Part 2 - Amed to Munduk
The drive from Tirta Gangga to Amed was only about an hour and a half, passing some stunning rice terraces. Amed is generally the name given to a group of very small villages spread out on a stretch of coastline. Once parked in a hotel, there is little incentive to leave - as most places have their own restaurant, view of the ocean, and even the cheaper guesthouses have infinity pools. Not long after we arrived in Amed, my head cold took over and wiped me out for two days. While Abbey and Mike played in the pool, I read and slept. On the third day, when I was well enough to walk around again, Mike left us and arranged a motorbike taxi up to Pura Lempuyang. One of the most holy temples in Bali, it is reached by 1700 steps that climb through misty, monkey-filled jungle. The temple at the top is surprisingly unremarkable, but the entrance to the climb is stunning, flanked by three giant weaving dragons. While Mike climbed, Abbey and I played and washed clothes. A sweet and quiet domestic morning :) The next day, we snorkeled in the amazingly clear water, just steps from our bungalow, and indulged in $5 massages.
Leaving Amed we stopped briefly to check out the salt panning this area is known for. Apparently much of the exotic sea salt sent around the world and sold for 10 times the price comes from these little fishing villages. As you can see from the pictures, the extraction is hardly an advanced process. We were tempted to buy some salt, but really, are we going to carry around a big fat bag of salt for two more months? During this small stop, we were swarmed by local children trying to sell us little baskets or jewelry. It was difficult avoiding their doe-eyed pleas, but signs at a local restaurant had discouraged against buying from local children as it tended to pull them out of school. We politely waded our way back to the car and said our goodbyes.
The rest of the 3 hr coastal drive to Candikuning was uneventful. It was just nice to zone out in air-conditioned comfort and watch life outside pass by. At the northern town of Singaraja, we turned southward and headed up into the central mountains. By the time we arrived in Candikuning on the shores of Lake Bratan, it was downright cold. A refreshing change! After a brief search for hotels, we decided the only decent accommodation was a splash out at a whopping $40/night at Strawberry Hill Hotel. As mists rolled all around I climbed into clothing I hadn't worn in seven weeks. Pants and socks and proper shoes and a sweater! We hiked up and around the busy winding mountain road to poke around the local market. Here the multitude of roadside stalls sell strawberries, beet chips, steamed corn, durian and tiny baby bunnies (?).
Our hotel room is luxurious. Abbey and I had a hot BATH in a large scooped stone bathtub. delicious. There are no bugs, no mosquitos, no roosters! Everything works. The bed has a big soft white duvet. There's a tv... and there's WiFi in the room. We could almost be anywhere, once closed up inside. We're leaving today...it'll be funny going back to minimal digs, but we would feel odd living like this for too long.
We really packed in our one full day here yesterday. At 9:3o, we got a taxi to Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - an ancient floating temple just off the shore of Lake Bratan. Absolutely stunning. Especially as we just happened to be there for a very large important ceremony that only happens once every 50 yrs! People pray, give offerings, and give thanks to the water goddess at the end of a month-long celebration. There is also food and cotton candy available. Foreigners aren't officially allowed in the temple itself during the ceremony...but before knowing this, we followed a group in and got a glimpse of the inner sanctum. We saw people praying in large groups, elaborate gamelan performances, stacks of offerings in beautifully decorated baskets, and an amazing sculpture of fruit and flowers. Of these I didn't really get any good photos. We were shuffled through with the crowd too quickly. Everyone must have felt that we shouldn't be there, but no one said anything, choosing instead to look away.
We left the temple as the crowds mounted, and worked our way over to the Bali Botanical gardens. We stopped for lunch in an amazing restaurant that sold organic food and hosted a variety of animals, an orchid garden and an incredible kids playground - that even included a really long high zip line! We didn't sample.
The Bali Botanical garden was impressive. Spread out over 150 acres, there were vast expanses of parkland, giant old trees, conservatories for cacti, begonias, orchids....a treetop adventure park, towering elaborate statues...and much more. It was a full day and a lot if walking. Time for another bath!
Today we head to Munduk, which is supposed to be stunning hilly area dotted with waterfalls. After that? Perhaps Ubud again, or Kuta...to be closer to the airport for our flight on the 28th.