Seminyak – Visiting Temples and Feeling like a kid again

Surf, Sun, and Temple Fun

Sunset at Uluwatu
Sunset at Uluwatu Temple

Having spent some time exploring Ubud we decided to head down to Kerobokan and then Seminyak to get a taste of the side of Bali while we waited for our visa extension. We would need to go to the immigration office near the airport to get our photo taken and fingerprints scanned. With May needing some rest to recover from her strep throat, we booked a room at Pandawa All Suites Hotel in Kerobokan. It was little more secluded than we imagined, but it gave us some peace and quiet. Maybe it was little too much peace and quiet; we couldn’t wait to get to the beach after a week of isolation in Kerobokan. Having gotten all of the relaxing we needed, and with her throat feeling better we decided it was time to head for the beach and have some fun. So we got a hotel room down the street from Double-Six beach in Seminyak. Time to enjoy some sun and fun, playing in the surf, and check out a couple of temples.

Seminyak and Double-Six Beach

This ended up being our favorite place in Bali, not as crowded and without as many touts as Kuta Beach, so we could just relax and play in the surf. It was so much fun to jump in the ocean, dive into the waves and feel like a kid again, not having a care in the world. After playing in the ocean, we lounged in the cabana area provided by our hotel, Hotel Horison, eating some delicious food and soaking the sun. At night, the restaurants at the beach set out beanbag chairs and set up stages for live music, which we really enjoyed. Sitting down, enjoying a cold beer while listening to music, we reflected on how lucky we were to be there, enjoying life. We were just beginning our second month on the road and it still didn’t seem real. Looking at the stars, absorbing the vibrations of the music, and feeling the energy of the ocean truly made Double-Six beach a special place for us. Watching people light lanterns and letting them drift up to the sky was an enjoyable experience. As they floated farther away, becoming a little light moving across the night sky, and finally resembling star as the last flicker of light faded away was a great sight to take in. Making the beach all the more fun. Having taken in the beach, we decided it was time to go temple visiting.

Tanah Lot

Stars start to shine after sunset at Tanah Lot Temple
Stars start to shine after sunset at Tanah Lot Temple

Tanah Lot temple, built on a rock just offshore, is an important directional temple on Bali and one of seven sea temples on Bali. In Balinese, the name Tanah Lot means “Land (in the) Sea.” The temple is built to honor Dewa Baruna, a sea god in the Hindu religion. The ocean tide continuously shapes the rock and is only accessible during low tide. Due to erosion, the temple underwent a restoration in the 1990’s with one-third on the “rock” being very  cleverly disguised artificial rock. Sunset is when it is at it’s most beautiful. We hopped in a cab, negotiating with him to take us there and back; we headed to Tanah Lot to see the sunset. Once you enter the temple grounds you have to walk through a maze of souvenir stalls before you actually get to the temple. It was a little more touristy than I prefer, the stalls selling the standard tourist items found in the markets around Bali. After walking through the stalls, we made our way down towards the temple.

It was low tide so we were able to wander down to the beach and over to the rock that the temple sat on. Unable to enter the temple grounds since it wasn’t open yet, so we walked around and scouted for a good location to view the sunset. At first we headed back up to the cliff that overlooked the temple but thought that the beach would give us a better vantage point, so we made our way back down to the beach. Finally finding a spot, setting up my tripod, we waited for the sunset to begin setting when we noticed people going up to the temple. A rush of disappointment set in, we had missed our chance to explore the temple, but we had found a good place to view what we hoped would be a beautiful sunset. We were not disappointed.

Stars start to shine after sunset at Tanah Lot Temple
Getting ready for sunset pictures

Standing in the surf for the sunset was very fun. The tide slowly began to rise, the waves hitting my legs at a steadily rising rate as the sun steadily descended towards the horizon, the sky ablaze with an orange glow. As the ocean got higher I had to keep moving closer to shore until I found safe ground, darkness was beginning to set in, the sky became brilliant blue and purple, bringing joy to our eyes. At the end of the shoot, walking along the shore with our headlamps guiding us, we both felt happy to have seen such a pretty sunset.

Asian Palm Civet
Tanah Lot Temple Sunset

Tanah Lot is located about a 40-minute drive from Seminyak. There is not much transportation there so most visitors are part of a tour or hire a taxi or motorbike.  Make sure you have some return transportation arranged or may get stuck there or pay a high price to get back to your lodging.

Uluwatu Temple

Uluwatu Temple Sitting on the Cliff Edge
Uluwatu Temple Sitting on the Cliff Edge

After going North for sunset at Tanah Lot, we decided to head South to other main Hindu temple on Bali, Uluwatu. Uluwatu, located 70 meters above the sea on a cliff is another great place to sit and enjoy the sunset. It, along with Tanah Lot, is one of the six temples believed to be spiritual pillars of Bali and an important directional temple. These temples are believed to protect against evil. Not only can you get spectacular views of the ocean from the cliff it sits on, it also hosts a nightly Kecak dance. Not being satisfied with just seeing the sunset, we decided to take in the Kecak fire dance. Since its location is on the Bukit peninsula, the most Southern part of Bali, we hired a driver to take us there and back.

SBeautiful Sunset at Uluwatu Temple
Beautiful Sunset at Uluwatu Temple

Sitting on the edge of a cliff, it gives way to beautiful views of the ocean and the waves crashing below. Pura Luhur Uluwatu in Balinese means “something of divine origin (at the) lands end rock.” We walked along the cliff edge trail to different vantage points, taking the beauty of the area and stopping to look at a Chinese couple getting their wedding pictures taken. Our driver accompanied us, making sure we didn’t have any trouble with monkeys that live at the temple. They are known for taking things such as sunglasses from tourists. As the sun began to descend towards the horizon, we made our way towards the stands that surround the stage where we would watch the Kecak fire dance. We picked our seats and had enough time before the dance started to enjoy the beautiful sunset.

Wedding Couple
Wedding Couple

Uluwatu Temple Sitting on the Cliff Edge
Uluwatu Temple Sitting on the Cliff Edge

Would You Drink Cat Poo Coffee or Kopi Luwak, a Local Coffee Delicacy in Bali?

Balinese are crazy about coffee, especially Kopi Luwak or what I call, cat-poo-cino, a local and highly sought after delicacy made from Arabica coffee beans produced from cat poo! Kopi means coffee in Indonesian and Luwak is a local name of the Asian Palm Civet, a cat-like creature originally from Sumatra.

A golden civet or luwak enjoying some bananas at the Uluwatu Temple market
A golden civet or luwak enjoying some bananas at the Uluwatu Temple market

What is Kopi Luwak?

The civets select the best coffee cherries to consume, in this case, Arabica coffee beans mostly for the fruity fleshy pulp. Their digestive mechanisms are stated to improve the flavor profile for the coffee beans because they ferment these partially digested coffee beans. These coffee beans are later excreted and collected by farmers and processed by washing, roasting, and finely grinding to prepare kopi luwak. Kopi luwak is known more for the novelty of the process than for its taste and it is called “one of the most expensive coffees in the world with retail prices reaching US $700 per kilogram” or around $80 for a cup. Kopi Luwak is currently the second most expensive coffee since the most expensive coffee is the Black Ivory Coffee, a local Northern Thailand delicacy made from poop by elephants consuming the same type of Arabica coffee beans. These can be fetched for “US $1,100 per kilogram” and only sold in luxury hotels and cafes.

Kopi luwak is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in Indonesia. It is also produced in the islands of the Philippines, East Timor, and Vietnam, but all have different names and prices associated with it. There has been some debate on the ethical methods on how kopi luwak is produced. PETA and other animal rights activists claim the production of kopi luwak is unethical because farmers would lock up civets in battery cages and would force-feed them. Caging civets prohibits them from roaming wild to enjoy their natural habitat and by having limited mobility, they ultimately become stressed, which reduce the quality of the coffee beans.

Here’s a little snippet from the movie “The Bucket List” about what kopi luwak is all about.

How Kopi Luwak is Produced

Step 1. Civets consume the cherry beans. It takes 24 hours to fully digest in their stomachs before they are excreted along with other byproducts like seeds, nuts, and coffee beans.

Civets are nocturnal creatures that feast on coffee cherries and defecate the coffee beans which create kopi luwak.
Civets are nocturnal creatures that feast on coffee cherries and defecate the coffee beans which create kopi luwak. 

Coffee cherries the civet consumes, but cannot fully digest.
Coffee cherries the civet consumes, but cannot fully digest.

Step 2. Feces from civets are collected, dried, then separated to individual beans and washed. A considerable amount of weight is reduced here as nuts, seeds, and bad beans are separated out.

The excreted feces with coffee beans that cannot be digested by the civet
The excreted feces with coffee beans that cannot be digested by the civet

Top left, luwak poop in a clump, bottom separated into individual coffee beans.
Top left, luwak poop in a clump, bottom separated into individual coffee beans. Middle right, vanilla beans.

Step 3. Once the coffee beans have been washed, they are left to dry in the sun for a few days so the papery parchment around the coffee been can be easily removed. It is washed and dried again.

The outer parchment is removed from the coffee beans shown here.
The outer parchment is removed from the coffee beans shown here.

Step 4. The coffee beans are then roasted over the fire on a cast iron wok for an hour or more, constantly stirring to get a deep dark color and to extract strong bitter flavors. The coffee beans reduce in size through this process.

Woman roasting the coffee beans.
Woman roasting the coffee beans.

Step 5. Once the coffee beans are done roasting, they are placed in a pestle and mortar and are grounded up coarsely. It is then sifted out for impurities and grounded more finely.

Different phases the luwak coffee has been processed. In the far back, the coffee is roasted, on the right , the coffee is coarsely grounded, and bottom is when it is finely ground.
Different phases the luwak coffee has been processed. In the far back, the coffee is roasted, on the right, the coffee is coarsely grounded, and bottom, coffee is finely grounded.

Step 6. The final product yields a finely grounded kopi luwak and packaged in a container for sale. One is by Satria Agrowisata, where we did our free coffee and tea tasting (details below) at and the other from a small shop at the Uluwatu Temple marketplace.

Different stages of kopi luwak. From top to bottom: origina luwak poo, luwak poo separated, luwak coffee beans roasted, ground, and finely grinded
Finely ground kopi luwak in the Satria Agrowisata packaging.

Bali Civet Coffee sold at the market at Uluwatu Temple
Bali Civet Coffee sold at the market at Uluwatu Temple

Tasting Special Teas and Coffees of Bali

Our driver, Rama spent an entire day with us showing us some sites in the Ubud region of Bali and he surprised us with a stop at Satria Agrowisata, a tea and coffee plantation for a free tour of the premises including looking at the flora produced on-site (lemongrass, cocoa, cloves, cinnamon, coffee beans, and so many other plants used to produce the tea and coffee sold here). We also got a quick tour of the traditional kopi luwak roasting process and enjoyed a free coffee and tea tasting before being led to the shop where we purchased a few of our favorite teas to consume during our trip and to send some unique ones home for our family to try.

The free tasting included Ginseng Coffee, Coconut Coffee, Moccacino Coffee, Vanilla Coffee, Hot Cocoa, Saffron Tea, Mangosteen Tea, Bali Coffee, Lemon Grass Tea (Organic), Rose Tea (Organic), Ginger Tea, and Roselle Tea (Organic). We were led down some steep stairs to a shaded seating area under a hut overlooking the beautiful valley and plantation and enjoyed tasting everything here. Our guide informed us that some of these herbal teas had medicinal healing properties. Saffron for overall health, immunity and to aid digestion, Roselle (or hibiscus) to lower blood pressure, promote weight-loss, cure coughs, and Mangosteen for its anti-cancer properties, to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and to reduce inflammation. There’s no pressure to purchase anything, so if you want to just enjoy the plantation and sample the tea/coffees, that would be fine.

Free coffee and tea tasting at Satria Agrowisata
Free coffee and tea tasting at Satria Agrowisata

After sampling the 12 different coffee and teas with Mangosteen, Roselle, and Saffron being our favorites tastewise and for their healing properties, I asked about the kopi luwak tasting. The kopi luwak tasting costed extra. Fortunately, it didn’t cost $80 a cup, but at 50,000 IDR or around $3.50 USD for a small cup.

Joshua outright opted out of drinking cat poo coffee or any kind of coffee because he doesn’t like the bitter taste of coffee. And since I have a knack to try new and unique things, I, of course, tried it. I’ve been wanting to try it since we first saw the civets napping at the market at Uluwatu Temple but was a little apprehensive about drinking it and getting food poisoning from the deadly E. Coli bacteria from something that is predominately made from poop. After watching how kopi luwak was produced, I felt reassured I would not get food poisoning. I paid for the cup, with coffee in hand, Joshua intently stared at me with a grossed out look on his face as I took a sip of kopi luwak, black. I felt an immediate jolt of adrenaline rush throughout my body and my taste buds were hit with a strong, sharp bitterness and grittiness from the coffee and grinds. I promptly added cream and sugar to make it less bitter so I could finish the cup of kopi luwak. Coffee connoisseurs say kopi luwak is mostly consumed for novelty since there is no distinguishable taste, one even said it tasted like Folgers.

Would You Drink Cat Poo Coffee

So kopi luwak is safe to drink, but the question is, would you want to try it for the taste or for the novelty? And the next thought is, can you get over the fact it came from the bowels of a cat? I knew I gave into the gimmick and tried it mostly for the novelty and so I can say I drank the second most expensive cup of coffee in the world and it’s made from cat poop!

Ubud, Bali – Penis Bottle Openers, Monkeys, and Learning to Cook Indonesian Foood

Ubud – Our Starting Point

Ubud market
Flower vendor at the Ubud market

Having learned during our research that the Kuta area was very touristy, we made our first destination Ubud which is labeled the spiritual center of Bali. With the cost of travel in Australia expensive, we ended up traveling quickly through the country. Wanting to do things a little slower than in Australia, we decided we would spend a week there so we wouldn’t have to rush through the sites. The laid back appeal of Ubud sounded enticing. Five location changes in less than a month left us feeling a little worn out. When we arrived on Bali we decided to take it easy in Ubud.

Whether you have a week or a month, we recommend you make the effort to visit Ubud. There are many things to do in and around Ubud. No matter whether you are doing independent exploration or with a tour you will find something that suits your interest. Ubud makes a great base for many activities. Because of its location, there seemed to be endless options for things to do. Activities include everything from hiking a volcano to riding bikes through the rice fields. For those who are not seeking adventure but a holistic experience, you can take advantage of the many spas, masseuses, and yoga facilities. Some of the activities we did while staying Ubud were seeing traditional dances, learning to cook, and taking a leisurely walk through the monkey forest. Most hotels will help arrange activities or you can join a tour. There are several tour organizers in town.

Getting to Ubud

There are several options for getting to Ubud. To get to Ubud, you can take the Kura-Kura Bus, hire a driver, or rent a motorbike and drive yourself. Since we were going to Ubud directly from the airport we hired a driver. There are several options but check all their prices and bargain. Bali is notorious for traffic, especially during commute hours, which is when we arrived, so we had to put our excitement of exploring Ubud on hold. Following a three-hour drive, even with our skilled driver Wayan weaving in and out of traffic, we arrived at Y Resort and were greeted with a welcome drink by the friendly staff. It was a pleasant drive, first going through the city and then the countryside so we were able to see a little bit of everything on the way.

Learning a New Culture

Ubud market
Kecak Fire Dance

We would learn during our time on the island that the people of Bali are very spiritual. Bali is almost entirely Balinese Hindu and we felt this most in Ubud. It seemed that everything was celebrated on Bali. The receptionist of our hotel would be celebrating the full moon later in the evening of our check-in. Everyday offerings are given to the gods, placed in front of nearly every business, several were placed around the hotel grounds. If you go to the market, the first sale is considered lucky so you may be able to get a better bargain.

The next day we decided to get a massage so we could begin to work out the stress we had built up over the years of our lives and begin healing our body and soul. After getting traditional Balinese massages, (where they massage your chests or breasts), we then caught the free shuttle from the hotel to downtown. We were dropped off in front of the old royal palace and when we tried to cross the street we were a little shocked by all the motorbikes that passed in front us. What got our attention was how much many people or goods were packed on the bikes. It is not uncommon to see four or five people packed on a motorbike. It seemed there was could be no limit to the volume of people or goods that could fit on a motorbike. I would have never thought an entire family could fit on a bike – mom, dad, and as many as three kids. But we would see it every day to our amazement. More amazing was the age of some of the drivers. Due to lack of public transit we would see elementary school age kids driving them around which was a little shocking since we would never see that back home. By the end of the two months, this would just seem normal.

penis bottle openers
Penis bottle openers are sold in Ubud, and everywhere on Bali

The main drop-off and pick-up point in the town center is in front of the old Royal Palace. If you are staying in a hotel outside the city, this will become a familiar with this location. Most things are within walking distance from here or you can hire one of the many taxi drivers to take you to another location. Wanting to visit the visitor center located across from the old Royal Palace in central Ubud, we crossed the street as soon we saw a break in traffic. With all the motorbikes whizzing by, it was a little intimidating to just step out into the street and not worry about being hit. We would get used to this way of crossing the street very quickly.

After the visitor center, we went to explore the market located next to it. Walking through the market and just wandering around was a fun experience, how could it not be, when there were penis bottle openers everywhere. Who doesn’t want to own a penis bottle opener? Besides the penis bottle opener, the market is bursting with art, from woodcarvings to paintings. It was fun to window shop, I felt like buying everything. It seemed like we were walking through an open air art gallery, making the temptation to buy a painting hard to resist, but I just couldn’t see lugging one around the world with us. Well, if we ever do stop and settle in the region, we know where to pick up some art at. Having fully enjoyed the market, we headed back to the hotel so we could soak in the fact we were no longer in the comforts of the developed world and things here would be a lot different than what we were used to. For me, this would be the beginning of letting go of the customs and rituals that defined our daily routine of life in the U.S. and starting the process of growing as individuals and citizens of the world.

Sacred Monkey Forest

Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest
Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest

Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest
Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest

After resting for a couple of days, I headed to the Sacred Monkey Forest while May was getting acupuncture done at Taksu Spa. This was a fun visit; wandering the trails and just observing the monkeys interact with each other. Having learned that the monkeys can become aggressive if you have food, so I passed on buying the bananas that the vendors were selling. I knew that I made a good decision when I saw a girl run by me screaming and throwing the bananas she bought because a monkey was trying to take them; I had to laugh because I thought it was a little funny to watch. It was very peaceful just stand but and watching as the baby monkeys would play with each other, scampering up a tree and jumping from branch to branch while playfully chasing each other. While wandering on one of the trails, I stopped to watch a monkey play and as I stood there I felt the weight of a monkey jump on my back. This made me a little nervous since I didn’t know what it was doing and I didn’t want to make it mad. It was nice that I was able to make a new friend in the forest, but it got bored with me, jumped off and I was free to continue wandering the forest, a little sad my friend had left though. It was a good place to visit for a couple of hours.

Paon Cooking Class

Cooking class in Ubud
All the yummy Balinese food we learned to cook and eat!

Before we started the trip we decided we would take cooking classes in the different places we visited, so when we return home, we can share what we learned while traveling. I know I could definitely use the help learning to cook as well. So we chose to take some cooking lessons at Paon Cooking Class in Ubud. On the morning of the class, we headed to the market; located near central Ubud, where the locals would typically go and learned about the different ingredients we would need for the dishes we would be learning to make. Popular ingredients sold here specific to the Ubud region are candlenuts (similar to macadamia nuts, but a bit drier), cinnamon sticks (so long), vanilla beans, and various spices. The market was an interesting place to tour with all the different fruits, vegetables, and spices that was offered along with the activity of people going about their business.

Wayan explaining rice cultivation in Ubud
Wayan explaining rice cultivation in Ubud

After the market, we were taken to rice fields located on the edge of Ubud where we met up with another Wayan. He explained how each household was provided land by the government so that every member of the family can plant and harvest rice three times a year. Enough to feed the members of the household and maybe a little bit more to sell. Some households, like the one across from where Wayan lived, would have as many as 18 people living in it. In his case, there were only 2. Wayan continued to explain that there are three types of rice that are grown in Bali – white, brown, and red. We then headed to his house where he explained how a traditional family house was set up. Each and every house in Bali would have their own temple and the placement of the rooms is laid out the same. Based on the direction of the entryway placement. He later introduced to us to his “his ex-girlfriend” or now wife Puspa, who would lead the cooking lessons.

Ubud cooking class
Left: Joshua learning to cook, Right: Our instructor Puspa

Tempe Me Goreng from ubud cooking class
Tempe Me Goreng

We learned how to make Sate Siap, Tempe Me Goreng, Kacang Me Santok, Kuah Wong, Base Gede, Be Siap Mesanten, Jukut Urab, Peoesan Be Pasih, and Kolak Biu. It was fun to get some quality lessons on how to cook. Even though we learned to cook, did not do any cooking after that since we didn’t have a kitchen, and the food was inexpensive at restaurants. There are so many good options for eating that there was no need to prepare our own food.

Kecak and Barong Dances

Barong Dance Ubud
Barong Dance

At the visitor center, we got a schedule of all the traditional and cultural dances that are performed in Ubud. The schedule lists the time and location of all the dances. You can either buy tickets for the dances at the visitor center, from a reseller on the street, or at the venue itself. Legong dance and Kecak Fire dance are the most popular dances performed in Ubud. We originally chose just to see the Kecak Fire dance but ended up also watching the Barong dance during a day trip tour. The plots for both of these dances centered on two different battles of good vs evil. We enjoyed the Kecak Fire dance, it was a little more unique than the Barong dance, but both were entertaining. Taking in the traditional dances in Ubud happened to be one of our favorite activities on Bali

Barong & Kris Dance of Good vs. Evil

The Barong & Kris Dance is a traditional Balinese dance drama portraying the eternal battle between good vs. evil from characters in Bali mythology. Barong, is a lion-like creature, is the king of all good spirits and Rangda, is a widowed witch and the queen of all evil spirits. Both are equally revered and worshipped amongst the Balinese Hindus as one cannot exist without the other. The backstory of Barong and Rangda is explained below.

“The story goes that Rangda, the mother of Erlangga, the King of Bali in the tenth century, was condemned by Erlangga’s father because she practiced black magic. After she became a widow, she summoned all the evil spirits [demons and witches] in the jungle, to come after Erlangga. A fight occurs, but she and her black magic troops were too strong that Erlangga had to ask for the help of Barong. Barong came with Erlangga’s soldiers and fight ensued. Rangda cast a spell that made Erlangga soldiers all wanted to kill themselves, pointing their poisoned keris (swords) into their own stomachs and chests. Barong then cast a spell that turned their body resistant to the sharp keris. At the end, Barong won and Rangda ran away.” —

The drama we watched is depicted in five acts in Indonesian and features a Balinese gamelan orchestra, Balinese dancers, actors in full traditional costume, and sword-wielding Kris dancers. For those who do not understand Indonesian, there is an English translation that explains what is happening during each act which I have re-written and included below. The original translation was hard to follow and to fully understand the drama, the storyline needs to be understood before watching. The dance show can be viewed daily from 9:30-10:30am in Ubud in the Gianyar area for IDR 100,000 and comes highly recommended to watch to enjoy Balinese culture.

Barong – King of Good Spirits

Barong, the king of good spirits

Barong is the king of good spirits and is portrayed as a fun-loving, lion-like creature with a red head, covered in thick white fur, wearing gilded jewelry adorned with pieces of mirrors. The term barong is derived from local term bahruang which today corresponds to Indonesian word, beruang which means bear. The origins of the Barong are quite uncertain as its origins could be from animist worship before Hinduism appeared when villagers still believed in the supernatural protective power of animals.

Rangda – Queen of Evil Spirits

Rangda, is the mother queen of all the evil spirits with an army of demons and evil witches who practice black magic at her disposal. She is depicted as an old woman, with long and unkempt hair, pendulous breasts and claws, and her face is traditionally portrayed with fanged teeth and a long, protruding tongue.The name Rangda in old Javanese and Balinese language means widow. Rangda’s origin was linked to the legend of Calon Arang, the legendary witch who wrecked havoc in ancient Java during the reign of Airlangga in late 10th century. She is also linked to the legend of divorced and exiled Javanese queen Mahendradatta.

The Barong Drama

Indonesian dancers in traditional outfits with Barong, the king of good spirits.

The dance starts with music by the Balinese Gamelan Orchestra

The monkey and tiger, both friends enter the forest. Three men are seen making and drinking palm wine in the forest and are also servants to Dewi Kunti. They spot a tiger and see it killing a child and the men respond by attacking the tiger to fend it off, but the monkey assists the tiger in the fight. The nose of one of the three men was bitten off and the tiger and monkey escape the scene.

Act 1: Two female dancers who represent the servants of the Rangda search for the servants of Dewi Kunti who are on their way to meet their Patih (Prime Minister).

Barong Dancer
One of two dancers, also one of Rangda’s servants shows off her intricate hand movements called mudras, or symbolic ritual gestures similar to classical Indian dance.

Act 2: Rangda transforms one of her female servants into a witch (who also looks like Rangda) and starts to fight the servants of Dewi Kunti. Dewi Kunti’s servants manage to escape the Rangda and encounter the mischievous monkey again on the trail. This time they defeated the monkey and they make it safely with Patih to later meet up with Dewi Kunti.

Barong dance is injected with some humor. The servants of Dewi Kunti (right) and Patih (left) kill the monkey who tries to attack them
Barong dance is injected with some humor. The servants of Dewi Kunti (right) and Patih (left) kill the monkey who tries to attack them earlier.

Act 3: Dewi Kunti has promised the Rangda to sacrifice Sadewa, her son. A witch appears and ends up possessing Dewi Kunti and she becomes angry and orders the Patih to bring Sadewa into the forest. The Patih is later also possessed by a witch so he does not have pity on Sadewa and continues to take Sadewa into the forest and ties him up to a tree.

Rangda witch with Sadewa in the Barong Dance
Rangda here with Sadewa tied up to the tree

Act 4: Unknown by Rangda, Siwa, a Hindu God appears and grants Sadewa immortality. The Rangda appears ready to kill Sadewa to eat him up, but Sadewa is still alive. Rangda then surrenders and asks Sadewa for redemption and Sadewa agrees and kills the Rangda. The Rangda goes to heaven.

Rangda witch with Sadewa in the Barong Dance
Left: Rangda witch with Sadewa, Right: One of the servants of Dewi Kunti

Act 5: One of the servants of the Rangda called Kalika comes up before Sadewa and asks him to redeem herself too, Sadewa refuses. Kalika gets angry and transforms herself into a boar to fight Sadewa. The boar is defeated. She then transforms herself into a bird but is defeated again. At last she changes herself into a Rangda. Sadewa meditates and then he changes himself into a Barong. Still the Rangda seems to be too powerful for Barong to defeat Rangda and the fight doesn’t seem to end. Followers of the Barong, Kris-wielding dancers appear and help Barong fight Rangda. Rangda puts a spell on the followers to turn their swords to kill themselves, but Barong casts another spell to make them immortal. Ultimately the fight ends and Rangda is scared away.

Kris Dancers stabbing themselves with the keris sword.

Where to Watch

Jambe Budaya, Jalan Pasekan, Batubulan, Gianyar
Phone: (0361) 2770291
Daily: 9:30-10:30am
Cost: 100,000 IDR

Other Traditional Balinese Dances

Another equally enchanting traditional Balinese dance to watch is the Kecak dance where hundreds of half-clothed men chant the word kecak to a melody they create with their own voices while the Hindu Balinese epic of Ramayana is portrayed by beautiful Balinese dancers. One show in Central Ubud even had a man who kicked fire under a trance.

Bali – Our First Taste of Southeast Asia

Arriving in Bali – Our First Taste of Southeast Asia

After spending nearly a month in Australia, we left Perth and headed to Bali to begin a two-month trip through Indonesia. Though Australia was on the other side of the Pacific Ocean from California, it sometimes felt like we had never left the U.S. since everyone spoke English and the cities had a similar feel to San Francisco. The only difference was that they spoke with a funny accent. As we disembarked from the airplane, we felt like our trip had just begun. We didn’t quite know what to expect of Bali. Beaches and “Eat, Pray, Love” were all that we knew about the island, but we had been told by several people we knew before we left that it was their favorite place so we were very excited to finally arrive. As we exited the plane and stepped on the tarmac, feeling the warm tropical air hit us, we both smiled knowing that we had finally reached Southeast Asia and a new adventure awaited us.


Though Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country, the 3.8 million population of Bali practices Balinese Hindu. When we arrived, we had to walk through a temple at the airport and could immediately tell Bali had a special spirituality to it. We arrived during the full moon. The power of the moon were quite powerful and special as it created some of the most lucid dreams I have ever experienced in my life.

It is simple to remember the names of people we met since the males are named after their birth order. We met a lot of Wayan (first born, pronounced why-anh) and Made (second, pronounced mah-day), but Nyoman (third, pronounced just as it’s read) and Ketut (fourth, pronounced keh-tut) were a bit more scarce. The fifth child’s name would start over at Wayan. But not everyone goes by their birth-order name because it would be confusing because you would start to be unsure of which Wayan would be referred to. Usually nicknames are given to them from friends or selected themselves. Rama was a special case. He was our extremely informative and chatty tour guide we met at the Kecak Dance at the Desa Pakraman Taman Kaja community near central Ubud.

Rama our Tour Guide
Us with Rama our driver, tour guide, and friend with his wife

Arriving during the high travel season, the island seemed to be overrun with tourists as 40% of Indonesia’s foreign tourists go to Bali. At times we just wanted to lay low and have some peace, so we spent our time in a couple different areas of Bali that offered us a little of everything. Here you can hike volcanoes, drink the second most expensive coffee in the world (Kopi Luwak or coffee made from cat poop), see traditional Balinese dances, visit some of Bali’s most spiritual temples, and enjoy amazing sunsets.

Ubud – Bali’s Spiritual Capital

Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest
Titra Empul Water Temple

Ubud is located in the mountains of Bali, making it a little cooler than Kuta or Seminyak. It is a good location for starting many adventures on the island or experiencing the traditional side of Bali. Many of the traditional dances on Bali are performed in or around Ubud. During our stay, we saw the Kecak Dance and Barong dance. Needing a little pampering we took full advantage of the spas to work out the stress we had built up in our bodies. As you wander around you may stumble across various celebrations, there seemed to be a reason to celebrate everything. While driving around, we were able to see a couple of wedding processions. Giving offerings to the Gods is very important so noticed them in front of every store, and placed all over the hotel we stayed at, Y Resort. Our first stop was the tourist information center for the latest schedule of dances. Across from the center is the market where you can wander for souvenirs and art.

Since we didn’t have a motorbike, we decided to hire a driver for a tour of the sites near Ubud – watch a Barong dance, view Mount Batur and lake while feasting on a lunch buffet, woodcarving center, Tirta Empul water temple, and rice terraces. Learning to cook Indonesian cuisine at the Paon Cooking Class was one of our favorite activities. From walking in Sacred Monkey Forest to learning to cook, we learned there are plenty of things to do in Ubud.

Kerokoban – Peace and Quiet

For some peace and quiet, we spent some time in Kerokaban. Staying at Pandawa All Suites Hotel gave us some time to reflect and re-energize. The resort was located a bit far from the main attractions in the area so we just advantage of it and rested. If you are seeking to get away from what can seem like the hectic pace of Bali then this is a good place to stop and rest.

Seminyak – The Beach and Temples Call for Us

Sunset at Uluwatu
Sunset at Uluwatu Temple

Needing to feel the ocean on our bodies we made our way to Double Six Beach, staying at the Hotel Horison. Located just a short walk down the street from the beach, with their own cabana section, we spend a day playing in the surf. When night comes, the restaurants on the beach are great for sitting down, having a drink and enjoying live music. Being out of the mountains and getting the rest we direly needed, it was time to visit temples. Two of the most famous temples on Bali, Tanah Lot and Uluwatu are great places to visit during the sunset. Tanah Lot, known for it sunsets, is one of the most popular temples on Bali. It is built on a rock and can only be visited on foot during low tide. Taking advantage of the low tide, we ventured out in the ocean for sunset photos. The other famous temple on Bali is Uluwatu Temple. Located on a cliff, it provides great views of the ocean and there is a daily performance of the Kecak Dance. It was hard for us to sit still and wait for the Kecak dance to start with such a pretty sunset, but we managed. Watching the sun turns the sky beautiful pastel colors were amazing at both these temples.

Asian Palm Civet
Tanah Lot Temple Sunset

Extending Our Visa

When we arrived we were only granted a 30-day visa on arrival so we went to Highway Bali Consulting Services to start our paperwork for extending our visa another 30 days. The process should only suppose to take 5-7 days, but in our case it took longer. After filling out the paperwork, we handed over our passports and were told we should get a call for when we would need to go to the immigration office for fingerprinting and getting our photo taken, in about 3 days. Since we would need to go to the Kuta area we decide to head down to Seminyak to enjoy the beach and finish our visa extension, then head back to Ubud for some more exploration. Instead of 5-7 days it took us 14 days to actually get our visa extension. The most annoying part of the experience was when we went to the immigration office at our scheduled appointment time the first time, we were told we had to come back in two days because their computers crashed. If you are planning on extending your visa in Bali give yourself extra time.

Perth: World’s Largest Gold Coin and Our Weight in Gold

Heading Towards the Left Coast 

Having spent three weeks flying around the Eastern part of Australia, we headed west to visit Perth, the capital of Western Australia and the only major city on the left coast. When we met people in Eastern Australia and mentioned we were going to visit Perth they would ask us why and proceed to tell us there is nothing there and it’s really expensive. Well, we thought, why not! It may be one of the most isolated major cities in the world, but it also right on the edge of the outback and home to the world’s largest gold coin.

So with some left coast exploration ahead of us, we caught an overnight flight from Sydney and landed in the middle of the night. Because we were catching a redeye flight, we booked a place near the airport via Airbnb so we could get a few hours sleep before heading to our hotel near the city center. The major industry in Perth is mining, so most of the miners fly-in for the week and fly-out for the weekend or FIFO, fly-in fly-out. This makes hotels cheaper on the weekend than during the weekdays, so to save money we planned our stay around a weekend.

Having gotten just enough sleep, well enough that we could function properly, we walked over to the bus stop down from the house we had rented a room from for the night on Airbnb. Hopping on the bus and heading towards the city we could see that Perth was different than other places we had visited. As we drove through the suburbs, we knew we were in the outback or bush. In the course of a month, we had gone from the tropical rainforest to the cool harbor side cities and now the edge of the desert outback. After what seemed like a short bus ride to the main bus terminal, we got in a taxi and made our way to the hotel we would call home for the next couple of days.

Since we didn’t get much sleep during the night, we took it easy and just rested and planned for the next couple of days at Sullivans Hotel. Besides, spending five hours in a cramped budget airline seat with little to no leg room, didn’t do us any good and left us feeling a little drained. The only way we could afford flying around Australia was because we bought cheap tickets during a two-day sale from Tigerair Australia. For short flights, it wasn’t that bad, but flying for five hours with my knees digging into the back of the seat in front of me didn’t provide for any comfort to take a nap during the flight. Perth is not known for its tourist attractions since most people just spend a couple of days there and then either drive through the vast expanses up the West Coast or go South towards the wine-producing valleys. We decided we would just visit Fremantle Prison and take a tour of the Perth Mint.

Australia’s Only Active Mint

Front of the Perth Mint

Founded in 1889, the Perth Mint is the only active mint in Australia with both Sydney and Melbourne closed. It is where all the medals for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney were produced. They are on display in the Perth Mint museum. We decided to go the gold pour tour, but since it is still an active mint, we couldn’t take any pictures inside.

Holding the World’s Largest Gold Nugget, a Replica

We met on the front lawn for our tour to begin where our guide gave us a brief history of some of the largest gold nuggets found in Australia. We were able to see and hold some of the replicas discovered and admire at its sheer size after the tour. We even discussed if we should try our luck on becoming amateur gold miners in Western Australia because the Hand of Faith nugget which weighed in at 876 troy ounces (27.2 kg or 61 pounds and 11 ounces) was found less than 12 inches below the surface while an amateur gold miner casually swept his metal detector around his trailer in Victoria, Australia. This same nugget was sold to a casino called to the aptly named, Gold Nugget Casino in Las Vegas where it is prominently displayed. Source: “Worlds Biggest Gold Nuggets” The “Welcome Stranger” nugget is the world’s largest alluvial nugget and was discovered only 1.2 inches below the surface.

Gold Nuggets
We Found Gold, Replica Gold That Is
Left: May with both the “Welcome Stranger” (top) and “Golden Eagle” (bottom)
Right: Josh trying to eat the “Welcome Stranger,” largest alluvial gold nugget

They found gold
They Found Gold, Just Like Josh
Left: Statue of Prospectors in Front of the Perth Mint
Right: Josh with the “Golden Eagle”

World’s Largest Gold Coin

Next on the tour was viewing the largest gold coin in the world; the one-tonne gold kangaroo coin. It is made of 99.99% pure gold with a diameter measuring 80cm and a thickness of 35cm; it is massive. The coolest part is that it is Australian legal tender. You can use this coin when you purchase something. Can you imagine pulling out this coin to make a purchase? There were no security guards or other security measures for this gold coin, worth over a million dollars. It is so large you would have to be superman to pick it up and run with it and if you are that strong, there is no way they could stop you anyway. The video below explains the great feat on the effort it took for the Perth Mint to create this coin.

Largest Gold Coin in the World
Largest Gold Coin in the World, the Australian Kangaroo 1 Tonne Gold Coin minted in 2012. Photo credit: The Perth Mint.

Gold Pour

Gold Pour
Gold Pour. Photo credit: Tourism Western Australia

Watching the gold pour was really nice. They have been pouring the same gold bar for years now. Heating the gold to its molten form and then pouring it in the mold. It is amazing how quickly it cools down, not mention how heavy it is. We all got to hold the bar briefly before exiting to the museum and looking at the nuggets they had on display.

Weighing Ourselves, What Was Our Gold Value?

After the gold pour, you exit into the museum. On display the second largest gold nugget in the world still in existence which the discoverer attempted to sell at auction. The government of Australia had something else in mind and wouldn’t let it leave the country. It is owned by a mining company and loaned to the Perth Mint for display. Also in the museum, there is a scale that you can use to figure out what your weight in gold is. It will then take your weight and give you a value based on the day’s price in gold. What was our worth?

Gold Weight

Over 4 million, we are some valuable people, or we just have some extra weight. Now that we were done finding our value, we decided to strike a souvenir Perth Mint coin. Not being satisfied with a generic Perth Mint coin to commemorate our trip, we needed a custom made coin. Our very own version of the kangaroo coin, it may not be worth a million dollars or be legal tender, but it is priceless to us.

Perth Mint Coin
Our custom coin to remember our Australia trip from the Perth Mint

Perth Mint Coin
Our custom coin to remember our Australia trip from the Perth Mint

Perth Mint Coin
Souvenir coin from the Perth Mint

Eating a Gold Bar

With our coins in hand and feeling a little hungry, we made our way over to the cafe and consumed a gold covered snack before going outside and taking silly pictures of ourselves with the replica gold nuggets. It is always good to not take oneself so seriously. Go out and have fun and let your inner goofball loose. The Perth Mint was one our favorite tours we went on in Australia and a great way to end our magical trip.

Perth Mint Snack
Our edible gold bar filled with chocolate at the Perth Mint

Saying Goodbye to Australia

After visiting the different parts of Australia, we could understand why East Coast residents wouldn’t want to visit Perth. It was just easier to visit other countries. As we would learn, it was quicker to fly from Sydney to Bali than from Sydney to Perth. Australia is huge but a great place to explore.

Fremantle Prison – Breaking in and Going Under – A Journey Through The Tunnels

UNESCO Site #11
Australian Convict Sites (Fremantle Prison)

Fremantle Prison

Fremantle Prison is a UNESCO Heritage Site, part of Australia’s convict prison sites and the only building listed in Western Australia. Being the most intact convict-built prison in Australia, it was in continuous use for almost 140 years until 1991. Opting for a more adventurous tour, we decided on the tunnel tour. Slipping into our coveralls and putting on our hard-hats, we had to descend down a 22-meter ladder where we would eventually go under the walls of the prison and underneath the city Fremantle itself.

Fremantle Prison
May and Josh giving their thumbs up at the end of the tour.

A Brief History

The tunnel system began in 1888 with prisoners completing the system in 1894. Used as a catchment area for water draining through the limestone formation to provide water for the commercial and domestic needs of the city of Fremantle in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1910, the prison and Fremantle were connected to the metropolitan water scheme and the tunnels were no longer needed to supply water for the prison or city of Fremantle. They were still used to provide water for the lawn and gardens of the prison though.

The Tunnel Tour

Fremantle Prison
Descending down the ladder. Photo credit: Fremantle Prison.

This has to be one of the funniest tours we have been on. There was no photography allowed, due to safety precautions, so we can only share the photos Fremantle Prison has. Descending down the ladder was a bit scary at first but we both made it down with ease. It was reassuring that we were connected to the ladder with a safety harness. When we reached the bottom of the ladder, the first thing we were shown were the fossils of shellfish, indicated that we were standing on the bottom of the ocean. Well, what used to be the bottom of the ocean. As we were led down dry sections of tunnel, we noticed what looked like roots hanging down from the top of the tunnel. Indeed, they were from the trees growing outside the walls of the prison. We were now outside the prison, we had escaped, or so we thought. The tunnel system only had entrances and exits inside the prison, but it stretched out from the prison and under the city, there was no escaping the prison from the tunnels. After reaching the end of one of the tunnels we made our way to the few tunnels that had water in them, boarding our replica convict punts. This was the best part of the tour.

Fremantle Prison
Paddling down the tunnels. Photo credit: Fremantle Prison.

Paddling down the knee-deep water of the narrow tunnel was a fun and exciting challenge. Keeping the punt from hitting the walls the hardest part, we both had to continuously put our hands out to brace ourselves and keep the punt from hitting and damaging the walls. The commentary from the other members of the tour had us laughing the whole time, especially when we floated under a beam with cockroaches on it and one lady started to freak out. Our guide told us that there were no officially reported deaths while the convicts constructed the tunnel, but it is hard to believe no one died in the construction of the tunnels. As we paddled our way down the tunnels we were aided by modern lights helping us to guide our way, but when he had the lights turned down to the level of what the convicts would have been working under, we could see very little. We think the reason no one was reported to have died was that officials did not want the general public to know that there were dead people contaminating their source of drinking water. At one point, we stopped the punts and could hear noise coming from above. It was hard to tell what the source was and we all guessed wrong as to the source. We happened to be under the main road in the city and heard cars driving by. Once again we had left the prison but could not escape. After paddling our way through the tunnel system, we had to go up the way we came down. This time, it was much easier going up than going down, concluding our being convicts for a day. A video of the tour by Destination WA.

Prison Art Gallery

Afterward, we toured the prisoner gallery which included art from the various prisons around Western Australia.

Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison
Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison

Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison
Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison

Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison
Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison

Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison
Prisoner Art at Fremantle Prison

The Street Art Scene in Melbourne

Melbourne: A Street Art Capital

Melbourne calls itself as one the street art capitals of the world. Anywhere you go, you will find some form of unique expression of street art. This allows the city’s culture to be fully expressed in the streets of Melbourne. You will find it peeking out everywhere. It is hard to walk down an alleyway, laneway, or peer in a window without seeing some form of art. From being perched high up on the side of a building to laying on the ground, you will discover art that will grab your attention. No nook and cranny seems too small to be used.

The famous street art of Melbourne draws numerous visitors from around the world. Though mainly consisting of murals and stencil art, it also includes any other forms of art. As you walk along the alleyways you will find poster art, sticker art, wheat pasting, street installations and reverse graffiti. Each adding their own unique message to the street art culture. Many prominent international street artists have contributed to the bustling street art at the turn of the 21st century. Artists such as Banksy (UK), ABOVE (USA), Fafi (France), D*FACE (UK), Blek le Rat (France), Shepard Fairey (USA) and Invader (France) have all added to the street art culture in Melbourne. New artists pop up all the time to gain notoriety and showcase their work internationally. Not only is Melbourne a “street art capital” but it is also dubbed the “stencil capital of the world.” Embracing the style at an early stage.

Our Self-Guided Street Art Tour

Being lovers of artistic expression, we spent our days in Melbourne deliberately walking around to discover it. To get a better sense of where to go, we made our first stop the Tourist Information Center at Federation Square. Here we picked up some amazing and free walking maps along with transportation information. At the center, a clerk went over the  self-guided map for “Arcades and Lanes.”  Providing her choice of popular street art spots. Recommending places to see like Hosier Lane, Rutledge Lane, and Blender Lane and informing us which ones we should avoid. When we got hungry, she recommended a bar and restaurant that she particularly enjoyed, Ferdydurke. Here we would find a variety of wall to wall, floor to ceiling posters and stencil art. Besides art, Ferdydurke also offered up some tasty Pirozhkis and beer while we enjoyed a view of a beautiful mural from their balcony. With so much art to see, we couldn’t help but stray from the map. Deliberately getting lost in the city, we found the majority of our favorite art sprawled in random locations. Walking through alleyways near the Queen Victoria Market and in Chinatown gave us many pleasant surprises. An art student we came across mentioned the up and coming district of Fitzroy, where the street artists flock to since there are more unclaimed walls. So we headed over there to see what we could find. When we got tired, we just rode the tourist train or caught a tram in the CBD or Free zone.

Hosier Lane

Melbourne Street Art
Left: Hosier Lane signage
Right: Akid One (Malaysia)

Melbourne Street Art
Students visit Hosier Lane and admire Ganesh by Deb as part of their art studies.

Melbourne Street ArtMelbourne Street Art

Melbourne Street Art
Right: Monday Sucks!! by #MaizeOne

Melbourne Street Art
Left: Reflections of graffiti art.
Right: Chinese visitors are so hipster cool and color coordinated.

Melbourne Street Art
May and Mike from Monsters, Inc.

Blender Lane

One of the more prestigious street art laneways was started by The Blender Studios. What started out as a street art collective has since evolved into an art complex and ideas factory. On Wednesday evenings from 5-10pm, the Blender Lane Artists Market comes alive with live with music and performance artists, food, stalls of crafts, fashion, and art for sale, and even the chance to preview open studios.

Melbourne Street Art
Blender Lane

Melbourne Street Art

Melbourne Street Art

In and Around Melbourne

Melbourne Street Art

Melbourne Street ArtMelbourne Street Art
Left: ArtEquities’ Con Artist’s Profitable Con Art near the Queen Victoria Market
Right: Near the Queen Victoria Market

Melbourne Street Art
Monster trash cans near Ferdydurke

Melbourne Street ArtMelbourne Street Art
Left: Keep Your Coins, I Want Change near Queen Victoria Market
Right: Jacob Coopedge, student of Latrobe College Art and Design, painting his grayscale work to size on the gallery wall

Melbourne Street Art
Found near Chinatown

Melbourne Street Art
Found near Chinatown

Melbourne Street ArtDragon spotted in Fitzeroy area.

View More Photos Here

If you are interested in street art, Rash (2005) a documentary directed by Nicholas Hansen explores urban street artists in Australia through public dialogue.

Daintree Rainforest

For the final few days of our visit to Cairns we decided to rent a campervan and visit the Daintree Rainforest which is located North of Cairns. From Cairns you can sign up for a day trip to the forest as part of a tour but since we are not really tour people as we wanted to rent a campervan and do our own tour, at our own pace. Daintree Rainforest is part of Australia’s Wet Tropics of Queensland, one of the oldest tropical rainforests in existence (it is thought to be over 135 million years old) and at 120,000 hectares it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We rented a campervan from Spaceships Campervan for $60 AUD (or $42 USD) a day including insurance. If you are very confident in your driving ability, you can choose to not get insurance, but we chose to get it just to be safe even if it doesn’t cover collisions with wildlife such as kangaroos who are most active at dusk and dawn. Our itinerary was to spend two days and one night in Daintree Rainforest and then head south towards the Atherton Tablelands to see waterfalls and hopefully get a glimpse of a platypus for three days and two nights, but ended up cutting it short due to bad weather to two days and one night instead.

After making a wrong turn and ending at Kuranda (with a GPS we rented) we got back on the highway towards Daintree with plans to stop at the various view points along the coast which our hosts at the Travellers Oasis Backpackers highlighted on a map for us. The major stopping points included Mossman Gorge, then crossing the river via cable ferry, and entering Daintree to find lodging. The view points along the way were nice and scenic, reminding us of the California coast, which made for a nice drive.

Our Spaceships Campervan rental was an Alpha 2 Berth model named “Ham the Chimp.” This was pretty much an automatic mini van that was modified to contain a platform bed where we stored our baggage, food in the fridge locker, and cookware underneath. It was May’s first time driving on the opposite side of the road and Josh’s second (his first being in Japan). We had to constantly remind ourselves to keep left as there were a few times we drove on the right (or wrong) side of the road. Bottom photo set courtesy Spaceships.

Mossman Gorge

Our first stop in the Daintree Rainforest was Mossman Gorge where we hopped on the shuttle bus ($8.90 AUD) at the Visitor Center to the trailhead so we could hike the trail through the rainforest. The visitor center offers guided tours by aboriginal guides who explain how the local aboriginals use the forest for medicine and other aspects of their lives, but being short on time, we did a self guided tour. The loop trail has many informational signs and we were able to enjoy the experience without a guide, but we would have gotten more out of the experience with a guide during one of their Indigenous Tours or Dreamtime Walks.

The trail starts off as an elevated boardwalk which gave us a different vantage point of the forest. As we continued to walk through the rainforest, we came across a popular swimming hole that looked very tempting to take a dip in, but because we didn’t have our swimming suits and were warned that there could be strong currents, we decided to walk through the rainforest path instead. We first crossed the Rex Creek Suspension Bridge, which shook with every step that we took and ascended to the Manjal Dimbi (Mount Demi) Lookout point. Roughly translated, Manjal Dimbi means “mountain holding back.” According to Aboriginal dreamtime stories, the large humanoid rock represents Kubirri, who came to the aid of the Kuku Yalanji when they were persecuted by the evil spirit, Wurrumbu. Kubirri holds back the evil spirit, who is now confined to The Bluff above Mossman River, Manjal Dimbi has been anglicised to “Mt Demi” and Kubirri is known as the “Good Shepherd.” After descending from the lookout point we arrived at the junction for the Rainforest circuit track and decided to complete it in a clockwise fashion. This trek was clearly marked through the forest which contained many informational signage to explain the flora and fauna and history of the rainforest. After the rainforest circuit, we proceeded to the various scenic lookout points of Mossman Gorge to admire the large boulders there. After Mossman Gorge, we continued our journey North towards to the main part of the rainforest, but had to cross a river by driving our car onto a cable ferry.

A cassowary and totem poles displayed at the Mossman Gorge Visitor’s Center created by a local aboriginal

Large boulders at the Mossman Gorge

Left: Josh crossing the Rex Creek Suspedned Bridge which shook with every step he took.
Right: Wild medicinal mushrooms growing on a log at Mossman Gorge loop trail 2.4 km long.

Manjal Dimbi, a view from Mossman Gorge

Left: Beautiful tree bark naturally tinged pink at Mossman Gorge.
Right: A giant spider we saw hanging along the Mossman Gorge.

Daintree Rainforest

As we continued our journey up north for our 2D 1N (2 day, 1 night) self-guided tour through the rainforest, we stayed overnight at Lync-Haven Rainforest Retreat for the night to cook our spaghetti and marinara sauce dinner. We met another couple who have been traveling in a rental campervan for 4 weeks now. We shared our portable gas stove and propane with them so we could all dine together under the group camp shelter along with some unexpected guests, bats, while it rained. The first night we spent sleeping in the campervan was an uncomfortable experience as we are slightly above average in build and the campervan is not so above average in space. May was glad she did not have to use the toilet in the middle of the night because that would require some interesting maneuvers to get out from the side door on Josh’s side, the only exit at the time. If it weren’t for the heavy rain paired with lightning and thunder, we would have an alternate exit from the back, which would have popped open to provide extra space and ventilation as well. But, we managed to sleep decently and awoke to the roaring sounds of the rainforest where sounds from the bats flying overhead competed with the insects, birds, and other wildlife we may not have seen. That was a great morning and to top it off, we decided to hike the trails at the campervan park. The trails were a little hard to follow due to the overgrowth of the flora but it was a great experience seeing everything so up close and personal. We even spotted a musky rat-kangaroo running about in the forest. Afterwards, we took our campervan and stopped at boardwalks taking in the beautiful flora and fauna and managed to see and an endangered bird, the Southern Cassowary. We actually heard the movements before we saw the bird itself, and tried to take a photo of it, but it moved so quickly which made for an unbelievably magical experience.

We woke up from sleeping overnight in our campervan at the Lync-Haven Rainforest Retreat to numerous bats flying overhead.

Left: An overgrown trail we took at the Lync-Haven Rainforest Retreat, where we stayed overnight.
Right: One of the many boardwalks at Daintree Rainforest.

Left: Vine climbing on a tree. The Daintree Rainforest hosts a lot of symbiotic relationships.
Right: Strangler Fig tree taking over its host tree.

Left: A part of the rainforest we hiked
Right: A wavy branch

Left: The roots of trees poking out of the marshlands of Daintree Rainforest.
Right: A curly tree branch spotted at Daintree Rainforest.

Funny speed bump sign we spotted at Daintree Rainforest to warn us of what happens since cassowaries often cross the road and are hit

Trees at Thornton Beach in Daintree Rainforest

Left: Giant fig tree Josh is standing by. Right: A “Columnar” fig tree is result of the host tree dying and leaving the Strangler Fig Tree with a hollow core.

A view of the “Columnar” fig tree from the center, inside where the host tree once stood

Buttress roots of a tree in Daintree Rainforest. The buttress is used to support the shallow roots of the trees.

Orange-footed scrubfowl we spotted along the coast

Orange plant we saw with the Daintree Rainforest where parts were neatly separated

Curtain Fig Tree

The Curtain Fig Tree is one of the largest trees in the Atherton Tablelands region. The Curtain Fig Tree is a Strangler Fig Tree whose seeds germinated at the top of the host tree while its roots grew towards the ground. These ariel roots drop 15 meters (49 feet) to the ground. After visiting the Curtain Fig Tree we stopped by the platypus viewing platform to try and get a glimpse of the elusive animal but to no avail. We stayed overnight at a local camervan park and were planning on seeing some of the many waterfalls located in the region but the weather did not cooperate, raining to entire day.

The Curtain Fig Tree and its ariel roots

Creation of the curtain fig tree

The Curtain Fig Tree and its ariel roots


View More Photos of Daintree Rainforest and Atherton Tablelands Here

Kuranda – Koalas, Kangaroos & Birds


We took a half-day trip up to Kuranda from Cairns to visit the Koala Gardens and Birdworld via the public bus that only runs several times a day. Kuranda is a small village located 25km from Cairns and surrounded by Heritage Rainforest. There is a scenic train that leaves from Cairns and travels through the forest. It makes a stop at Barron Gorge for a view of the large waterfall. There is also Skyrail Rainforest Cableway where you can ride in a gondola that runs above the forest. We thought about taking the train up and the Skyrail down but ultimately decided to take the bus as it was the cheapest. That allowed us to save some money in an otherwise very expensive country to visit. Kuranda Village opens and closes according to the tourist schedule. So the entire village shuts down by 4:00 pm. We had to make sure we departed Kuranda by 3:30 pm or else we would miss the last bus back and would have to sleep on the park bench.

Kuranda Koala Gardens

Visiting the Koala Gardens, we were able to hold a baby koala. He was so soft and light it felt like a stuffed animal. Rocco was his name, and he wasn’t really cooperative when it came time for May to get her picture taken with him. Like many other animals, he thought she was edible and decided to nibble on her arm. But overall it was well worth it. Quite the unforgettable experience. We were also able to see many other furry and not so furry creatures.  These included a wombat during feeding time, many kangaroos and wallabies to interact with, crocodiles, reptiles and more. But since it was the middle of the day most of the animals mainly just laid around in the heat since they are most active during dusk and dawn.

Josh and May holding Rocco, a baby male koala who was a bit feisty because he wanted to sleep after being handled 26 times before us. Koala’s are only handled at most 28 times per day.


Koala getting ready to nap after repositioning

We really enjoyed the Koalas that were there and are excited to show you many photos of them

Crocodiles napping

Kangaroo needs a little help scratching his back while the wallaby in the back sniffs on some grass

Kangaroo hanging out on the lawn and after several hours, during our second visit, he finally stood up.


Giant lizard

Probably the same giant lizard who escaped his enclosure to hang out with the kangaroos

Birdworld Kuranda

Having held the koala and interacted with kangaroos and wallabies, our furry marsupial friends, we decided to tour the Birdworld. If you tour both, you get a discount. We were warned that the birds like shiny objects. They will go after zippers on backpacks, earrings, and buttons on clothing, buttons on hats, or really just buttons. There was a display case of items they had found. Josh didn’t listen to the advice from the staff. As soon as he walked in, a bird landed on his hat and tore the button on top of it off. They weren’t kidding about the warnings! The same bird wasn’t finished with his task and later landed on May, attacking the zipper pulls on her backpack and hair clip. We decided to call it the psycho bird. It was a fun and interesting day trip, one we won’t forget.

We called this bird the psycho bird because he kept on attacking Josh’s hat to collect his button.

The same bird that landed on May’s shoulder to grab her hair clip and zipper from her backpack

Eclectus Parrot

Two Chattering Lorikeets mating at Birdworld Kuranda

Blue and Gold Macaw from Central & South America

Indian Ringneck

Scaley Breasted Lorikeet

View More Photos of Kuranda Koala Gardens and Birdworld Here