3 November 2022

A Month In Bali (4) - Sanur, Tegenungan Waterfall and Taman Ayun Temple

I was sad to be leaving Nusa Penida as it's so beautiful, but I had a limited number of days left so I had to keep moving. It takes about forty-five minutes on the fast boat to get to Sanur back on the main island. I booked the boat ticket via my homestay (this makes things so much easier but often it's a good idea to check with local tourist companies on the street) - it cost around £11 but it works out cheaper if you get a return. 

Sanur is mostly known for its beach, which is home to some great sunsets. It's a family friendly town with quite a few resorts. I'd read that there wasn't a huge amount to see there so my plan was to have a bit of a rest and use it as a base to see more of the area further north between Sanur and Ubud that I hadn't seen previously. I decided to stay in a hotel here to have a bit more comfort; even though homestays are amazing and great value I just wanted to be sure that I had hot water and a TV for a couple of days would be nice. I stayed at Puri Sading Hotel which is just off the main street near the restaurants and five minutes from the beach. I highly recommend Soya, the Japanese restaurant across the road! The staff are lovely and the pool area is relaxing, I didn't really leave much for two days to be honest as I was so tired! I was also pretty upset by the animal situation here and needed a couple of days of not seeing strays. 

The power of Tegenungan, Taman Ayun, traditional costume and the bat cave!

Again here there are lots of taxi drivers scattered about selling day tours with a number of different stops. I went out for a walk down the main street and started chatting with a driver on the street who had pretty extensive brochures about places to visit. I would recommend to go through the homestay/hotel most of the time for tours as a solo female traveller for safety, but the hotel said they knew him so it seemed safe.  It can be risky going on ours alone, often drivers can be a bit inappropriate and suggestive which can be a bit uncomfortable. It's usually harmless, but it might be a good idea to find a group tour or use an app like Get Your Guide. I decided to visit Tegenungan Waterfall (15,000 IDR fee) and Taman Ayun Temple. This waterfall is one of the most popular in Bali, and is about twenty minutes drive from Ubud and 40 minutes from Sanur. 

Like many waterfalls there's a bit of a trek to the bottom, and past numerous shops, cafes and warungs built specifically for the tourists (my guide stayed in the cafe). On the way there's plenty of photo opportunities, with swings and heart-shaped seats offering great look out points. From the top you can see OMMA Bali, a day club with a pool directly overlooking the waterfall (unfortunately I didn't go).  At the bottom visitors have built lots of rock stacks which look impressive in photos. There are also so locals selling funny signs, such as Bad Boy and Grandpa I Love You. I didn't swim here as it was so busy, but if you go early you can probably swim relatively peacefully. There are toilets where you can get changed. 

At the waterfall

Our next stop was Taman Ayun Temple, a stunning temple and garden with water features (about thirty minutes from the waterfall) which is within a UNESCO World Heritage site. The central shrine is surrounded by a bright green pond dotted with waterlilies. Statues of gods and goddesses adorn the outer walls., alongside bright pink plants. It's a great place for some peace and contemplation. There's a museum on the right hand side filled with traditional ceremonial costumes and instruments. Across the road is another museum which tells the bloody story of the Dutch military intervention in Bali in 1849, when around 1,000 civilians were killed. 

Close by is the Pura Goa temple complex, which is home to a unique site. If you're scared of anything that flies, maybe avoid the bat cave - Goa Lawah. I was shocked to see a deep cave filled with rather large bats within the temple (the smell and noise was also shocking too). This is one of the six holiest places to worship in Bali and definitely worth a visit!

The family compound (with swastikas), meeting the family, making the penjor, a penjor at the waterfall

My driver insisted on taking me to his family compound, which I was a bit nervous about but after he didn't kill me for three hours I realised it was probably safe. The compound was huge with it's own temple (most family compounds are like this). In a lot of temples you will see what looks like a Nazi swastika. Adolf Hitler appropriated and reversed the symbol, which is actually a symbol of good fortune and is meant to ward off negative forces. The whole family lived there - I met his mother who must have been around 90, his dad sisters and brothers and his niece, a newborn. It was the day before the big ceremony, Galungan (June 8th this year - the date changes each year) which marks the light overcoming the dark. It's also a ceremony to honour ancestral spirits returning to visit their former homes. The family were all engaged in making a penjor, huge bamboo poles which you see all over the place - they are beautifully carved and include offerings which are suspended at the end. Each family creates their own individual style - they are so colourful and creative. The curved part represents Mount Agung, the straight part the river and the fruit and vegetables the earths bounty. 

As a vegan, I really do not like the sacrifice of animals in the Balinese ceremonies (my driver told me he'd killed one of their pigs the night before for the feast). He also showed me another pig in a sty which no doubt was up next, which made me feel sick. A lot of birds are kept in cages and someone told me that even dogs are used sometimes in "special" ceremonies in certain parts of the island, I really wish I'd stayed ignorant about that. I gave his sisters some perfume that I had on me and they were so excited! 

After some traditional food he drove me back to my hotel and tried to arrange to take me to Canggu the next day, but I got the feeling he was trying to charge too much and arranged a cheaper taxi through the hotel. I finally learned about Gojek, the taxi app which was way cheaper than getting a driver (better for going from place to place, but a driver is best if you're doing a day tour as they also act as your guide).

The fifth and final post of this series is next, where I share about my time in Canggu, Seminyak and unexpectedly, Amed. 

See you there! 

Debbie x 

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