Ujung Water Palace Gardens

Steps, more steps and water gardens

Getting the Instagram photo
Getting the Instagram photo

Public transport is limited in Bali so the following day, I had arranged for Kadek, my driver from the airport, to take me to Pura Lempuyan and one or two other places along the east coast. I had read about this temple, or rather complex of temples, and wanted to climb the 1,700 steps to the top one.

We drove up a busy, windy road out of Candidasa which afforded a beautiful view over the rice fields to Mt Agung. Kadek then took a country road after Bugbug so I could get a glimpse of village life. At one point, an official diverted traffic along an even smaller road as the main road was closed for a ceremony at the village temple. There were temples everywhere I looked. Aside from the village temples, each family has their own and there were also the important ones which everyone visited on special days.

Pura Lempuyan was up a steep, zigzag road. At the top were many cars, scooters and tourists. I hadn’t appreciated that a photo of this temple on Instagram when Mt Agung was erupting had made it so popular. The photographer had captured the eruption through the gates to the first temple. Now, every social media selfie addict came here to take the same photo (albeit without the eruption). There were queues and queues. Few visitors went further than the second temple. I didn’t join the queue.

I wasn’t intending to get a guide to walk up the steps, particularly when I saw the price. This ranged from 100,000 IRD to 400,000 IRD depending how far up you went. I succumbed and paid the equivalent of $40NZ to walk to the top with Kadek, a 22-year-old young woman. The Balinese have five commonly used names that show their order of birth in the family. This can be confusing to the foreigner (me) when they meet many Wayans, Kadeks or Komangs!

Queues for photos below
Queues for photos below

As we walked, or rather struggled in my case, up the 1,700 steps, I learned a lot about Kadek and her life. She had 2 children and was still breast-feeding the 2-year-old. Her husband didn’t work. She had to get up, cook for the day, if she wasn’t starting at 5am as she had that day, feed the children, clean the house, fetch firewood and shop for food. Her husband seemed unreliable about looking after and feeding the children whilst she was at work so she was constantly worrying. Recently, her husband had installed a toilet at their house, using the cash she had saved and stored in the bamboo of her bed. The squat toilet had a dirt floor and a bucket of water for flushing. It was not luxurious by my Western standards but she was delighted as she no longer had to go to the river.

She also told me about the temples and had bought rice, flowers and offerings for the prayers at the top temple. It was a ritualized prayer which they do 3 times a day either at the shrines in their homes or at the temple. Her family temple was at Pura Lempuyan and was one of the seven temples on the mountain.

I was lucky today. The cloud around Mt Agung cleared, so I had a beautiful view of that and Mt Batur. Not everyone is so fortunate. By the time I returned to the car I was extremely tired. The round trip had taken about 4 hours. I don’t know how the lady worker we chatted to near the top had already gone up and down ten times from the 2nd temple that day. One of the aggressive monkeys had bitten her several months ago, and she showed me the large bite mark which had taken 3 months to heal. It is a hard life for some women.

Mt Agung from the sixth temple
Mt Agung from the sixth temple

Kadek, my driver, next took me to Tirta Ganga, a water garden built by the last king in 1946. A volcanic eruption in 1963 destroyed it and it has since been re-built. Here, the selfie brigade was out in force and occupied most of the paving stones in the first pool. I walked in the opposite direction and stopped to admire the enormous golden carp in one pool and the somewhat grotesque statues depicting mythical characters that abound everywhere. There is no doubt it is a beautiful garden but there were too many people for me.

Tirta Ganga
Tirta Ganga

Our last stop of the day was Ujung Water Palace near Amlapura. I left Kadek waiting in the car once again and wandered around the tranquil gardens at a gentle pace, up and down yet more steps and along the edges of the pools. It was a perfect time of day to visit with the sun setting in the west and views of the mountains in the distance. Soothing Balinese music emanated from one of the buildings. If I hadn’t been so tired and conscious of the time, I would have sat and mused for a while. However, it was back to the car and home, where I arrived about 5.30pm after a wonderful if exhausting day.

Looking down on the water gardens
Looking down on the water gardens
Ujung Water Palace
Ujung Water Palace

That evening I tried a different warung for dinner. I had had nothing to eat since my potato omelette breakfast and a lurid orange sweet bread that Kadek (my guide) had shared with me at the top of Pura Lempuyan. I was starving! This warung had crisp white table cloths, comfortable chairs and good service. It was one or two steps up from the previous evening! A basket of delicious crisps accompanied by beer and I tried not to devour them all before my satay arrived. This was served still sizzling on a small charcoal burner. It was all delicious!

Beach by my accommodation

A relaxing day in Candidasa

I emerged from the arrivals hall at Denpasar airport in Bali. A sea of faces, all holding signs with names on them, greeted me. I scanned the line in search of my driver but couldn’t spot him. After doing a loop around and still not seeing him, I reluctantly checked my phone messages. He was there holding the black and white chequered Balinese flag. I had missed him amongst the masses.

We were soon out of the airport and battling the dense traffic through Denpasar before continuing up the east coast to Candidasa. I had booked an Airbnb hoping to be away from the tourist crowds around Kuta. It was slow progress, with scores of scooters zipping in between the cars and trucks. At last, rice fields and banana trees appeared instead of buildings. Two hours after landing, I arrived at my home for the next 5 days. Komang showed me my room, which was a typical Balinese style ‘villa’ in the family compound. By then it was 7pm local time but my body clock indicated it was 4 hours later. It was an early night.

The lotus pond
The lotus pond
Entrance to a large house
Entrance to a large house

The next day I explored Candidasa, having eaten my first breakfast banana pancake and sampled Balinese style coffee, which is not coffee as I know it. I went for a stroll around the large lotus pond situated between the busy main highway and the sea. It was a tranquil haven away from the constant roar of traffic.

Afterwards I ventured into the village area at the east end of town. Areas of very large houses were close to poorer ones in which small dwellings nestled amongst the banana and coconut trees beneath which pigs and cows grazed. Everyone nodded or smiled a ‘hello’ and several scooter riders stopped to ask if I needed a taxi.

Returning to the main road, I ambled to the other end of town, passing souvenir and clothes shops, cafes and restaurants along the way. On my return I went in search of lunch which I found at the bar on the beach in the form of an omelette and Bintang (local beer). My table was under a woven bamboo roof and shaded and had a view of the turquoise sea and a jetty, at the end of which was a covered area where a massage was in progress.

Lunchtime view
Lunchtime view

At ‘home’ I spent the next hour reading on a wooden bench above the beach having had a dip in the warm sea. In front of my lodging, the water almost reached the concrete wall. The coral hurt my feet and the current was strong, so I had walked further along to a small sandy area, shielded by a concrete pier. Once upon a time Candidasa had had a beautiful white sand beach which attracted tourists; that is until locals broke up a reef to use the coral for building. Erosion annihilated the beach which all but disappeared. They then built concrete barriers into the sea to protect what remained. Hopefully, they also learned a lesson!

Beach by my accommodation
Beach by my accommodation

I rounded off the afternoon with a pedicure and a massage by Wayan, reputedly one of the best masseurs in Bali. Having no comparison, I wouldn’t know but she was excellent (if firm!) and well worth the $15NZ.

For dinner I wandered down to the night markets at the end of town. The amount of activity in the road bemused me. People lined the street, either sitting on the edge of the pavement or on plastic chairs they had brought with them. There was a lot of music and noise. Groups of men were marching along in front of vehicles full of people dancing. Music blared from boom boxes on the backs of the trucks. I discovered the next day that this was one of the many events for Independence Day which is on 17 August. The groups were marching a distance of 45kms to Amlapura, the capital of Karangasem district, where the main events of the day would take place. The atmosphere was vibrant, and I continued to watch from my plastic stool at the warung whilst I enjoyed a cheap but non-descript chicken curry. I think they had forgotten the flavouring!

Independence Day flags outside police station
Independence Day flags outside police station