Tanah Lot – Bali’s rugged coastal temple

The temple of Tanah Lot sits on a small island located about 50 m off the coast and at low tide is accessible via a soggy, rocky pathway that at other times is hidden beneath the waves.  The setting is spectacular and as it sits on the eastern coast of Bali, the sun sets behind it making it even busier in the hour before and after the sun sets.

Tanah Lot Temple

Tanah Lot Temple

The temple is about a one hour drive from Kuta (less from Seminyak and only about 25 minutes from Echo Beach – of Martha and the Muffins’ 1979 hit song) although a trip in the early morning or late afternoon will inevitably extend this as traffic snarls in the daily rush hour in Denpasar.

There is a second temple across a cliff bridge in the Tanah Lot complex

There is a second temple across a cliff bridge in the Tanah Lot complex

There is a fee per car at the Tanah Lot parking lot and then a per person entry fee (of Rp20,000 per adult and half that per child) to access the site of the temple.  Having made your way through the gates there’s about a kilometre of stores selling the usual Bali knick-knacks that you will need to negotiate before you reach the coast and the temple reveals itself to you.

A traditional gamelan recital entertains the crowds at Tanah Lot

A traditional gamelan recital entertains the crowds at Tanah Lot

On the day we were there the temple was extremely busy being the Balinese festival of Kuningan,with Balinese worshipers delivering offerings to the spirits of their ancestors.  Although this meant that the complex was extremely busy there was an air of celebration to it as white clad figures made an endless procession up the steps of the temple island to deliver their baskets offerings.

The waves roll in across the Indian Ocean and crash on the shore north of Tanah Lot in Bali

The waves roll in across the Indian Ocean and crash on the shore north of Tanah Lot in Bali

Take the time to walk along the cliff tops to the north of the temple as the coastline in this part of Bali is spectacular with rolling waves crashing against the cliffs and swirling mists giving a real sense of mystery to the landscape.

My recommendation would be to ensure that you visit his spot but be prepared for the crowds, especially if you come for the sunset.

Ubud – Peace and Tranquility

As anyone who has read previous of my posts regarding Bali will know I am not a believer in the notion of Bali as a destination for a tranquil holiday.  That said it is not impossible to find those tranquil and quiet moments of ones imagining in Bali it just needs a bit more work than I think is the case in other parts of the world.

If you really want a quiet and serene moment in Ubud then I suggest that you look at an early start – how early is up to you but I went out at 6.30 am although the town really heats up after about 10.30 am when all the day trippers from the coastal resorts make their way to the town, so I would suggest heading out before about 8:30 am.

Reflections in Rice Fields Ubud

A farmer’s hut in the Ubud paddy fields

Make your way north on Monkey Forest Rd all the way to the end and turn left into Raya Ubud Road.  Just before you get to the museum car park on the right hand side of the road is a small lane-way with an even smaller sign that directs pedestrians to the paddy fields.  If you’re anything like me when you walk up the small track between the buildings you will assume you’ve taken the wrong turn and just when you’re about to turn around the lane opens out into the paddies – which really are spectacular.

I spent a fascinating hour walking along the paths through the fields watching the farmers tending their crops, a duck farmer “herding” his beasts to the far end of the fields, a lone Balinese woman jogging and best of all there was no other tourists around.  All this made for a great start to my day without the crowds and noise I had become accustomed to in the region.

Lotus Garden and Water Palace - Pura Taman Saraswati

Lotus Garden and Water Palace – Pura Taman Saraswati

On returning to Raya Ubud Rd turn left back towards the markets and when you see the signs for the Lotus cafe turn into the gardens of the Water Palace – Pura Taman Saraswati.  The lotus garden in front of the temple is one of Ubud’s most spectacular sites and being able to see it when the light is subtle and you are the only visitor certainly makes the early morning worth while.  If the cafe is open then why not have a coffee and although I can certainly vouch for the setting I have to admit that it was not open when I visited and so am not in a position to recommend the coffee itself.

So my advise for getting that feeling of tranquility in Ubud is to get an early start and head to the paddies and the lotus garden before breakfast somewhere on the way back to your hotel all before the day trippers arrive from the coast.

Bali – Monkey Thieves and Cliff Top Temples

Perched 70m above the water atop the impressive limestone cliffs of the south western tip of Bali is Pura Luhur Uluwatu also known as Uluwatu Temple.

Ulluwatu Temple on top of the cliffs

Ulluwatu Temple on top of the cliffs

The temple itself, whilst impressive enough, is dwarfed by the splendor of its location and although we visited during the day it is apparently best visited at sunset when the sky and ocean are set afire by the waning sun.

On arrival at the site, it is important to be properly attired and anyone with their knees uncovered and their shoulders bare will be required to borrow one of the sarongs and belts from the gate.  Entry to the park was a fee of around 20,000 IDR (about US$2) but beware of the “monkey scarers”.  We were nearly charged an additional 100,000 IDR for someone to protect us from the monkeys and it was made to sound like this was a required service – not optional.

Monkey on Ullawatu cliff

Monkey on Ullawatu cliff

The monkeys which live in the area are pretty bold but our family really had no issues with them but there was a family with small children there when we arrived and before they had left the car park one of the monkeys had stolen the flip-flops off the feet of their young son who I guessed to be about 5.  Given the monkeys are there I strongly advise against taking any food with you from your car as this could lead to unwanted attention.

Ulluwatu Temple courtyard

Ulluwatu Temple courtyard

Once through the gates walk along the impressive cliffs taking in the views and head up to the temple at the highest point in the complex.  As with all Balinese temples that we came across, you will not be able to access the actual temples themselves but you will be able to walk around and look into them from the gates.

All in all this is well worth the visit, watch out for monkeys and take your head for heights with you.

Ubud – Monkey Business

A short walk from the market in Ubud (we managed to do it in about 15 minutes) is one of the most famous attractions in the area – The Monkey Forest.  Now this may conjure many images in one’s mind, but if quiet trails and serenity are amongst those then I’m sorry to have to disappoint.  Like so many other parts of Bali in the peak summer months, which is when my family and I visited, the place is busy with other people (the official web site states that on average the Monkey Forest sees 10,000 visitors a month).

Family of Balinese Long Tailed Macaques in Ubud's Monkey Forest

Family of Balinese Long Tailed Macaques in Ubud’s Monkey Forest

That said, it is in my opinion well worth the visit but this relates to those who are not worried about a CLOSE encounter with the monkeys of the forests name – when we visited there was a young woman from the UK making a big fuss and squealing about how much she hates and fears monkeys.  If this is how you feel then stay away, for as the name suggests there are monkeys here and not only will you hate it but you will also negatively impact the experience for others.

The face of a dragon on the end of the serpentine bridge over a gorge in the Money Forest in Ubud

The face of a dragon on the end of the serpentine bridge over a gorge in the Money Forest

The area is a sanctuary for the monkeys but also a religious area so please visit with that in mind and only access any of the three temple areas on the site if you are appropriately dressed to do so – although the actual temples are only accessible by those who are there to pray.

Temple in the Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali

Temple in the Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

Under no circumstances should you enter the forest with any food on you – these little guys will smell it out and procure it – and if its not fruit or vegetables then it is fair to assume these guys shouldn’t eat it.  If what you are after is a really up close and personal experience then buy bananas from one of the vendors at the gates and use these to lure your new friends in.

A lion statue lies in wait covered in moss in Ubud's Monkey Forest in Bali

A lion statue lies in wait covered in moss in the Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali

Believe me when I say you will be instantly one of the cool kids in the forest – this is not for the fainthearted – and the monkeys will climb on and over you to get to the bananas.  Another must follow piece of advice is that when offering a morsel to a macaque, DO NOT be tentative (this means it is unlikely to be a good idea for very small kids to be in charge of the bananas).  If the monkeys feel that you are “teasing” them with the food (nervously pulling food back once its offered certainly will be seen as such) then these fellas can become aggressive.

Monkey in Ubud's Monley Forest

Monkey in Ubud’s Monley Forest

So having decided on the type of experience you want from your visit then my advice is go for it and enjoy a walk with these incredible little guys, enjoy their antics and the wonderful surrounds.  To get the most from the experience allow yourselves a couple of hours there.