Love is sweeter the second time around, and so is Bali. I only stayed in Bali overnight this time before I head to Dili. My hours were limited but Bali didn’t limit itself in showing me more of its beauty. It is a touristy destination but the hype was definitely justified.
I booked for the Tanah Lot Sunset Tour by Bali Loco (highly recommended!), one of the many agencies offering arranged tours in Bali. The half-day tour includes Taman Ayun Temple and Alas Kedaton/Monkey Forest and concludes with a visit and sunset-viewing at Tanah Lot.
Taman Ayun, which means “beautiful garden” was built in 1934 and one of the famous tourist spots in Bali. It is famous for its “meru-meru” or multi-roofed structures meant for religious celebrations and performances. The garden is surrounded by ponds teeming with aquatic animals. There are also interesting details and carved stone figures found on the walls and pillars.
I read negative reviews of Alas Kedaton from its visitors. Some find it uninteresting and a mere tourist trap/travel rip-off. I share the same sentiment. Other than the monkeys crowding the area, there is really nothing much to see or learn from this place (or perhaps I wasn’t well-informed about the stories behind this place).
A guide will welcome you at the entrance whom you have to hand a donation at the end. The guide will help you take obligatory photos with the monkeys (making them come by pretending that they have food to give). The monkeys are used to visitors so they are not “usually” aggressive. The guide will also encourage you to have a photo with the bats right before the exit of which I did, not because I was forced to but because I liked the costumes that they made me wear for the photo. I pity the bats though, forcing them to spread their wings for the camera, and the fact that it was day time (they should be sleeping!). I felt ashamed of myself afterwards so I’m not posting those photos here.
After exiting the forest, the guide prevented me from buying from other stores and kept on telling me to buy souvenirs from a store she probably owns or gets commission from. I didn’t buy souvenirs; I just wanted to buy a drink so I just politely refused her. I was aware that the price was a rip-off. I really didn’t mind because I know that Bali is supposedly like that to foreigners. I heard a response of protest from my driver/guide directed towards the vendor when I asked how much was the bottled iced tea. When we were back in the car, he told me that I should have asked him to buy the drinks for me as it was originally half the price. He also told me that when he asked the vendor why she was charging so much, she replied, “Why? You are not the one paying. Let the foreigners pay more.” I’m not complaining. In fact, I kind of agree with her. I’m one of the many visitors of Bali who, in one way or another, spoils their natural surroundings for the sake of my thirst for travel and for their need of income. For that, I’m willing to pay more.
Tanah Lot was the highlight of this tour. This temple is not one of Bali’s most visited for no reason. With the majestic sea as its background, it is not surprising that the sunset here is spectacular as the saffron colors of the day’s end cast a stunning silhouette of the temples straddling on the cliffs. Built in 15th century, the temple exudes its Balinese and Hindu elements in complement with its naturally beautiful location. Find a spot and be awed by the sunset and observe the locals offering goods to the temple. Tanah Lot is a venue where tourism and local culture overlap harmoniously making it a tourist destination not to be missed.
After a good amount of time in Tanah Lot (and after a number of magic tricks my driver/guide generously showed me), we started on our way back to the city where I was dropped me off at my accommodation. I stayed overnight at the newly opened Airport Kuta Hotel and Residences, less than 5 minutes from the airport and offered me a free transfer the next day (highly recommended). Overall, I’m glad that it is Bali that connects my flight to Dili. It is a place that I could easily go back to because despite its touristic characteristics, Bali keeps on protecting its unique charm that has seduced travelers way back and continues to share its beauty, spiritualism, stories and smiles to people who keep coming back for more. (Read more about my previous trip in Bali here.)
Have you been to Bali? Do you think that it has lost its charm because of tourism or do you still believe otherwise?