Bali… and Beyond!

There was plenty for us to do in Bali. We stayed at the Anvaya Beach Resort, located right beside the ocean in Kuta town, a popular beach destination. The beach is always alive with tourists from all over the world, surfing, swimming or sunbathing. The town, on the other hand, is full of casually dressed tourists in T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops, strolling along Kuta’s main road, shopping or enjoying a meal at one of the many open-air restaurants. 

From Kuta we drove down to Ubud, where the popular sightseeing spots are within walking distance of the town hub. The Puri Saren Agung Palace, built during the lordship of Ida Tjokorda Putu Kandel and now taken care of by his heirs, is a focal point of the town. It features well-preserved Balinese architecture with charming garden settings, and is best known as one of the main sites to view dramatic evening dance performances. Just across the road from the palace is the Ubud Art Market, a haven for souvenir shopping, and a walk down the boutique-lined Jalan Hanoman led us to the famous Ubud Monkey Forest. We had a delicious lunch that afternoon at a restaurant overlooking the picturesque meandering terraced rice fields.

We then spent two days in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, where most meals, including breakfast, are based around rice. Nasi Goreng, stir-fried rice with egg, chicken, prawns or salted dried fish, is the national dish of Indonesia and can be found everywhere, from street hawker carts to fancy restaurants. The intense flavour in Indonesian food comes from ingredients like the thick sweet soy sauce called kecap, while the sour notes in the cuisine come from tamarind, and the aromatics from pandan, galangal, turmeric, lime leaves, and lemongrass. We then delved into the fascinating world of Wayang puppets in all shapes and sizes at the Puppet Museum. Here we browsed through the collections of Indonesian leather puppets, wooden puppets, wayang puppets, and masks from different regions.

We then visited Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, a culture-based recreational area. The pavilions here are built around a miniature artificial lake that represents the Indonesian archipelago that we could see clearly from atop the cable car, showing seven main islands of Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Sunda, Maluku, and Papua. Each province has one pavilion showcasing its traditional houses and unique art, folk dances, authentic clothes, tools and weapons. We then drove through the neighbourhood of Menteng, where former US President Barack Obama lived and attended school for four years. 

The next two days we travelled to Yogyakarta where we visited the Prambanan Temple Complex, a major tourist attraction in Java. The enormity of the temple complex stunned us as we saw the three main temples of Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma towering above the rest of the temples. Legends say that there once were 240 temples in the Prambanan complex. In fact, one can see their rubble strewn across the complex to this day. Our last stop was Borobudur. The immense, multi-tiered structure stands on top of a hill, surrounded by volcanoes and overlooking green fields. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in the 8th century and consists of one Great Stupa, surrounded by several smaller stupas, all housing statues of Buddha. 

The people of Bali have preserved their unique Hindu culture well, and this is still reflected in their daily life. During our trip, we visited several ancient temples that dot the highlands and coasts of Bali, and it was intriguing to see how every temple is unique in its own way. Pura Ulun Danu is a temple on a serene lake dedicated to the goddess of water. Here you can observe golden sunsets and ocean waves splash against the Uluwatu temple. Pura Tanah Lot stands on a large coral rock facing the Indian Ocean, and is a Hindu shrine to the God of the sea. At high tide, Tanah Lot appears to be a temple floating in the sea, beautifully mesmerising.  -- Shoba Rani