We got up just before sunrise to prepare for our 6 AM head start to the infamous Lempuyang Temple, aka “Gates of Heaven”. Even at 6 AM arriving at 7 AM, Putu said the wait would be at least 3 hours; he had clients get up at 3 AM and wait in line for the temple to open at 6 AM LOL. We said we’d see how long the line would be when we got there to determine whether it was worth waiting or skipping. While waiting for the guys to get ready, I walked around our bamboo house to take photos since it was dark when we arrived last night. Our house is the “Butterfly” house.
It is a 2-level house with two bedrooms with awesome views of the rice paddle field.
The outdoor heated jacuzzi with the amazing views:
The sitting area is outdoor as well:
Behind that is the rotating door to the bathroom:
It has two bathrooms so it was convenient for 4 people.
The pathway to the outdoor shower…was scary at night…in terms of bugs and small creatures…
I wish they had an enclosed shower, that is my only complaint.
On the right side of this is the stairway to the 2nd level:
The 2nd level has a net, a sofa, and even a projector to watch movies!
The two bedrooms were pretty much identical, with an open “window” with no glass, you can only close the curtain.
Inside the bedroom, there is just enough space for a walk around the bed and store the luggage:
We placed our breakfast order (included in the room rate) the night before so the kitchen staff could prepare for them.
Breakfast with a view!
After the quick breakfast, we headed out, the pathway from our house to the hotel lobby located up the hill:
The view from the “lobby” and that is where the hotel’s restaurant located:
Their houses are built along the edge surrounding the rice field below.
It was an hour drive to the famous Lempuyang Temple. Once we arrived and parked at the parking lot, I went to the ticket booth to pay for the round-trip shuttle – 45K IDR per person. The temple is located at the top of the steep hill so the only way to get up from the parking lot is by their shuttle. Also, the entrance fee is 55K IDR per person, cash only. Next to the ticket booth, there is a sign of the rules of the temple…..their rules are the strictest that I have seen of all the temples in Bali!!! The most common rule was that women having their periods were not allowed to enter since they were considered “dirty” during those days. I was aware of that rule from reading about Bali but none of the temples we visited verbally asked about that except at Lempuyang!
We got on the next shuttle up and the shuttle dropped us off at the base of a hill where got our sarong, paid toilets, and shops are located. Then, it was a steep walk up to the temple; you can also pay for a motorcycle ride up.
We arrived at the temple, got our queue number, and waited a little bit to see how fast the “line” was moving. Like the treehouse, each person and each couple get 4 poses. However, it was fast: next pose, next pose, next pose, last pose instead of 2 minutes each. We calculated it was less than 2 minutes per number and we were another 100 in line so should be less than 3 hours of wait. As there were shades and sitting areas on both sides of the “Gates of Heaven”, we decided to wait instead of going back down, go somewhere, and come back up and have to pay again for the shuttle and walk the way up. The temple was so much smaller than I thought and was so commercialized as with most places in Bali!!! This is another reality versus Instagram: a phone photographer, part of the temple’s staff under the umbrella to take photos of tourists from opening to closing. I heard there are 8 of them rotating shifts from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
As there are countless numbers of temple gates throughout the island, what makes this one special? It aligns (not fully centered I found out when I got there, you have to tilt a little bit on the left side) with Mount Agung’s peak! It’s high up on Mountain Lempuyang to get its name “Gates of Heaven”. With its perfect location and the guy who cleverly created the “reflection illusion” by placing a mirror underneath the lens of the phone made it Instagram famous! I found it underwhelming, to be honest…
The opposite side of the gates was more architecturally interesting with dragon stairways.
Jason walked up the stairs to get this photo of looking down at the queueing area and the temple gates, isn’t it much smaller than from pictures?
We waited and waited and the clouds were rolling in and out covering the mountain peak. Some bigger groups took forever to take turns and a big group photo. It was finally our turn and at that point, we had waited for 3 hours for 1 minute of photos! The artificial reflection images were taken by the temple’s phone photographer using our phone, was it worth the wait?
I would say no, if it were only Jason & I, we would not wait for this! We were lucky that by our turn, the peak just got out of the clouds but the sun was covered so it looked more gloomy.
After we were done with photos, we walked down, returned the sarongs, got on the shuttle bus, and back to the parking lot where Putu was waiting. It was certainly time for lunch! We went to a restaurant very close to the Tirta Gangga Water Palace called Good Karma. We did not go with the recommendation from Putu, most likely to be a tourist trap so we went to one with decent Google reviews. Nothing fancy, local food; I got the curry chicken and it was just okay. Their toilet was a design disaster, who in the world came up with the idea to build the toilet one step up a platform that made it difficult for short people like me to use it, I can’t imagine how long of legs that you need to have to use it. Geez, I skipped that….I’ll pay to use the toilet if I need to go at the water palace. The lunch with drinks was super cheap – $48.31 for 5 people, 2 of our friends went on a separate snorkeling tour arranged with Camaya.
After lunch, we walked over to Tirta Gangga Water Palace, the admission fee was 50k IDR per person cash only. It’s a bigger palace complex than the other “palaces” we visited in Bali and it wasn’t as crowded. Lots of water and fish!
Still, only the gardens and exterior grounds were accessible like any other palaces in Bali. I wonder if they block the access or if there’s really nothing inside.
This palace gate was interesting that it has colorful dishes embedded on the wall.
We spent less than an hour walking around the palace grounds and took photos. Next, we made a quick stop at the Bukit Cinta (Mount Agung viewpoint) which you can locate in Google Maps. I found this location by searching for the most beautiful photo spots in Bali. It has a view of Mount Agung and the rice fields but when we got there, the mountain was covered with smog so it wasn’t really visible. Peter and Jeffrey walked down for a closer view. You can barely see the mountain even though I reduced the highlights and increased the clarity of it:
After that, we decided to head back to Camaya so we could catch the sunset from our beautiful bamboo house and to take more photos of it. So peaceful…
I also went to next door where our friends are staying to take photos of their houses “Lotus”. The walkway into their houses:
Lotus consisted of two separate houses, unlike our Butterfly – one big house. The smaller house was cozy with its own attached bathroom and open-air shower. There was limited space to store your luggage though.
The other bigger house was designed like a lotus flower thus how it got its name from. It has high ceilings and an enclosed toilet and shower! I went over to Lotus to shower, it was much more safe and comfortable to avoid small creatures 😉
The cute sitting area behind the house:
I made a reservation at Sleeping Gajah Kitchen & Lounge at 6 PM for dinner to celebrate Sokunna’s birthday; she stayed at a resort nearby since there were no more available rooms at Camaya when she decided on the trip. It was a challenge to get transportation to the restaurant, Grab wasn’t available so I contacted the hotel receptionist to book two cars. Even with that, the receptionist had a hard time booking a 2nd car, the driver called his friend to ask. It was an expensive trip too, at 400k per way! If I knew this was difficult and expensive, I would’ve asked Putu to pay him extra instead!!! So another note if you plan to stay at Camaya, there’s no other dining option nearby besides the hotel restaurant and transportation to town is limited and expensive!
It was around half an hour’s drive to get to the Sideman town and the driver asked if we needed a return ride, of course! He agreed to wait for us to get our business, 400k is a good amount!
Sleeping Gajah Kitchen & Lounge is a restaurant in the Wapa di Ume, a 5-star resort. The drinks and food we ordered:
The spring rolls were good;
The fried shrimps were okay too, that salad looked much more interesting to me as I missed green vegetables LOL!
The coconut soup wasn’t as good as the one we had at Nusantara by Locavore.
A tuna salad, I am not a raw fish person so I passed on that.
I ordered the Indonesian fried noodle with satay, I was craving for stir-fried noodles and it was spicy and good.
The teriyaki chicken was a little bit salty, we think that Indonesian food in general is too salty for us!
I arranged a “cake” for Sokunna but it turned out to be a small chocolate lava cake (the size of a cupcake) sigh. But she said it tasted very good! The dinner total was $262.28 for 8 people and it wasn’t impressive.
When we got back to Camaya, I was notified that our flight from Bali to Jakarta was delayed by an hour. It wasn’t an issue since our flight to Tokyo was at 9:55 PM from Jakarta, we had plenty of time to make the transfer. With that extra hour, we decided to have lunch at 7 Seafood Restaurant as it’s near the airport anyways. Everyone totally agreed with that!
This time, we ordered 2x the stir-fried vegetables, it was that good!
We ordered a different kind of steamed live shrimps, the one we had the first time was better.
The black pepper beef wasn’t good, lack of flavors.
The tofu was the worst dish so lesson learned, stick to seafood dishes at 7 Seafood Restaurant!
Garlic steamed lobsters:
More slipper lobsters this time…
The delicious steamed fish:
We ordered another lobster after we finished the dish in no time LOL
We ordered so much food since their seafood was super fresh and good! Our bill this time after the 10% Google review: $280.26 hahaha, totally worth it!
Bali airport was quite warm, it felt like their AC barely worked even in the lounge. When we got to the gate, Air Asia’s staff were giving out bags of snacks and water to apologize for the flight delay. Wow, US airlines should learn from this!
Our 5 full days in Bali came to an end, I have mixed feelings about Bali. Their natural scenery like the waterfalls was worth the visit alone. Bali is a huge island with lots to see and do, even with 5 days, it was just enough to see the sights on top of our list. With lots of choices of affordable villas and inexpensive private driver+car make it a budget destination and great value for the family. What deviated the most from what I had in my mind were the temples and palaces. They were small or only a small part was accessible to tourists. There was no “grand” and “wow” factor. Their cuisine was my least favorite of all the Asian destinations, too salty for my taste and while I love spicy food, their spiciness wasn’t what I enjoyed. As for the crowds, I already prepared for the crowds but not as bad. Also, with their queueing at all the Instagram famous photo spots, the good side of it is that you’ll get your perfect shots if you are willing to wait. I wouldn’t say over-tourism is the issue, I think over-commercialization is, for example, swings are everywhere!