“Insel der Daemonen” (Island of Daemons)

Friedrich Da(h)lheim’s movie “Die Insel der Daemonen” (1933) and artists like Walter Spiess shaped the perception of Bali as a mysterious island East of Java and Sumatra. The cultural centre of the island still is Ubud, about one hour’s drive north from Denpasar, where Spiess cultivated an art scene starting from 1927 until shortly before his death in 1942; when a Japanese bomb hit the ship on which he was deported. One of the impressing Centers cherishing Balinese culture and art is the ARMA Museum (S 08 Deg 31.404’, E 115 Deg 15.931’), which is exhibiting all styles of art and keeps customs alive by many cultural events. A very good bookshop with a large section of books on historical and contempoary Indonesian topics is the Ganesha Bookshop, only a few hundred meters along the street from the ARMA Museum to the city centre.

As travel preparation Leonard Luera’s “Ubud is a mood” (2004) is far superior to any conventional travel guide. It is not available on Amazon, but the Ganesha Bookshop offers mail order service too. 

One and a half hours drive further North into the volcanic region close to Kintamani you can stay in the Caldera around the stratovolcano Mount Batur, at the shore of a large lake on the foot of the mountain. The two main villages are Kidisan and Toya Bungkah (S 08 Deg 15.232”, E 115 Deg 024.023’). Both villages are a bit filthy and hostels are simple (but not cheap at first sight). The best view point is not the volcano itself, but to go for the sunrise up to the caldera rim. An excellent point is S 08 Deg 16.061’, E 115 Deg 25.819’. At around 1600 m height, from here you look actually down on Mount Batur, which is 1412 m heigh, and furthermore you see the “Home of the Gods”, which is the 2567 m heigh Mount Agung down the Eastern Caldera flank. The hike through the mountain jungle starting in the early morning from 3 am is a safe tourist repellent and there will be nobody else for sure. A good walk from there is over the rim of the caldera to the Northern tip of Lake Batur from where you can see the volcano reflected in the water. Here you pass above the village Trunyan, which inhabitants are described as “primitive”, due to not  cremate or bury their dead but operate their cemetery like some kind of smelly human compost in a village called Kuban, where the corpses are deteriorating in bamboo cages. The villagers have their fields up the mountains, ask for money, and support their arguments with simple carabiner hunting rifles, caliber .22 hornet. Also this keeps the ordinary tourist away, which makes such incidents not a robbery, but a “service charge”.

The way back South has a very scenic rout, passing Sueter, Pempatan, Menanga, Rendan and then turn left via Mucan, Peringsari, Selat, Duda, Sibetan, Bebandem, Bungaya Kagin and Amlapura. Then follow the coast rout to Denpasar. Avoid Kuta.

Bali is an incredibly interesting place. Really an island of daemons, ceremonies a beautiful nature and a sophisticated art scene. Ideal, not to travel a week, but to stay at least a month after six months reading.