Sunday, December 20, 2015

Gitgit waterfalls, Bali, Indonesia

October 2015

Gitgit waterfalls is on the way from Pura Ulun Danu to Lovina. Situated in the hills of Northern Bali, it is one of the several waterfalls in the region. It is a three stage waterfall.

As we got down from our vehicle, our driver indicated that we could take a guide. But the charges mentioned were too high (300K IDR = Rs 1500). I felt that it should be easily possible to find the route to the falls and hence there is no need for a guide. As we started getting down, we realised that it was a good idea not to take the guide. The path indeed was very clear. There were also shops selling souvenir and drinks on the way!!

After walking down for 15-20 minutes, we reached the first waterfall. We had to take a slight detour to the left to reach the base of the waterfall. The water falls in two cascades forming a pool at the base. Ideal for swimming but the pool is deep!!

To reach the second and third waterfall, we had to further climb down. It takes about another 15 minutes.

It was afternoon and hot day and we were hungry. We were tired people when we climbed back the hill though completely satisfied with the falls!! 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Pura Ulun danu Bratan, the most photographed place in Bali

October 2015

A major water temple in Bali, it is located on the shores of lake Bratan surrounded by mountains. Situated at 4000 feet above sea level, the weather is generally cool. Normally the temple is surrounded by lake water. But during our visit, it was the last days of summer in Bali and the lake water had receded exposing the temple in full.

The image of this temple is printed on 50,000 Rp Indonesian currency!!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Rice terrace of Tegalalang, Bali

October 2015

The areas around Ubud are famous for rice terraces. Being a hilly area, people cultivate rice on the slope of the hills. This has now become tourist attraction among westerners. So much so that entry fees is now collected to enter this area. The Tegalalang main road is filled with vehicles creating traffic jams!!

For a person like me who comes from Malnad, the rice terraces do no evoke “wow” response but it is a nice place to visit. It is about 20-30 minutes drive from Ubud.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

An experience with Mumbai local train

On the way to Bera, I had some time in Mumbai before taking the train. Last time I visited Mumbai was 29 years back (Ignoring transit at airport), so I decided to spend this time visiting some places. I went to Gateway of India and enjoyed sunset at Marine drive. It was then time to go to Bandra terminus to catch the train to Bera.

Gateway of India
The easiest option was to take a taxi but I gave a thought of commuting in Mumbai local train. With some browsing I found that local train runs between Church gate and Bandra. I was not sure whether it was a good idea to use local train as I had luggage to carry with. Mumbai local trains are famous for its crowds. But anyway I decided to give it a try.

I was taken a bit aback by the crowd at the station. Being evening peak hour, it was not surprising!! I looked for the place to buy tickets which I found easily. While there was a short queue at the counter, automatic ticket vending machine caught my attention. It was very simple. I need to chose the zone and the machine showed the price to pay. In my case it was ten rupees for the 15 km journey. Very cheap!! The minimum charge in BMTC must be higher than that!! It is required to have exact change and in my case it was not difficult. And I got the ticket. It was a 2nd class ticket and I was not sure whether you can get 1st class ticket from vending machine. I moved towards platform.

I was overwhelmed at the platform. Only train number was displayed which did not make any sense to me. Good thing about Mumbai is that there are people who help. I asked a policemen who promptly indicated that there are two types of train, fast and slow. He showed me the platform to stand for those trains. I chose to go on fast train.

The train had not yet arrived but there was quite a crowd. At one place, there were only ladies standing. It must be the place of ladies coach, I thought. I walked further and started waiting for the train. When train arrived people just jumped into the train. I could not be so agile with my luggage. I was still on the platform thinking my next step. I do not like crowds. A thought of going via taxi came to my head but I decided to ignore it and boarded the train.

All seats were fully occupied. I stood near the door after ensuring that Bandra platform lies on that side. It was also convenient as I could place my luggage on the carrier next to it. 

Marine drive
I understood why the local train is so popular. It is the cheapest and the fastest mode to travel in Mumbai. For example, distance between Church Gate and Bandra was covered in 20-25 minutes. It would take more than an hour in peak traffic. I had a look at the kind of people who were travelling. There were middle class people and also from low income group. Also, I saw people busy with latest gadgets. So, it looks like it is the common mode of transport of most people in Mumbai (Except for elite). One has to be careful as the trains are also place for pickpocketers. 

The crowd which looked fine at the starting point of Church Gate became unbearable at Dadar. I could not move an inch. Few minutes before Bandra, fellow passengers reminded me to take luggage. “It will not be possible if you try just before getting down”, they told. It was so nice of them. Bandra is another busy station and I was asked to jump even before train cane to a complete halt. Else, I have to be ready to be pushed back inside by people entering in. As i prepared to get down, there was already group of people barging in. I just managed to get down unscathed with my luggage!!

My destination was Bandra terminus which was about a km away. On coming out of station, I was shocked. I expected it to be posh but it was dark and shady. I dropped the plan to walk the remaining distance. It seemed BEST buses do not have a feeder service from railway stations. Autos had filled the void and were taking people on sharing basis. I got a seat next to the driver in a crowded auto who promptly dropped me at Bandra terminus. That ended my first experience with Mumbai local train.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Bera and its leopards

December 2015

In Pali district of Rajasthan lies a village Bera. Out of tourist circuit, this village is not known to many people. But it is home to 35-50 leopards who roam free in the area that is not declared as protected zone and is intercepted by villages and farms. This is something amazing where there are challenges to save wild animals even in National forests.

I came to know about this plane few months ago and I could find an opportunity to visit this place!!

Jawai Bandh dam near Bera
As I came out of the desolated Mori Bera railway station facing a dusty road, I wondered why the place is so fertile for leopards. It is the rocky terrain with bushes which forms a natural habitat for leopards. But prey is very limited and apart from few small specifies of animals, they have to rely on live stock and dogs. And as per local inputs, there has been no conflict between man and leopards. There is no also no instance of leopard attacking humans. This is surprising.

Leopards are in general hard to sight due to its shy and nocturnal nature. But in Bera, the chances of meeting them is relatively high. Information comes from villagers who indicate the presence of carnivorous. The “safari” is then limited to reaching the place and waiting for leopard to turn up. Photographing leopards is a great challenge as they appear during early morning or late evening when the light is low. 

In our six safaris, we saw six leopards out of which three were cubs. The sightings were impressive though they always appeared from a long distance.

Final words

Note that this area is not a tourist zone. It is suited for a wildlife enthusiast and not for a normal tourist. It is not a good place to visit with family as there is nothing else to see. The stay options are limited to expensive to super expensive resorts. But if you are a person who enjoys wildlife, Bera is the place to visit. it is not yet commercialised. And I do not think leopards will survive if it happens.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

An active volcano of Mount Batur at Kintamani, Bali

October 2015

Kintamani is an hour drive from Ubud. As you climb up the rad towards Kintamani, changes in weather is clearly felt. The temperature drops with greenery at every direction. At Kintamani, you are already at 5000 feet and it feels good if you are coming from hot and humid Bali lowlands.

Mount Batur and lake
The attraction of Kintamani is Mount Batur and Lake Batur. Mount Batur is an active volcano with the signs of its last eruption in year 2000 is still visible.  Adjoining the mountain is Lake Batur, the widest in Bali.

Signs of volcanic eruptions from Mount Batur
Many restaurants are lined up along the road that offers nice view of the mountain. We had our lunch at one of the restaurants that had “vegetarian buffet”.

View of Mount Batur from restaurant

Trekking to Mount Batur is a popular activity. Trekkers normally start early in morning to reach the summit before sunrise. It takes about 2 hours to reach the top. It is convenient to stay in Kintamani if you are trying to climb the mountain. Else, you have to start very early (2AM!!) from your hotels in Ubud or Kuta. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Hidden beauty at Gunung Kawi, Bali

October 2015

This is an amazing place at the bottom of the valley with memorials cut out of the rock face. The statues carved are dedicated to the king Udayana and his family. It is believed to be constructed in 11th century.  

It is required to walk down more than 300 steps to get down the valley. The route goes along the rice fields to reach the bottom of the valley. Here you reach the river Pakerisan river. The monuments are carved on either side of the river. The beauty of the place is enhanced by fountains and temples.

This place is about 30 minutes driver from Ubud. Since we went during mid day, it was quite a walk in hot sun especially while climbing up!!

Chaya and Tanu sipping coconut water to escape from heat!!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Goa Gajah, Bali

October 2015

The name has nothing to do with our “Goa”. It simply means Elephant cave!! It is a small cave with some simple carvings. Interestingly, there were no elephants in Bali. The ones seen are imported from outside.

Goa Gajah entrance
It is very near to the town of Ubud. From parking lot you need to walk down for a short distance to reach the cave.

Temple complex seen while climbing down to the cave
Sarong, the traditional dress is required to enter into the complex. Either you can purchase (as it is needed for other temples also) or get it free for rental as part of entrance ticket.

With Tanushree wearing Sarong

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tanah lot, a beautiful sea temple in Bali

October 2015

Tanah Lot is one of the sea temples in Bali. Located on an offshore rock, it is a great tourist attraction due to its location. People wrong during sunset time resulting in a fair like atmosphere.

There are many vantage points to view sunset. The one I shot was not at Tanah Lot but at the nearby temple Pura Batu Bolong.

Interestingly, we came to know that the part of the rock is artificial. It is because that the rock started to crumble few decades ago and had to be restored with artificial rock support!! Standing in front of the temple, it is hard to believe that there is an artificial “thingy” in it.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Snoqualmie falls in Washington, USA

7th November 2015

Snoqualmie falls is a 270 ft waterfall about an hour drive from Seattle. 

My first visit to this waterfall ended in an anti climax. It was my last day in US and I wanted to visit this falls. Leaving from Office in the evening, I directly drove to the falls. But I missed freeway “exit” twice and ended up in Seattle downtown. Strange things do happen!! 

Sometimes life gives another opportunity. I was in Seattle again after a month.  This time I drove to falls without missing route. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Taman Ayun - A glimpse of Balinese temple architecture

October 2015

"Taman Ayun" literally translates as beautiful garden. As name suggests, it is situated in a nice park!! Constructed by Raja of Mengwi in 1634, this is known as family temple of Rajas.

It is about half an hour drive from the tourist places of Kuta and Ubud.

A nice place for photography under good lighting conditions!!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bali surfing experience

October 2015

Surfing is one of the popular water activity in Western world. But it is not a famous sport in India. At least I haven’t seen any activity in Indian beeches. Either the waves are not good for surfing or there is not much interest in that sport. But I was always excited on seeing surfing videos on Television and internet. When I started research on Bali, I came to know that it is famous for surfing. An activity to learn surfing was added in the itinerary of Bali.

With surfing instructor
There are many surfing classes in Kuta area of Bali. I took 2 hour course at Legian beach near Kuta. The first lesson was on the sand. I was taught about the techniques of lying down and then getting up on the surf board. Then the instructor took me to the sea. I was bit scared when I had to face high waves but soon got used to it. Very soon I understood that surfing is not an easy game!! It takes quite some effort to synchronise with the waves and balance the board. Initial few times, I just fell down from the board.

Gradually the success rate increased and I started enjoying the sport. It helps a bit if you know Surya Namaskar. The process from lying down to getting up the surf board resembles Surya Namaskar!! 

It is good to know bit of swimming if you want to surf as you enter into sea without life jacket.

Though I planned to surf for 2 hours, I was tired by 1.5 hours. It is not easy. You need to take the surf board from the shore to waters against the wave and do “Surya Namaskar” while surfing to the shore. And this happens in hot sun. A lot of energy is spent in this process. But it had lot of fun.

My wife took a video of surfing from the beach. It is a not a dramatic one but good enough for me!!

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Padang Padang beach, Bali

October 2015

It is a very small but amazingly beautiful beach. Though visible from the main road, we had to get down some distance through a narrow rocky path to reach the beach.

The beach is quite rough but is very famous among surfers.

Visit to this beach can be combined with Uluwatu Temple. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Uluwatu Temple, Bali, Indonesia

October 2015

Uluwatu Temple is one of the nine directional temples in Bali. More than the temple, it is its location that attracts people. Situated at the edge of a cliff overlooking Indian ocean, it offers majestic views.

Visiting Temple in Bali requires you to wear “Sarong”, the traditional dress. If you are visiting lot of temples, it is better to buy one rather than renting it at every temple. But in Uluwatu, Sarong rental was included in the ticket.

Many vista points are constructed to provide views of the temple.

The main issue in the temple are the monkeys. They not only snatch food items but also sun glasses and bags!! And you can get it back by trading with food!!!! They look scary and it is better to remain at a safe distance from them.

In Bali, people are allowed inside temple only for worshipping and not for general visit. Else, you can only see the temple from outside. 

Sunset at Legian beach, Bali

It is a nice place to visit during sunset. It can be combined with Kecak dance and visit to Jimbaran if you like seafood.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Geger beach at Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia

October 2015

Nusa Dua is an upmarket area in Bali with great beaches and water sport activities. Our interest was to see beaches with blue waters and white sand. But most of the beaches are privately owned by resorts. Geger beach was one exception where visitors can enter by paying entry fee. Nusa Dua is about 30 minutes drive from Kuta in South Bali.

A nice beach very good for playing and swimming.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Interesting facts about Bali

As I roamed through Bali with my family, I observed some interesting facts.
  • Bali is one of the 17,000+ islands in Indonesia.
  • Population of Bali is about four million.
  • 1 Indian Rupee ~= 200 Indonedian Rupiah. Hence most transactions are in terms of thousands and lakhs.
  • The size of Bali is about 144km from east to west and 80 km south to north. 
  • It is logically split into the following regions
    • South Bali - Most visited area by tourists with great surfing. Important places: Kuta, Nusa Dua, Uluwatu temple, Tanah Lot temple
    • Central Bali - Mountain region with lot of arts and Temples. Important places: Ubud, Taman Ayun, Bedugul, Rice terraces
    • West Bali - Least visited by tourists. 
    • North Bali - Famous for black sand beaches like Lovina.
    • East Bali - Beautiful coastal villages with active volcano.
  • While Indonesia is muslim majority nation, Bali has 90% Hindu population.
  • Balinese are extremely religious people.
  • Temples are found everywhere in Bali.
  • Hinduism followed in Bali is significantly different from India.
  • Caste system though present has not created havoc. Inter caste marriage is common and not an issue. Indians still have a long way to go.
  • Concept of arranged marriage is not prevalent in Bali.
  • Ramayana and Mahabharata are extremely popular in Bali. It is common to see huge statues of events from these epics.
  • Bali Hindus believe in one God (Called Achintya). Rest are all incarnations from Achintya.
  • Almost all Balinese eat meat.
  • Nyepi is a special day in Bali where everyone stays indoors and keep silent for the entire day. Even flights do not land or take off on that day!!
Ulun Danu Temple at Bali

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Indonesian visa for Indians - good news!!

October 2015

Indonesia had a policy of visa waiver for many countries which basically meant that the travellers from those countries can enter Indonesia without any visa. India was not in that list notwithstanding the good ties India had with Indonesia. Indians had to get visa on arrival at the airport by paying 35$.

We were pleasantly surprised at Denpasar Airport in Bali when we were told that India is also in “visa waiver” list. That was amazing!! We crossed the immigration in a jiffy. A great start to our Bali trip!!

Besakih Temple at Bali, Indonesia

Thursday, October 15, 2015

MGR waterfalls

18 September 2015

When I visited my native for “Ganesha Chaturthi”, it was decided that all members of our family must go for a day trip. It had been a long time since we had gone for an outing together. There were many places to choose but the condition was that it should not be a visited earlier by other people in the group!! MGR waterfalls looked a good fit. None of us had seen and it was not known to few people. The group dynamic had to be taken into account as we had people from 3 years to 63 years old, the place had to be easily reached.

So, thirteen of us started towards MGR waterfalls. It was not difficult to find the village even though it was remotely located. Locals helped a lot. One km before the falls was a downhill stretch where we decided to stop the vehicle and walk for rest of the distance. The weather was pleasant with drizzling rains. People walked in enthusiasm.  There was pandemonium at a place where leeches thrived but the situation was brought to control by spraying powdered salt. Luckily they were seen only at one spot.

After about 30 minutes of walking, we reached MGR waterfalls. From the top we could see the side view of the falls. So I got down into the stream to get the front view. The slippery boulders made the task difficult.

At the top of the falls was some place where we could get into water safely. Kids played there for some time.

And a group picture taken by me.

Final words

The name of the falls has no relation with the former chief minister of Tamilnadu!! 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

An exploratory trek to NGD waterfalls

September 2015

One way to explore Western Ghats is to look at the source of the river!! A year ago I had visited a village at the foothills of Western Ghats. There flowed a stream and for some reason I tried to look at its source (in the map!!). During this journey I found that the stream formed a huge waterfall. The falls was not known much in the internet world.

Superb!! A little bit of more research revealed that my Udupi friends had already explored this waterfall. Knowing them it was not a surprise.  After receiving some details about this waterfall, I put this in my backlog.

A small pond with clear water
Last week when I visited my native place for Ganesha Chaturthi, I had some time which I utilized to explore this waterfall. I was joined by my brother and my cousins.

Walking along the village road

A small road deviated from the state highway. We drove for few km on this road to reach where a mud road deviated. It was time to park my vehicle and start walking. We met a person whom we asked for direction. His response was simple. “Just follow this mud track and just take left turn wherever you find deviation”. No right-left-right-right-left concept!!

Crossing paddy fields
We followed the directions as mentioned by the villager and walked for about 45 minutes to reach the last house. From here we had to cross the paddy fields to reach a small stream. The sound of the waterfalls was clearly heard which energized us. After crossing the stream we entered into a leech infested forest. The trail was clearly visible and we just ran on it to escape from leeches.

After 5 minutes the falls made dramatic appearance.  What a sight!! It was a huge two step falls. The undergrowth in front of us prevented from getting the complete view of the falls. We were at the edge of the valley. I moved down a bit on that slippery path to get a better view. The image of valley, waterfall, forests and hills was simply amazing.

The first step
It was hard to see the base of the falls. A small path seemed to go down the valley. It was so slippery that we did not dare to go down. All along the way, people had warned us not to get down into the valley. Post monsoon season would offer better condition to get down the valley though the volume of water would be significantly less.

Second stage of the falls
The feel of exploring place that is outside normal tourist circle is something to experience. Hope the place remains serene in the coming days and years.