Dolphins & Disneyfication

Many people go to Lovina Beach in Bali for just one reason: to see the dolphins at sunrise. I will admit that this was a major draw for the two of us when we were choosing our Bali destination. But when we headed out to meet our captain at six a.m. on Monday morning, we were told that it was too windy for a boat trip. Scratch sunrise. Fortunately, the winds calmed and we were able to go out an hour later, which was just fine.

All of the dolphin-watching boats look pretty much like this (in shape and size, if not color):

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Running on powerboat motors, the boats head for deeper ocean water for about twenty minutes …

… and then they join a long line of other boats all waiting for the same thing: a dolphin sighting.

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As with anything involving nature-spotting, this involves a lot of sitting around. You wait, and then your captain moves your boat in what seems to be a new, randomly-selected direction (no one has radios or anything else that might facilitate communication among boats), and then you wait some more. Our captain told us that we were “not lucky,” because we really didn’t see much. But then someone spotted movement in the water, and for a few minutes, everything grew very exciting.

So while we didn’t have the luckiest morning, we were pleased to have seen a few dolphins and to have had lovely two hours out on the water. And for wildlife sightings, we were also charmed to find a kitten asleep on a Hindu altar during our walk home (we apologized for wakening it).

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Much of the rest of our day was spent in transit, first from Bali’s north coast up, up, up over the mountains and down to the airport near the island’s southern tip, and then back to Singapore. We made two notable stops along the way in our journey. The first was at Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, a famous temple complex on Lake Bratan.

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This set of temples, built in the early 1600s, is used for offerings to the goddess of the lake, Dewi Danu (though Wikipedia tells me that the taller meru tower is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvati). With the mountains and the lake in the background, the towers are quite stunning — there’s a reason that people flock here by the thousands.

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Two dragons guard the towers from a small island space of their own nearby:

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Another, more typical temple area sits just a few meters in from the lakeshore:

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And the temple came with these warnings:

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That particular prohibition against women who are menstruating has always made me angry. I won’t go into a diatribe about it here (though I’m tempted); suffice to say that I cannot imagine why the gods would possibly care so much about something that they themselves ostensibly created.

But the strange thing at Pura Ulun Danu Bratan wasn’t that sign — it was the fact that someone has taken this amazing temple complex and turned it into some kind of odd theme park, with kitschy additions à la a Florida roadside attraction circa 1952. For starters, there are strange statues all over the place. They have bizarre animal topiaries …

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… and animals that look like they are about to attack unsuspecting visitors …

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… and animals you can sit on …

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… and vegetables!

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Who wants vegetable statues (and why I did a find a perfectly good-looking eggplant resting on top of the fake cabbage)?

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They even had Sponge Bob!!! Why???

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Oh, you can also rent a pink, yellow, or purple duck paddle boat and ride around the temple on the lake…

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… and the temple organization had recently hosted some kind of an art show, from which this Eco-Pod-Home thing was still standing:

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Prescott found these oddities depressing, but I was cheerfully amused.

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The final stop on our drive was at Tauman Nali Restaurant in the town of Canggu, where we stopped for lunch. I highly recommend the vegetarian nasi goreng — it tastes just like what my grandmother used to make, minus the ham — and the pink drink (some sort of a watermelon/lime juice concoction). But while the food was excellent, it wasn’t the centerpiece; the best thing here was the space. It was green and lush…

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… and the the owner had imported architectural elements from Java and incorporated them into buildings of his own design.

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He had also imported a few houses in their entirety and was working on restoring them.

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You never knew what you were going to stumble on next — it was fascinating.

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If you are in the area and want a meal (or a yoga class, or a hotel room), I recommend stopping in.

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