Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bali - Day 2

After an amazing intercontinental breakfast, we set out to explore Bali as per the schedule. While Bali may be a small island, the traffic, the humidity and narrow streets do make the journey look really long. However, the fact that people do not honk on the streets was the most surprising discovery I made (somehow, I always thought entire Asia is like India, in term of driving on the roads). Our trip today included a Balinese mythological dance called Barong Dance followed by the view of active volcano at Mount Kintamani and visiting the holy temple called Tirtha Empul. (Notice how the words are very similar to Hindi and other Sanskrit based languages), while visiting local handicraft factories in Bali in between!

Barong Dance shows a lion, leader of good spirits, protecting a kidnapped prince. (I do not unfortunately remember the whole story, but a plenty is available in the internet, to read about!). The highlights of this dance sequence are the elaborate costumes, make up and amazing background music using drums, chimes and high pitched vocals. Ubud (a region in Bali) has the best shows of Barong dance for the cultural enthusiasts.

The next big stop for us was the Mount Kintamani, located in the Eastern Bali. Mount Kintamani hosts an active volcano, which last erupted in 1960s. Viewers actually stop at Gunung Batur, from where the the hill and the lake can be seen in its wholesome beauty. There are some restaurants too, offering the same view while having a meal. Kintamani region is also famous for its beautiful coffee plantations. Balinese people are avid coffee drinkers and their coffee is unusually strong! However, there is a light hint of tangy flavor in their coffee as well as tea. When you order coffee or tea for sampling, the platter usually arrives with 5 varieties of coffee and 1 tea sample. We ended up buying the tea sample (lemongrass flavored) for ourselves.

In the evening, while witnessing many processions on our way, we went to the temple, named Tirtha Empul. Bali, like I explained earlier, is an essentially Hindu place, with loads of temples and holy cultural activities. It is believed that Lord Indra, created a spring of fresh water to win against a black magician causing havoc in Bali. The water from this spring is believed to cure any illness and forgive any sins. People in Bali celebrate the defeat of this black magician by taking processions on the road.

We completed our trip for the day, might have spent more time traveling and absorbing the culture from the roads, however, it only left us asking for more.

      

 
Balinese Lord Ganesha, The gathering area at the temple, Barong (Lion) and the dancer from the Barong Dance

 
The view of Mount Kintamani. The black portion indicates the solidified lava flown from the crater above it. 
 The coffee plantations offer lush green views for the tourists, with some truly strong coffee and tea


  
The temple of Tirtha Empul, Lord Indra and the gathering area for the celebrations

 People taking a dip in the holy water to offer prayers
 The holy spring water in Tirtha Empul
The reflections in the holy spring water in Tirtha Empul