Indonesia: From Bali to Borneo – Part 1

The Alena resort Ubud

We arrived in Denpasar airport in the evening, getting out of the airport was chaos! There is so much traffic heading in the direction of Ubud and it was around 1hr 15 minutes before we reached our hotel. The road leading to our accommodation was bumpy and I could just about make out the rice fields under the night sky as we were pulling in. The Alena resort is small and peaceful, they have beautiful trees and flowers surrounding the accommodation and swimming pool, I would say it had a spa feel to it, you automatically felt relaxed on arrival. Of course, I must mention how friendly the Indonesian people are, everywhere we went, we were greeted with big smiles and warm welcoming words. After we had checked in and put our bags in our room, we went to eat in the hotel restaurant, above the reception area overlooking the pool and the nearby rice fields. The food was lovely and the cocktails topped it off 🙂 we were quite tired on our first night after travelling, so we got an early night to prepare for a full day of exploring the next day.

We were up early for breakfast, it was a beautiful sunny morning and already quite warm, our tour guide was waiting in the reception for us, so we quickly finished our breakfast, grabbed our cameras and jumped in the car. Our guide was called Rai and what a friendly chatty man he was, he told us about his family, his children and what they were studying at school, he spoke very proudly of them, it was lovely to hear and it also gave us an insight to the lives of locals in Bali. We drove through Ubud, the small shops and markets lined the streets either side, it was busy and loud, there were motorbikes everywhere and no one wore protection, most were in shorts, vests and flip flops, some had large bags or objects attached to their bikes, some even had babies and young children with them but they knew the streets, the traffic and how to glide through with ease. To our surprise, we also saw tourists on these bikes, again with no protection on and less knowledge and confidence on the roads. Rai said to us that they can easily get caught up in collisions as they are not as experienced as the locals. We moved through the traffic until we finally arrived at out first stop, the sacred monkey forest.

As we pulled up you could already see some monkeys outside the entrance, Rai told us to put any small items away and make sure everything is zipped up, the monkeys can be known to take things off you if it takes their fancy. As we entered, the monkeys were everywhere, some on the floor grooming each other, others fighting and some jumping, rolling and running around. They were very noisy, calling and screaming out, you could never tell if they were angry or just communicating. It was intriguing to watch and they did not seem bothered by our presence at all, in fact they never once approached us, we gave them space and never tried to get close to them. I believe we should let animals be animals, I get enjoyment from just watching them be wild and learn about their natural traits and habits. The forest itself was very green and pretty, the trees were tall with the sun breaking through and the bushes were dense, as we walked through the forest and across a few bridges, monkeys were swinging above. It was a great introduction to Ubud and as we left the forest, we bid farewell to the little mischievous monkeys and set off to our next stop.

The Sacred monkey forest

Throughout the tour, we stopped at small handicraft shops with locally made goods, this is part and parcel of these tours, usually I take a few minutes to walk around the shop and if nothing takes my fancy, I will thank the shop workers for their time and leave. I try not to get into conversations unless I am interested in purchasing something, I think it is best not to waste their time or give them false hope, however saying that I have bought items on a number of occasions, even something small as I know they depend on tourist’s business. On this occasion, we stopped at an art shop, where we bought a small painting and a jewelry shop, where you could see the jewelry being made before walking through to the shop where I bought some earrings. Other places we stopped but did not buy anything, were a wood sculpture and a batik fabric shop.

We arrived at our second stop, which was a hindu temple of Batuan, we were given sarongs to wear to cover our legs as we were wearing shorts, by this point, the temperatures had risen and we were melting a little! We entered the grounds of the temple to stone carvings and sculptures, it was very pretty and we took our time to walk around and listen to Rai tell us the history of the temple. It has been there for over 1000 years, making it the oldest temple in Bali, it is well cared for and is a fine example of Balinese architecture. After we had taken in all that the temple had to offer, we headed back to our car where Rai pulled out twos bottles of Bintang (Indonesian beer) from a cool bag in the boot. We stood for a while drinking and chatting and then made our way to lunch.

Batuan Temple grounds
Bintang Break

We had lunch in a place called Kintamani, which faced Mt. Batur, the view was amazing as was the lunch that was included in the tour package. We had quite a nice length of time here, to sit and chat and take in the view. I think the last eruption of this volcano was 2000 but you could still see the black from where the lava had run down the mountain. Once we were ready to go, we made our way to the terrace rice fields, something that is always associated with Bali 🙂 The rice field was quite steep giving you a great view of the whole field, they had a zip wire going from one end to the other, I have a fear of heights (strangely enough as I have previously skydived), so decided to sit this one out. My husband tried it out and enjoyed it, so if I ever went back I would false myself to do it, as I like to test myself every now and then.

Lunch with a view of Mt. Batur
Terrace rice fields

Our next stop was the coffee plantation, this was one part of the tour, I regretted. I usually do so much research on my travels before we head off, especially if there is any mention of animals. This time however I failed, I did read about the coffee plantation and that it’s well known for a special coffee called Luwak coffee. I read that the coffee is produced from an animal’s excrement called a civet, Luwak in Indonesian and that the coffee was only made in Indonesia, meaning it was not mass produced, so I thought they collected the excrement from the forest floors of the animals habitat to then make this coffee. On arrival the plantation looked how you would expect, as we were walking through to see how the coffee is made, we saw a couple of civets in cages, sleeping. We were both shocked to see this, I did not expect to see any animal here and there was no mention of it beforehand especially not caged, I was trying to process in my head what was going on, as we walked into the coffee making area. This is where we learnt the truth, apparently the civets started eating coffee beans in the plantation because they like the taste of them, somehow, someone found that the coffee tasted better when it had been through the civet, so they started collecting and grinding down their excrement. Once we had finished briefly learning about the coffee, we sat down at a table and a lady came over with around 10 tea samples for us to try, we tried them and said what ones we liked and then came to the luwak coffee, we began to question why they were in cages, they told us they are nocturnal and are released at night into the forest at the plantation, we continued to question the coffee, when we were told there was a civet wandering around over near the little shop, they told us the animal is very friendly towards humans and you can see for yourself that they are happy. so we finished with the teas and I went over to find the civet. It was easy to find, it was collapsed on a table, it looked in agony, it’s stomach swollen, I was not expecting any of this, so I was just in shock and could not process the obvious. Another woman came over and we stood quietly looking at this animal, when she said “he looks like he is in pain” I agreed and could feel myself tensing up, there was nothing I could do to help this animal in front of me, I felt helpless and incredibly guilty, I decided to take a photo, which again felt like an awful thing to do but I wanted to be able to share the image, to hopefully stop people going in future, I went to find my husband and we left. I got very upset in the car and at this moment, typing this, I am welling up again, knowing that poor animal and many others are still there suffering. I looked it up online and sure enough I found the stories of cruelty, how all the civets are locked in cages, only fed the coffee beans, so their excrement can be used. I felt so silly, but it reminded me how careful you have to be.

The poor Civet that didn’t seem like he could even move

After that awful experience at the coffee plantation, we had one last stop on the list and that was the Tegenungan Waterfall. It was actually a lovely way to end the day, it was quite a steep walk down some stone steps to get to the waterfall but we had some beautiful views. I had enjoyed everything we had done and seen before the coffee place, Ubud has so much to see and it really is a lovely place to visit. If you ever take a tour, it is likely to include the coffee plantation, so just tell your guide you want to skip that stop. We headed back to our hotel after the waterfall, both tired from the full day of activities, we had dinner in the hotel once again and then headed to bed.

The next day and our last full day in Ubud, we just relaxed at the hotel around the pool, it was well needed, we had been walking the streets of Japan before arriving in Ubud, so was happy to just put our feet up, only if for one day, we took in all the luxuries of the Alena resort because we knew that as of tomorrow we will be back to basics on a klotok in the rainforest and the relaxation of the Alena would be long gone.

To be continued….

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