A Motorcycle Adventure in Search of Bali’s Mother Temple

Me and Frenchy spent an entire day zooming across central Bali in search of the islands most famous tourist attractions. We rented a motorcycle for just under 10 USD a day which made the trip very cheap. I hate motorcycles as I do not feel at all safe on them, especially on sketchy mountain roads. Frenchy had driven a motorcycle around his mountain village outside of Lyon since his youth so offered to drive and told me to hop on the back. We roared outside of Ubud stuck in manic traffic. I could touch the shoulders of the motorcyclist’s to my left and right…it was hot, smelly and I knew I was in for an interesting and adventurous day.

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We headed north through beautiful rolling rice paddy fields and zipped along slender “practically one way” zig zagging mountain side roads. Frenchy clearly loved to drive like a professional motorcyclist. His need for speed made me puke in my mouth a few times. Hail Mary Full of Grace…

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Our first stop was Pura Besakih, Bali’s Hindu Mother Temple. With a photogenic location, 1000 meters up the flanks of Gunung Agung, Pura Besakih is actually a complex of 35 separate, but related, religious structures, which only narrowly escaped destruction during the devastating eruption of Gungun Agung in 1963.

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The temple entrance is jam packed full of eager guides hoping you’ll hire them to teach you about the temples history. I find these guides to be a huge nuisance as I can never just enjoy the space. I relish in my solitary reflective camera time. We had arrived at the Mother Temple during an annual festival where families bring gifts for their dead relatives. The complex was full of families in full regalia marching along in procession with hands full.

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We hopped back on our bike and zoomed farther north up the side of Bali’s largest mountain. We spent a good amount of time clambering our way up a street road which flattened out onto a beautiful plateau overlooking Danau (Lake) Batur. It was now overcast and I could see thunderclouds across the lake and a thick shower of rain whisking itself toward the small town of Penelokan (where we were headed). We hopped back on our motorcycle as it started to pitter patter. My eyelashes filled with fresh rain water as we bolted down a thick rain forest.

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Once at the base of the lake there is a touristy boardwalk. The views of the surrounding mountain and volcano are stunning. We could see a sheet of rain slowly approaching so quickly found a packed (and covered) street stand filled with locals. We munched on chicken satay skewers and an odd little bowl of herbal soup. I smiled at the locals as they gobbled up their grub and stared at me. It appeared as though the rain would never end. I sort of had to laugh at our predicament. We were clearly going to get soaked today. I screamed into the sky and danced around in the rain. The locals thought I was hilarious, they were probably thinking I was a white foreigner gone mad. I was soaking wet in warm fresh tropical rain water.

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We jumped onto our bike soaking wet and hopped back onto the main road. I had to squint my eyes in order to avoid having the rain sting my eyes. Heading south back to Ubud we drove down the islands artistic corridor. There are literally hundreds of artists who live on this stretch of road. It is here where the hundreds of hand-made crafts are made (and then sold in the Ubud market and antique stores).

An hour before we arrived back in Ubud the rain had let up and the sun was starting to peak itself through the grey. Our last stop was at another one of Bali’s iconic stops. The islands most ancient and famous rice terraces are located just a few minutes drive outside of the city in a beautiful lush green rolling valley.

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Fingers dripping wet, I was ever so excited to get back to jump off our motorcycle. I hopped in the shower and rubbed the mud off my shins…dried off, threw on some fresh cloths and spent the evening gorging on one of the islands most famous specialties: Babi Gulung (Suckling Pig). I will never forget watching one of the cooks remove half of the pigs skin all in one glorious piece of salty crispy deliciousness!

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