Showing posts with label Bali. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bali. Show all posts

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Indonesia: Jatiluwih Rice Terraces & the Cultural Landscape of Bali Province

Bali Rice Terraces Indonesia Jatiluwih
An island steeped in deep Hindu-religiosity in a predominantly Muslim nation, with colorful temples and traditions, captivating landscapes and numerous surfing beaches with a vibrant nightlife, visiting Bali can be an unforgettable cultural experience. It is no surprise then that the Cultural Landscape of Bali Province was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2012. This inscription has four locations: (1a) Supreme Water Temple Pura Ulun Danu Batur, (1b) Lake Batur, (2) Subak Landscape of Pekerisan Watershed, (3) Subak Landscape of Catur Angga Batukaru and (4) Royal Water Temple Pura Taman Ayun.

Bali Rice Terraces Indonesia Jatiluwih
The Pekerisan Watershed includes Subak Pulagan, Subak Kulub, Kulub Village, Tampaksiring Village, Manukaya Village, Pegulingan Temple, Tirta Empul Temple, Mengening Temple and Gunung Kawi Site. While Catur Angga Batukaru is composed of fifteen subak namely Bedugul, Jatiluwih, Kedampal, Keloncing, Penatahan, Pesagi, Piak, Puakan, Rejasa, Sangketan, Soka, Tegallinggah, Tengkudak and Wangaya Betan.

I went to three sites early this month. These are the Tirta Empul Temple (which I also got to visit in 2009), the Royal Water Temple Pura Taman Ayun, and the subak of the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, said to be the best-preserved of the subak included in the inscription. My immersion in Jatiluwih was quite profound thanks to the invitation of Heru and Grace Tarjoto. The Tarjotos, who own a rice mill in Jatiluwih, contribute quite a lot to the promotion and distribution of Jatiluwih red rice. And Grace, a Filipina who has lived in Bali for so many years, is the honorary consul of the Philippines in Bali.

Bali Rice Terraces Indonesia Jatiluwih
It took me two hours to get to Jatiluwih Village from Kuta. There were no highways. Just narrow rural roads that took me through Bali's verdant rice fields. I dozed off at times, having been up quite late the night before. But the view of the rice terraces as we neared Jatiluwih was incentive enough to stay alert. I'd ask my driver to stop occasionally for me to capture the picturesque views of villages amidst the rice terraces.

Towering over Jatiluwih Village are three grand mountains namely Mount Batukaru (2276m), Mount Sangyang (2,093m) and Mount Poohoen (2,063m). Unfortunately, clouds beat me to the view by a good thirty minutes or so. Some photographers stay overnight in Jatiluwih just to capture the scene of the three mountains with fertile rice terraces below.

Jatiluwih Village is further divided into seven communities or tempek that form three subak. Subak Gunung Sari has Umakayu (38ha) and Gunung Sari Desa (45ha). Subak Jatiluwih has Central Jatiluwih (90ha), Besikalong (40ha) and Kesambih (25ha). While Subak Kedamaian has Umadui (30ha) and Kedamaian Utara (35ha).

Bali Rice Terraces Indonesia Jatiluwih
Bali Rice Terraces Indonesia Jatiluwih
Most of the rice in Central Jatiluwih had been harvested over the past few days. So the rice terraces weren't as picturesque as they should be. Good thing the harvest in Gunung Sari wasn't due until a few more days, thus giving me the opportunity to experience beautiful scenes of Bali's agricultural heritage.

Bali Rice Terraces Indonesia Jatiluwih
Bali Rice Terraces Indonesia Jatiluwih
Bali Rice Terraces Indonesia Jatiluwih
Subak is all about water management and the beautiful interaction between man and nature. Water for irrigation comes from several natural springs that bubble in various points throughout the subak. Springs are marked by a water temple (bhet gedong), each providing irrigation to the paddies below through water channels called sungai. Farmers care for the spring but don't get to use the water. Rather it benefits other farmers below. And that's the spirit of cooperation in this unique water management system of Bali.

Bali Rice Terraces Indonesia Jatiluwih
Even cow sheds have a use, each with two cows, and strategically located across the system. The waste produced by the cows serves as fertilizer, with water from the springs and rain washing the manure to the rice fields. Everything is natural here and Jatiluwih's fragrant red rice is proudly organic since even insects and birds are repelled naturally by certain genetic features of the rice variety.

But with the UNESCO inscription, tourists have started to arrive. There's a construction frenzy for tourist accommodation and facilities in Central Jatiluwih which if unregulated, might erase the charm and essence of this beautiful village. I was also told stories of the local government confiscating funds raised by the village through entrance fees, leaving nothing for the community for restoration and cultural promotion. The local politicians say that the collections are rightfully theirs because the village is in their jurisdiction.

Bali Rice Terraces Indonesia Jatiluwih
Too bad since the locals wanted to use the funds to purchase instruments to train their children on musical traditions that have faded away. Time is running out as elders who can teach these dying traditions to the local community, are themselves dying of old age. It makes me angry listening to stories and the unfair treatment they get because of a question of turf.

Bali Rice Terraces Indonesia Jatiluwih
More than a tourism masterplan which politicians are more keen on preparing, Jatiluwih badly needs a masterplan to restore its irrigation system and to protect the subak, most especially the forest reserve above the village which is unfortunately privately-owned. What will stop the owners from building resorts and other infrastructure in this delicate forest reserve as Jatiluwih becomes more popular to tourists? If the unregulated development continues, Jatiluwih may lose the springs that produce the very water that irrigates its rice terraces. This development may erase the very essence of the subak.

Bali Rice Terraces Indonesia Jatiluwih
Bali Rice Terraces Indonesia Jatiluwih
Before I left Jatiluwih, we passed by the community temple (pura puseh) of Gunung Sari. I was reminded of the philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana which the subak system revolves around, the interaction between the spirit, man and nature. This egalitarian and democratic system of farming is the core of this inscription. We should keep that in mind when we visit the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Indonesia: Nightlife and Surfing in Kuta & Legian Beach, Bali

The Kuta and Legian areas are the tourist centers of Bali. The area is very popular for both its nightlife and surfing. As soon as I arrived in Kuta from Ubud, I set out to find some budget accommodation near Poppies Gang 1 and 2 which are two popular alleyways where many of the budget accommodation are located. I found a reasonable hotel right beside the Bali Bombings Memorial.

Being a very popular tourist attraction in Indonesia, Bali was most definitely prone to terrorist attacks. And the unfortunate incident happened in 2002 killing 202 people, 152 of them foreigners. Bali has moved forward from then and is very much alive and kicking. A monument now stands in what was Paddy's Pub on Legian Street. At the memorial, the names of all the fatalities are carved on a large black marble plaque in the memorial.

I spent the rest of the night walking around the area with its vibrant nightlife.

The next morning, I explored Legian Beach (some refer to it as Kuta Beach) where most of the surfing activity happens. It's quite obvious that surfing is a major thing in Bali since there are dozens of shops that sell surf boards, surfing equipment or offer lessons. Plus the beach is lined with piles of surfboards and trainers offering lessons to those around the beach. And one look at the water, you'll see hundreds of surfers waiting for the next wave.

To bad I couldn't really do much that morning since my flight back to Kuala Lumpur was later that day. But Bali is most definitely one island you must visit in your lifetime!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Indonesia: Road trip around Bali (Part 3) Pura Besakih, the Mother Temple at Besakih

Pura Besakih or the Mother Temple of Besakih is the most important Hindu temple in Bali. Located on the south slopes of Mount Agung, Pura Besakih probably dates back to the 14th century.

This was the last stop of my road trip around Bali, northeastern Bali to be exact. Being the most sacred of temples, a sarong is definitely required. To blend in with the locals, I also got myself a traditional Balinese head scarf.

The driver dropped me off at the parking lot and warned me not to entertain the offers of ojek drivers to the top since they will overcharge me being a tourist. It was quite tempting actually since it's quite a walk from the vehicle parking up to the main entrance of the temple. The hike will definitely let you break a sweat.

Pura Besakih is actually a complex of twenty-two temples that sit on parallel ridges. It's on the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage List.

You'll definitely see a lot of locals there, a perfect place to observe daily life in Bali as hundreds make their way to the temple daily to worship, pray and make offerings. It's enchanting as well as serene, especially as a thin blanket of fog makes its way down to the temple late in the afternoon.

Again, be prepared for a lot of walking because the walk from the entrance all the way to the top of the temple is no joke. There are some restricted areas though. And unless you know how to speak Bahasa Indonesia or are a Hindu visiting the temple to worship, the guards won't let you in the other parts which is reserved for worship.

Pura Besakih was the last stop on my Bali road trip. It took about two hours to get back to Ubud, just in time for me to catch my bus back to Kuta.

So when you visit Bali, make sure you allot a day or two for road travel around the island. There was still a lot to see like Tanah Lot, Uluwatu and Taman Ayun Temples in the southwestern part of Bali very close to Kuta. Unfortunately, I had no more time. I hope to come back again for another visit!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Indonesia: Road trip around Bali (Part 2) Mount Batur & Lake Batur, Gunung Agung and lunch by the rice terraces

One of the best views of Bali is that of Mount Batur and Lake Batur (Gunung Batur and Danau Batur) from Penelokan and Kintamani. You can reach these areas when you do a road trip around Bali. The best way to get around is by hiring a vehicle which is both the most convenient and most affordable option.

In Penelokan, the winding mountain road provides grand views of Mount Batur, an active 1,717 meter-high (5,633ft) volcano. We stopped over every now and then for me to take photos of the picturesque view of the volcano and the lake.

At 3,142 meters (10,308 feet), Gunung Agung or Mount Agung is the highest point on Bali. On the slopes of Mount Agung is the holiest of Bali temples, the Pura Besakih or Mother Temple.

Before proceeding to the Mother Temple in Besakih, I had a buffet lunch at the Mahagiri Panoramic Resort and Restaurant in Rendang Village, Karangasem, again by the suggestion of my driver. It offers a fantastic view of the rice terraces at the foot of Mount Agung, and Mount Agung itself. My driver stressed that these were the best terraces in the world. He hasn't been to Ifugao obviously. But he could be right about it being one of the most-visited since they are readily accessible to tourists.

The Indonesian buffet selection is quite good. I feasted on sate as always. The buffet was about Rp80,000. From there, we proceeded to Besakih to visit the Mother Temple.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Indonesia: Road trip around Bali (Part 1) Goa Gajah, Tampak Siring & luwak coffee

For my second day in Ubud, I decided to hire a vehicle for a road trip around Bali to get to the different temples and views. Unfortunately, there is no public transportation that will get you straight to the temples. But the good thing is that hiring a vehicle is not that expensive and is actually the best option if you want to see everything in a day.

I spent about Rp350,000 (roughly Php1,750) for an air-conditioned SUV with driver that took me to the various sites around the island. Make sure as well that you get a sarong which you will need to enter the temples. It's quite strict because the sites are holy to the Balinese and very much in use for daily worship. So don't expect to get to enter without one.

Our first stop for the day was Goa Gajah or Elephant Cave which dates back to the 9th century. The mouth of the cave is carved with menacing creatures and demons. The primary figure was mistakenly thought to be an elephant, which is why it is referred to as Elephant Cave. Although there is a statue of Ganesh inside the cave. Beside the cave is a bathing temple which was excavated only in the 1950s. Goa Gajah is in the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Entrance to the temple is Rp15,000.

After Goa Gajah, we proceeded to Tampak Siring, also known as Tirta Empul or the Holy Spring Temple. One of the main features of this temple is a spring which the Balinese believe can heal various of diseases. Thus, it's visited regularly by the locals for rituals and to sanctify themselves. Entrance to the temple is Rp15,000.

Further inside Tampak Siring are more structures which also serve as a place for offerings and ceremonies. Before you enter, you will be asked to wear a yellow piece of cloth around your waist. I was lucky that as I was about to exit Tampak Siring, a Galungan Ceremony or Balinese temple offering was about to take place.

Before proceeding to Penelokan for a wonderful view of Gunung Batur and Danau Batur (Mt. Batur and Lake Batur), my driver brought me to a coffee plantation in Temen which is visited by tourists because of the luwak coffee (alamid or civet cat coffee).

The public area has a garden which shows the various crops in the plantation such as cacao, vanilla, and of course the coffee, both arabica and robusta. They also demonstrate the processing of coffee beans. And you could also try out the luwak coffee which is not cheap! From there, we were off to Penelokan.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Indonesia: Ubud Royal Palace, rice terraces, kecak dance and more from Ubud, Bali

Ubud is one of Bali's major centers for culture and the arts. I decided to make that two hour road trip from Kuta to Ubud to enable me to explore more of Bali.

As soon we entered Ubud, the first thing I noticed was row after row of art shops. Indeed, Ubud was a major arts center for Bali. At the drop off point, there were touts offering places to stay. While I usually avoid them, I realized they might be a viable option to find cheap accommodation. After asking the rates for the rooms which were much cheaper than Kuta, I decided to check out the place being offered. It was quite decent and worth the cost.

Anyway, the person who took me to the lodging also offered to take me around Ubud and its environs on his ojek. After negotiating the rates, we were off. Our first stop was the Ubud Royal Palace.

The Ubud Royal Palace or Puri Saren Agung was home to Tjokorda Gede Agung Sukawati, the last "king" of Ubud. The architecture is a showcase of what is truly Balinese with its intricately carved wooden pavilions and stone gates and demons.

We also got to visit the Ceking and Tegallalang Rice Terraces. The rice terraces in Ifugao are much more extensive than those in Bali. But because of accessibility, the rice terraces of Bali get more visitors. Our last stop was the Tegenungan Falls located in Gianyar before we proceeded to the Kecak Dance performance.

Having seen this in National Geographic and other television shows, I made sure to watch a Kecak performance. Kecak is a Balinese dance primarily performed by men wearing checkered cloth around their waists who form a circle of 100 or more performers chanting cak while throwing up their arms in a rhythmic display. Kecak is also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant.

Because this performance is highly-sought by tourists, there are several nightly performances of both the Kecak and Sanghyang Jaran (Fire Dance) which features a fire walk by a performer in a trance. When in Ubud, you just look for an ojek to take you to one which are usually in the outskirts of the town. I spent Rp80,000 for a ticket to the performance.

The good thing about this whole itinerary was that I was able to visit all these places in and around Ubud in less than half a day with the help of an ojek. For the next day, I had made arrangements to hire a vehicle for the next day to take me around Bali's other major attractions.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Indonesia: Kuta Beach in Bali

Since I'm on the topic of Indonesia, I realized I had not written about my trip to Bali last year. So hopefully, I finish that this week. Bali is a culturally exciting destination. The richness of its culture and heritage, so much different from the rest of Indonesia, is most definitely worth the trip.

It's also famous for Kuta Beach which is teeming with tourists, particularly surfers. Since my flight arrived quite late in the evening, I ended up having to rely on the taxi I rode to help me find a place to sleep. I told him Kuta when I should have said Legian which is where most of the cheaper accommodation can be found. Kuta is both a district and a village. Kuta District contains the villages of Kuta and Legian.

Anyway, the taxi took me into one of the small side streets where there were several hotels. I was expecting it to be cheap but unfortunately, the rooms were a bit pricey for budget travel. I ended up having to spend a lot for the room since it was late and I was too tired to look for one.

The next morning, I realized why even the rooms in the interior were pricey. I was in the high-end resort area of Kuta Village. After walking around the beach, I planned my next three days. I decided to take a van to Ubud, Bali's culture town, which would serve as my base as I explore the rest of the island.
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