Day #105 - Magnificent Monuments & Mischievous Monkeys

Today we ventured out of the hotel to explore the southern peninsula of Bali, the Bukit Peninsula. We had hired a tour guide and driver for the day to take us around. As decadent as this sounds, at £50 for eight hours, it was a no-brainer decision, especially since navigating the roads around here is challenging both in terms of no road signs, but also a very different way of driving!
We were collected from the hotel by our guide, Surya who led us to a very nice air conditioned SUV with our driver for the day (who's name we can't remember!). 
Our first destination was the Garden of Hope on Peninsula Island - yes a peninsula on a peninsula!  The serene ambiance and panoramic vistas on the island was a wonderful start to our journey in exploring the beauty of Bali's coastal marvels. The Garden of Hope itself, was an international collaboration and conservation project.
The main attraction and what we had come to see was the water blow. Large waves  continually crash against the jagged limestone edges of the cliff and a narrowing crag below the cliff face channels water into a surge up to 30 meters high, resulting, in giant, irregular splashes of wave that can reach several meters high. Quite spectacular. 
Due to a combination of heat (we both were already suffering from the morning's heat) and a miscommunication, we didn't actually get to the water blow itself! We did see however, a lovely coastline and a temple perched on the craggy rock. However, the wonders of YouTube mean we can all enjoy the water blow without getting wet! 
Next up was the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park.  his expansive park is dedicated to showcasing traditional Balinese art, culture, and spirituality. At its heart stands the iconic Garuda Wisnu Kencana statue, a colossal representation of the Hindu god Vishnu riding the mythical bird Garuda.
The whole area is an old limestone quarry that has been repurposed to become a tourist attraction to help regenerate the area. We weren't quite ready for what an impressive, but at the same time, odd, attraction this was. 
The statue itself is impressive, make no mistake. Standing at 121 meters (397 feet) from the ground level to the top of the statue's crown, it comprises approximately 3,000 tons of copper and brass material. The project took several years to complete. The initial concept and construction began in the 1990s, with various delays due to funding and technical challenges. It eventually opened in September 2018. The blurb told us it is the world's fourth tallest statue. However, depending on how you measure it and other structures, it places anywhere from the second tallest to the seventeenth - all depends on the list you're reading! 
James and I took the tour which takes you up into the statue. We started with an educational animation about the Hindu folklore and beliefs that are relevant to the statue's deities. You can view the story of Vishnu and Garuda on YouTube if you like. For the purposes of the statue, Vishnu, the preserver of the universe in Hinduism, sits majestically atop Garuda, representing his power and divine nature. Garuda, himself a powerful mythical bird, symbolizes knowledge, freedom, and loyalty. Together, they embody the balance between earthly and spiritual realms.
During our tour, we were shown the evolution of the project and the various design stages it went through, how it was constructed and the materials used (the crown isn't made of gold, as some say - just yellow mosaic tiles) and a glimpse at the interior steel structure (via a glass floor if you were feeling brave!).
The rest of the former quarry around the statue is used as a cultural centre with some other notable statues, impressive vistas and performance spaces, all mingled among tall limestone towers left over from the quarrying days. 
The next stop on our guided tour was lunch! We enjoyed a lovely bite to eat at family run restaurant right next to our next destination. I had pumpkin soup and a spicy chicken dish, while James had oxtail soup and a bacon carbonara. 
And then it was on to our third spectacular sight - Uluwatu Temple, a mystical Balinese Hindu temple perched atop a dramatic 70-meter cliff, overlooking the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean. Uluwatu is one of Bali's "sad kahyangan", six key temples believed to be spiritual pillars of the island. It's dedicated to Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa, the supreme God in Balinese Hinduism, in his manifestation as Rudra, the protector and destroyer. The temple complex includes several shrines and courtyards, each with its own story and purpose. 
Being a religious site, men and women are asked to wear a sarong, scarf or sash tied around the waist. We were also warned about the mischievous resident monkeys! Though entertaining, they can be sneaky and snatch belongings - in fact we did see one run off with a guy's mobile phone, while others were eager to see what was in unattended bags. 
Our last stop on our tour of the southern peninsula was an experience in the type of luxury holidaying Bali has become renowned for. Sundays Beach Club Bali – where "every day feels like a lazy Sunday afternoon spent in paradise". Imagine this: crystal-clear turquoise waters lap against pristine white sand, framed by dramatic limestone cliffs. You sink into a plush daybed, lulled by the gentle ocean breeze and the rhythmic crash of waves. Sunbeams dance on your skin as you sip a perfectly chilled cocktail, crafted with tropical fruits and local spirits. Yeah, it's a tough life! 
We spent a very pleasant couple of hours on our beach bean bag just enjoying the view and a pitcher of lovely sangria, as the sun began to set. We then had to head back up (using the dramatic cliff funicular lift car) and rejoin our guide and driver to return back to the hotel. 
It was a very enjoyable day, made more so by not having to worry about traffic, directions or how to navigate the hectic tourist attractions and confusing ticketing systems. I would definitely recommend hiring a guide if you find yourself in similar destinations. 

The icing on the cake was that when we returned to the room, our towel doggy from yesterday had been joined by a new companion. It was as if the hotel staff knew we had spent part of the day with the temple monkeys. 

For dinner, we continued the theme of decadence and ordered room service. Funny thing is, here it is no more expensive (or cheap) than eating at the hotel restaurants! So why not? And tonight's film was a quirky thriller that left us with more questions than answers, but still enjoyable.