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.


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Indonesia: Petirtaan Jolotundo Dewasa; East Java

At the conclusion of our tour of the Resort’s extensive gardens, there was time for a quick sortie out into the nearby rice paddies and a walk to a village.


It was just a 15 minute walk along a very narrow path to get to the village. We needed to tread carefully as the path was along the top of an irrigation ditch.


Even here, beside the path, there were interesting plants and insects to find.


Unknown but obviously enjoyed the damp.


The various paddies contained rice at different stages of growth.  Some had not long been planted, while other paddies were nearly ready for harvest.


This crop was only days away from harvest…


…a fact that this hungry locust was more than aware of!


There were some attractive flowers of Mimosa pudica growing alongside the path.  It is a creeping annual or perennial herb belonging the pea family.  Its common name is Sensitive Plant because when touched or disturbed the finely divided leaves close up by folding together, thereby defending themselves from harm.  They re-open a few minutes later.  The plant is native to South and Central America, but is now a pan-tropical weed.


The small village was paved and very clean and neat.  The narrow roadways were lined with well looked after gardens.


A covered verandah sported a couple of tables made out of slabs of tree trunks supported by some old tree roots.  Nothing is wasted here!


Still unsheathed corn cobs, neatly woven into bunches, hanging up to dry.


Freshly cut and stacked bamboo, prior to being used for building purposes.


I guess this house belonged to a fisherman.


Interesting patterns and colours created by roof tiles…


…and stacked flat roof tiles…


…and split bamboo.


Bright yellow cosmos with their heads pointed to the sun.


Bi-coloured balsam… very attractive.


A couple of the younger members of the village were obviously interested us.


…and so was an older lady.


The whole area was rather wet as can be seen by the plant growth and water damage to the wall of this house.


Moss and ferns, another indicator of moist conditions.


Speckled flowers of the Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia wulfenii).


A busy wasp looking for moist mud to build its nest.


These lovely orange speckled flowers seemed to be common in the gardens we saw.


Another plant I don’t know… also enjoying the moist conditions.


The petals of this waterlily are still expanding after opening for the first time.


On our walk back to the resort for lunch, four of us decided there was time to continue on to a nearby Temple, Petirtaan Jolotundo Dewasa.It lies on the slopes of the 1653m Mount Penanggungan, a perfect cone that stands sentinel between the coastal plains and the volcanic hinterland.


 Along the way, we passed this abandoned shelter… the plants beginning to take over.


Jolotundo Temple is a centuries old Hindu shrine. It was built in 997AD for Udayara, a Balinese King, when he married a Javanese princess.


Nearby was a mosque.

Over many centuries and under successive dynasties, Jolotundo Temple has been a sacred place. Its still a place of spiritual power even today, long after Hindu-Buddhist Java gave way to Islam. The idea of bathing at this special bathing temple still brings pilgrims.


The temple precinct contains a series of stone pools filled with ‘holy’ water. These are filled with spring water which constantly runs and so replenishes any lost water. Many devotees travel quite some distance to bathe in the two separate pools, one for the ladies and the other for men. The spring water is supposed to possess ‘healing’ and ‘cleansing’ powers, so, after bathing, many pilgrims take containers of water away for later use.


A little boy and his dad at the men’s pool.


In the daytime these pools can appear to be a perfect family picnic spot. But, we were told, as darkness falls and the noise of the crickets rises, pilgrims arrive to burn incense, toss flower petals into the waters and bathe in prayer for healing, energy and good life. They come from many faiths… Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and those who still have ties to ancestor-worship and animism. But, unfortunately, we couldn’t stay until night fell… we still had many miles to cover on this day.


By the time we made it back to the resort, we were really ready for lunch… delicious.


 Before we left the resort we watched a demonstration on how to make red ginger tea. After that, we left the resort at 15.00 for the next part of our journey, a nearly four drive to Yoschi’s Hotel near Mt Bromo.

The last part of that drive was in the pitch dark as we climbed up a very, very twisty road to our hotel. It was probably just as well that we couldn’t see much of the scenery that we were driving through… very steep sides to a very narrow road!  But we made it safely, had dinner and fell into bed… we had a wake-up call booked 03.00. The mini bus would leave at 03.30 for us to be in time to watch the sunrise over Mt Bromo… and we certainly didn’t want to miss that! More anon.


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Indonesia: from Yogyakarta to Minggu

Another one of those unfortunate days awaited us where our timetable was dominated by the railways. The alarm went off at 04.05 as bags had to be packed and in the lobby by 05.00. This was the time breakfast was served as well. We left for the 20 minute drive to the station through the awakening streets of Yogyakarta.

Some morning markets were in full swing with just enough room left between the parked vehicles and stalls for through traffic to get passed. Mayhem in the darkness. Add to the chaos, the muezzins were wailing their call to prayer for all good Muslims from loud speakers atop minarets… perhaps they need to take singing lessons.


Outside the station… note that the name can be spelt either Jogjakarta or Yogyakarta.


Wooden lockers inside the station.


The station sign indicates we were 512km from the capital.


Early morning trade was brisk for the stall holders on the station platforms.


We boarded our train for Minggu at 06.45… right on time, according to my ticket.


There was a three and a half hour ride ahead of us. Lots of people waited for us at the crossing gates… most of them were on bikes of one kind or another.


Away from the city, we passed many newly planted rice paddies.


For kilometre after kilometre there was nothing but flooded rice paddies.

DSC04314.JPGMany trains past us… all sorts of other trains, transporting goods around the country. But as the windows of our train became increasingly unhelpful for photography, I gave up the effort of recording the scenery and just sat back to enjoy the ride.

A mini-bus was waiting for us at Minggu even though we arrived a little late.


On the way to our overnight stop we made a brief ‘loo’ stop at a service station.  Across the road was the local recycling depot… baskets were filled with various items from paper to bottles and plastic. Not as much waste there as we generate in our cities and towns!


Finally, we arrived at our overnight accommodation… an eco-friendly resort that was surrounded by a large garden that was both ornamental and functional as it grew much of the food served in the restaurant. It reminded me very much of a similar place that Jennie and I stayed at in Costa Rica. There were chalets scattered all over the hillside.


Each chalet had a terracotta motive atop it’s roof which related to the chalet’s name.


The accommodation was rather basic with an outside loo and shower enclosed in a private courtyard. There is something rather liberating about getting one’s clothes off in the outdoors to have a shower. The loo was of the Western variety but the ‘shower’ was a large blue tile-lined tank with a dipper. The water was cold and was inclined to take one’s breath away on the first dousing.


A two bedroom/share cabin became my ‘home’ at the resort!


It was Brian’s turn to have the single room and large bed.


Dinner was at the resort’s “Pesto Alas” Restaurant. I gave the resort full marks when beer was specially brought in for us, from who knows where, even though the place was run by Muslims. Mind you, it was the most expensive beer on this trip… with the exception of what we drank in the Sky Lounge on the top of Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore.


This was my choice from the somewhat limited, but adequate menu.  Freshly steamed vegetables from the garden, toasted coconut and boiled rice.  Delicious.

More anon


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Indonesia: to Yogyakarta

We had a lazy start to the day as we didn’t have to be in the lobby all packed and ready to go until 10.00. So, after breakfast, I wandered by the pool and in the garden.


The pool was beautifully warm, no heating needed in this environment.


The gardens surrounding the resort were very well maintained.


Water lettuce (an environmental of many tropical waterways around the world) and an unknown yellow flowered water plant.




Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminiodes) was enjoying the humid weather.


Closely related to Iris, this Yellow Walking Iris is called Neomarica longifloia.


Rickshaw wallas waiting for a passenger or two.


At the appointed hour, our mini buses arrived to take us on a one and a half hour transfer to the rail head. There, we would join our train for the 4 hour journey to Yogyakarta.


My train ticket.


The platform was deserted when we arrived.


Lush, tropical growth lined the tracks.

Watching the world go by as we rolled along the tracks, we saw snippets of life in this part of the world.  It was interesting to note that the school uniforms in the area are usually made from traditional batik patterned materials. Very colourful, and so much better than the plain old uniforms we tend to see at home.

It was a fairly long and tedious journey, but we finally arrived. Dinner was partaken and then yours truly headed back to the hotel at around 21.30.  Most of the others have gone on to some venue or other…. but as there was to be a 05.00 departure for Borobudur in the morning, this old fox decided an early night was in order… a good idea.

All members of the group were indeed in the foyer and ready to go at 05.00. The early start was so that we could get to the Borobudur Buddhist complex before the hoards of tourists … and before the day warmed up. Mind you, it was still around the mid 20’s at that early hour of the day, and still dark. We drove through the somewhat, but not completely deserted streets, for the hour’s drive to the Temple.


The sky slowly got lighter. Mt. Merapi, an active volcano, was quietly blowing smoke and steam into the sky as we drove past.

DSC04140.JPGAs the moment for sunrise drew closer, our buses pulled to the side of the road in the middle of a paddy field area. There, we all got out and waited for the sun to rise above the horizon. Some pretty pictures were taken.


An already harvested, but regrowing rice crop, formed an interesting foreground.


Soon, the sun was blasting its heat into the atmosphere.


Coconut palms growing on a paddy bund.


A rough shelter in the middle of a rice paddy.


Dew drops on young rice plants.


Rice plant reflections.


A delightful start to the day, but it was soon time to move on to visit the ancient, 9th Century, Buddhist complex of Borobudur.

More of that anon


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Bhutan # 17 : The Haa Valley


Here, in the upper reaches of the Paro Valley, the rice paddies climb further up the adjoining slopes.  A lot of water can be seen in some paddies as these have yet to drain after heavy rain associated with cyclone Phailin.


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P1000931 © DY of jtdytravels

Terraced rice paddies are easy to flood but being so level, are slow to drain.


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P1000932 © DY of jtdytravels

Beautiful patterns are created as the harvested rice is laid out in lines.

Some attempt has been made to cover some of the crop with blue tarpaulins.


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P1000927 © DY of jtdytravels

What a wonderful face.


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P1000940 © DY of jtdytravels

The highest point, 3988m (13,084ft), on the Paro-Dantak road.

The road leads to the Haa Valley


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P1000941 © DY of jtdytravels

108 is an auspicious number for Bhutanese Buddhists.  For those who can afford the expense, 108 prayer flags are erected on a high pass to commemorate the death of a family member.  Prayer flags have mantras printed on them and come in a vertical format (above) or square.  These vertical flags are called darchor.  The square flags, which usually come in a string of five colours, are called lung ta.  A wooden block is used to print the prayers.


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P1000970 © DY of jtdytravels

The view back down into the Paro Valley.


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P1000971 © DY of jtdytravels

In general, high passes are favoured places to erect prayer flags.  Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom.  It is believed that the mantras will be blown by the wind to spread good will and compassion into all pervading space, bringing benefit to all.  It is further believed that these thoughts become a permanent part of the universe and as the images and words fade from exposure to the elements, this represents the cycle of life – the old being replaced by the new. Therefore new flags will be erected alongside old ones.  These flags must always be treated with respect and never placed on the ground.  Old flags should be burned.  It is believed by some that if the flags are hung on what is deemed to be an inauspicious day, they may bring bad results for as long as they are flying.  A sunny, windy morning is the best time to put up new flags.


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P1000972 © DY of jtdytravels

The Chele La (pass) was covered with flags of five different colours.  The colours are arranged in a specific order from left to right.  Blue symbolises the sky and space, white – air and wind, red – fire, green – water, and yellow – earth.


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P1000975 © DY of jtdytravels

A popular Buddhist tradition is to enshrine portion of a person’s ashes in a small reliquary known as a tsa-tsa.  The ashes are combined with some clay, dried, sometimes painted, and left at a place of power such as near a river, stupa or in a cave.


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P1000992 © DY of jtdytravels

The Haa Valley is a steep-sided narrow valley in the far west of Bhutan.  Wheat and barley are the main crops grown in the valley however some rice is grown in the lower parts.  Apples, potatoes and chillis are cash crops grown on the terraced lower hillsides.  Census statistics indicate that every household owns some animals, mostly yaks, cattle, and some chickens, pigs and horses.  The flat area to the centre left contains a helipad and was the place we stopped to have our packed lunch.  The valley was only opened to foreign tourism in 2002.  Facilities are still scant.


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P1000994 © DY of jtdytravels

Traditional farmhouses dot the valley.


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P1000995 © DY of jtdytravels

The Haa Dzong is a military installation.  We were told that there is some agitation to have the army vacate the dzong and return it to the people.  The base is maintained in the valley to guard against incursions from China.


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P1010009 © DY of jtdytravels

Our boxed lunches were laid out on tarpaulins on the ground.


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P1010010 © DY of jtdytravels

Each box was labelled with its contents.  Salmon, chargrilled vegetables (my yummy choice), roast beef, garden salad, hogay salad etc.  There were boiled eggs, pieces of fruit cake and fruit as well.


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P1010011 © DY of jtdytravels

Forestry is very important to the local economy with 78% of the district being covered in forest.  A substantial part of the NE half of the Haa District is defined as the Torsa Strict Native Reserve.  There is no human habitation in this reserve.


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P1010016 © DY of jtdytravels

These happy school kids are wearing a school uniform that is not traditional.

 I don’t know why.


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P1010017 © DY of jtdytravels

This interesting sign refers to the proper dress that must be worn when a Bhutanese visits a Dzong or other administrative centres.  A “kapni”, usually spelt “kabney”, is a long scarf that is hung over the left shoulder and loosely tied on the right side at about knee level.  The colour of the Kabney varies with rank.  Yellow is reserved for the King and Head Abbot, orange is worn by Ministers, green by Judges, red with a narrow white stripe is worn by a District Administrator.  Commoners wear white kabneys.  Women wear a similar scarf, called a rachu, although colour has no significance.  These are usually woven out of raw silk and richly embroidered.


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P1010018 © DY of jtdytravls

A string of chillies drying on an ornately decorated window in the Haa Valley.


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P1010021 © DY of jtdytravels

A traditional, ornate wooden window under construction.  Local soft-wood is invariably used.  The heavy construction matches the solid building techniques used to construct the rest of the building.


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P1010024 © DY of jtdytravels

These bricks have come from India,”Bharat” being an Indian brick manufacturer.


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P1010027 © DY of jtdytravels

The Haa Valley is home to two important temples.

The Black Temple and the White Temple were built at the same time in the 7th Century.


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P1010028 © DY of jtdytravels

A string of freshly hung chillies being dried for later use in the winter.


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P1010030 © DY of jtdytravels

The White temple being renovated and restored.


More anon


Photography copyright ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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