For such a small island, Bali is full of things to do! We took a few day trips from Ubud and saw all sorts of things within a couple hours of town. Goa Gajah, the Elephant Cave was quite a site and located right outside Ubud. This temple features a cave that was used all of the time for meditation, now due to tourism it is mainly just used at night. There are rice terraces as well as a Buddhist area. We were lucky to arrive before the tourists and were able to enjoy the quiet.
Our next stop was well off the tourist track and recommended by our driver. The Kehen Temple was amazing and again we were the only ones there. This temple has three levels and a huge banyan tree with a platform built in it with a bell. We took our time looking at all the different sculptures and statues all a little bit different and quite spectacular.
Taking a break from temples we made a stop at a local plantation called Santi Agrowisata. This plantation specialized in coffee and spices, but also had lots of fruit. We had an awesome guide who took us through and showed us the different plants and spices throughout the property. We were shown the traditional coffee roasting process and the different types of beans. We then were able to try several types of coffee and teas made from their property. The highlight was trying the Luwak Coffee. This coffee, also know as “cat poo coffee”, is made from coffee berries that are eaten by a civet (more like a possum than a cat), the civet picks only the best berries to eat and as the berries pass through their system only the bean is left. The beans are collected and made into coffee. Completely bizarre, but really good! And yes, they clean the beans before they roast them.
Gunung Kawi was another spectacular site. This 11th century temple is carved into the cliff sides. The 10 hand carved shrines measure about 23 feet and as you stand there you can only imagine the work and determination it took to create! Arrive early and take your time down the 300+ steps. We were the only ones there and it was absolutely magical. The carvings are set along a river and the scene is very tranquil.
Close to Gunung Kawi is Tirta Empul, a holy water temple and place for cleansing. People come if they are down on their luck and bath in the waters. We watched the children playing in the waters for a while and also walked in further to see the natural spring coming up from the ground. It was an interesting place!
Right in Ubud you have the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. This area is FULL of monkeys and also includes 3 temples. The temples are not nearly as impressive as others that we saw, but most people come to see the monkeys. We saw monkeys everywhere and many were fighting or playing around in the water. It was all a bit overwhelming! The long tailed macaques are being monitored and there are more than 600 living within the area from 4 different troops.
One of our last temples was visited on our way north to the city of Lovina. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is a beautiful temple set in the mountains on Lake Bratan. The lake and the mountains make it a very nice area to photograph, especially with the fog that is often there. Unfortunately we arrived at a pretty busy time in the afternoon, but you can”t have all of the temples to yourself all of the time.