and the traditional bamboo and flute music, the overall effect is quite mellifluous and enchanting. We paused every time we heard these sonorous chants in the evening from one of the many temples in Sanur.

Blanjong Pillar and Inscription
The inscription

The most prominent one in the area is Pura Blanjong, adjoining the Blanjong inscription. The inscription dates back to 914 CE and serving as evidence of contact between Bali, Java and the Indian subcontinent. Although the pillar is not much to look at, the temple is pretty with its coral wall and pair of headless calf statues. It was built as a cenotaph for Sri Kesari, a Buddhist apostle.

6. Take a ferry to Nusa Penida-Ceningan-Lembongan islands

Scuba diving in Nusa Lembongan, Bali
Scuba diving in Nusa Lembongan, Bali by Ilse Reijs and Jan Noud Hutten

Various kinds of boats ranging from cheap local ones to high-speed motor boats go to the triad Nusa Penida, Ceningan and Lembongan from Sanur Beach. There are two or three different ferry points depending on which island you want to go to. Once there, you have a host of exciting water activities to choose from such as snorkelling, swimming and canoeing. Nusa Lembongan is also home to an underground cave built by a local man, mangrove forests and glorious white sand beaches.

Nusa_lembongan_cliff
Nusa Lembongan

At Nusa Ceningan, you can jump off a cliff, get a glimpse of seaweed farming and explore a swallow’s cave at low tide. With its gorgeous marine life, Nusa Penida is the best spot for diving and snorkelling and also visiting the Bali Bird Sanctuary. This island houses incredible marvels such as a natural infinity pool and a ‘broken sea’. Day cruises will let you return the same day but if you’re on your own, you’ll most likely have to stay overnight at one of the many resorts on the islands and return the next day.

7. Go ghost hunting at Taman Festival Bali

Taman-Festival-Bali
Courtesy: http://www.chantae.com/taman-festival-bali/

If you love haunted places, this abandoned theme park might give you fresh fodder for the next session of ghost story telling. Built in 1997 by the Indonesian government with aid from an affluent investor, the park failed to attract tourists despite its $5 million laser show. Today, it’s a quirky attraction with ruins of a ticket booth, an arcade room, an ominous crocodile pit, many broken windows and decrepit graffiti. It’s unlikely that you’ll find any locals inside as Balinese believe such places are frequented by malevolent spirits. But the isolation and overgrown paths enhance its creepy allure!

There are also a lot of museums and galleries in Sanur such as the Le Mayeur Museum, Seiki Torige’s Open Space Gallery, Griya Santrian Gallery and Darga Gallery.

Practical information

Things to do in Sanur, offbeat things to do in Bali

Get there: Sanur is just a 30 minute ride away from Bali’s international airport by cab. The ride will cost you around 150000 IDR.

Stay: Maya Sanur is a beautiful five-star resort with lagoon access and beach view rooms, a sea-front restaurant and bar, spa and gym.

Eat: There are several great restaurants and bars on Jalan Danau Tamblingan. We enjoyed pizza and mie goreng at Gopal’s Cafe and sandwiches and sayur urab (brown rice with long beans and shredded coconut) at Warung Blanjong.

We have so much more to tell you about Bali and Indonesia, so stay tuned!

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Maya Sanur: Seaside elegance

Sanur is for water babies. Close to Ngurah Rai Airport and Kuta, this charming slice of the Balinese coast is all about sparkling blue beaches and lazing under the sun. Maya Sanur, with its endless lagoons and breezy seaside restaurant embodies all that the town stands for – perfect sunny cheer. We arrived early, well rested after a night at a nearby guesthouse. Our honeymoon was just beginning and we were as excited as a pair of puppies!

Sanur Beach
Private access to the beach
Maya Sanur review
A tree-rimmed path

Maya Sanur has an unmistakable personality of peaceful open spaces, unhurried movement and the freshness of natural greenery. This was apparent to us the moment we stepped into their vast lobby, graced by ever-smiling staff. The reservations team had two lovely surprises for us – a room upgrade to a lagoon access room and a couple photography session voucher with one complimentary photo frame! However, our room would only be ready by 2 PM so we decided to explore the resort while we waited.

Poolside luxury

From the railing, we could see a long strip of blue paradise, bordered by rooms with balconies that resembled cane baskets.

Maya Sanur review

A settee curved into the shape of a tree trunk invited us to lie down and have a siesta.

Maya Sanur review

Beside the long lagoon was a tree-rimmed path leading straight to Sanur Beach and Reef, the signature restaurant.

The pristine beach with mountains outlined hazily in the distance charmed us with two different shades of blue – a mild aquamarine closer to the shore and a deep turquoise further away. Surfers rode the white-tipped waves with gusto and enviable confidence. While we walked, we were accosted by several water sports and tour operators. Our advice to those who’d rather not be bothered – be friendly but firm, and tell them you’ll get in touch if you need anything.

Maya Sanur review
A pretty temple

As we made our way back from the beach, we spotted a pretty temple beside the hotel restaurant and a flight of stairs leading up to the roof garden, a vast terrace dotted with green lawns, clusters of bougainvilleas and a picture-perfect view of the sea. It’s really the ideal location for a photo session or picnic lunch.

Maya Sanur review
Reef, the seaside restaurant

Other dining options at Maya Sanur include a Japanese restaurant, a three-level bar and a multi-cuisine restaurant. The resort has a functional gym, spacious spa and beautiful library as well.

Spa at Maya Sanur
Spa

Library at Maya Sanur

We could imagine staying for an extended period at Maya Sanur, spending the afternoons reading or lounging by the beach. But a quick look at our watches told us that our room would likely be ready.

Artful luxury

Architectural perfection and thoughtful touches like a mirror edged with gold motifs, a congratulations cake on the table, an evocative painting on the wall and a complimentary spa kit on the bed greeted us when we walked into our deluxe lagoon access room. The bowl of welcome fruits featured a strange local specimen (salak) that I’d come to love later. We tiptoed into the bathroom and were overjoyed to see a lovely bathtub with glittering lamps on either side, rose petals, bath salts and bath foam.

Maya Sanur review

Maya Sanur review

But the best part was pulling back the curtains to reveal a wonderful seating area outside that took us straight to the long strip of paradise we’d seen earlier. Since the rooms on either side of us were vacant, we practically had the pool to ourselves. Lying in that lagoon with some music on our phones and a view of the trees around and above us was going to be a rare pleasure. Our room also came equipped with a variety of personal care amenities and a beach bag woven from cane.

Our top three

  1. The lagoon

We spent our evenings enjoying relaxing swims in the lagoon or simply relaxing on our settee and watching the view outside.

Maya Sanur review
Outside our room

2. The terrace

We’d lie down on the lawns at the rooftop terrace, smell the flowers, explore the various cottages or simply lean on the railing and take in the beauty spread out below us.

Maya Sanur review

3. The bath tub

Night times were reserved for drawing up warm, fragrant baths in the bath tub and rediscovering the joy of playing with soap suds!

Maya Sanur review

Breakfasts at Maya Sanur

Breakfast at Maya Sanur

You can’t help but look forward to breakfast when you know you’re going to be sitting at a beach-view table with fluffy omelettes and local delicacies like wingko (a Javanese pancake-like snack) and black sticky rice pudding with coconut milk. We’d like to make a special mention of the foamy, rich cappuccino served in impossibly large cups, cinnamon French toast and wide array of cakes and pastries.

Posing by the beach

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On our final day in Sanur, we decided to use our free photography session voucher and make some memories for a lifetime. We held hands, looked into each other’s eyes and did everything possible to convince the world we were in love! The photo featured above is the one we liked best and we opted for a digital copy over a printed frame. After the photo shoot, we had a lovely time sinking our toes into the sun-baked sand and having our final fill of Sanur Beach.

Sanur Beach

Practical guide to Maya Sanur

How to reach: Find a taxi from the airport to take you to Maya Sanur (30 min ride, around 150000 IDR).
Nearby attractions: Sanur Beach, Bali Turtle Conservation Centre, Lapangan Puputan Renon, local temples and warung restaurants, Mangrove Forest
Accommodation: This is a five star hotel. Rooms start at around Rs 15000 per night.
Website: http://www.mayaresorts.com/sanur/

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