Questing for Bali’s Lake Batur
Editor’s note: This is the ninth in a series of travel stories from local resident Luc Pols, who is traveling through Southeast Asia.
Last year American Express sent me a calender, with one of the pictures depicting The Goddess of the Lake temple “in Indonesia.” Always curious and knowing that there are more than 27,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, I called them. After having been switched around a lot (they never heard of anybody asking these ridiculous questions!) at last someone thought it could be around Lake Batur on Bali. Another quest!
By the way, a really nasty thing happened. My new and “good” camera, which has been giving me problems the entire trip, now refuses to turn on. I am, obviously disappointed, but lucky that I took my old standby Canon with me a a backup. The photos might be a touch more grainy, but the Pentax only worked in temperatures under 75 degrees. Great camera, but it reminds me of the Merpati slogan (see next paragraph).
At 5:40 a.m. I was at the Maumere Flores airport. I was trying to get a plane to Denpasar, Bali, since my confirmed flight from Ende, set for the following day, was canceled. To my chagrin I discovered why this government-owned airline, Merpati, has the unoffficial, quite colloquial slogan “It’s my party and I fly when I want to, fly when I want to …”, because the 7:20 a.m. flight leaves at 3:40 p.m., no explanations given … none!
After spending exactly 10 hours at a grimy terminal with 70 other very grumpy people, I arrived in Denpasar, where the hotel car was waiting. Driving to and through Kuta, I had the dubious impression I’ve landed in Miami Beach or the equivalent thereof.
The place is littered with McDonalds, KFCs, Starbucks etc. As it turns out, however, I am semi-mistaken. Narrow alleys, such as Poppy I and II, definitely have nothing in common with our Florida resort. Filled with shops and lean-to’s, restaurant, bars and (legitimate) massage places, give it quite a distinct flavor. It is still a very touristy place (sound familiar?), but fun. Additionally I discovered two restaurants where they serve “kroketten,” a Dutch delicacy, and needless to say, I was quite happy.
It is a cute and young town and I spent three nights there in a hotel with a pool and a room that had air conditioning and hot water. For $20 per night, who can complain?
I explored the town, the beach and even tasted a bit of the night life before leaving for Ubud, where I would be renting a moped to explore the area in all directions.
All good plans until I came up with a nasty cold and was bed/bungalow ridden in Ubud for a day and a half. Remember though, that originally I am Dutch and therefore the Quest must go on. At 8 a.m. I took off on my moped in search of the Goddess of the Lake Temple. I only had one accident, which resulted in a bloody elbow, but beyond that, I arrived safely at Lake Bratan, where the temple is located 60 miles from where Amexco told me, but at least I was on the right island.
The setting was magnificent and I spent some time there before exploring the neighboring Lakes Buyon and Tamblingan. For once I had the foresight to ask for a poncho when I rented the moped, which was a good thing because I got caught in a tremendous tropical downpour. I still got soaked, but it was worth it.
While trying to order a ticket from Jakarta to Singapore over the Internet on LionAir, I was told that their Web site did not work and to pick up my ticket in Denpasar. I drove all the way to the airport, but even my smiles and sweet talk could not convince them to give me the $50 Internet price. Instead they wanted to charge me $141. Bastards!
I went to see Lake Batur and its famous volcano, which was very interesting.You can see from above quite clearly where the lava crept down the mountain (in 1994?) and it’s a very big area. I went down to the lake and drove almost completely around it and through lava fields. It was absolutely worthwhile.
What made the day, however, was that about 9 kilometers from the artisan town Ubud, lies the little village of Tegallalang where there are the most beautiful, interesting and gorgeous terraced rice paddies I have ever seen, bar none and this includes Vietnam. It is not listed in the guidebook, but an A+ experience and an absolute must!
See you next week.
Have a travel essay you’d like to share with Vail Daily readers? E-mail High Life Editor Caramie Schnell at firstname.lastname@example.org.