Pura Ulun Danu is a stunning temple. It’s one of the most iconic of the Balinese temples and also one of the most popular due to its beautiful location on the shores of Lake Bratan. At 1,200 metres above sea level, the temperature is considerably cooler than at sea level and the air is fresher* there is even an eerie mist that hangs over the mountains surrounding the lake. If it wasn’t for the palm trees, and of course the temple itself, and if you squinted your eyes just a teensy bit, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were standing by a loch somewhere in Scotland.
Since seeing photographs of Ulun Danu and reading up about it on the Internet, I’ve wanted to visit and my chance came last week when I had a friend staying.
Pak Wayan arrived to collect us and was in buoyant mood despite the fact that I’d had to have a ‘little talk’ with him the day before. It was nothing serious, more a matter of miss-communication but we needed to clear the air and get back to base on what he actually charged for a days driving. He has a want to pluck figures from the air on occasion and despite my being a generous tipper he had taken advantage of me.The police had stopped us the day before at a road block and he’d had to pay a fine because his taxi license had expired. I’d have happily helped him out with the fine if he’d asked me (it was 40,000 rps which is about £3.00) but what I didn’t think was fair was to add 100,000 on top of the 100,000 tip that I’d given him anyway to cover it. Once we’d come to an agreement on the price, (which was the original price that he’d quoted us weeks ago), there were smiles all around. Fares fair.
The journey there took just over 2 hours and as the winding mountain roads took us higher and higher, so our ears started to pop due to the change in altitude. The heat and humidity of the lower ground by the coast made way for dark overcast skies and the volcanoes that dotted our route summits were shrouded in a thick veil of cloud and mist. Along the way we passed padi fields and villages, cows tied up in small stalls by the side of the roads and rural Balinese life in all its glory. Fields of golden marigolds, lush tobacco leaves, and orange groves then turned into fields of strawberries. This we discovered, was the strawberry growing capital of Bali.
To say that Ulun Danu was an anti-climax would not really be fair, but it wasn’t quite as I had imagined it to be. The perfect photos that I had wistfully studied on the Internet did not disclose the whole truth. Ulun Danu is indeed quite lovely but like many places that visitors flock to in their droves, it had tried to cater for the world and his wife so other entertainments had been laid on lest seeing a magnificent temple was too boring. Hideous ‘disneyesque’ fibreglass statues of deer and other animals adorned the temple gardens and in front of the water temples, duck shaped pedalos bobbed around in the water waiting to be hired. I waited patiently so that I could take some photos without having to have hoards of tourists in the background. In fact I did exactly what the photos that I’d seen on the internet did, I told a sort of a lie by being very selective in what I took pictures of. I’m beginning to wish that I had in fact taken photos of all the bits that didn’t appeal to me; it would have been a far more honest and easier approach. It’s hard work having such aesthete sensibilities.
As it turned out the highlight of my visit to Ulun Danu was not in fact the temple itself, but an extremely diminutive Japanese woman who, when walking past me, let out the most impressive fart that I have EVER heard in my life. Seriously Folks, this fart was not just any old fart, this fart was the LOUDEST and LONGEST I have ever heard. Of course I have never farted in my life, but if I were too, this lady would be an extremely hard act to follow. How anyone so petito could make that amount of noise for so long I have no idea. This was a record breaker and I was mightily impressed. Oh, and just in case you were wondering,* no, I didn’t. I was spared the olfactory experience as thankfully I was stood up wind from her (or is it the other way round?)