Bali - Luwak Coffee

Luwak coffee

Kopi luwak refers to the coffee that includes part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the cute Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus).

Producers of the coffee beans argue that the luwaks improve coffee through two mechanisms:

  • Selection: If the civet chooses to eat the cherries, it's because they are excellent.
  • Digestion: Fermentation occurs in the digestive tract of the luwak where his protease enzymes seep into the beans making shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Beans are collected from there fecal matter.

The origin of kopi luwak is closely connected with the history of coffee production in Indonesia. In the early 18th century the Dutch established the cash-crop coffee plantations in their colony in the Dutch East Indies islands of Java and Sumatra, including Arabica coffee introduced from Yemen. During the era of Cultuurstelsel (1830–70), the Dutch prohibited the native farmers and plantation workers from picking coffee fruits for their own use. But still, the native farmers wanted to have a taste of the famed coffee beverage. They observed that certain species of luwak (Asian palm civet) consumed the coffee fruits, but left the coffee seeds undigested in their poo. So the natives collected these luwaks' coffee seed droppings, cleaned, roasted and ground them, to make their own coffee!!

The fame of aromatic civet coffee spread from locals to Dutch plantation owners, becoming their favourite. Because of its rarity and unusual process, civet coffee was expensive even during the colonial era. 

While the coffee industry regards this as a gimmick, it is quite a cool thing to give a shot while visiting Tanah Lot. Experts may say the aroma and body is diminshed by the luwak effect but as a  nescafé drinker, I couldn't really tell any difference, maybe a bit lighter than the powder...

View Post


Bali - Pura Tanah Lot

Pura Tanah Lot temple on the sea in Bali

Tanah Lot means "land in the sea" which is quite accurate for a temple built directly on the rock located, but away from the shoreline. The temple is the work of 16th century architect Dang Hyang Nirartha, who saw the rock during his travels along the south coast of Bali and decided to rest in there. Fishermen saw him and brought some gifts. Nirartha spent the night in the island and told the fishermen to build a shrine in there, as he felt it was the perfect place to worship the Balinese sea gods. The main deity of the temple is Dewa Baruna (sea god) but Nirartha himself is also worshipped there. The temple is one of seven sea temples around the Balinese coast. Each was established within eyesight of the next, to form a chain along the south-western coast, isnt't it cool?

In 1980, the temple's rock face was starting to crumble and the area around and inside the temple started to become dangerous. But the Japanese Government provided a loan of US130$ million to their Indonesian counterparts, to be able to conserve these temple and another locations around Bali. Nowadays, more than 1/3 of Tanah Lot's rock is actually cleverly disguised artificial rock created during the Japanese-funded and supervised renovation and stabilization program. すごいですね。

We came at high tide, so it was not possible to walk over. Still we had the opportunity to taste the famous Luwak coffee, but about that we'll talk tomorrow...

View Post


Bali - Taman Ayun water temple

Pura Taman Ayun water temple in Bali

The huge royal water temple of Pura Taman Ayun, surrounded by a wide, elegant moat, was the main temple of the Mengwi kingdom, which survived until 1891, when it was conquered by the neighbouring kingdoms of Tabanan and Badung. The large temple was built in 1634 and extensively renovated in 1937. It's a spacious place to wander around and you'll be able to get away from speed-obsessed group-tour mobs.

Pura Taman Ayun was built in 1634 by the Raja of Mengwi, I Gusti Agung Putu. It is a so-called Pura Kawiten or family temple, a special temple where the deified ancestors of the Raja Dynasty of Mengwi and important gods of other temples are honored.

The Taman Ayun temple is boardered by broad canals and it can only be entered via a bridge leading to a richly ornamented split gate called candid bentar which you will see in all our temple pictures. It gives access to the outer courtyard called jaba of the temple. From the gate, a footpath leads through the beautiful garden (Taman Ayun means beautiful garden) to a square pond with a fountain in the middle, that has 9 jets: 4 at the cardinal points, 4 at the sub-cardinal points and 1 in the center, in honor of the Dewa Nawa Sanga or nine main gods of Balinese Hinduism. There is a second courtyard and third one surrounded by water, where the most important shrines are located. In Bali, you can count the amount of roofs that the tiered meru has, in order to understand the importance of the temple. These are always odd number, the closer to 9, the more important.

Pura Taman Ayun is located about 8 km southwest of Ubud. It is a typical, touristy, yet mandatory.

View Post


Bali - Jatiluwih Rice Fields

Jatiluwih rice terrace, Bali

Jatiluwih means truly marvellous and offers vistas of centuries-old rice terraces on million shades of green. We stopped by when the rain was pouring down on the fields and I don't know how, but Enrique managed to pull these contrasting shades against the grey sky - quite a different take from our day in Ubud. I wouldn't recommend to come just here, but if you make it to Pura Luhur Batukaru, check it out on the way back. It's an 18km road along the terraces where the only thing your eyes see is this vivid green.

View Post


Bali - Pura Luhur Batukaru

Pura Luhur Batukaru temple off the beaten track in Bali

During our second day in the island - actually the day when I got reunited with my beloved suitcase - we did a route with a personal driver. This is extremely common in Indonesia, for the record, when you are sent to Jakarta on project, you are assigned a driver to take you to the office and back or anywhere you like. The roads are just too crowded, polluted and dangerous to drive by yourself. Hence, as a tourist, it is also quite common to get hire a driver for the day. Bali is a large island (even though the traffic is a lot better than Jakarta, the city of three-hours-to-the-customer-office), it does help a lot to have your personal tour arranged as the day passes by. I can give you guys the number of our driver, which was great... Just not 100% comfortable leaving his number right on the post.

Pura Luhur Batukaru was the first stop of the day. One of the island's holiest yet most underrated temples. Imagine an extremely spiritual spot where the masses of Chinese tourists don't come, located near the base of Gunung Batukaru, Bali's second highest mountain (2276m). The atmosphere is cool, misty and quiet. There are (at most) three couples visiting the area along with some locals praying. The temple is dedicated to Maha Dewa, the mountain's guardian spirit but it also has shrines for Bhatan, Buyan and Tamlingan lakes. I am not sure if it is because of being the first major temple we explored or because it is really that special, but the fact is I keep the memories very vivid. Pictures don't lie. It is really that amazing!

View Post


Bali - Seminyak foodie

foodie in Seminyak area, Bali

I love Asia. When it comes to culture, aesthetic, travel, life... Everything. I don't have issues sampling different kinds of food in a wide range of restaurant styles (from fancy rooftop spots to streetmarkets). The only problem is that back home, we eat quite clean, so after a couple of days eating local things, I start to feel terrible. Extremely heavy, thirsty all the time and deprived of hunger altogether. Hence, when traveling I do my best to balance - typically getting a full continental breakfast, minor lunch of local things and dinner including my staples (salad, raw/grilled protein).

We walked around Seminyak in the previous post, as in this we'll cover 2 favourites restaurants of Bali - the third is Warung Bamboo in Jimbaran Beach, which are ideal for my favourite meals of the day (breakfast and dinner). We had some problem with cash availability during our last night, but I would have loved to stay for party in La Favela, which is also in Seminyak area. Basically we could not get any cash with our debit card (and I had forgotten credit at the hotel) so we had to go back home, fearing we couldn't pay for any drinks we ordered... Still the mood, decoration and music was just perfect for ending a vacation. We did have dinner but took no pictures at Cafe Bali, which is an ultra decorated place where Birthday's are celebrated with Pitbull's fireball.

View Post


Bali - Seminyak

Seminyak Bali

Seminyak is one of the areas in Bali I really liked. We explored other "spots" together with our lovely driver, but this is a place where we walked for hours checking tones of cool places. We hardly have time together or put simply, time to go shopping, so it is great to window shop with no ticking clocks at the back of our minds. The blend is maybe 10% Balinese as street offerings like the one pictured above are still there, actually feels more like being in Australia - which is also a really nice thing. Streets alternated with cool Australian stores (worth highlighting are Seafolly where I got 2 awesome bikinis with my lost-luggage-money and For love and Lemons for really cute lingerie), restaurants, cafés and supper clubs. We did not spend any full days there - only the afternoon of day 1 plus our last dinner in the island - but the time was well worth it.

View Post


Bali - Jimbaran fish market

Jimbaran fish market in Bali, Indonesia

Jimbaran fish market might not the typical tourist spot but is definitely worth checking out.

For many, Jimbaran is a synonym to fresh grilled fish spiced up Balinese style and enjoyed at a table located right on the beach - wet feet included at high tide. Located at the west coast of that narrow stripe in the south of Bali, it is a rather interesting place. Quieter than Kuta or Seminyak, alternating locals with Balinese style resorts (actually we stayed around the area) and the main fish market of the island. The best of staying in Jimbaran are the dining opportunities by the beach. Very similar to the restaurants in Koh Samui, at Jimbaran Beach you can have really fresh grilled fish (e.g. red snapper) together with plenty of staple side dishes and drinks at one of the many warungs for two and pay less than 20 EUR in total.

The beach is not particularly famous but during daytime is considerably less crowded than any of the other and quite clean, so if you also chose to stay in the area, it might be worthwhile spending some time there - we didn't realize until the day we were flying out when we killed time until it was time to go to the airport, hanging around the hotel pool area. There are not many sightseeing opportunities around, other than Jimbaran Fish Market shown in this post.

KLM lost my suitcase, so we went to the place where you could be without a bikini, the fish market. I really like the energy of local places, as they provide an opportunity to snap the real life in the island. It was a bit late, but still there was some activity on the "dried fish" stalls. I was stroke by the beauty of the jukung or traditional Balinese outrigger canoes. This boat is one kind of outrigger canoe that also use the crab claw sail, which was invented by the Polynesians. This type of sail is very special. With a triangular shape, it can produce very large amounts of lift when reaching and its performance is overall superior to any other simple sail plan. That's maybe the reason why they manage to come so far? They had smart engineers to optimize their boats!!!

The bars on the side reminded a lot of the boats we saw in the Polynesian Culture museum of Hawaii Big Island as well as those in Boracay. The magic of the Pacific, in the end... It was all coming from one amazing nomad culture.

We went by walk from our hotel Keraton Jimbaran Beach Resort, but it is located right in the middle of the south, so you can drop by anytime on the way somwhere maybe - try to come before 12PM.

View Post


Bali - Tegenungan Waterfall

Tegenungan waterfall in Bali

Pity we didn't bring our bathing suits as this waterfall would have been the perfect way to end a magical day in Ubud. This magic waterfall marks the end of our day around Bali. One of the things I did not like though, is to discover how retarded the Balinese Hindu are when it comes to the role of women. Banning women on their period out of temples is a subtle way to call us dirty and unworthy, even if the human race can actually survive thanks to those days. Really guys, get over it.

View Post


Bali - Goa Gajah Temple

Even though Goa Gajah translates into Elephant Cave, you won’t find any pachyderms here. 

One theory is that the elephant aspect came from the stone figure inside the cave depicting the Hindu lord Ganesha, characterised by an elephant’s head. Inside, you can also find the three mysterious stones whose meaning I forgot and can't seem to find - maybe they represented heaven, earth & humans? - but they are interesting in their simplicity surrounded by so much carving. The cloth around them is believed to be sacred. The cave’s entrance shows a menacing giant face considered to be an elephant with its wide open mouth as the door, together with some forest and animals motifs. Goa Gajah was built on a hillside, since 2 rivers meet here, the site and its waters are considered sacred, you can see the holy fountains at the entrance as well as our driver washing his hands in this purity.

The complex is open daily 08:00 - 16.00. As with any temple in Bali, women during their periods are forbidden entrance and wearing a sarong and waist sash is a must.

View Post


Bali - Gunung Kawi Temple

Bali ancient temple carved in stone Gunung Kawi

Despite the effort - you have to walk 600m and then 315 stone steps to get there and it ain't easy on that heat - I am extremely thankful to our driver for bringing us to Gunung Kawi, the ancient temple of Bali carved on stone. This was the first temple that felt truly off the beaten track. It was not packed with Chinese tourists on their all-inclusive holiday, so we could explore it in silence, letting the holiness of the spot come into us.

The temple is carved in rock and was built back on the 11th century. Can you imagine how much effort it took? The environment is also amazing as the rice terraces and green palm trees make a beautiful contrast against the dark rock. The only sound you will hear is with that of water trickling along the irrigation channels at the bottom of a valley, combined with some farmers who work on their rice fields on the distance.

The monuments you first see are in relief directly on a solid rock hill. The shape is that of a burial tower, as it seems to honor a king that reigned Bali 1050-1077 but then gave up to become a religious hermit. When you cross the river, there is cloister with 5 cells carved out of rock, where the temple caretakers used to reside. Then, there is a second hermitage that might have served as sleeping spot for visiting pilgrims. In order to get in, you have to remove your shoes.

View Post


Bali - Pura Tirta Empul

Bali Tirta Empul holy spring temple
Tirta Empul means Holy Spring in Balinese. It is a temple founded around a large water spring in 962 AD. When you enter the temple, there is a pond with some Japanese carps. Not so unique... But cross the second gate and the magic starts to happen. The central yard of the temple, Jaba Tengah, contains 2 pools with 30 showers. This is a holy spring where non-hindu are not allowed in. 

When you pass the shower area, there is a second third with super clear waters, where the spring provides fresh water and it is considered to be holy. The temple is dedicated to Vishnu, another Hindu god name for the supreme consciousness Narayana. I was really impressed by the second pool as I had never seen such clear waters in a temple in South East Asia.

Another stop of our day in Ubud.

View Post


Bali - Tegalalang Rice Terraces

Tegalalang rice terraces in Ubud, Bali

While mountainous, Bali is agricultural place where rice is a staple food. Rice requires a lot of water and it is therefore typically grown in rice paddies all over Asia. These are large squares of flooded terrain, that even have their own kanji: 田. But Bali has a lot of mountains and little to no flat terrain, hence the challenge in terms of arable land was overcome by the knowledge passed down by a revered holy man called Rsi Markandeya in the eighth century, who taught them how to make subak or terraces along the mountain. The outlook is something from outer space, wherever you look the only thing you see is the greenery and terraces that spread beyond your eyesight. The walk in the area is quite a cool experience, but remember to bring mosquito repellent, water and waterproof shoes like the TEVAs I typically sport in these occasions. The trail is quite narrow, so it is quite easy to put one foot in the mud (as it happened to me > * <) and get stained. Don't be like one guy we saw, with one sneaker completely muddy and the other completely white, probably bought the day before. Lots of photo opportunities await but make sure to come in a non-rainy day, as this beautiful place turns into a wet mud nightmare quite quickly...

Tegallalang is located 30min away from Ubud and was our third stop of the day, after the Monkey Forest and the flash shopping.

View Post


Bali - Ubud Central Market

Everything gets a bit rushed when you got one day to explore Ubud, so our visit around the city center was minimal. 

Ubud is the place where artisans who inherited their skills from their parents still produce beautiful wood and stone carvings, printed clothing and a million other things you might be interested on bringing back home (such as carved buffalo heads, which look amazing in an industrial living room or restaurant, also very popular in South Africa). We didn't have time for much, so we were dropped for one hour and then picked up around this pretty temple.

3 rules if you are going to shop:
1. Spend some time around the market, familiarizing yourself with the offering.
2. Buy in bulk whenever you can (so you can press more on the price)
3. Remember to bargain (always) - I personally HATE the bargaining game, but it's really needed in these countries

Actually, I bought a lot of things in Seminyak (the posh neighborhood where many Australian stores like Seafolly - which is not cheap but offers awesome bikinis - and For the love and lemons - amazing lingerie - are located) and Kuta (at the main mall, there is a TOPSHOP store, where I got some cool summer looks, CONVERSE store, where Enrique got some leather sneakers, plus all mainstream and local surf clothing brands, combined with lots of Ralph Lauren). Hippy clothing and balinese prints are not really my thing - just brought a robe -  hence, for fashion shopping I would suggest to save your pennies and wait for Seminyak, which won't be super cheap, but well worth it.
View Post


Bali - Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary

baby monkey in Bali Monkey Forest

Finally, I found some time to share some of our great experiences in Bali. Despite making all the mistakes a tourist could fall into (e.g. not spending any night in Ubud, visiting traps like "turtle island") we cherish our week there. Bali is one of the most memorable places we've ever been to, #2 after Hawaii's Big Island.

We start our Bali stories from the sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, which offers the perfect combination of nature, wildlife (read, monkeys) and temples (3 of them to be specific, one with a holy spring to cleanse both body and mind, one major temple to meditate and another with a graveyard, where bodies wait until the mass cremation ceremony which is held every 5 years). Note: We are suckers for macaques and forests hence our extreme appreciation.

Just so we start off right, let's clarify the reason why Bali has become a mecca for yoguis, vegans, surfers and travelers altogether: Hinduism dominates Bali, despite being part of Indonesia (a predominantly muslim country). In fact, Balinese Hinduism resembles more the Hinduism of 2000 years ago, than what we see in India today.

Do you wonder why is Hinduism predominant in Bali? Once upon a time, the Hindu Majaphit empire dominated most of the Indonesian archipelago and had its base in Java (the largest island of Indonesia) around Yogyakarta. The empire was invaded by muslim forces in the 14th-15th century, so the Majapahits took his courtiers, artisans, priests and members of the Royalty and escaped East, ending up in Bali, an island with lots of mountains, quite easy to defend. Bali was a society revolving around agriculture, they were kept outside the Dutch East Indies and the maritime silk road. They just kept growing their rice and keeping their traditions alive.

We visited Monkey Forest as the first step of our Ubud route. It opens 8:30 - 18:00 (last tickets at 17:30). It is advisable for you to NOT bring any food and to keep your belongings packaged, to avoid any bites or thefts. There are about 600 monkeys living in the forest, divided into 5 groups: in front of the main temple, Michelin, eastern, central, and cemeteries. Each group consist of 100 – 120 monkeys containing infants (0 – 1 year), juvenile 1 (1 – 2 years), juvenile 2 (2 – 4 years), sub-adult male (4 – 6 years), adult female (over 4 years), and adult male (over 6 years). The pregnancy lasts 6 months, typically leading to 1 infant that is taken care by the mother during 10 months. While being omnivores - watch out for your sandwich, their main fare is sweet potato, fed by the sanctuary staff in combination with banana, papaya leaf, corn, cucumber, coconut, and other local fruit. They weight up to 8 kg (females up to 6) and live around 15 years (females up to 20).

Monkeys are very amazing creatures to me. As we learnt in Jigokudani, their gestures are extremely human-like, what makes them quite an insightful animal to reflect upon, we are clearly not so far from each other. Definitely a must if you visit Bali.

View Post
© dontplayahate. All rights reserved.