The town Ubud is built around Puri Saren Palace. Down winding alleys, there are tourist traps selling everything from South American dream catchers to Kashmiri pashminas, Indonesian batiks, masks and hanging monkeys. Balinese-style architecture, wood carvings and detailed motifs define this complex palace. After we explored the palace, we set off to travel through the surrounding areas. One of these alleyways was said to lead to the rice terrace. The next turn lead straight to Pura Taman Saraswati, a temple dedicated to the goddess of wisdom, and we hadn’t seen anything quite as magnificent as that. The towering stone structure stood amidst a water garden in which lotus flowers bloomed in abundance. Temples in Bali are open to visitors, provided they follow some basic etiquette, and this elusive one is rarely mentioned on the Ubud travel map.
One of the pamphlets I had picked earlier at the airport promised a car and an English speaking guide for $40. A small price to pay for a day of air-conditioned luxury. Our guide arrived on the dot at 9.30 in the morning and once we were seated in the car, apologised for his poor command over English. We should have known that the deal was too good to be true, but because it was too late to make alternative plans, we decided to go ahead with it. If there is one thing we were impressed about with the Balinese, it would have to be their resourcefulness. Even though our guide’s English could use a lot of work, he was tech-savvy and had a smartphone with Google translate. The constant translation back and forth definitely made our trip fun and interesting.
It was a scenic ride towards Bedugul in the central highlands of Bali, up the winding roads, past the rice and maize fields, banana and strawberry plantations and orange farms. Lake Bratan is at an altitude of 700 metres, and is surrounded by blue-green mountains on three sides. There is a chill in the air, the waves sing a genteel, lapping lullaby and mist hangs so low that you can almost touch it. A small portion of the Ulun Danu Temple complex juts into this lake, creating one of Bali’s iconic images.
There is of course more to this island than just the temples, Ubud is where Elizabeth Gilbert based the Indonesian part of her novel Eat, Pray, Love. This town was always known for its medicinal healing. Food lovers, on the other hand, are drawn here by the burst of flavours in every mouthful. And to an adventure junkie, this is paradise.