Goa Gajah the Elephant Cave _ Bali

Goa Gajah is located in the village of Bedulu on the edge of a cliff, about 2km southeast of Ubud on the road to Bedulu, Bali.

Despite the roads that lead to Goa Gajah being crazy chaotic the temple area is quite beautiful surrounded by shady green trees. The place is an archaeological site of significant historical value that makes it a special place to visit. The complex dates back to the 11th century, built as a spiritual place for meditation.

The Goa Gajah has a relic-filled courtyard, rock-wall carvings, a central meditational cave, bathing pools, and fountains. Goa Gajah is carved into a rock face and you enter through the cavernous mouth of a demon. 

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Don’t expect to see any elephants around. The name ‘Elephant Cave’ probably comes from the Petenu River, which was once called Elephant River.

How to get there: the best way is to rent a scooter (~Rp.60,000 $4 day) the traffic between Ubud and Bedulo is quite heavy but is a short distance.

Entrance Fee: Rp15,000/ adult ($1) and Rp.2,000 ($0.13) to park your scooter.

Dress Code: Sarong is required to enter the temple, and can be borrowed from the temple’s entrance for free.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Travelling light – Convertible Travel Clothes

The big question here is how to travel light and avoid fast fashion?

The fashion industry is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gases that are overheating the planet. Not to talk about the endless piling up in landfill sites, water and air pollution.

It’s our job as consumers to demand the reduction of pollution, longer life for garments and a ban on dumping clothes in the landfill. But harder than that is to change our mindset, become comfortable with simplicity and separate the “want” from the “need” in our life.

Packing Like a Pro and Traveling Light

As an independent traveller, that travels for long periods and moves around quite a lot, the worst thing is to have heavy luggage and bags to carry around. So I had to learn really early how to minimise costs and how to efficiently pack.

To keep in mind when packing:

  • Have a good, comfortable and light bag.
  • Invest in quality gear.
  • Pack the must-haves (everything you absolutely need).
  • Multi-purpose everything.
  • Pack 1 week’s worth of clothing, focussing in versatility.

Travelling has taught me a lot about minimalism but is not enough being a pro at packing we definitely should buy less, better quality, shop locally, buy second hand, fix and restyle our clothes.

One of the best things I came across lately was convertible travel clothing, I can’t say that there are lots of options to choose from but definitely there are some nice projects out there. I personally tried the Travel Dress from Kameleon rose.

Convertible travel clothing

This dress is just 1 piece of clothing that you can make into 20 different outfits just by changing the way you dress it. I know its such a good idea…

You can use it as a dress, skirt, pants or even as a blouse.. can you believe it… I didn’t so I had to try myself all 20 outfits. I didn’t like them all, but if find 5 that really fits you, well its already a big win.

But if that wasn’t good enough is made from quick drying, non-creasing, breathable fabric that packs up small (really small) for travel.

I find it quite versatile so it goes always with me, and to tell the truth, you really don’t need that much else 🙂  The dress comes with an attached elastic band so you can roll it and snap the band around it.

The fabric they use is ultra soft, made of sustainable polyester material, ethically produced in Madagascar and Mauritius.

Do you travel light?  What are your best packing tips?  If you think this travel dress would be a good fit for your packing list you can get a discount with me! Go to the Kameleon Rose website and save 10% by using the code cookthebeans10 when you check out.

Yogyakarta’s street art

Yogyakarta, or Jogja, is a hub for culture and arts in Indonesia, and hands down one of my favourite cities in Indonesia. 

First, because it’s full of art, culture, music, great vegan food, friendly people and has a great vibe that I found hard to find elsewhere in Indonesia.

Jogja is mostly known for its fine art scene, but not surprisingly, the cultural centre is also a bastion for street art activity. Here wherever you roam, you will stumble upon incredible street art that is brightening up streets and neighbourhoods.

Yogyakarta’s street art makes this charming city feel even more unique. You can find work of artists like Digie Sigit DS13 and Anti Tank Project. Both artists are using their painting to express their opinion on the social and political environment of their city.

The Jogja street art scene, along with the numerous contemporary art galleries in the city, makes Yogyakarta an absolute must-visit for any art lover travelling to Java.

To get a good overview of Yogyakarta’s street art scene, you will need at least a couple days in the city.

Have a look at the photos and get inspired by this small fraction of what Jogja has to offer, and let me know what you think of the street art in Yogyakarta.

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photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Malang a charming Javanese City

Malang is an East Javan city, that I went to just because I had time to spare, is not really a touristic destination, although Malang is where Surabaya’s residents would come to get away for a day or two. Malang moves at a more slow and enjoyable pace than the regional Capital, Surabaya.

Located 90 km south of Surabaya, the capital and largest city of East Java (Jawa Timur), Malang is the second largest city in Indonesia’s East Java province, but you don’t fell the  rush of a big city, Malang is a place that welcomes you with open arms.

Malang is one of those cities that a lot of people love, and it’s easy to understand why.

My suggestion is to skip all the attractions that you see mentioned on the main sites and the lonely planet guide, and head to the amazing neighbourhoods.

On top of that you can admire some historical Dutch buildings, and sample delicious vegan food, that can be found easily anywhere in the city from street stalls to restaurants.

There are a few traditional markets in Malang that you can visit, and also night market at Jalan Kyai Tamin but don’t expect much for the food here.

The colourful villages

If you walk away from the centre of the city you will be amazed in the most unexpected way. What a few years ago were slums are now vibrante and colourful places, full of life, wrapped in a magical vibe.

As part of a project to revitalize the area that was on the verge of eviction the riverside slum was transformed into a rainbow village.

Nowadays  virtually every corner has colour. This project was an initiative of some students from Muhammadiyah University of Malang. The students were inspired by the favelas of Rio.

You can easily spend a day exploring the different neighborhoods, immersing yourself in the narrow pathways, walking around and observing the surroundings.

Kampung Warna-Warni  – Indonesian for Village of Colour

The Jodipan village and the Kampung Tridi village are connected by a yellow bridge over a small river and are coloured with bright colours, on the opposite side of the highway is the village Kampung Biru Arema, named after the popular Malang football team where everything is coloured blue.

These colourful neighbourhoods are not in the foreigner’s tourist route yet, but they are really popular among locals. The rise of local tourism is spurred the local economy. The tourism is giving women (who are generally uneducated), an opportunity to make a living out of selling food, drinks and souvenirs.

Around Malang, you can find great Hindu and Buddhist ruins and beautiful pal-dapples rice and corn fields. Malang is surrounded by active volcanoes, mountains, rivers, and the rough Indian Ocean.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Sidemen, the hidden gem of Bali

What about starting by saying that Sidemen was my favorite place in Bali. This picturesque village took my breath away and become my number one place on the island. Despite the overdevelopment elsewhere this unique region in east Bali still has the feeling as if not much has changed.

IMG_9831Just try to picture hills and valleys covered in lush jungle as far as the eye can see, morning mist, blooming flowers, and a place that emanates tranquility and beauty and puts you in close contact with nature at its best, this is Sidemen.

Here you can relax, contemplate the views and do some hiking trails and paths through some delicious green scenery.

In opposition to most of  Bali island, that have too many backpackers, too much traffic and way to much noise and pollution Sidemen is just a piece of heaven. The small villages are surrounded by rice fields and agricultural land, small traditional Hindu temples, and rivers.

Here they grow rice, corn, tapioca, coffee, salak (snake fruit), chilies, and flowers that are used in the canang sari offerings.

Sideman is found about 90 minutes’ drive northeast of Ubud and is a fairly easy ride by motorbike.

Sideman is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of other tourist areas in Bali. The perfect place to relax, hear and feel the sounds of nature.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Mount Bromo, for Free & Without a Tour

Mount Bromo

Mount Bromo stands at 2329-meter-high and is an active volcano from east Java, Indonesia.

On Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, you can find 2 active vulcanos the Mount Bromo and Mount Semeru surrounded with a sea of sand.

For me, Indonesia was never about the beaches but about the luxurious greenery, mountains, traditions, culture, food, and the volcanos.

Going close to a volcano was for a long time on my bucket list, and I finally had the opportunity to visit one in Indonesia. My favourite one was by far the Mount Bromo.

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If you are planning to visit Mount Bromo, remember that you can do it for free, and without joining a tour. Here is how to do it.

How to get to Cemoro Lawang

Wherever you are in Java you need to head to Probolinggo. That can be done by bus, taxi or train.

In Proboling they are quite good at scamming tourists, so be careful and go to the bus station. Don’t believe if they say that there are no buses and that the only way to go is by joining a tour.

Outside the bus station, you have the minivans (called Bemos) that will take you to Cemoro Lawang (a village right next to the crater of Mount Bromo).

Unfortunately, there is only one option here. These minivans don’t have a schedule neither depart regularly so you need to wait for sufficient passengers to arrive. They charge Rp.35.000 ($2.50) if the bemo is full with 15 people, but they are happy to leave early without waiting to have 15 people as long as you pay the difference.

The ride from Probolinggo to Cemoro Lawang takes approximately 1 hour and a half always up the hill. Sometimes felt like the minivan wasn’t going to be able to go further up, but in the end, we arrived safely.

To go back to Probolinggo it’s the same route you came,  find a bemo in the centre of the village, and wait for more people to arrive.

At Cemoro Lawang

Once at Cemoro Lawang its easy to find a place to spend the night, it felt that everyone in town had a room to rent. Just make sure you have hot water because it’s really cold there, and you will not want to take a cold shower when is 5ºC outside. Cemoro Lawang is a village high up in the mountains, 2217m above sea level, so you can imagine how chilly it is.

Cemoro Lawang doesn’t have great food at all neither accommodation options, and because of the lack of offer, the prices are a bit higher than in other places in Java.  We paid Rp.200,000 ($14) per night for a basic mouldy room. We didn’t struggled to find plant-based options.

How to Hike Mount Bromo for Free, Without Using a Tour or a Guide

It can’t be easier to visit the Bromo for free. Just find the passage next to hotel Cemara Indah. Walk through a narrow passage near the hotel, and this way you don’t pay any entrance fee (Rp.350,000~$25). The path is quite straightforward, you go down the path, cross the sea of sand and then go up the volcano. It took me around 1hour and a half to get to the crater.

I recommend using the free offline map app – maps.me so you don’t get lost.

Both crossing the sea of sand and peeking inside the crater was definitely an experience of a lifetime.

How to avoid the crowds

Mount Bromo isn’t the highest peak of Indonesia, but it is very popular among tourist and locals. If you don’t plan your visit carefully, you might end having your experience ruined.

Avoiding the tours is the key and the only way to have a nice time exploring the area. So keep in mind that all tours go to see the sunrise first and then visit the volcano, so from late morning and afternoon the place is empty, there will be close to no people around it, and you can thoroughly enjoy your walk on the moon like landscape in the company of the wind and some clowns.

Be kind to all kinds

You will get a lot off offers for a horse ride up to the volcano, please don’t use the poor horses to transport you, they look sick, malnourished and tired. These horses are severely mistreated, and they are too small for riding up slopes with people on their backs… Please don’t support animal abuse 🙏 be kind 💚

Must have
  • Warm clothes
  • Decent shoes
  • A scarf or a buff,
  • app – Maps.Me
  • snacks and water

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Yeh Pulu temple _ Bali

Yeh Pulu is a small archaeological heritage site from the 14th century located in the middle of beautiful rice fields and freshwater springs. This archaeological site is located in the central Bali highland village of Bedulu.

The site is located close to Ubud so you can get there with your own wheels (~10 to 15 minutes) and it’s also possible to walk through the rice fields from Goa Gajah to Yeh Pulu (~45-55 minutes walk).

The temple is quite small but displays an impressive 25m-long array of carvings. The name Yeh Pulu means ‘water of the stone vessel’ in archaic Balinese.

How to get there: the best way is to rent a scooter (~Rp.60,000 $4 day) the traffic between Ubud and Bedulo is quite heavy but is a short distance.

Entrance Fee: Rp15,000/ adult ($1)

Dress Code: Sarong is required to enter the temple, and can be borrowed from the temple’s entrance for free.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Traditional farming village of Pejeng _ Bali

The Pejeng village is located in the Petanu River valley in the island of Bali, 5 km outside the buzzing town of Ubud. Is rural area with extensive, and ancient, irrigated rice cultivation.

The village is surrounded by beautiful rice fields and has 44 temples and a museum called Arca. The temples didn’t really impress me as much as others on the island. Although it was nice to explore this untouristed traditional farming village and take part in the daily Balinese life.

One of the most famous things they have in Pejeng is the Moon of Pejeng a bronze kettledrum believed to be the largest bronze-age antiquity in the world. The bronze kettledrum is in the Pura Penataran Sasih (to the right off the main road from Bedulu).

This town has a lively morning market and a night market and plenty of Warungs to taste vegan Balinese and Indonesian food.

Pejeng is also a Wildlife Sanctuary and a great place for birdwatchers.

How to get there: you can easily bike from Ubud to Pejeng, or rent a scooter (~Rp.60,000 $4 day).

Entrance Fee: temples and museum have admission by donation

Dress Code: Sarong is required to enter the temples.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Pura Besakih, The mother temple _ East Bali

The Besakih Temple is known as the “Mother Temple of Bali“, located 1000 metres high on the slopes of Mount Agung. It is the most important, the largest and holiest temple of Hindu religion in Bali, and unfortunately, it’s also a place where tourists are scammed and ripped off.

 

About Pura Besakih

Pura Besakih is a complex of 23 separate temples, the largest and central is the Pura Penataran Agung. The complex is located in the village of Besakih in eastern Bali, Indonesia.

The Pura Besakih complex hosts countless rituals and ceremonies every year, so it’s quite easy to step into one. Each temple has its own odalan (temple festival), based on the 210-day Pawukon calendar. They also celebrate the full moon each month as well as major holidays.

 

If you visit the complex during a ceremony expect large crowds dressed in traditional clothing.

 

What to expect

It’s possible to visit Pura Besakih on a day trip from Ubud, without being part of a tour, but be extra careful at this place since there are numerous stories of scams here. Because of this many people had a disappointing experience and wished they didn’t have visited the Pura Besakih complex.

I knew about this before, so I was aware of the scams beforehand. I didn’t have any problems but I saw many tourists being hassled. Visiting Pura Besakih can be definitely frustrating but for me was still worth the visit. Although its difficult for me to say, that you should visit the temples after all I read and saw.

Entrance fee: RP.60,000 ($3.95) (the most expensive temple I came across in Bali)

What you need to know before you go:
  • You do not need a guide, kindly say no and ignore them. You can visit the complex on your own even during ceremonies. Don’t believe if they say that there is a special prayer and it’s closed to tourists but the guide can help you visit the temple.
  • Don’t believe when they say the temple is closed for ceremonies, you can always walk among the temples and there’s no guide that can get you into a closed temple.
  • You can go anywhere you like, since you paid the ticket but not to the shrines.
  • Donations are not mandatory (you give money if you want to) that’s why they are called donations and not entrance fee.
  • If you want to give a donation do not believe the donation amounts that are in the guestbook. They are known to add a zero or two to entries, so you feel bad if you don’t give the same.
  • Bring your own sarong to avoid having to rent or buy one. The Sarong is not included in the ticket price.
  • At the parking lot, sellers will try to sell all sorts of stuff saying that you need it to enter the temple or ceremony you do not need anything except a ticket and a sarong.
  • Don’t accept the offer “come and pray with me” if you enter in a forbidden temple you can be fined.
  • Don’t allow anyone to keep your ticket, or you will need to buy another one.

Keep all the above in mind and you will be fine 🙂

Have you been to Pura Besakih or have you heard about other scams?

 

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

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Tirta Empul, the temple of purification _ Bali

Tirta Empul is a temple complex and a holy mountain spring, located in the village of Manukaya in central Bali. It’s perfect to visit as a day out from Ubud. The village is a 30-minute drive from Ubud (approximately 15 Km~9 miles).

The temple was founded around a naturally occurring spring (Tirta Empul meaning Holy Spring) and is over a thousand years old. This temple is dedicated to Vishnu, who is the Hindu god of water.

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Tirta Empul was discovered in AD 962 and believed to have magical powers, the holy springs here bubble up into a large, crystal-clear pool. The spring feeds various purification baths, pools and fish ponds, which all flow to the Tukad Pakerisan River.

 

Hindu worshippers stand in the pools waiting to dip their heads under the water spouts in a purification ritual known as ‘melukat’. The water in the pools is believed to have magical powers and local Balinese come here to purify themselves.

 

Visitors are welcome to take part in this self-cleaning process. Just bring a towel and a change of clothes if you want to take part in the purification ceremony.

Behind the purification pools, is the ‘inner courtyard’ the place where people go to pray.

 

How to get there: the best way is the rent a scooter (~Rp.60,000 $4 day) the journey is very pleasant and beautiful through lush green rice fields and coconut trees.

Entrance Fee: Rp15,000/ adult ($1) and Rp.2,000 ($0.13) to park your scooter

Dress Code: Sarong is required to enter the temple as parts of the site are considered holy. Sarongs are available at the temple’s entrance to be and can be rented for a small donation.

Other information: 

There are lockers and a changing area available, and women should wear a shirt, preferably one that covers the shoulders.

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photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha