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Aug 10, 2014

Bali Travelogue: Exploring Bali Famous Temples (11 - 15 Jan 2014)

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Welcome to Pura Tirta Empul

Bali is the land of Indonesian's Hindu minority. There are so many puras (Balinese Hindu temples) in Bali, leading to its nickname "the Island of a Thousand Puras". Among all the Thousand Puras, there are signature fews which you might be familiar with, e.g. Pura Luhur Uluwatu, Pura Tanah Lot.

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All dressed up to enter Pura Tirta Empul

Apart from Pura Luhur Uluwatu, there are other five supremely holy pura in Bali, namely Pura Besakih, Pura Lempuyang Luhur, Pura Goa Lawah, Pura Batukaru, and Pura Pusering Jagat. After doing some background research, I decided to pay a visit to Pura Tirta Empul, Pura Tanah Lot and Pura Luhur Uluwatu, with my tanner half.

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Candi bentar (split gate) of Pura Tirta Empul

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Kori agung (stone capped gate) of Pura Tirta Empul

There are 3 areas in a pura, i.e. jaba (outer courtyard), jaba tengah (middle courtyard) and jeroan (inner courtyard). To separate between these 3 areas, 2 types of gates are used; candi bentar separates jaba from jaba tengah while kori agung separates jeroan from jaba tengah.

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Exploring jaba tengah of Pura Tirta Empul

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One of the statues in Pura Tirta Empul

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Worshippers presenting their offerings at bale palesan (pavilion)

Pura Tirta Empul (also known as Tampak Siring Temple) is a holy spring water temple. This holy spring was created by the god Indra. Legends said that his forces had been poisoned by Mayadanawa, so he pierced the earth to create a fountain of immortality to revive them.

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Worshipper queuing for ritual bathing

Its holy water is said to have healing power; it can melt away bad influences and purify soul and mind. Worshippers first make their offerings at temple, before climbing into this main pool for ritual bathing.

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Behind the scene of free-of-charge sarongs

On the way out from Pura Tirta Empul, you are forced to pass through commercial shop lots selling local souvenirs, ranging from wood carvings to apparels. Most shops sell similar items but different pricing. Do hang around longer if you want to get yourself a good deal.

Total damage: Rp15,000 entrance fee per pax. Sarong is provided free-of-charge but donation is expected upon return of sarong.

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Pura Tanah Lot in a rainy morning

Pura Tanah Lot is one of the 7 sea temples around the Balinese coast, along with Pura Luhur Uluwatu. Being one of Bali's most sacred sea temples, it is dedicated to the guardian spirits of the sea. It sits on a large offshore rock which has been shaped continuously over the years by the ocean tide. The temple itself is said to be guarded from evil by the sea snakes that inhabit the caves below.

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Roaring waves against wet rocky surface

Tanah Lot means Land in the Sea in the Balinese Language. It is said to have been founded by the 16th-century priest Nirartha, one of the last priests to come to Bali from Java. The temple itself is not accessible to visitors, but magnificent views can be had from a variety of points nearby.

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Balinese taking shelter from morning rain

Unfortunately it was a rainy morning when we were here. My tanner half slipped and fell on the rocky surface. Bled he was. Luckily one of the tour guides nearby helped and asked us to go to the information counter for first aid. So be careful if you visit on rainy days.

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Water lily blossom at Tanah Lot

There was not much we could do, especially with an injured partner. On the way out of Pura Tanah Lot, we spotted this local shop called Agung Bali. Stayed we were in this establishment for a good hour or so, for the merchandises and food items are comparatively cheaper than those in Pura Tirta Empul.

Total damage: Rp 30,000 entrance fee per pax

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Pura Luhur Uluwatu overlooking Indian Ocean

Pura Luhur Uluwatu is one of the 7 sea temples around the Balinese coastal, along with Pura Tanah Lot. It is also one of nine directional temples meant to protect Bali from evil spirits. Ulu means head, Watu means stone. Therefore, Pura Luhur Uluwatu is a temple set on top of 80-metre small peninsula rock cliff protruding above Indian Ocean.

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Crashing waves and gushing wind

Uluwatu is a famous place for surfing enthusiasts. It is not hard to see why. Standing at the stairways to the temple, I can feel the ferocity. Despite so, deep in my heart, I felt a sense of tranquility. I wished I had more time here.

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The emo monkey at Pura Luhur Uluwatu

On one hand, I wished to stay longer. On another hand, I was disturbed by the sight of monkeys. Although these monkeys are believed to guard the temple from bad influence, they are known to be mischievous.

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Worse, a fierce monkey

That being said, not all monkeys are as scary as this. Along our way up to Pura Luhur Uluwatu, we walked past a few seemingly innocent ones and a rather careful one.

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Free hair blow at Pura Luhur Uluwatu

Total damage: Rp20,000 entrance fee per pax


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IN SUMMARY, my personal pura ranking (from highly recommended to least recommended) based on following criteria are:

  • Interesting Elements (discovery)
    • Pura Tirta Empul
    • Pura Luhur Uluwatu
    • Pura Tanah Lot
  • Postcard Element (scenery)
    • Pura Luhur Uluwatu
    • Pura Tanah Lot
    • Pura Tirta Empul
  • Zen Element (level of soul searching)
    • Pura Luhur Uluwatu
    • Pura Tanah Lot
    • Pura Tirta Empul
  • Shopping Element
    • Pura Tanah Lot
    • Pura Tirta Empul
    • Pura Luhur Uluwatu (not sighted)
  • Value For Money 
    • Pura Luhur Uluwatu
    • Pura Tirta Empul
    • Pura Tanah Lot
So which Puras have you decided on your visit?

Jul 15, 2014

Bali Travelogue: In Quest of the Best Babi Guling (11 - 15 Jan 2014)

If you have not tried Babi Guling in Bali, you haven't been there after all.
Being my virgin visit to the land of most Indonesian's Hindu minority, I have made up my mind to try as many Babi Guling as possible, in the quest of the best!

While Babi Guling might sounds new to us Malaysian, it is similar to our roasted suckling pig.
But what makes Babi Guling unique is the lawar (a mixture of vegetables, coconut, minced meat, mixed with rich herbs and spices).

Ibu Oka and Pak Malen are the two famous Babi Guling you would come across on the internet.
However, staying in Seminyak meant limited access to Ibu Oka (30km away from Pak Malen).
On a bright side, we now had easy access to Pak Malen and Warung Jambul!

After trying 3 different Babi Gulings, here are my personal ranking:
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#1 Babi Guling & Ayam Betutu @ Warung Jambul Babi Guling, Jln Plawa

Tucked along a small road nearby Bintang Supermarket (~15-min walk), we stumbled across this hidden gem as we nervously looked for breakfast options.
Small establishment with comfortable space to accommodate 10 pax; it was empty on Monday 9am.
We ordered two standard portions of Babi Guling and waited anxiously for it.

The portion was ~25% smaller than Pak Malen's but hey, it was Rp15,000 each (excluding Ayam Betutu)!
My nose strongly approved the aroma and I must say I was excited to dug into this unassuming pile of Babi Guling.

I did my very best to get small chunks and bits of every dish into my spoon and took it all in.
Every single element was perfectly complemented, be it the taste or texture; the crunchiness of pork cracker against the tenderly loving pork satay, the heavily spiced meat and gravy against the sour and mild spicy lawar.

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#1 Pork Soup @ Warung Jambul Babi Guling, Jln Plawa

Their ayam betutu is worth trying too.
Similar to the spices used for Babi Guling, it did share similar flavor and aroma; its tenderness was not something I would complain about.

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#2 Babi Guling @ Warung Nasi Babi Guling Men Agus, Jln Raya Canggu

Exactly 1 hour 30 min after we had Warung Jambul's Babi Guling for breakfast, our driver brought us to another warung for more Babi Guling in Badung (~15min drive from Warung Jambul Babi Guling).
Portion wise, Men Agus' was more generous than Warung Jambul's, with the price tag of ~Rp25,000 per portion.

Comparing to Warung Jambul's, Men Agus' version was second best.
Both warungs' lawar and pork satays were really good; while I would like my pork skin to be crispier, both couldn't deliver the ideal texture.
Why Men Agus' only deserves second in place?
Simple, I don't like pork innards.

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#3 Babi Guling @ Warung Babi Guling Pak Malen, Jln Sunset Rd 5

Although Babi Guling Pak Malen was the first meal I had in Bali, it did not share the same appeal as Warung Jambul's.
Portion was pretty generous at the price tag of ~Rp28,000 (not to mention lots of innards too!)
For a non innards lover like me, it is not hard to see why Pak Malen's Babi Guling is ranked #3.
Innards aside, the lawar was not compelling good; pork satay and pig skin was pretty similar to other two.

IN SUMMARY, my personal Babi Guling ranking (from highly recommended to least recommended) based on following criteria are:

  • Value for money
    • Warung Jambul
    • Men Agus
    • Pak Malen
  • Flavor & texture (for non innard lovers)
    • Warung Jambul
    • Men Agus
    • Pak Malen
  • Accessibility (for those who stay in Seminyak)
    • Warung Jambul / Pak Malen
    • Warung Jambul / Pak Malen
    • Men Agus

All the best in finding your perfect plate of Babi Guling in Bali :)

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