There is a picture I saw of Bali, while I was trying to figure out what to do in my alone days. It was a temple in the middle of a lake; the lake surrounded by mountains. It looked beautiful and mysterious and serene all at once. The moment I saw that picture I knew that that was definitely something that I had to see while I was in Bali. And this day, a Wednesday, I finally got to see it.

***

The guy from the guest house rushed to my room after I had arrived from cycling on my second day in Ubud. Someone has signed up for the Bedagul tour, he had said, and would I still like to sign up for it? Why, yes. Yes, I would. So he set it up, and the next morning a little after breakfast time, a van came by to pick me up for the tour. On the van with me that day were two ladies, both traveling solo. One was from Latvia and the other from China. I made a mental observation that there seemed to be a lot of solo female travelers in Ubud.

The tour included several stops. The first stop in Mengwi, was the Royal Family Temple, which didn’t quite hold my attention so much. We didn’t stay long here either, and immediately went back to the van for the second stop of the day.

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The next stop was a bit more interesting to me. It was to the Sangeh Holy Monkey Forest. To be honest, I was a bit hesitant to enter this place. I didn’t really favor monkeys all that much, and the Latvian girl shared this story of how in the Monkey Forest located on the Monkey Forest Road in Ubud, she got bitten by one of the monkeys. She showed us the bite too. It still looked red and looked deep enough that one would worry about getting infection – or worse, rabies – but she said that she’s been to the doctor, and gotten a shot for it.

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The Monkey Forest in Sangeh is beautiful. I’ve nothing to compare it to. I didn’t go to the one near Ubud even when I had time to do so. When you enter the entry gate, you are greeted by hundreds of lush, tall trees, and cool wind. Monkeys did go around the place, but none of them bothered me. They didn’t approach us willingly, so we just took our time and walked about. The actual temple where people would worship was locked. I guess most temples are. So, we just took our time and looked at the different sculptures and enjoyed the shade. It had been a hot day and this was a good break from the heat of the summer sun.

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After a few minutes in the Monkey Forest, we went back to the van and unto our next stop. We were driving up the mountain at this point. Have I mentioned that the van smelled like petrol? I got pretty dizzy, what with the smell of petrol and the winding roads. Not a good combination, those too, but I was keen to see the next stop. It was what I had been wanting to see, the Ulundanu Beratan Temple in Lake Bratan.

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The first thing I saw as our van entered the parking lot was the number of vehicles parked. This was not what I was expecting. Tour buses and vans, similar to what we were on. We stepped out of the van to a cool breeze. The temperature here dropped way below what it was in the monkey forest. After paying the entrance fee, we entered the temple grounds and went down the steps that had green grass on either side. I could see a glimpse of the lake. Fog covered the mountains around it. I saw the crowds first before I saw the temple. People everywhere. Do you know how some things don’t ever turn out the way you dreamed? Well, this is one of those things. I guess just like every famous landmark in the world, a crowd was to be expected, I guess I just didn’t expect it to be this much. The temple was beautiful though. It sat close to the shore, and you could see what used to be a connecting bridge that had since eroded. People took turns in the concrete path to take a picture with the temple in their background. I lined up, too. It wasn’t quite the serene place I expected it to be, but I could imagine it – what it would be like without the busloads of tourists.

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We didn’t stay long here. The two girls weren’t really keen on this temple. The Latvian girl went as far to point out that it was just meh for her. So, we went back to the van, to what the driver said was our lunch stop. That lunch stop turned out to be an overpriced restaurant that looked over one of Bali’s treasures. We were overlooking the Jatiluwih Rice Fields, which has been declared a UNESCO Cultural Landscape. It was beautiful and reminded me so much of home. I’ve said this in my previous post, too, but Bali – Indonesia in general – is so much like the Philippines, and this is just one of those similarities. If you’ve ever been to Banaue or Batad, you’d know what I’m talking about. We didn’t order much in the restaurant. I ordered some juice and the Chinese girl ordered an avocado shake. She mentioned that she had never had avocado before and had been meaning to try it. I took a quick snap shot and just enjoyed the breeze and the view.

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Our next stop was a coffee and tea plantation. This is similar to the stop we made yesterday on the Cycling tour. The teas they had on offer tasted different. Some teas tasted better, others I thought tasted better in the first place I had been to the day before. The girls and I also tried the Kopi Luwak. I didn’t want to pay the exorbitant fee to try it the day before, but this day, the Latvian girl suggested we split the cost, and we all agreed. To be honest, the coffee didn’t seem special to me. it was even milder than the usual coffee I would make for myself, and the taste – I’m no connoisseur but really, no. I don’t think it was worth the price. I try to imagine whoever first saw the civet cat’s poo and thought, “Yeah, that would make great coffee.” Why, man? Why?

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Finally, we were off to Tanah Lot. This last stop was where we were to observe the sunset – the best one in Bali. Once we entered the place, we scouted for the best seats we could find – the best view we could muster – and we sat and waited. As we were waiting, the Chinese girl turned to me and said that this was the first time she had ever just sat down and do nothing else but wait for the sun to set. I felt a little sad then as I waited with her. The clouds had started to come in as we looked out into the horizon. They covered the sun on its way down.

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3 thoughts on “Travelogue Bali: The Temple by the Lake and Failed Sunsets

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