Flores (Ruteng & Labaun Bajo) & Bali June 13 – 16, 2018
June 13 Wednesday: Ruteng – Labaun Bajo
Ruteng is one of the most fertile places in Nusa Tenggara. Cancar, a rural area surrounded by hills not far from Ruteng, is a rice growing area. The rice field here is unique: when viewed from above, the paddy fields look like a spider web. This field is a customary tradition Manggarai Regency society in terms of the distribution of paddy fields and gardens called Lingko customary land owned together by the society but shared individually and used together to meet the society’s need.
After breakfast, I had my second bike ride to see Lingko Spider Web rice fields in Cancar. The driver is about 40 years old with good driving skill. But he does not know the way. When I spotted a sign for ‘Viewpoint 1km’. I got off and hiked up. I had good views of the spider web fields and the valley. But I wondered whether I had visited the right spot. Based on information from websites, there is a point where visitors would be asked to sign a book and pay. But I did not see any village. Anyway, I walked in solitude up the hill and had fantastic views of the gorgeous mountain and brown-coloured rice fields. The best time to take pictures would be when the fields are covered in water or when the fields are green.
The driver can’t speak English. I did not really know where he would be taking me. He returned to Ruteng but took me to Golo Curu, an open-air chapel at the top of a hill and known for its panoramic views of Ruteng and the surrounding areas.
He drove through the town without stop. Where next? Soon he stopped near a small village with a compang similar to the one in Todo Village. A man came up stopping me taking photos and said he was the official guide of the village. I did not find the place appealing and moved on.
Ruteng has a dozen of churches. I asked the driver to stop outside a large and beautiful church. Its decorations are simple and beautifully done. At noon, I had lunch at Spring Hill Hotel restaurant. When I gave the driver Rp. 100000 instead of Rp. 60000 as agreed earlier, he was moved. Well, he had spent four hours with me and should be fairly rewarded. He has a family to support as well.
I had asked the driver who took me to Ruteng to pick me up at 2pm. He asked me for Rp. 100000 (the amount he would get from the agent). Hence, I had saved Rp. 30000! I hoped he could pick up some passengers on the way. He did. First a priest who was going home to celebrate his parents’ wedding anniversary. After the priest got off, he picked up a woman with three girls. The girls were not fit and vomited many times. I was glad when they got off not far from Labaun Bajo. I was finally back in the Green Hill Bed Station around 6pm.
The sunset looked gorgeous. But I was too lazy to walk uphill to a bar known for its sunset views. Instead, I went to a rooftop bar nearby and had two cocktails for the price of one. The bar is not west-facing and the view is limited. Anyway, I had no complaint. I went to bed after having a light dish of Indonesian fried rice in a local eatery (Rp.20000) next door.
June 14 Thursday: Labaun Bajo, Flores – Ubud, Bali
My flight to Bali was at 8:40am. The hostel provides free shuttle service to the airport. After breakfast, a driver dropped me off at the airport. The plane flew low and slowly. I arrived in Bali around 10am after having a scenic flight!
I have booked two nights at Arsa Homestay (about Rp. 300000) in Ubud, a popular destination in central Bali. I am surprised there is no regular tourist shuttle/bus to popular areas on the island. Visitors have to take taxi/hired car. The driver who took me to the airport a few days ago had asked for Rp. 500000 while the driver recommended by Cass said Rp. 400000. Arsa Homestay indicated a rate of Rp. 300000. Outside the airport, I noticed the rate on a board was Rp. 350000. I negotiated with the drivers and offered Rp. 250000. A young driver Dwi Jaya decided to take me. Unfortunately, the traffic was fairly bad. We spent an hour and a half on the road. Dwi is nice and I gave him gave him Rp. 300000. He was delighted and offered to take me around the next two days. I said I would consider and WhatsApp him later.
Ubud is touristy with streets lined with shops, eateries and a full range of accommodations. As the traditional Balinese houses are large, many families now run homestay. Arsa Homestay offers three self-contained units around a garden. The family has a large plot of land with three gardens, two ponds, a family temple and a dozen of rooms.
I had baked fish wrapped in banana leave and rice. The local fish tasted fresh and the meat was tender. Two hours later, I went to an eatery famous for its roast pig. The skin was all sold out and I paid Rp. 50000 for a small box of juicy and tasty meat. A delicious snack!
Ubud is the cultural centre of Bali with many attractions in and outside the town centre. Top attractions include the Monkey Forest, the Royal Palace with dance performances in the evening, the art market and the Pura Taman Saraswati, a water temple, all centrally located. As I had to find a trip for the next day, I only had time for the palace and the art market and planned to visit the water temple the next day. After looking at a dozen of day trips, I decided to join the Kintamani- Besakih tour (Rp. 180000). I thought of returning to the palace for the dance performance. But once I returned to my room, I was too lazy to go out. I went to bed early as I had a long time.
June 15 Friday: Full Day Excursion
I was picked up by a driver in a 12-seater minibus and met ten tourists from France Germany, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Spain and the UK. This tour would take us to see six main attractions in Eastern Bali. The job of the driver was to take us to the sites but he was not a guide.
Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) – The main attraction is the 11th– century cave. The temple ground is pretty with many workers working on bamboo structures. What are they doing? I wished we had a guide who could give us information about the place, its history and significance.
Pura Tirta Empul (Holy Spring Temple) in Tampaksiring. The temple dedicated to Vishu and founded in 962 A.D., is divided into three sections namely the front, central and inner yards. In the central yard, there are two ritual purifying pools with 30 showers. I saw hundreds of pilgrims, old and young, men and women queuing up for a ritual purification shower.
I walked to the holy spring pool which water is crystal clear. Inside the inner yard, pilgrims lined up to seek blessings from the priest. It was impossible to see the temple in 30 minutes. I could spend an hour or two to soak in the atmosphere and appreciate the unique Balinese cultural landscape.
Temen (coffee garden and spices). We spent an hour in the Santi plantation where we tasted a dozen of free drinks after a guided tour. Only the German couple paid Rp.50000 for a cup of luwak coffee. Anyway, I bought two small packs of luwak coffee as souvenir (Rp. 250000 for 50 gram).
Kintamani to see Mount and Lake Batur. The driver told us to spend ten minutes at the viewpoint. A lady sitting by the roadside asked us to pay an entrance fee of Rp. 31000. Very expensive!
Without clear direction from the driver, we went to a lakeside resort which we thought to be the viewpoint. The staff of the resort told us to get out and we were annoyed. I eventually found the location of the viewpoint which is by the roadside. In any case, the sky was not clear and we did not have good views of the volcano and the lake.
Someone told us there was a viewpoint 4km away. We had heated arguments with the driver over the location of the viewpoint and the need to pay for the ticket. He lost his temper too and told us to make a complaint to his company. To pay Rp.31000 for a photo stop is ridiculous especially other visitors are not required to pay. In my view, a sunrise hike to the top of Mt Batur at 1717m would be the best way to appreciate the landscape and scenery.
Besakih Temple (the Mother Temple). It is the most important and the largest and holiest temple of Hindu religion in Bali. Perching nearly 1000m on the slopes of Mount Agung, this temple complex consists of 23 temples all aligned along a single axis and designed to lead the spiritual person upward and closer to the mountain which is considered sacred. The temple is built on six levels, terraced up the slope.
The entrance is marked by a candi bentar (split gateway). The main sanctuary of the complex is the Pura Penataran Agung which symbolic center is the lotus throne of padmasana, the ritual focus of the entire complex. Only Hindu are allowed into the temple to pray while visitors can walk outside.
We had to pay Rp.60000 each for a guided tour of an hour. I prefer to explore the place on my own. The place is so large that I can easily spend two to three hours.
Bukit Jambul – We had a buffet lunch at a restaurant (Rp. 100000) which affords superb 180° view of the rice terrace with Mt Agung (3142m) as the backdrop. Unfortunately, Mt Agung was invisible behind clouds.
Klungkung Court of Justice, the Kertha Gosa Pavilion, the main gate dating 1700 A.D. and a floating pavilion. These are the remains of a palace complex of the Klungkung kingdom which was considered to be the highest and most important of the nine kingdoms of Bali from the late 17th century to 1908 when Bali came under the Dutch rule. The highlights are the Kerta Gosa and Floating Pavilions typified the Klungkung style of architecture and painting.
The whole group was dropped off near my homestay around 5pm. I discovered that Elly and Marijke from the Netherland were staying in a guest house with a swimming pool near Arsa Homestay. They invited me to their place for a drink. We had a lovely chat when they told me about their 11013km- long bicycle journey over 11 months from Guangzhou to Singapore. Bali was the place to recuperate and relax before returning home to start work again. They are in their late 50s and I admire their strength and stamina.
At 7pm, I saw a Kecak and Fire Dance performance at Padang Kertha Temple close to my Homestay. Kecak is a unique Balinese dance which is not accompanied by any orchestral gamelan but by a choir of hundred men. Its origin traces from an old ritual dance “Sanghyang” or trance dance. The dance person who is in trance, communicates with deities or ancestor.
In the 1930s the old Indian epic Ramayana was included in the dance. Tonight’s performance in five acts was about a part of this epic where Rahwana, a demon king kidnapped Sita, the wife of Rama, an exiled prince who was legal heir to the throne of Ayodya, when they were wandering in a forest called Dankasa accompanied by Rama’s younger brother Laksamana. Hanoman rescued Sita in Rahwana’s garden. Rama was in a battle with Rahwana’s son Meganada when Garuda came to Rama’s rescue. Then Sugriwa a monkey king fought with Rama and finally defeated Meganada.
After the performance, an entranced man dancing on a horse (Jaran) came out. He danced first around a fire burning coconut husks. Then he danced on fire several times.
The ticket price for the show is Rp. 75000. Over 100 visitors watched the show. The setting with fire torches lighting up the temple and men chanting and singing sitting on the ground was atmospheric. Their musical voices are powerful. Their body movements and sitting formations set the scene for each act. The fire dance is amazing too.
Once the performance was over, the power for the area suddenly went off! I walked back to my place in darkness. The homestay owner gave me two candles. I was surprised that power was restored within 15 minutes. Fairly efficient. Instead of going out to eat, I asked the owner to give me hot water so that I could have instant noodles before going to bed. I had a busy and nice day!
June 16 Saturday: Bali – Hong Kong
I would depart for Hong Kong around 4pm. Hence, I had a morning for sight-seeing. I thought of getting up around 5am and take a walk along a ridge to see the terraced rice field. I was not energetic. Instead, I watched the ladies of the house making offerings in the house temple. They are devoted and mindful when performing the rituals. Amazing!
At 9am, Dwi’s uncle picked me up as he had a family commitment and could not take me to the airport. I would pay Rp500000 for sight-seeing before dropping off at the airport. I asked him to take me to Tegallalang to see the terraced rice fields. I spent almost an hour and a half exploring these fields. I watched two ladies harvesting at one plot and another group of six ladies putting young shoots in the field. I watched a lady putting offerings in a shrine in the middle of the field.
Around 11am we passed by a roadside eatery famous for its roast pig. I rushed in and pay Rp.55000 for a lunch box with pork skin, meat, rice and vegetables. The meat was juicy and tasty though the skin was not as crisp as those in Hong Kong.
Though the traffic was light, it took us a while to arrive at Sanur, one of the tourist area with beach, resorts and bars. It was a hot day. I walked along the beach for five minutes and found nothing interesting. I arrived at the airport at 1pm. The driver was happy to finish the job and could return home. My flight departed on schedule and I was back in Hong Kong after 9pm ending a short relaxing but interesting trip.
Remarks (to add)