After a lazy morning at the villa (I could spend hours staring out at the green rice paddies)…
We decided to hire a driver to take us on a sightseeing tour of Ubud and the surrounding areas. It seemed much more efficient than taking the bicycles out for a spin again. The manager at Desa Bulan helped us put an itinerary together as well as find a new driver since Nyoman was booked that day. We ended up with a handsome young local man named…get this… Nyoman as well! This is when I learned an interesting fact about the Balinese people, they are all named one of four names, Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut- both men and women! Every child is simply named by his or her order of birth. The first-born, boy or girl, is Wayan. The second born is Made (pronounced ma day). The third born is Nyoman. The fourth born is Ketut. That’s it, simple and sweet. Not to mention it certainly makes naming your child easier. The second Nyoman was just as nice as the first Nyoman. Seriously, the Balinese people are incredible. Everyone I had met thus far had such a joyful presence.
The first stop on the itinerary was Goa Gajah (also known as the elephant cave). I happen to love elephants (especially when their trunks are in the air!) so I was looking forward to this stop. Although I had no idea what to expect from an elephant cave? Nyoman dropped us off in the parking lot and kindly informed us he would wait for us there. Once we made it past all the stalls of people selling cheap souvenirs (quite a feat I tell you! Especially for a girl who hates saying no) and a man with a massive snake that one could pay a small fee to take a photo with (no we did not stop) we made it to the front entrance. After paying the entrance fee we were informed that we would have to cover our legs out of respect to enter the temple. Luckily, they had sarongs that you could borrow. Doesn’t my husband wear a sarong incredibly well?
Goa Gajah was nothing like I imagined considering there was not a plethora of elephant statues (although, I did find one as you can see below). I learned that it is instead referred to as the elephant cave due to its close proximity to the Lwa Gajah (Elephant River). The entrance to the cave is actually a bit scary. There’s a monstrous face with bulging eyes and carvings of animals and humans running away in fear. Despite being a bit dark, the stone work was absolutely beautiful – it was so intricate. For such a popular tourist attraction inside the cave is actually quite small. Inside the T-shaped cave you can see fragmentary remains of the lingam, the phallic symbol of the Hindu god Shiva, and its female counterpart the yoni, plus a statue of Shiva’s son, the elephant-headed god Ganesha
The next stop was the Gunung Kawi, which is a Hindu temple complex, that dates back to the 11th century located in Tampaksiring. Nyoman informed us that it would be a very long trek down some very steep stairs to get to the ancient site. This information was slightly disconcerting considering it was incredibly hot and as we all know…what goes down, must go up. Although, after weeks of traveling through the very hot and humid Vietnam, I was starting to find the heat less debilitating. So off we went in search of the magical Hindu complex.
This time we did not make it through the souvenir stands unscathed. We were approached by a group of lovely Balinese women selling sarongs. It all happened so fast…somehow Brian was lead in one direction and I was lead in another and next thing I knew we were in dueling shops being wrapped in sarongs in the store by a group of smiling Balinese women. In a matter of five minutes I tried on every sarong the store had to offer (those ladies worked quick!). I decided to just go with it- they were all so gorgeous! In the end I purchased one that caught my eye- it was a gorgeous blue one with a lively pattern. Hey, I needed a sarong for the all the temples, right? When I finally made it out of the store I found my sweet husband standing in the street wearing the SAME EXACT sarong! Clearly, this is a sign that we are meant to be together, right?! The couple that sarongs together, stays together.
In our newly purchased sarongs we took off in search of the site. Nyoman wasn’t lying…it was quite a trek down. The highlight of the hike was most definitely the man we stumbled upon who was selling fresh coconut water- complete with a machete no less. It was amazing! Much tastier and way cheaper than what I normally buy at whole foods back in LA!
The site was absolutely stunning and totally worth the trek. It is covered in shrines carved into stone honoring kings and queens from the 11th century.
After Gunung Kawi temple we were dropped off at the Tirta Empul Temple (also known as the water temple) which provides holy water for priests and bathing for ordinary Balinese, who believe bathing in the water can bring good fortune and health. It was definitely my favorite stop of the day. I loved watching people soak in the holy water. I regret not bathing in it myself! I think I was a bit intimidated (which isn’t the norm for me!) by the holiness of it all. There were so many rules and I was convinced I was going to screw something up and terribly offend somebody. Also I didn’t have anything to swim in and the idea of sitting in the car sopping wet for the hour seemed well, not so fun. So instead I watched. There was something so calming about it. It was a seriously magical place.
Lastly, we took a drive through the Tegalalang rice terraces. Talk about AMAZING. Ever since our trek in Nepal I have been obsessed with terraces. I mean, they are just simply stunning.
After the four-hour driving tour both Brian and I were starved and in need of you guessed it…a beer! So we opted to be dropped off in central Ubud to grab lunch.
After lunch we decided it was time to go back to the villa and cool off in the pool. I mean it’s not a vacation unless there are a few hours in the day spent doing absolutely nothing, right?
That evening we arranged for a local woman, Wayan Suriani (who came highly recommended) to come to the villa and prepare us a traditional Balinese meal. It was amazing! Definitely my favorite meal while in Ubud.
Next up…my visit with Ketut, the famous medicine man from the movie Eat, Pray, Love!