Blessed are those living on the Island of Gods and blessed are us for this magical blue planet, this island is a treasure chest of natural and cultural wonders, even for it’s relatively small in size.
Being one of the long-term Bali dwellers, I learned quickly to never say “I have seen it all”. Almost 8 years down the road and I still haven’t seen it all. Lately, I decided to adopt back my “newcomer” attitude and start traveling the island again, it turns out there are still many places to be discovered such as Beji Guwan Hidden Canyon, which we have visited last week (read the story about our adventure here!) and a few weeks before that, it was Kantor Lampo Waterfall. This week, my friends and I embarked on a new adventure, that combined culture, nature and was also a health treatment experience.
Every place that is going to be described here is located in Gyanyar regency, so you need minimum time and effort getting from one spot to another and that makes the whole trip packed with new wonders and experiences, hence the one day only site-seeing schedule. Let’s take off!
The first stop on our adventure was the Yeh Pulu Temple. In the beginning of the 20th century, after the now popular Goa Gajah site was already excavated, the same archaeologists were informed by the local people about another big rock in the neighbourhood with “large Wayang figures” carved into it (Wayang is a traditional Indonesian theatre performance with Shadow Puppets and human actors doing voice overs). Further excavation and examination of the site suggested that the carvings date back to 14th century, approximately the same time Bali was conquered by the Majapahit Dynasty. There is also a legend, that Kebo Iwa – the giant who was the protector of Balinese people – carved all those figures with his nail.
Yeh Pulu Temple is relatively tourist free, but there is an entrance fee of IDR 15,000 and you will be asked if you would like to hire a guide. If you are new to the island and would like to add a walk in a rice field to your trip (along with a basic lecture about rice and the constant suggestions to purchase some local top-quality moonshine Arak, which is rice wine) – do that. Otherwise, you can examine the reliefs on your own which is easily accessible through the paved road along the rice paddy. The reliefs itself, are almost 7 feet tall and depict simple scenes of local life, such as a man carrying 2 jars of water (or perhaps arak?) on his shoulder, a priest, a scene of the hunt or a village woman peeking from a door of the house (this one tends to be a bit creepy if you look at it too long) and some others. Some sources claim the reliefs as a whole depict some of the tales of Krishna from Mahabharata epic. Whether it’s a religious theme or just portraying the village life, these reliefs are quite unique and worth checking out.
The next scheduled stop was another temple site, but due to the heat of the day we decided on a little detour from the planned route and check out Tibumana Waterfall. It’s 25 minutes away from Yeh Pulu Temple and can be easily accessed by foot from the parking lot (we know some of you are lazy bums who loath climbing up and down:) through the paved steps and two bamboo bridge and similar to Yeh Pulu Temple, it’s not tourist-filled. This place was a total bliss for our group, exhausted by the day’s heat. Tibumana Waterfall is quite timid, with a single stream of falling water that you can actually stand under to get a water massage and probably the deepest natural pool I have found on the island so far.
Refreshed and energized we moved to our next temple spot, Candi Tibing Tegallinggah which is quite literally, magic! Some sources claim it dates back to 9th or 10th century, others say it’s a few centuries younger, reaching as far back as the 12th century. No major signs lead to it and this is truly a blessing. There we absolutely zero tourists there, so we had the whole Indiana Jones experience to ourselves. Walking down the winding path through the canals of the irrigation system and jungle, we arrived at the ruins that looked and felt truly ancient. The temple has been largely destroyed by an earthquake but the remaining pieces of the construction is similar to the architectural style of Gunung Kawi. With the similar positioning of the meditational caves and temple buildings on both sides of the river facing each other, there is something very special about this place and it’s not only about the exterior.
I felt a unique energy here, that even the most skeptical members of our group also agreed they felt. There is a little track along the row of the meditational caves – through the real lush jungle! – and a river that leads you to a serene place with two tiny waterfalls. Apparently, one on them is dedicated to Shiva and has a stronger water flow, and the other is tender and caressing and represents the female energy of Shakti. This is the information from the local villagers, maybe not 100% correct, but I like the story anyway.
After an active and eventful day, our last destination was the cherry on top of the metaphorical cake to say the least. Two minutes drive from Candi Tebing Tegallingah and you are at this beautiful place called Bali Dacha. If you haven’t been there yet, you have to make an effort to check it out – or at least read our review here to start with. “Dacha” means the “country house” in Russian and that is exactly the feeling you get when you get there. The main thing about this place, aside from it being an absolutely beautiful wooden building surrounded by the lush jungle, is the banya experience – which is the Russian-style sauna. I was the one who usually mocked at the idea of any kind of sauna on the island where you would constantly sweat – unless you are in the ocean or air-conditioned room. Now I’m totally team banya! The Banya experience in Bali Dacha is just sensational. Sweat it all out in a 100 C sauna, rush out and jump in a cold natural pool and have a swim under the moon. Sip herbal tea and chat with strangers next to the campfire. Repeat, and feel the gratitude whilst falling in love with the island of Bali and its wonders once again, carrying that bliss in your heart all the way home.
Words by: Katya K, also known as Bule Bali, a long-time island resident, a tireless explorer, adventure seeker and wild nature lover. There is nothing this lady loves more than a good day spent in the big outdoors, only maybe a hearty portion of babi guling it’s followed with ?
Lens by: Anton Ivanov