Indonesia: Exploring Around Ubud; Bali

The last ‘formal’ part of our whole adventure in SE Asia was a day spent travelling into the countryside around Ubud.


Narrow, winding roads were encountered for most of the journey.


The name ‘penjor’ is used to describe these tall bamboo poles.  They are decorated with coconut leaves which have been cut into intricate shapes.  They are used by Hindus in Bali for every important ceremony.

Penjors are the representation of mountains, particularly Mt Agung, the highest mountain in Bali.  The Balinese see them as a symbol of the universe.

Galungan is a Balinese holiday marking the beginning of the most important recurring religious ceremony.  This is the time when the spirits of cremated relatives return to their former home ancestral home on Earth.  It occurs at different times each year as it is based on the 210 day Balinese calendar.  Their living relatives have the responsibility of welcoming the departed back home by saying prayers and making offerings.  Offerings are made up of root crops, such as sweet potato, fruit of any kind, grains, leaves, traditional cakes and 11 Chinese coins

Penjor are erected to show devotion to the God of the Mountain.  The Balinese know that mountains contain forests and that these forests hold a lot of water.  This water eventually ends up in rivers which in turn supports all their irrigation needs.


We drove to an area of beautiful rice paddies.


Another view of the terraces on which the centuries old paddies have been constructed.


The rice was in excellent condition.  It was not far off flowering.  In an attempt to assure a good crop, this small woven bamboo platform held offerings to the gods.

DSC04997.JPGThe paddies stretched off into the distance.  Pockets of land were still covered in forest and coconut palms dotted the paddy bunds.  This method of farming constitutes a very sensible form of agriculture compared to the Western broad acre form of agriculture.  It is, however, very manpower / woman power intensive.

DSC05002.JPGWe came across these demon-gods stored in a covered area attached to a temple.  No doubt they are paraded through the streets on important festival days.

DSC05008.JPGEach family home has a number of ancestral shrines such as these.  They contain the ashes of deceased relatives.

From the rice paddy area we drove on to Lake Bratan.  It is known as the Lake of the Holy Mountain due to the fertility of this area. It is 1200 m (3937 ft) above sea level.


This out-rigger boat had seen better days.


On the edge of the lake is Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (Pura Bratan) which is a major water temple.  The temple was built in 1663 and is used to make offerings to the river goddess Dewi Danu as it is the main source of irrigation water for all central Bali.



The main temple, of 11 stories, is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvithi.


The temple complex is surrounded by very well maintained gardens.

DSC05029A Javan Pond Heron (Ardeola speciosa) wading through water plants looking for its favourite food of fish, insects and crabs.

Next, we drove to Tabanan, about 20 km, (12 miles) from Denpasar.  Here we were to look at the Tanah Lot Temple.


To get to the temple, visitors have to run the gauntlet of hundreds of ‘tourist shops’.  One, however, had a couple of civets on display.  These were of interest to us as a result of our earlier visit to the plantation where the civet’s scats were collected to produce the ‘most expensive coffee in the world’.


The pointy-nosed animals wouldn’t stay still for a second for a good photo.


On the way to the shore we passed this gate to a shrine.

Tanah Lot is actually a rock formation which in Balinese means ‘Land Sea’.  On it is built Tanah Lot temple, one of seven sea temples dotted along the SW coast of Bali.  Believed has it that the temple dates from the 16th Century and that the site was chosen because of its beautiful setting.  It is dedicated to the Sea God.  It is believed that venomous sea snakes guard the temple and that the temple itself is protected by a giant snake.

DSC05067In 1980, the Japanese government gave the Indonesian government a loan of about USD130 million to help with the restoration and conservation of the temple along with other significant projects around Bali. It’s a very popular place to visit!

DSC05064Detail of the top of the temple.  Only Hindus can actually visit it.

DSC05070.JPGPura Batu Bolong is another of the Pura Batu Bolong and is within sight of Tanah lot.  It sits upon on a rocky promontory.

DSC05063.JPGOne of the very ‘touristy’ things to do in Tabanan is to be within sight of these temples at sunset.  It was a partially cloudy day with clouds hanging on the horizon so it was decided that it was not worth waiting until sunset.  It had been a long day already.  We headed back to Ubud.

Unfortunately, I have to tell you folks that this is the last post for my Bangkok to Bali trip.  I hope you have enjoyed the journey as much as I did.

But the good news is that my next adventure is about to begin…. this time to Nepal to visit some hill villages west of Pokhara for a very interesting project.  So,please, keep following my posts for all the latest happenings.


All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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Bhutan : #1 Paro

There’s probably no greater contrast to be found in the world, than the contrast between the rush and chaos, hustle and bustle of the Indian city of Kolkata and the peace and quiet of the mountain Kingdom of Bhutan.

P1000198  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000198 © DY of jtdytravels

Our morning flight took us away from the millions of people who crowd Kolkata, over and through the foothills of the Himalaya, to the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon where a mere 700,000 people inhabit the whole country of Bhutan.


From Google Map Images

From Google Map Images

Map showing Bhutan in relation to India, Nepal and Tibet.


P1000195  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000195 © DY of jtdytravels

Unfortunately, we were seated on the ‘wrong’ side of the plane and only caught glimpses of the mighty Himalaya.  Never-the-less, just the sight of them is enough to stir the blood and make one anticipate a very different type of experience.


P1000187  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000187 © DY of jtdytravels

We flew in Royal Bhutan’s Airline, Druk Air, which has a distinctive and proud logo depicting the Thunder Dragon.  This airline has only a very small fleet and we flew on one of its two Airbus 319s.  Our destination was Paro, the only commercial airport in the whole country.  Pilots have to hold a special license to be able to fly into this airport.


P1000199  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000199 © DY of jtdytravels

There’s only one airport because the Paro Valley is the only place in the whole country of Bhutan that has a long and flat enough stretch of land to construct an airport!  As we banked through the hills, we could just see, far down the valley, a yellow, flatter area of rice farms.  And that tiny strip of yellow was our destination; Paro Airport.


P1000200  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000200 © DY of jtdytravels

The approach was quite exhilarating with mountains to the left and right of the wing tips.


P1000206  ©  DY  of  jydytravels

P1000206 © DY of jydytravels

 Safely on the ground, engines off, the calm and serenity of Bhutan began to set in.


P1000205  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000205 © DY of jtdytravels

Welcome to Bhutan.

Bhutanese art and style is evident even at the airport terminal.


P1000209  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000209 © DY of jtdytravels

Attention to detail in the art work.


P1000210  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000210 © DY of jtdytravels

No busy highways outside this airport terminal… just a tranquil country scene.


P1000212  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000212 © DY of jtdytravels

Rice fields and typical farm houses in the Paro valley.


P1000214  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000214 © DY of jtdytravels

Driving up out of the valley, up is the only way to go, we came to a viewing spot.  From here we could enjoy the clear blue, unpolluted sky and begin to breath in the pure mountain air as we looked up the valley we had just flown through.


P1000215  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000215 © DY of jtdytravels

Down in the Paro valley, beside the cold mountain stream and some buildings under construction, was that runway!  While we were in Paro, we were to experience several times the unusual sight of a plane coming into land below us.


P1000216  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000216 © DY of jtdytravels

Prayer flags are a common sight in Bhutan.  One hundred and eight is a significant number to the Bhutanese so those who can afford to do so, erect this number of prayer flags to commemorate the death of a family member.


P1000219  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000219 © DY of jtdytravels

As we drove higher into the hills, we saw, far away across a valley, our first glimpse of the famed ‘Tigers Nest Monastery’, an iconic and much photographed symbol of Bhutan.


P1000221  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000221 © DY of jtdytravels

A closer look through the camera’s tele lens shows just how precariously the monastery is perched on the rocks of the mountain side.  We planned to walk up there to visit the monastery later in our Bhutanese journey, but for now, we just viewed it, in awe of those who built it in the first place and of those who still live there today.


P1000224  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000224 © DY of jtdytravels

Throughout the hills there are small farms dedicated to growing the Bhutanese red rice which is a red japonica rice.  It is semi-milled which leaves some of the red bran adhering to the medium-sized grains.  It takes a little longer to cook than white rice but less time than brown rice.  It retains its pink colour, is soft and slightly sticky.


P1000223  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000223 © DY of jtdytravels

As timber is plentiful, it is the basic resource used for building.  This simple dwelling, possibly someone’s first home, shows the use of rough sawn planks.


P1000222  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000222 © DY of jtdytravels

This is the traditional style of house seen throughout the Bhutanese country side.  Usually three stories high, the ground floor is used to shelter animals, the second floor is where the family lives and the top floor and roof areas are used to store  grain etc. The open style roof area allows for ventilation of the storage.


P1000230 ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000230 © DY of jtdytravels

Decorated windows provide a great place to watch the world go slowly by.  No rush here.

Chillies and jerky hang to dry from the lower windows.


P1000236 ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000236 © DY of jtdytravels

A phallus painted on the side of a house is very common sight in the countryside, though not so much in the towns.  It’s an ancient symbol of fertility and is said to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.


P1000238  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000238 © DY of jtdytravels

It comes as a surprise to many western visitors to find this symbol depicted in many different ways not just on houses but in the arts and crafts, especially in the countryside.  ‘Gift wrapped’ with ribbons, dragons and snakes, this symbol comes in many guises.


P1000234  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000234 © DY of jtdytravels

A patient Dad carries his sleepy son in a traditional shawl.


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P1000240 © DY of jtdytravels

Not many houses have flower gardens; vegetables usually take priority.


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P1000228 © DY of jtdytravels

Where ever you drive or walk in this country, there is a view down into a valley.


P1000227  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1000227 © DY of jtdytravels

And you also need to stop and look up.

The snow covered peak of Mount Jhomolhari is impressive.

Seeing that is a reminder that Bhutan is bounded in the north by the mighty Himalaya.

So much beauty – and this was but the start of our Bhutanese sojourn.

More anon.


All Photography Copyright ©  David Young of  jtdytravels

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