Qatar– A New Adventure Begins

Qatar – A Rising Falcon

Qatar is situated on a peninsula that juts into the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia provides the solitary border and land extends a mere 160 kilometres northwards from this southern boundary. The country is a constitutional monarchy and has developed at breakneck speed over the last few decades. Abundant reserves of oil and gas have been the main drivers towards this robust growth. In particular, the latter is available in copious quantities. Gas accounts for approximately 14 percent of total known global resources.

Doha is Qatar’s capital city and, with a population of almost 1.5 million, is home to more than 50 percent of the nation’s population.  This modern metropolis has a multitude of world class hotels plus a growing number of cultural attractions. Notwithstanding this, Qatar authorities have maintained the nation’s ancient traditions by ensuring they remain an integral part of the city. It is this rich culture blended into modern sophistication that has propelled Qatar to the top of my travel bucket-list. Fortunately, an opportunity to visit has arisen much earlier than I had anticipated. My journey starts this evening!

Qatar Airways – Perth To Qatar

An added benefit of travelling to Doha, is that I will once again have the privilege of being hosted by Qatar Airways. The airline was recently awarded Airline of the Year at the Skytrax World Airline Awards. I am also lucky enough to be flying in one of my favourite aircraft, the Boeing 777-300.  This will make the normally onerous eleven hour plus flight from Perth a pleasurable experience.

Qatar Airways

The Mondrian – Doha

I will be staying at the magnificent Mondrian Hotel in Doha. Opened in October 2017, this luxuriously appointed 270 room hotel has had exemplary reviews ever since.

The building and interior draws inspiration from falcons. For instance, the entrance has been shaped like the beak of a falcon and the rooftop is fringed with wing shaped extensions. The lower exterior also appears to be carved out like a nest. Paintings and ornaments depicting these magnificent birds of prey fill the interior. I cannot wait to sample the hospitality of this magnificent hotel and report back to my subscribers.

Mondrian Doha

Sacred Temples of Bali

Bali Temples

No trip to Bali would be complete without seeing one or more of its more prominent Hindu temples. There are over twenty thousand on the island but the vast majority of these are small village shrines. Nonetheless, there is a significant number of extremely impressive temples that are worth visiting. A Balinese temple is known locally as a Pura. They have a very definite style and layout that is common amongst them all. The following are some of the temples that are worth considering.

Pura Ulun Danu Beratan Temple

Pura Ulun Danu Beratan, or Pura Bratan, is a prominent Hindu water temple in north Bali. The temple complex is scenically located on the shores of Lake Bratan in the mountains near Bedoegoel.The unique setting on the lake gives the impression of the buildings floating on water.

Bali Temples - Pura Ulun Danu Beratan

Bali Temples - Pura Bratan

Lempuyang Temple, Bali

The Lempuyang Temple or Pura Luhur Lempuyang Bali is a series of six complexes built on the slopes of the mountain with the same name. It is one of nine directional temples on the Island that were built to protect the island from evil spirits. Collectively, they are known as kahyangan jagaton. Be aware that the hike to the top temple is steep, takes up to two hours and is often clouded over. If you are lucky to have a clear day the views of Mount Agung and the valleys below are spectacular.

Bali Temples - Lempuyang

Tirta Empul Temple

The Tirta Empul or Holy Spring Water Temple is located near the town of Tampaksiring about a thirty minute drive North of Ubud. This most sacred of religious sites is dedicated to Vishnu, who is the Hindu God of water. The most recognised section of complex is the Jaba Tengah which has two purification pools. Worshippers come here to cleanse themselves by dipping their heads under the water spouts.

Bali Temples - Tirta Empul

The Tirta Empul Holy Spring – Bali Temples

The Jaba Tengah purification pools have thirty water spouts that are fed with water from the holy spring.

Holy Spring Water Temple

Lake Batur Shrine

There are a number of temples and shrines around the volcanic lakes in the north of Bali. The more prominent of these can be very congested, especially at weekends. For those wanting to get away from the crowds, it is worth hiring a guide for the day to take you to lesser know sites.

Lake Batur Shrine

Entrance Gate Pintu Bintar – Lempuyang Temple

On a clear day, the views from the Pintu Bintar entrance gate to Mount Agung are spectacular. On the day I visited, the clouds had rolled in and hidden the peak. Instead, I was graced with the beauty of an eagle riding the thermals.

Bali Temples - Entrance Gate Pintu Bintar,Lempuyang

Pura Ulun Danu Tamblingan Temple

The Pura Ulun Danu Tamblingan is not as famous as the prominent temples on lake Bratan and Batur but, for me, it is a far more enjoyable place to visit. The reasons for this are that it is less crowded, is superbly located and is frequented by the most interesting local people.

Bali Temples - Pura Ulun Danu

Goa Lawah Temple, Candidasa

The Goa Lawah Temple is an impressive Hindu religious site close to Candidasa in east Bali. Drawcards include architecture that is very traditional and buildings that are built around a cave inhabited by thousands of bats.

Goa Lawah Temple, Bali

Bali – Life in the Countryside

Bali Countryside

A visit to the countryside is the best way to experience the traditional way of life in Bali. Once you leave the city limits, you will be captivated by the rolling hills, golden rice fields, volcanic mountains, tropical forests and warm friendly people.

Tourism is by far the island’s single largest income earner. However, agriculture continues to be the biggest employer with rice cultivation the dominant crop. Other agricultural activities include coffee, fruit, vegetables and livestock production. Activities such as wood and stone carving, batik and other art are also prevalent in the villages.

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces – Countryside Landscapes

There are a number of rice growing operations in Bali that are open to the public. Most charge a small fee and there generally is the option of hiring a guide. I visited two during my stay in Ubud. The Jatiluwih rice terraces are in central Bali and cover over six hundred hectares of scenic undulating farmland. I also visited Tegallalang rice fields which are much smaller but more popular with tourists, due to their close proximity to Ubud. I much preferred Jatiluwih as it was less crowded and I also felt that the latter was a bit of a tourist trap.

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces - Bali Countryside

Jatiluwih Rice Farmer – Countryside Portraits

The farmers at Jatiluwah were busy harvesting their rice crops when I visited. The fields are mostly inaccessible to machinery and motorised transport due to the rugged countryside and saturated soil. This means the crop has be reaped by hand and then carried fair distances on foot. I was amazed at the heavy loads that were being carried by the farmers.

Jatiluwih Rice Farmer - Bali Countryside

Bali Wood Carver & Chicken Farmer

One of the major drawcards to visiting Bali is its wonderful people. This is particularly the case in the countryside, where everyone is so friendly and even more relaxed than in the bustling towns. Wherever possible, I took the opportunity to talk to as many of the locals as possible. Whilst visiting a small village, I was introduced to a wood carver and chicken farmer. His booming laugh and wide toothy smile were highly infectious.Bali Wood Carver & Chicken Farmer

The Wood Carver – Bali

Like many of the countryside folk in Bali, the ‘Wood Carver’ had a trade and this was subsidised by some form of farming activity. In his particular case, chickens and rice cultivation helped him provide for his family.

Wood Carver - Bali Countryside

Prized Cockerel – Bali Countryside

Chicken Farmer - Bali Countryside

Bali Countryside Rice Farmer

An elderly rice farmer carries baskets filled with palm fronds for use in weaving.

Bali Countryside Rice Farmer

Tegallalang Rice Terrace – Bali

The Tegallalang Rice Terrace is just ten kilometres north of Ubud and is popular with tourists wanting to get a feel of countryside life in Bali. Tegallalang is very different from Jatiluwih and features far steeper terraces and pretty coconut palms.

Tegallalang Rice Terrace