Our driver picked us up bright and early this morning. Today we visited spots in the north and east of Bali. There are very few dual carriage way roads in Bali so it takes a long time to drive anywhere. And the driving is quite exciting with four million inhabitants and three million motor scooters. There are very few cars but loads of SUVs and vans. Once we were out of the urban areas we passed fields of lovely grasses used to thatch houses and temples.
Most of Bali's population are Hindus. Each home has its own small temple, then there are family temples and caste temples. Our first stop was at the temple of Pura Kehen, which was built in the eleventh century. On both sides of the stairs there are guardian statues of elephants. The stairs climb up to three terraced courtyards, and at the top is a wonderful 400-year-old banyan tree with a monk's cell built high up in the branches.
At the top were different thrones that are used for praying to different gods. Sanghyang Widi Wasa is widely accepted as the supreme being. Most Balinese temples have stone thrones for the gods when they come down to Earth and Sanghyang Widi Wasa has a throne called a Padmasana located in the holiest part of the temple, the center of the inner compound. Three other gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are the manifestations of Sanghyang Widi Wasa. Before entering the temple I had to don a sash, and Seamus a sarong and sash, because his knees were almost showing. This temple is still used today by the locals, who give offerings here every six months.
A our next stop was at a traditional Balinese village, seven hundred meters above sea level, Penglipuran. It is a well-organized traditional village with only 700 inhabitants. The people were very friendly and opened their homes to be visited. The village itself was small, only one main street with a row of houses on both side and a beautiful small temple at the top of the village. Behind the village there was a bamboo forest with walking and cycling trails.
We visited one home, entering through the traditional Balinese arch. We climbed the stone steps to the kitchen building. It was very dark inside with a very old cast iron oven. It didn't look like it would be much fun to cook there.
It was definitely time for our morning coffee. After a short drive we stopped in an area with very dense jungle vegetation. We took some old stone steps winding our way along a path with huge jackfruit, snakeskin fruit, bay leaves, lemongrass, cocoa, various kinds of coffee trees and fruits we had never heard of. We stopped to watch a lady roast beans stirring them for an hour in a pan over an open flame.
Finally, we reached a beautiful spot overlooking high terraces of rice paddies. Our host presented us with several glasses of drinks to try including coffee, cocoa, lemon grass tea, mangosteen tea, ginger coffee, ginger tea and coconut coffee. I liked all of them but my favorites were the mangosteen tea and lemon grass tea.
Then we were asked if we wanted some Luwak Coffee. I had heard about it and just couldn't resist. The civet cats live in trees and eat the red coffee cherry. While the beans are in the civet's stomach it ferments. The beans finish their journey through the digestive system and exit. Then the still intact beans are collected, cleaned, dried and roasted and ground with traditional Balinese processing. The coffee was actually quite smooth and mild. The wild civet beans can fetch almost $360 CAD per hundred grams. There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding this coffee since now civets are being kept in cages in inhumane conditions, while they produce the scats for the coffee.
Refreshed, we were happy to be back in the van with our purchases of mangosteen tea, lemongrass tea and some powdered lemon grass to use in cooking.
The pictures you see come from our phone. Once we visit an electronics store we will upload some photos from the camera.