Temples! – Bali, Indonesia

Today we took another a custom tour with Bali Customized Tours to Eastern Bali. Our tour included “The Mother Temple” known as Besakih, a Bamboo Forest, Penglipuran Ancient Village, and Gunung Kawi Ancient Tomb. Our driver today was Ambara.

Before we were picked up we had a delicious breakfast prepared by the lovely staff at Hideout Bali. I had a traditional breakfast with eggs and delicious toast, and Julie had porridge and fruit.

First stop was the “Mother Temple”, also known as the Besakih Great Temple. It is a pura complex in the village of Besakih on the slopes of Mount Agung in Eastern Bali. It is the tallest, holiest, and most important temple in Bali, sometimes drawing as many as a million visitors on some of the holiest days of the year. In fact, this is considered one of the largest Hindu complex’s in the entire world. The extensive complex contains 23 separate but related temples, with the largest and most important being Pura Penataran Agung. The temple is built on six levels, terraced up the slope. The entrance is marked by a split gate. In the temple there are a plethora of pagoda’s with 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 roofs, which symbolize the different gods. This temple is undergoing an extensive $150 million upgrade to allow better parking, access, and more shop fronts. During our visit here we were blessed, and I still wear my red, black, and white bracelet that I was given after I was blessed.

Next stop was the Penglipuran Ancient Village, which was also next door the Bali’s largest Bamboo Forest, spanning over 20 hectares. Penglipuran Village is one of the few traditional Balinese villages remaining. The architecture of the buildings and land processing still follows the concept of Tri Hita Karana, the philosophy of Balinese society regarding the balance of relations between God, humans, and their environment.

The place we visited before grabbing lunch was Gunung Kawi, also known as Candi Tebing Gunung Kawi. Gunung Kawi is an 11th century temple and funeral complex in Tampaksiring, which is North East of Ubud. It is comprised of 10 rock-cut shrines (candi) that are carved into 7 metre (23 foot) high sheltered chines of the sheer cliff face. There are monuments dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana dynasty, as well as his favorite queens. On the Eastern side of the complex are five temples that are dedicated to King Udayana, his Queen Mahendradatta, and their three sons Airlangga, Anak Wunsu and Marakata. On the West side of the complex are temples dedicated to the King’s minor Queens.

After visiting the temple it was time to get some lunch. We ended up stopping at a local Warung. I had some duck, which honestly wasn’t very good, and was a rather small portion. After lunch we stopped at Oka Agriculture Bali to do some tea and coffee tasting, which included Kopi Luwak, which is a coffee that consists of partially digested coffee cherries that were eaten and defecated by an Asian Pal Civet. Honestly, which the coffee was quite smooth, I prefer regular coffee. We samples 16 different coffees and teas, and ended up purchasing some Ginger Tea and Mangosteen Tea.

After our coffee and tea tasting we drove a short distance to a local wood carving shop, and were able to see them creating their beautiful art work. It’s amazing how much effort goes into creating these carvings. We opted not to purchase anything due to limited space in our luggage.

It was then time to head back to our final night at Hideout Bali. We ordered some local Balinese dishes for dinner, and enjoyed watching some Netflix in bed, because the mosquitos were too bad to be out on our balcony.

Vietnam – Day 9 – Ninh Binh & Hanoi

Today I woke up at 3:30am when the power went out. The room became unbearably stuffy because there was no air-conditioning or air flow from the fan. I managed to finally get back to sleep before waking up again at 6:00am. I decided to go downstairs to get some breakfast and a coffee before getting ready to head out for the day. Oh by the way did I mention that my place has the cutest puppies I’ve ever seen!

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I started to ride my motorcycle into the town of Ninh Binh so that I could get more cash from the bank, as I was running low on cash. Sadly the motorcycle died and I had to do a walk of shame for about 1.5km before coming to a gas station. I filled the motorcycle up with gas, but sadly it still wasn’t working properly. I kept stalling out unless I gunned the throttle, but even then it would start to hesitate after a few seconds. I finally figured out a movement that seemed to work; hold the throttle full blast for 3 seconds, let off for a few seconds, and then repeat. I managed to get into town and pick up more cash.

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After picking up cash I rode the motorcycle to the Danh Thang Trang An boat tours, about 10km away. The motorcycle was really starting to act up now, and even dying for up to 10 minutes every few kilometers. Again, I figured out another trick; if I bounced on the bike up and down a lot, and then sloshed the fuel from side to side then it would eventually start if I help the throttle down half way. Eventually I got to the boat tours at about 10:00am. Along the way I did see this beautiful looking temple from the side of the road, as well as a very cool gateway.

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The boat tour lasted about 3 hours and cost 200000 Dong ($12.50 CDN). The tour took the group of four people through numerous caves and to a few temples. It was absolutely fascinating!

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After finishing the tour I rode the motorcycle back to the hotel, about 10km away. It took me over one hour to get back because the bike kept on breaking down. When I got back to the hotel I explained what was happening to the owner and she said that she would take a look at it. Unfortunately within 15 minutes she had already loaned it out to someone else, which I found to be quite dishonest.

I was feeling quite hungry at this point in time, as it was well past lunch time, so I decided to walk down the street and see if I could find something to eat. I came across this nice small restaurant called Sunflower Tam Coc and ordered some pho, salad rolls, and some fresh beer.

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After lunch I walked back to the hotel, checked out, and ordered a GRAB to the Ninh Binh train station. The fare for the ride was 80000 Dong ($5 CDN), but all I had was a 200000 Dong note for which he didn’t have change for. It wasn’t a big deal for me and I told him to keep the change, but he insisted on getting me the correct change. He ran around the six different stores asking for them to make change, all the while leaving me inside his car with the keys in the ignition and the engine running. I felt pretty bad for the guy. Remember, in Vietnam it is not customary to tip and many people will flat our refuse even if its a nice gesture. Oh and safety isn’t top priority in this country; take a look at his seatbelt reminder defeat with a plastic spoon!

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I was about 1.5 hours early for the train, but ended up talking with the nice young man from Chile that was backpacking around SE Asia. The train ride back to Hanoi took about 2.25 hours. After arriving in Hanoi I took a GRAB to the hotel I was staying at two nights ago so that I could pick up my passport before carrying onto my new hotel called Hotel Golden Art. Hotel Golden Art wasn’t the nicest, but it did the trick for the night.

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After checking  into the hotel I walked down the street to a fast food Bahn Mi place called Pho Bahn Mi. The food was absolutely delicious, in fact I ordered a second because it was so good. After having dinner I walked back to the hotel and went to bed.

Be sure to check back tomorrow when I take a brief pause from the Vietnam series to share a recent hike that I completed with my father to Plains of Six Glaciers, before continuing with my Vietnam series. The next part in my Vietnam series has me travelling to Ha Long Bay, so be sure to stay tuned!

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Vietnam – Day 4 – Ba Na Hills

I was woken up by a noise at 4:15am and couldn’t get back to bed. I edited some photos and wrote some of my blog while waiting for the restaurant to open for breakfast. I went for breakfast at 7:00am and  had Mi Quang, which is a noodle dish that has quail eggs. It was absolutely delicious. After breakfast I waited for the tour bus to pick me up for a tour that I had booked to Ba Na Hills, which is a French resort located in the Truong Son Mountains west of the city of Da Nang. The tour cost roughly 1,345,000 Dong ($85 CND).

Ba Na Hills was built in 1919 by French colonists and is located 1500 metres above sea level. The resort has a view of the East Sea and nearby mountains. Being so high up the resort offers substantially cooler temperatures than the cities below, with the average temperatures hovering in the high teens or low twenties.

The 120km trip from my villa to Ba Na Hills took roughly 1.75 hours. On the bus I was sitting next to a girl from Germany named Yasemin. She was really sweet. She was travelling with a friend but they were fighting so they were sitting in different parts of the bus. She also had a very touching private story that she told me, but it melted my heart. She’s such a kind gentle person.

On arrival we boarded the Ba Na Cable Car to the top of the hill. The Ba Na Cable Car, opened on 29 March 2013, holds the world record for the longest non-stop single track cable car at 5801 metres (19032 feet)  long.

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After arriving at the top we first visited the newest attraction to the resort; The Golden Bridge. The Golden Bridge is a 150 metre (490 foot) long pedestrian bridge that was built in 2018. The bridge is designed to connect the cable car station with the gardens above, thus avoiding a steep incline, and to provide a scenic overlook and tourist attraction. The bridge is designed to appear to have two giant stone hands supporting the structure and loops back around to itself.

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After walking along The Golden Bridge we then took another cable car up to the gardens above. The gardens were absolutely beautiful and kind of gave the vibe of Alice In Wonderland. After viewing the gardens we then visited the Ling Ung Pagoda and large Buddha statue, which stands fairly tall at roughly 27 metres (89 feet).

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After that we sat down for a rather disappointing lunch buffet. Everything was cold and chewy. During lunch it started to rain very heavily, and then the power went out for roughly 15 minutes before the power generators kicked in. Since it was raining out we decided to explore the indoor Fantasy Park. I rode on the Bumper Cars, Alpine Coaster, and a shooting game.

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It was approaching 3:00pm and unfortunately it was time to head back down to the tour bus. I didn’t get to experience about half of Ba Na Hills due to the weather and time constraints unfortunately. I was dropped off back in town at roughly 5:30pm and decided to eat again at Banh Mi Phuong for dinner. After dinner I walked back to the Villa and went to bed early at 9:00pm.

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