in International Travel

Temples, Caffeine, and Lightning Bolts

The Muslims started their broadcasted praying at 4am, though instead of rolling over, we got up in the dark to have an initial breakfast of coffee and donuts with cheese on top. It’s about as good as it sounds – I’m guessing it’s a Dutch thing. The van driver took us down the hill to the Manohara Borobudur, a hotel where we met Heru, our guide for our tour of Borobudur.

Heru handed out flashlights and walked us up to the massive, deconsecrated Buddhist temple, built in 9th century and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s considered to be the largest Buddhist monument in the world and is topped with 504 images (statues) of Buddha, each surrounded by a stupa-like enclosure that took 3 generations to complete. On the lower levels, the stone walls are etched with carvings of select stories/teachings of Buddha. Apparently certain levels of the monument sink when it rains.

imageThe group climbed the 150 stairs to join other tourists (oh yeah, forgot about them) to greet the day. Sunrise was delayed due to clouds on the horizon; we were particularly entertained by the loud Australians blathering on about how it was too early to do yoga. The sun finally rose and we snapped a few dozen photos of the temple and surrounding valleys basked in the new light. Once satisfied, Heru gave us a tour of the grounds. His English was the best of any guide we’ve had so far; he certainly enjoyed rolling every R. At the end, we were taken back to the hotel for snacks of coffee, fried banana and some ricey coconut thing. The Australians arrived, so we departed for the villa.

imageOn the way back, the driver diverted us to the Pawon Temple, another smaller Buddhist temple. Next door was a Kopi Luwak establishment, where we stopped to enjoy a tasting of fresh coffee made from the seeds of beans found in the feces of the Asian Palm civet. We even got to meet the civet, who was not at all interested in meeting us. We vanned over to yet another Buddhist temple, the Mendut Temple, built earlier than Borobudur in the 9th century.

Once again, we were met in the car park by villa staff with cool towels. Breakfast was fantastic: spicy fried rice with a fried egg on top, a type of pancakes that were much like crumpets, but ricier, and more coffee and cheese donuts.

Some of us took naps, the others relaxed in the upstairs living room for the rest of the morning. It was a much nicer day with a great breeze and even greater visibility. We packed up, showered, attempted lunch, and got back in the van again to head towards the airport.

On the way there, we had time to kill and the impending rain wasn’t enough of a deterrent, so we stopped at , a cropping of Hindu and Buddhist temples. We took selfies with tourists and raced through the grounds, but we got caught in another downpour. Fortunately we had rain jackets this time.

We occupied the entire 3×3 row 40, with oddly empty seats between each of us, just behind the wings. There was moderate turbulence throughout the flight, occasionally getting uncomfortably severe. As we were heading north to avoid the inclimate weather, I noticed Adam and Chris, who were sitting on the other side of the aisle, were searching for something on the floor. As soon as I looked over, a super-bright flash appeared – lightning had struck the tip of the wing, and was followed immediately by loud thunder and passenger cries! The cabin lights instantly came on in the cabin, and Dan noticed the infotainment units had restarted, but nothing else happened. None of us had ever been on a plane that had been struck before, so we weren’t sure if we were okay or not. A tense minute passed and we realized that we weren’t going to die. The plane wasn’t acting strange nor were we turning around, so we started to settle down.

I gritted my teeth, tensed up my abs, and kept on reading my book. We landed safely in Denpasar, deplaned, walked around the brand new domestic terminal to grab our baggage, and met our driver, Gede, outside for the hour ride inland to Ubud. The power of the buildings along the road flickered on and off several times, but apparently that’s perfectly normal. Not surprisingly, we witnessed three near-misses involving motorbikes.

When we arrived, Wayan was waiting for us with flashlights. Ketut took our bags away on a motorbike, one by one. We hiked up the hill in the dark about a quarter mile, the road narrowing until it was only a footpath. Upon arriving at Villa Santori, Wayan served us limeade and we settled in. This place was nice!

Dinner consisted of beer and peanuts, and we went to bed soon after – Bali was an hour later than Java. I thoroughly enjoyed my air conditioning, doors, and walls.