Our bungalow was nice for the night but got rather hot in the morning. No one could be found when we wanted to order breakfast…which Flo took with a fir of hangryness. So we packed up, ready to leave. By the time we had put everything on the bike, the lady was there and we even got our breakfast.
So we ride to Pura Besakih, known as the “mother temple”, sitting halfway up one of the high mountains. Being 1000m above sea level gives you great views. The road there was quite enjoyable. As soon as it started to go up, we were stopped though: Tickets needed to be bought. It was 15k per person and a random 5000 for the bike. Okay.
Then we arrived at the parking lot, surrounded by tourist shops. We managed to avoid all the hawkers and went to the ticket checking desk. They only had a brief look at them, then put a book under our noses. State your name, nationality and how much you want to “give” to the temple. It was a “donation” for getting a local guide and helping to maintain the temple. Everyone had donate such ridiculously high amounts that we felt really bad being on a budget. In the end, each of us paid 200k which is about $20…just keep in mind that is almost a whole day of travel for us in Indonesia. So yeah, it hurt a bit.
The guide escorted us on the bike to another parking lot further up. As soon as we got of the bike, we were swarmed. Apparently, we needed to wear sarongs. Fair enough. I used my own but still got a sash to go with it, a bag full of offerings and incense and a flower behind the ear. Flo fared even worse as he was put in a sarong with a sash, but then couldn’t even keep his cap. It got replaced by a pink bandana and a flower behind each ear. He also got a bag of offerings and incense. As soon as we looked as ridiculous as we did, they started charging us for EVERYTHING down to the last flower petal. We have never been fleeced worse in our lives. Flo’s mood plummeted into icy regions as the hawkers started throwing postcards at us. Our guide did nothing to help us and gave absolutely no advice. Later, when we saw other tourists, we realized that only the sarong was mandatory and the rest was just crap they charged us for because we didn’t know any better.
Our guide then started leading us into the vast temple area. The whole thing had been built in the 11th century BC and was surely impressive. However, we did not get any time to linger or explore but were ushered through by our guide who offered no knowledge other than “picture?”. The whole tour saw us rushing from one place to the next, taking stupid photos of ourselves (“balinese pose please”) not learning anything. Worse, there were more tourists coming on the same tour about two minutes after us so we had to vacate even the photo stops quickly (“come please, they want clear shot”).
The whole thing took maybe one and a half hour while Flo and I were fuming silently. Those stupid offerings meant that our guide took us to pray, something that we would have liked to avoid as well. After praying, he then pressured us for even more money for the temple and was quite disappointed about the 50k we managed to squeeze out of our wallet. Flo looked like he was about to explode. The smiles on our mandatory photo stops got tortured and we just wished, we’d never decided to see the temple.
I guess this was the first and last temple visit for us. We were so relieved when it was over that we left in a hurry, both feeling super down.
Luckily, the day got better afterwards. I mean, yes, we left a lot of money there for our budget. But to be fair, when we tallied it all up, it was about NZ$80. It just had felt like robbery. Maybe our weird prayers for good luck and blessings on our journey decided to work immediately. Who knows. =P I didn’t feel up to much but Flo pressed that we still went to the tour through the chocolate factory at 2pm as I had been disappointed when it was closed on Saturday.
On the way there, we even found a lovely roadside eatery for our usual price range with amazingly tasty food and delicious Es Jeruk which made us feel a bit better as well. Spending $3.50 for a whole meal is quite the deal.
Big Tree chocolate factory was a full success. The building is made out of bamboo which holds up to their standard of sustainability. Bamboo is fast growing and can be harvested every six months.
Inside, we got a welcome drink made of their chocolate powder, water and sugar. The whole production is fair trade, organic and sustainable. Lovely Nova first showed us all the stages that the cocoa bean goes through, from the fresh bean to the fermented one to the cold pressed one. Then the bean is chopped up into nibs, ground down into paste and separated into cocoa butter and chocolate cake. She had a table full of examples and we were allowed to try our way through the whole process. As no sugar had been added so far, all of it was quite bitter but still tasted of chocolate.
After this exposition, we went down to the production site. In contrast to our factory visit in Adelaide, you could see most of it and even get into the rooms. Just tempering remains a secret. =) The beans are still processed by hand as one of their customers orders the whole beans and the packaging is also done by hand. Nova explained that packaging could be done cheaper with the proper machine but part of their company policy is to employ local people at fair wages and thus give something back to the community surrounding the factory.
The produced bars have 61% or 73% and are then sold to chocolatiers who make finished products out of the chocolate. Most of it is exported and Germany seems to be a solid partner. A bottle with their sugar already had the German label on it…apparently it is quite expensive there, too.
Feeling much better and chocolated out, we returned to the Indomart where Flo’s credit card was eaten by the ATM. The staff was very apologetic and for a moment we thought that the card had been destroyed before figuring out that they must have tried to keep the card in the store, well aware that we would come back. They were not allowed to keep it though. Instead, it was supposed to be sent to the nearest branch of the bank. Calling them, they hadn’t received any credit cards though. However, they gave Flo a number in Denpasar to continue chasing after his card. And yes, the card had made it to Denpasar in one piece and could be collected tomorrow from 8am. The decision was made: No other option would be as quick and painless so we would stay in Denpasar for the night.
The lonely planet tells you that there is no need to stay in Denpasar if you have another option but Flo and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening in a city. We walked through a flower market, catering to everyone in the city who still needs to prepare offerings twice a day. Then we walked through a normal food market full of fruits, veges and dead animals.
In the end, we took a taxi to a night market so Flo could try Babi Guling (a roasted pork dish). I went for fresh strawberries and a chocolate sandwich instead.