Indy adventures in Monkey forest park, Ubud

 

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Its head popped up from behind a tree its eyes gazed over towards us  concentrating on our movement, waiting, waiting to strike, well that is what it would have us thinking before quickly scampering up the tree. We were in their territory, their forest as we strolled through the Sacred Monkey Forest, home to the grey-haired long-tailed Balinese macaques. Continue reading

Kecak dance at Uluwatu Temple

The spires of the Uluwatu temple looms in the background along with the Indian Ocean as the sun began to sink engulfing the sky turning it a bright orange. The dying rays permeating the stage where a troup of fifty bare-chested men wrapped in a black and white cloth draws your attention as they begin their hypnotic chanting of cak, cak, cak as they start their performance of the famous Kecak dance. Unlike other dances this is performed without the gamelan orchestra instead the troup grip you with their chants.

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The Kecak was based on a traditional ritual but surprisingly was adapted in the 1930’s when a German Walter Spies became interested in the ritual while living in Bali.

The dancers swaying arms, movements and sounds depicts a troup of monkeys while the famous  epic Hindu story of Ramanya is carried out. The entangled story has an explosion of twists and turns that will leave you glued to your seat as you follow the story of a women who is stolen from her husband ( a prince) by a demon. The prince and his brother take on the task of the challenge to rescue her.

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The dance lasts for an hour and just as dramatic as the sunset was the climatic performance of the monkey king setting the castle in a blaze of fire will leave you burning for more of this epic story.

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How to see the Kecak dance

The show is for tourists but you couldn’t ask for a better setting. To get to Uluwatu temple hire a taxi for about $25-30 which will pick you up from your hotel, take you to Uluwatu temple, explore the temple, watch the kecak dance and finish at the seafood restaurants on the shores of Jimbalan before taking you back to your hotel.

Admission fees and cost of eating at the restaurant will not be included in the price.

Bas coffee plantation, where you can find the world’s most expensive coffee.

Each morning when the alarm rings, we struggle to get up. We stumble over to the kettle pour some water in it and wait for the bubbly sound of the boiling water. In our half somber state we reach up and grab the coffee, most times it doesn’t need to be grounded or freshly roasted, it’s not necessarily  high quality coffee  either, Nescafe the instant coffee is usually good enough.

After the water has been poured, you take a gulp of the hot, steaming coffee and then instantly the caffeine gives you a pop and your wide a wake. That might be our routine but its the effect of what the coffee has on us. I love coffee I can’t go through a day with at least two or three cups especially now its Winter.

In Bali, Indonesia as we were driving up to see the scenic views of the Kintamani volcano our driver told us that Bas coffee plantation was just up the road. My wife and I looked at one another before saying in unison, “we would like to stop there”.

The coffee plantations lies 900 -1200 metres above sea level,the  trees had flush green leaves, tiny round purple beans grew, that are used to make coffee. We were shown around the plantation, saw the coffee beans being roasted and were introduced to a sleeping black asian civet who just happens to be the star of the plantation for without this animal, the most expensive coffee in the world would never have been made.

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Rei roasting coffee beans

So what does a Black Asian Civet otherwise known in Indonesian as a Luwak have in common with coffee well put simply the civet eats the beans that are grown on the tree and then when it comes out in its excrement, the beans are undigested, they wash and then roast the beans. In other words your drinking pretty shitty coffee. In London a pound of Luwak coffee goes for around 68 pounds.

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Luwak or Asian Civet

It’s hard to imagine how people ever got to drink coffee that came from the droppings of a luwak. I was told when the Dutch settled in Indonesia and  set up the plantations  that they told the Indonesians, who farmed the land that they must not pick the beans and make coffee for their own consumption.  The Indonesians saw the beans in the droppings and were wanting to try  coffee. They washed and roasted them forming what is now known as Luwak coffee.

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Out on the balcony overlooking a stunning valley of bright green trees laid out on a layered staircase  we were served five hot drinks. These weren’t sample sizes but full cups of steaming hot Bali coffee,ginseng coffee which I gulped down in seconds , hot cocoa, ginger tea and lemongrass tea. That was all I could drink and if I wanted to try the famous luwak coffee here it would cost as much as a Starbucks’ Latte, only $3

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Now when the alarm goes off and we stumble over to the kettle and fill it up with water and wait for it to boil. I reach up not for Nescafe but for some fine Bali Coffee.

Have you been to Bas Coffee plantation? Have you tried luwak coffee? We would love to hear about it at We All Travel Together.

The mesmerizing sounds of the gamelan

It wasn’t the dancer intricately moving her hands, quivering her fingers, swaying her head from left to right, making expressive facial expressions with bulging eyes that had captivated me.  It was the piercing sounds of the gamelan, a traditional musical ensemble from Bali or Java.

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The Indonesian orchestra consists of instruments such as metallophones, xylophones, Kendang (drums) gongs, bamboo flutes, bows and plucked strings. Some gamelans have up to 100 members.

As the beautiful young dancer with ruby red lips, wearing a gold dress performed, men in traditional clothing tapped on drums behind her, to the right other men sat crossed legged with a metal hammer like tool striking the metallophones and xylophones. Gongs hang from frames, suspended in air while being struck rang.

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The gamelan stayed in unison, penetrating the air, the dancer moving to its rhythm. People were here to watch ‘The Legong Dance’ one of the most famous dances in Bali. While I was being moved by the mesmerizing sounds of the gamelan.

Over our two weeks stay in Bali, I heard the sounds of the gamelan numerous times, each time it was inspiring to see in small villages, villagers performing, practicing the gamelan together under the bale, an open air Pavillion. Seeing the sense of a group belonging to a community, each time I stopped and watched transfixed on the sound.

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I have never been musically inclined, if you were graded in primary school on your ability to play the recorder I would have been given an ‘F’. This I felt I needed to try, needed to be part of . You have probably read or heard about people who have travelled to a country and found religion, yoga, massage, a language or art and never left the country as they have found a new passion.

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This is the way I felt after I had heard the gamelan I knew if I were single, not married or had a son that I would never of left. You would have seen me still now under the bale in amongst the group with a metal mallet in hand making the deep, intense chiming sounds of one of the instruments in the gamelan.

Have you been to Bali or Java and heard the sounds of the gamelan? We would love to hear what you thought of the sound. 

White water rafting on the Telega Waja river in Bali

White water rafting conjures images of power, people fighting the strengths of the rapids being pounded into rocks, spinning, trying to keep the raft from tipping, arms flailing, people gripping to the raft trying to hold on some even falling into the raging water being swept down the river. These are for the experts, the extreme adventurer who tackle the highest grade 5 rapids luckily not all white water rafting is like this and Bali has the perfect river for you.

Telega Waja river which in Indonesian means beautiful is surrounded  by lush green forest, staircase rice fields and two waterfalls tumble into the river.  The scenery is amazing with the only noise of the gushing rapids and the chirping of birds. What is striking is how peaceful it is compared to the tourist driven southern Bali.

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image The river was very clear and quite shallow with it being dry season in Bali. The lack of rain probably lowered the grading of the rapids but in general the rapids are graded a 3.5.

The three of us scrambled onto the raft. I was positioned at the front of the raft, my son and wife in the middle with the guide at the back. We were expecting others to fill up the remaining positions on the raft but what I liked about the tour was that it was very personalized as we had the raft to ourselves.

At first I was a bit apprehensive about my son but after I saw that he was enjoying it and not scared I could settle down and relax in paradise as well as help with the paddling. With directions of paddle left, paddle right, stop, hands up and boom which meant that we were going to hit a wall or rock, we laughed with excitement as we flowed down the river.

image image image As we entered the first major rapids, my stomach churned with butterflies as we were swirled around, bumping into rocks each time we shrieked “BOOM”. Major rapid number one conquered, we slapped our oars together giving what is known as the rafters high-five.

Two hours we paddled, spinning, turning, knocking into rocks I felt like we had been put inside a washing machine, sometimes we were wedged between rocks and the shallow water, this was just the washing machine changing cycles and soon enough we forced ourselves out of the rocks and down the river.

What I liked was the down time between some of the rapids, In all of the exhilaration of fighting with the rapids you forget that you are surrounded by pristine landscapes of the deepest green ferns, palm trees and rice fields.  That you stop at a waterfall that’s nearly 20 metres high to take a break, talk about what you have experienced  with others and then prepare you for what’s to come.

The climax, the big bang “just down the river is a four metre drop” the guide casually said. Four metres! We will fall out for sure I thought but we paddled on listening intently to the words of the guide. The force of the water building, the raft moving quickly as it sped up, “Stop paddling” shouted the guide. The raft kept speeding up I could see the drop just metres in front of us. The water rushing down I remembered what the guide said lean back, legs up, there was nowhere to go except dooooooooowwwwnnnnn.

Have you been white water rafting? We would love to hear about your  experience.

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Heavenly Nusa Lembongan

Many travellers spend time in Bali, then fly home or move to Lombok and then onto the Gilli Islands. These places are all wonderful but just across the Bandung Strait, some 45 minutes from Bali by boat is the heavenly Nusa Lembongan, which is often missing from traveller’s itineraries.

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