With limited time to spend in Bali, we decided that a tour of the island would be a great way to sample what the island has to offer. Having gotten some advice on “must-sees” from friends who were recently in Bali, we opted for Viator’s “Bali, Kintamani Volcano, Ubud and Barong Dance Full Day Tour.” We stayed in Sanur on the water, and were picked up at our hotel. Our tour guide, Sandy, a Balinese local, was enthusiastic and had a wealth of knowledge about Bali.
Understanding the Local Culture
Before getting a mile out of town, the group’s curiosity about the offerings that can be seen all over Bali got the best of us. Sandy explained that the offerings, or banten, are common ritual in Balinese Hinduism. What we were seeing were canang, the palm leaf trays filled with flowers and food offerings, meant to express thanks to the good spirits and to placate the demons to prevent them from disturbing life’s harmony. These offerings are made daily and can be seen all over Bali– in temples, store fronts, homes, etc.
Our first stop was to watch Barong dancing. Sandy explained to us that theater and dancing are a central part of Balinese culture, and that Barong dancing exemplifies the unique form of Hinduism that exists in Bali. We walked into the outdoor theater and as we were taking our seats, we were showered by the traditional music being played to the side of the stage by an ensemble of nearly 20 performers. Listening to the music and waiting in the heat for the performance to begin, I almost fell into a trance. The costumes used in the performance are elaborate, colorful and fun. The Barong, the “Lord of the Forest,” is a mythical creature, half dog, half lion and his costume requires two performers, one to fill the front and one the back. The story told typifies the Balinese culture, and the constant balancing act between good and evil.
Next we visited a local silver shop, followed by a stop at a wood carving shop. At both places we were able to see the masters of trade at work. Bali is known for its wood work, and there were some amazingly elaborate pieces on display and for sale. Sandy explained that some of the larger works required a full year of labor to complete– watching the artists carefully at work, I could understand why! The prevalence of Hinduism was dominate in many of the sculpted pieces and Sandy was happy to share with us the significance of the figures.
On our way to lunch near Mount Kintamani, we stopped at the rice fields outside of Ubud. I never knew so many shades of green existed! As we waited for the sun to come out from behind the clouds for the “perfect photo opp,” I took in the terraced sea of green. At this stop, more than others, we noticed that the locals were accustomed and ready for tourists– they were aggressively hopeful that we would buy their crafts. Our buffet lunch overlooking Mount Kintamani was delicious and filling. The area surrounding the volcano is lush and green, making the black blanket of cooled lava flow that stretches the side of the mountain appear all the more dramatic.
Sandy made a special stop for us at an agrotourism coffee farm. The farm included a small botanical garden and we were greeted by locals, happy to have us sample their freshly roasted coffee. It was so delicious that we made a quick stop at their store to purchase some beans to bring home.
A Place of Worship
The tour includes two stops at temples, first the Holy Springs (Gunung Kawi Temple) and the last stop of the day the Elephant Cave at Goa Gajah. At both temple entrances there were sarongs for borrow, as it is improper to enter a temple with one’s knees exposed. Sandy walked us through the holy springs, situated in lush jungle, and showed us the holy baths. Offerings abounded, and it was clear why this serene setting was chosen as a place of worship. As the name suggests, the Elephant Cave is an elaborately sculpted cave that resembles an elephant. Before the deluge of tourists, this was a place of worship where people would meditate within the Elephant Cave for hours or days.
Our drive back to the hotel corresponded with rush hour and the streets were crowded with motorbikes. Before the trip I’d toyed with the idea of renting a motorbike and touring around the island. On the drive home, a huge sense of relief set in when I realized what I would have been getting myself into had I attempted to weave in and out of traffic with hundreds of other riders. I was happy to be in the van with Sandy.
– Anne Davis
Planning a trip? Browse Viator’s things to do in Indonesia and things to do in Bali, especially the Bali, Kintamani Volcano, Ubud and Barong Dance Full Day Tour.