Monday, 12 August 1996
Lake Bratan, Bali, Indonesia
Lake Bratan from Botanical Gardens
(Lake Bratan, Bali, Indonesia)

Sitting by the shores of Lake Bratan watching the sunlight slowly fade around the idyllic temple of Pura Ulun Bratan was when we first started to realise we had arrived in paradise. Anna and I had touched down in Denpasar Bali's touristy capital the day before. That morning we had jumped on one of the islands many Bemo's, a mini-van converted into a bus which you attempt to pack as many people into as possible. It was Anna and I's first trip outside of Europe together and we were fairly new to it all. Under many different names collectivos, songthahews etc. bemos are common to many developing countries. However the shock of first getting in one and realising there is no fixed departure time and waiting for it to fill up is probably most westerners first realisation that public transport in the west is quite unique.

Pura Ulun Bratan
(Lake Bratan, Bali, Indonesia)

Once checked into our hotel we went to visit Bali's botanical gardens above the shores of Lake Bratan. These were fairly pleasant with great views of the 1200m high volcano crater lake. Following this we descended to the shores of the lake to visit Pura Ulun Bratan. Bali is a Hindu Island and has an amazing number of Pura's, you could literally spend your whole holiday on the island visiting temples and only see a fraction of them. Many of them are in exotic locations and Pura Ulun Bratan is one of the two holiest water temples on the Island, set as it is just on a peninsula by the side of the lake with a small satellite temple actually on an island just further out.

Tuesday, 13 August 1996
Lovina Beach, Bali, Indonesia
Outrigger Canoes
(Lovina Beach, Bali, Indonesia)

The next morning we set off for Lovina beach in another bemo and got our next lesson in another third world phenomena, the "angel gear" or coasting down hills with your engine off in neutral. Its great for the environment but not so good for your nerves or your vans brakes. Lovina Beach itself was very picturesque, a black sand beach with tropical palms and covered in the locals fishing boats which all had outriggers. We soon found our hotel and sat relaxing by the pool.

Jon Kelly and Dive Class
(Lovina Beach, Bali, Indonesia)

The main reason we had come to Bali was to learn to dive. So we spent Wednesday studying in the classroom and pool. Our first two actual dives were on Thursday, just training dives on the reef just off the beach. This included various exercises such as taking your mask off underwater, a process that scares Anna to this day. Finally the big day came on Friday and we did our first actual dive trip, out to Menjagan Island  Nature reserve. I think as a first dive this really spoilt us for life as on first descending we looked up to see two Manta rays passing overhead - a scene which to this day we have never experienced again.

As well as the actual diving we had quite a lot of fun with our instructor Jon Kelly and the rest of the group. Jon was a very chilled out American who alluded to a very corporate former life which he abandoned to become a dive instructor and live in a palm hut on the beach. We hung out most nights with the rest of the group and once qualified we were quite sad to say goodbye to everyone.

Saturday, 17 August 1996
Gunung Batur, Bali, Indonesia
Lake Batur
(Gunung Batur, Bali, Indonesia)

After a late start we spent most of the day negotiating Bemo's to go to Lake Batur in the East of the island. This Lake is a caldera of the still active Gunung Batur  that we were aiming to climb. We finally got there in the late afternoon just at the golden glow of the sun was picked out the mountain on the other side of the lake. We found a guide for the next day, went for a short walk, had dinner and retired to our less than salubrious accommodation for an early night. I had to kill a massive cockroach that was crawling around in the shower.

Sunday, 18 August 1996
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Lombok and Rinjani from Crater Rim
(Gunung Batur, Bali, Indonesia)

Its never pleasant being woken up at 2am in the morning however the promise of seeing the sun rise over Bali from the top of a volcano managed to make us a little more accommodating. We stumbled out of the village and by the light of a fairly inadequate torch started ascending the basalt path up the cone. There were fortunately several other startled westerners so by the lights of each others torches we were able to find our way up to the crater rim without killing ourselves.

Volcano Vents
(Gunung Batur, Bali, Indonesia)

Up at the rim the view was spectacular. Way above the clouds we could see the sun rising over the peak of Mount Rinjani on neighbouring Lombok. The colours were spectacular. I attempted to take some decent photographs, but all too quickly the sun rose and we found ourselves in a moon like landscape surrounding by early morning mist. Unfortunately our guide, who really spoke no English, had a programme to stick to and immediately took us to a volcano vent where he proceeded to cook a breakfast of hot bananas for us. We somewhat avoided the breakfast so managed to have a bit of a look round the cater before having to descend.

View from Pura
(Besakih, Bali, Indonesia)

Our next bemo destination was Pura Besakih , the holiest of Bali's temples on the foot of Gunung Agung the highest volcano on the island. It is a truly an amazing complex, set on the ridges of the volcano its main platform overlooks the surrounding jungle. To add to the atmosphere were a lot of locals visiting that day and many of the temple's statues were dressed in golden robes to celebrate a festival. We walked around for ac couple of hours before getting on a bus bound for Ubud.

Temple from Above
(Besakih, Bali, Indonesia)

Ubud  has built itself up over the course of the years as the cultural centre of Bali. Distance being short in Bali we had decided to use it as our base for the second half of our holiday and a bit of temple hopping. We found an excellent place to stay, a woman was renting out houses in the rice paddies on the outskirts of town, we took one with a first floor bedroom which looked out over the paddies and a verandah on which to spend the hot afternoons. We settled in and then went for dinner.

Monday, 19 August 1996
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Cafe Lotus
(Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)

We had decided that having dashed all over the place the previous day we would rest up for a day in Ubud. We spent the day pottering around Ubud's various cafe's and shops. We had a long lunch at the splendid Cafe Lotus, which is situated inside a temple Pura Saraswati whose central courtyard is a huge square pool overgrown with water lotus.

Tuesday, 20 August 1996
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Grotesque at Monkey Forest
(Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)

We were not a lot more adventurous the next day but managed to walk to the Monkey Forest  with its associated Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal, temple of death to the South of the town. Here the pictures truly speak for themselves, there was an excellent carved Naga rail and some very unusual grotesques featuring monkeys and other unidentifiable creatures. We checked out the real life monkeys as well.

Wednesday, 21 August 1996
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Sacred Island
(Pura Luhur Batukaru, Bali, Indonesia)

Temple hopping day. We had decided to head first to the interior of the island to the slopes of another volcano, Gunung Batakaru, to see Pura Luhur Batukaru buried deep in the jungle. This was magical as there were relatively few visitors and the main shrines were covered in creepers and flowers. To one side of the compound was a small lake with an island shrine in it which could only be accessed by priests using a platform with a system of pulleys. This temple was one of Bali's directional temples, this one being to guard against spirits coming from the west.

(Pura Tanah Lot, Bali, Indonesia)

It had taken much longer to bemo hop to the first temple than we had thought so by the time we got back down to the coast to see Pura Tanah Lot  it was far too late in the day. This temple is one of Bali's most photogenic, being perched on a rocky formation just off the Southern coast. It is also Bali's most tourist populated as swarms of people come up from the beaches of Kuta every evening to see the sunset. I managed to get a couple of average shots before the swarms of people got too much for us and we hopped back on a bemo to Ubud.

Thursday, 22 August 1996
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
(Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)

Again another rest day, we sat reading books on our verandah then went to visit a wood carvers village. The wood carvers were able to carve anything, ornate headboards, coffee tables etc. and for very cheap prices. The only hitch being it gets back to Europe and cracks due to the differences in humidity. We also walked around a bit and bought a necklace for Anna as well as a few carvings to take back to England.

Anna's 30th Birthday
(Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)

That night it was Anna's 30th birthday, so we had dinner at a nice restaurant with a terrace overlooking a small river. The highlight of the evening however was not the view. Massive geckos were attached to the beams on the ceiling of the restaurant and half way through the meal one became detached and landed on Anna's bare back. She screamed and leapt up immediately, the poor thing scampered off and all the waiters thought it hilarious and terribly lucky.

Friday, 23 August 1996
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Reluctantly we had to leave Bali that Friday. We had enjoyed ourselves immensely diving, temple hopping and generally just chilling out... so hoped to return one day.