Rainy season and rice paddies in spiritual Bali

Maluku and the Banda islands were for sure off the beaten track, but after three weeks it was time to continue our travels. Originally, we planned to go for a couple of days to Toraja in Sulawesi to see the traditional funeral rites that are practiced there. Afterwards we would go for a week to Bali to chill and prepare for our adventures in the Pacific. Unfortunately we did not realize that it would be a nightmare to get to Toraja and back to Makassar for our flight to Bali.  That’s why we found ourselves flying from Ambon to Denpasar on Bali instead. Coming from an idyllic, easy-going island, we were a little shocked by the way we were welcomed. Taxi drivers were trying to charge us 5 times the price that we paid in different parts of Indonesia and over all there was a pretty competitive atmosphere. We booked ourselves a Go-Jek to take us to our Airbnb close to Ubud. In the peak hours a 2 hours drive for 50 kms. Ubud is a destination away from the crowded beaches of Kuta and Canggu and famous for the spiritual atmosphere (famous from the  Eat-Pray-Love book). This means that you find lots of yoga retreats in and around Ubud, with lots of people walking around Ubud with a yoga mat under their arms. The nearby Hindu temples and rice terraces are also popular with tourists. A good place to relax and enjoy a different scenery! After a good night in our nice Airbnb room, we were ready to explore Ubud and the surrounding temples. The best (and cheapest) way to do this is, in good Indonesian tradition, by scooter. After our experiences in Lombok and Ambon, we liked this way of seeing something of the surroundings. In our first trip, we decided to explore the town center and enjoy the possibility of some ‘international’ food while planning our next days. We were so happy with our lunch, a good burrito with spicy chicken, sour cream and …. old cheese!! After the Banda islands with lots of rice with veggies and fish or chicken, we craved for some pasta in the evening, so we decided to go for an Italian restaurant for dinner. Super delicious pasta and a pretty fancy place!

The next day, we woke up on time and drove the scooter out of town to two temple complexes. Since it was the weekend, the Terta Empul temple was super crowded. We like our pictures without tens of tourists on them, so we decided to return the next day. We then choose to go to another less famous temple: Goa Gajah. In order to be allowed to enter the temples you have to wear a sarong, and especially women have to obey lots of extra rules. The Goa Gajah temple complex lies within beautiful nature and is best known for its Elephant cave. After seeing only churches and mosques for a long time, it was really special to see the Hindu culture. When we went back to the guesthouse, we had to take a couple of hectic big roads, we looked at maps.me and decided to only take the small back roads and here the culture is even better represented. A lot of houses have their own temple and you can find offerings in front of every door. A nice look into the “real” Bali! In the meanwhile, we were happy with our rain ponchos because it started raining hard. Rainy season in Bali had definitely started.

The next day, we decided on a route that would combine the Terta Empul temple and the famous Tegallalang rice terraces. To beat the crowds, we left early and this worked out well, because there were no lines or huge crowds at the temple complex. We could also understand why it’s so popular. It is a large and beautiful complex with the ritual bathing in holy water as a main attraction. Since we both feel weird about doing these rituals, as non-religious people, we didn’t go in.  We however got some beautiful shots of people engaging in the ritual.

From the temple complex, we jumped on the scooter and picked a route through the beautiful small back roads of the Balinese countryside. So quiet and apart from locals, we didn’t see a lot of other tourists. After a lot of winding roads through the hills, we reached Tegallalang rice terraces. If you see a picture on Instagram of the typical green rice terraces, chances are it’s taken in this spot. And rightfully so, the terraces in all shades of green are lying on all sides of a small valley and are an amazing sight! For a small fee, you can walk between the fields and find the best spots for your pictures.

We really got into cruising around on our scooter and decided to visit a temple and some rice terraces some 50 km out of Ubud. To cover distance, we drove some larger roads, with a nice side road from time to time. Sitting in the back was however a little taxing on Suus’ legs and butt muscles. When we finally reached the temple, we were mostly glad to walk a little and not sit on the saddle. Again, we were happy with the rain ponchos that the Airbnb hosts provided, because it started to pour down really hard. A restaurant/tourist trap next to the rice terraces was our savior to hide. For the price of a good lunch anywhere in Indonesia, we were served a single croque monsieur a person. It appears that many tour groups get dropped here and get a buffet style menu. At least we were in a dry place. As is common here, the rain lasts for 30-45 mins and then the sun returns. We got out into the rice fields to warm up and take pictures. With the sun back on our faces, we drove back and treated our sore butts to a nice hamburger in town. The next day we had to check out of our guesthouse and headed to a hotel south of the centre of Ubud. The town has apparently a big issue with GoJek, Uber and every other ‘cheaper’ taxi service, because we didn’t manage to get transport between our accommodations. The driver literally messaged us to say he didn’t dare to pick us up in the street of our first Airbnb. It seems the taxi mafia is pretty strong here. Finally, our host took us and we could check in under a strong rain. Since we crossed all the highlights that we wanted to visit off our list in Ubud, we decide that we would chill at the pool and enjoy the sun a bit. Unfortunately, the weather decided differently with rain all day, so Suus booked a nice Spa Treatment at Karsa Spa, while I went for the nearby Ridge walk. Another of Ubud’s classic Instagram places. While Suus was enjoying an herb infused bath, a scrub and massage, I did the short walk and while returning saw that there was some smoke coming out off the top of Mount Agung. Later, we heard that it was the beginning of the real eruption that reached its peak the day after we flew out to Auckland!

So after a relaxing time we were heading to our next adventures in the Pacific just in time!

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