With our friends joining us on their holiday and with limited time, we are going to experience the efficiency of having a local driver for the first time. While it turns out to be a lot of fun, our driver also ends up saving us some money as he bargains for us around Bali.
From Ubud, we pack up our bags and head to Tulamben with a few tourists stops along the way. One of our first stops is Tirtha Empul Temple. As we make our way inside the water temple, there are many locals praying outside and inside the holy water. We are invited to go into the water, but not having the proper attire, we decide to watch instead. As we observe, we see a couple going to each water spout and each time, they do a prayer with incents and then dip their heads in the water.
This temple is a fine example how beautiful the Balinese culture is. There is no question about their devotion to their religion, but the beauty in the way they express their devotion is admirable. From the flowers used in their daily blessings, to the ornate temples that make the main part of their homes, to how graceful their customs are carried out, it makes me start to question how I can add some beauty in the things I do regularly.
Along our drive, whenever we see a street vendor, we make a stop. For just a few rupiahs, which translate to change for us, we can get some delicious chicken skewers and fish meatballs.
There are also many fruit stands filled with exotic fruits to try, but mangosteen is still my favorite. We roll up our tinted windows and our driver buys it for us at the local non-seasonal price of 40,000 IDR per kilo vs. the tourist price of 300,000 IDR per kilo. Sweet!
Our next visit brings us to a coffee farm. If you have not heard of Kopi Luwak, it is coffee that comes from the excrements of civet-like animals called Paradoxurus (or Luwaks). The story is that these small animals have a keen nose and will only eat the finest coffee beans. Since they cannot digest it, it comes out in their excrements and it is collected, washed, roasted and sold for a lot of money. We sample other various coffees and teas in addition to the Kopi Luwak. While I do not really taste a major difference, the others do and really like it. For a hefty price tag of $11 a cup, I’m going to stick to my regular coffee.
We arrive at the Mother Temple of Besakih. Our driver tells us what to say to avoid the absurd fee of hiring a “mandatory” guide. His suggestion works and straight into the temple we go. It is overwhelming at first since it is composed of many little temples. Our driver shows us his family temple from the entrance and we make sure that we do go inside any of the temples since we are not there for prayer. At the top of the hill, there is a larger temple with a great view of the area. It is wonderful to be able to see all this since it holds such high importance for the local people.
Later on the road, we are surrounded by many locals that are dressed up in ceremonial attire. We jump out of the car and follow the parade of people down a small road. The entire procession is breathtaking with many of the women carrying baskets on their heads filled with various fruits. I’m amazed how they can walk so casually with so much stuff on their head and still carry a big smile. The walk soon ends at a grassy area where everyone seems to be giving their offerings. Our driver explains to us this is an Odalan, a temple festival held for each temple on its anniversary.
There is a last request for some local Arak liquor. Our driver comes back with some bottles and score some free local palm wine. The Arak tastes a little like vodka so I am more a fan of the palm wine, which is lighter in my opinion.
We have seen so much in a short time and I give credit to our driver, Putra, for all this. He has truly enriched our experience with his kindness and sharing so much about his culture with us. Being educated in Indonesia and in the states, he can speak fluent English, so he comes highly recommended by world travelers.
Putra’s contact info:
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (find him on Facebook)
Mobile: +62 852 3809 2119
|What We Paid:||IDR||USD||Euro|
|– Driver in Bali||35,000/hour||4||2.85|
|– Goa Gajah, Elephant Temple||15,000/pp||1.75||1.20|
|– Tirtha Empul Temple, Water Temple||16,000/pp||1.85||1.30|
|– Mother Temple of Besakih||15,000/pp||1.75||1.20|
|– Mangosteen fruit||40,000/kilo||4.60||3.25|
|– Chicken Skewers (street food)||4,000||0.45||0.32|
|– Kopi Luwak at Amertha Yoga Coffee Farm||100,000/cup||11.50||8.10|
|– Arak liquor||8,000/bottle||0.90||0.65|