Friday, June 11, 2010

Rice Terraces / Temple by the Sea

Day 131: Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
This morning, my driver picked me up at 9:30, and we drove an hour north to Mengwi to visit the royal temple of Taman Ayun, built in the seventeenth century. Then it was off to the rice terraces at Jatiluwih. Although these are considered the most picturesque rice terraces in Bali, Jatiluwih is fairly remote, and my driver had to ask a few people on the side of the road how to get there. I truly saw the "real" Bali as we passed rural lanes and children flying kites in the green fields. It took an hour to reach Jatiluwih, and I ate lunch at a restaurant overlooking the terraces. My excellent meal of Balinese baked chicken included locally-grown brown rice. After lunch, I walked through the terraces and enjoyed the stunning hilly landscape. The fertile smell of manure filled the country air.

Rice terraces at Jatiluwih in central Bali, Indonesia © Matt Prater
Rice terraces at Jatiluwih in central Bali, Indonesia

From centrally-located Jatiluwih, it was an hour to the much-visited sixteenth-century Tanah Lot temple on the coast. Tanah Lot is probably the most famous temple in Bali, as it occupies a stunning location on a rocky outcropping by the sea. The most popular time to visit the temple is sunset, and I had a few hours to kill. I walked around the beach below the cliffs of Tanah Lot – like many temples in Bali, only worshippers are allowed to enter. I walked over to a row of caf├ęs overlooking the coastline, and I relaxed on a terrace with a cold avocado juice. Then I strolled along the coast, from a posh golf course at the eastern end to some smaller temples to the west of Tanah Lot. A spectacular natural stone arch bridge over the water led to a picturesque little temple that jutted out into the sea. As sunset approached, I walked back over to the golf course, which seemed to have the best view of Tanah Lot. I climbed from the golf course down to the beach and slowly approached the temple as the sun set. As the tide started to come in, I had to walk closer to the cliffs that rose above the beach. When the temple was completely silhouetted against the darkening sky, I walked back to my vehicle, having spent a thorough and relaxing four hours at Tanah Lot.

Sunset at Tanah Lot temple, Bali, Indonesia © Matt Prater
Sunset at Tanah Lot temple, Bali, Indonesia

It was an hour before we reached Kuta, and I liked my driver well enough, so I booked another tour with him for tomorrow. This time, it would be a one-way trip towards the east coast of Bali; this would be my last night in Kuta. Tonight was the opening of the World Cup in South Africa, which I suppose is an exciting event to experience in a vibrant tourist hub like Kuta. I walked over to one of my favorite restaurants, where I ate dinner as I watched the opening ceremony on their big screen. I felt almost a bit "homesick" for South Africa and thought about some of my friends who are still there. I wish I could have stayed in South Africa longer so I could enjoy this exciting and defining moment for one of my favorite countries. After I finished my meal, I moved over to the bar to get a better view of the screen. It started growing crowded as the time for the first match grew closer. A couple of guys sat down next to me. One was Canadian and the other British, and they teach English in the large city of Bandung on Java. I enjoyed a Bintang with them while I asked them about living in Indonesia. Suddenly, the restaurant lost reception and the crowd booed. Apparently it was too expensive to pay for the broadcast, but it's not wise to scrimp on something as important as the opening of the World Cup. We, along with other patrons, left for the more vibrant Legian Street. Even though it was within walking distance, I jumped on a motorbike with an Austrian tourist who was going with us. We watched the match for a while in a bar, but the guys I was with were more interested in drinking than watching the game, and they left for a cheaper bar that wasn't broadcasting the World Cup. I stayed for a while longer, but the match seemed really slow, and I had to wake up early. I walked back to my guesthouse, bombarded by the sound of the horns at the World Cup echoing throughout a packed Legian Street as almost every bar and restaurant broadcast it simultaneously.

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