Today we bid farewell to Mekar Sari and Ubud, planning to spend a day exploring some temples on our way down to Seminyak where we were spending the next two nights. We had already arranged a driver with the villa, using the original price they quoted us from the airport to negotiate what we thought was a pretty good price. Having packed a little earlier than expected, we decided to go for a walk and explore the area behind the villa.
So, we slipped down a narrow laneway between a couple of buildings and emerged out the back on a path which followed the running water we could hear from the pool. Rather than a river, it turned out to be an irrigation channel used to water rice paddies. As we walked along the track we were passed by several motorbikes, and a couple of golf buggies driving people to and from their accommodation.
What really struck us was the glimpses of poverty squashed between luxurious resorts. At one point in particular we could see people lounging by a pool, while just over the wall others were living in run down shacks. It became apparent that while tourism is great for some people, there are others who are not seeing the same benefits.
With tourist accommodation and shacks on one side, just over the irrigation channel was a seemingly endless stretch of rice paddies. We followed the path until we came to a bridge which took us over the rice paddy. Having cycled through similar country the day before, we didn’t go too far (it was also very hot out in the sun). It was surprising to see how close we had been staying to these green fields without even realising, the wall of shops and restaurants along the road hiding the farming land.
Back at our accommodation, our driver had arrived and it was time to go. We loaded our suitcases into the car, and bid farewell to the friendly staff at Mekar Sari. It really was a lovely place to stay, and the staff had been very kind and helpful.
Rather than going straight to Seminyak, we wanted to make the most of being in the Ubud area where there are quite a few well known temples. We had picked out a few that we wanted to visit, and left it to our driver to work out the best route. Our first stop was Pura Tirta Empul, a Hindu Balinese water temple, located in the opposite direction to Seminyak. With the help of our driver we put on the sarongs we had bought the other day, and wandered through the grounds.
Despite having only eaten breakfast an hour or so before, as soon as I saw the lady carrying bananas on her head I decided I was going to buy some. Assuming I could buy a single banana I asked her how much. Before I knew it she was trying to sell me a bunch of 10 bananas! I told her too many and started to walk away, then she broke the bunch in half and stuck it in my hands. Not sure how it had happened, I handed over some money and walked away. After that I decided not to show an interest in anyone else selling anything! They were yummy little bananas though, and we snacked on them throughout the day.
There is a holy spring at Pura Tirta Empul, but before going in the water we walked around the grounds while we were dry. There are lots of statues and pagodas, each with a different purpose or built in honour of a different person. It seemed most people were interested in the holy water, so it was quite peaceful exploring the rest of the temple.
Heading back towards the front of the temple we stopped by the holy water. There were two pools, one very busy and the other a lot quieter. We chose the busier of the two, wondering if the other was for special purposes, and, taking it in turns so someone could watch the bag, we went for a dip. The water was refreshing, but it felt strange with the sarong tangling around my legs. I went up to one of the spouts and dipped my head, then made my way back out of the water before Ron did the same. From there we went back to the carpark, via the “gift shop” (a neverending market along a winding path) where we bought some stubby holders and Ron considered a coconut lamp. The lady wouldn’t budge on price, and started to become quite aggressive, so we continued on without making a purchase. Back at the car we removed our soggy sarongs, then continued on our way.
We were heading to a waterfall at Tegenunan next, a stop that our host at the villa had recommended. But before that we were keen for lunch. Hoping to avoid a fancy restaurant similar to where we stopped for second breakfast the day before, we asked the driver to take us somewhere the locals would go. To our surprise, he took us quite literally.
We pulled over to the side of the road at a warung, where there were a couple of long tables and bench seats. He told us to take a seat, then went to the counter and spoke with the staff there. It was very obvious that this was a local hangout, as we were the only foreigners there. A couple of young girls peeked around the corner and giggled when we made eye contact.
The driver came back over and asked what we would like to drink. We chose iced tea in a bottle, a little concerned that anything not from a can or bottle might upset out tummies, but then they poured it into a glass with ice and a straw. I was probably just being silly, because we both survived and didn’t get sick from food at all during the trip. A couple of minutes later food arrived (it turned out he had ordered for us) and it was delicious! We had nasi campur again, but this one was quite a bit spicier than the previous one. I don’t know what the different dishes were, but despite the spice it was really yummy, We shouted our driver, then jumped back in the car to head to the waterfall.
Arriving at the falls, the carpark was very busy. The driver had to pay for parking (I assume this was factored into his fee for the day) and then he waited in the shade with a group of other drivers. We wandered down the hill towards the falls and there were a few food and market stalls. We needed a toilet, but they were all private toilets with a fee, so we bought a fresh coconut at one of the cafes so we could use their loo.
We were both in our boardies keen for a swim, but when we saw the waterfall from the lookout we decided we probably weren’t going to be swimming. The waterfall was very high, and it looked like quite a strong current underneath. Eager to take a closer look, we made our way down a very long flight of very large steps, only to find the sight at the bottom less pleasant than the view from the top.
The water was rough and muddy, and there was lots of rubbish scattered on the banks. We sat by the river finishing our coconut and watched someone put some rubbish in a bin. Then a few minutes later, we watched as one of the workers picked up the bin and climbed down towards the river. Surprised by what we were seeing, we watched as he then tipped the bin into a clump of sticks by the water, then returned it back to the path! Looking down where he went, there was lots of ash so I assume they burn the rubbish at the end of the day. It was disappointing to see the way the environment was being treated. We commented on this to our driver afterwards, and he explained it’s still quite a new tourist attraction and is still being established. He also said when there is less rain the water is clearer, but at the moment there is lots of dirt washing down from farmland into the river. Knowing where the water had come from, I was particularly glad we didn’t go in.
Having finished the coconut, we went further down the path wanting to take a closer look at the falls. Also we had been told we could climb to the top so we were wanting to check that out.
At the bottom of the falls was a rocky area where people were taking photos. There was also a lifeguard whose sole job seemed to be stopping people from going in the water. I was surprised that some people were actually going out waist deep to get close to the water for photos. There was a lot of spray coming off the water and we were getting damp.
Aiming to climb to the top, we balanced over a makeshift bamboo bridge to cross the river but found on the other side we had to pay an additional fee, on top of our entry fee, to climb the stairs! Deciding we’d had enough with this rather disappointing ‘attraction’, we just turned back and made our way back to the car. In the end, I don’t think it was worth climbing all those stairs! Although, perhaps during drier weather it would be a nicer place to visit.
Our final destination before Seminyak was Goa Gajah, the elephant cave. Getting out of the car, we put on our damp sarongs and as we walked down the hill it started to rain. Ron was armed with an umbrella, but unfortunately I was not. However a man offered me his umbrella while we were sheltering under a building. I later offended him by offering a tip which was apparently not big enough. At least I managed to stay dry!
We checked out the cave, and walked through the gardens built on the hill opposite the cave. Reading about the caves, we learned that parts had been excavated and they are still trying to rebuild and restore different statues. There was a rock garden which is rubble from statues they have found but have not been able to reconstruct, and in the cave itself there are indentations in the wall which appear to be missing statues.
Walking through the gardens, the paths were obviously newer, made of smooth concrete and well maintained. However, there were also caves and other carvings there which looked to date back to an earlier time.
Given the rain and our wet sarongs, we didn’t linger too long. By now we were ready to head on to Seminyak and settle in to our new home. Only a few of the market stalls were open here, so it was quick and easy to get back to the car.
The drive into Seminyak took ages, traffic getting worse and worse as we got closer. Eventually we arrived, but then had some difficulty locating our accommodation. We were staying in another AirBnb villa, but this one was privately managed by a guy in Sydney. We followed the instructions we had been given, but the security guard we approached managed a different villa. He pointed us further down the laneway, but there was no-one there to let us in when we arrived. While I was messaging the guy back in Sydney, Ron found a security guard who was able to let us in and showed us through the villa. He was the night security, but looked like a young teenager, so I doubt he would have been much protection if something had gone wrong!
Although not quite as flash as the previous villa, this was still a nice place to stay with a large open air living area downstairs looking out to the pool, and bedroom and bathroom upstairs. There was a second bedroom on the ground floor and also a kitchen, so it would have been a good place for a family or larger group.
We hung out in the villa for a little while, then decided to check out Seminyak. It took us a little while to get our bearings and we struggled to work out where to go for dinner. We almost went to one restaurant where a lady was out the front trying to lure us in, then realised that restaurant was part of a larger complex. Relieved to have found some choices, we did a lap then settling on a nice restaurant where they drew smiley faces in the frost on our beer.
After eating way too much, we checked out a map and decided we would need to get a taxi if we wanted to find some night life. Remembering what I’d read about the different taxi services in Bali, I was looking for the Bluebird logo when we flagged a cab. Telling him where we wanted to go and settling in, I noticed there was no meter. Asking how much it would cost and enquiring about the meter, he said that none of the cabs had meters. Concerned we were going to be taken for a ride, we agreed on a price before going too far but had no idea whether or not the price was reasonable.
As we drove, I noticed lots of cabs that appeared to be Bluebirds, but they all had slightly different version of the logo! It was then that I realised how difficult it was to spot a legitimate taxi. In the end we got there safely and paid the agreed price, but after that I was more cautious of the cabs before getting in.
We found a bar and sat out the front, enjoying a couple of drinks as we watched people and traffic go by. Then we went across the road and partied at Bali Joe for a little while, before heading back to the villa. Our ‘security guard’ was hanging out with a group of friends. Although they didn’t look very secure, it was reassuring knowing there was someone else around. The villa was on a small laneway with a small rice paddy across the road and felt a bit isolated if we were walking around all by ourselves. Fortunately the taxi home was also able to drive down the laneway and drop us at the gate. After a quick (skinny) dip in the pool, we went off to bed. It had been another big day and we were very tired!