We make a stop at the local market to buy some snacks for the trip today: The small, very sweet bananas are a good idea – I get offered a fruit to try that I do not recognize (Mangosteen) – delicious. I buy another 3 of them.
It seems we have a private tour, since no one else has booked for today. First, our guide takes us to a small clothes shop to buy a Sarong. Makes sense, since lending fees are quite exaggerated in most temples. We make a stop on our way to Gunung Kawi at the Tegalalang rice fields – a great view .
Gunung Kawi –
Wow. I had imagined it all to be much more touristy here. Are the only other people to be seen here locals, because we arrived this early? Especially lots of young people are at this temple, dressed in some quite chic traditional clothes. As I walk down the stairs to the temple, I notice a group of guys who like to pose for me in their traditional costume. Yet, thanks to the language barrier, I cannot ask them, but it seems it is some kind of holiday today. I see a great amount of young folks and also couples in festive garments who came to pray or to enjoy all the nature around the temple. I am pleasantly surprised. After visiting Tanah Lot and Uluwatu I thought that this would be again some sort of tourist attraction, but quite the contrary. Although all the temples in Bali are sacred sites, which are also used for prayers and which should also be given the necessary respect by foreigners, not all temples seem to be visited alike by non-residents.
Tirta Empul –
Ok, there is definitely a holiday today! There are lots of people at this temple here, however also as before the visitors are almost only young local people. They form some small groups, some guys here… some girl groups there… the couples among themselves… and from time to time you can also see some adults – parents and… maybe also teachers ( ? ). Some groups really resemble school classes. The temple here is a “water temple”, a basin is fed by a mountain spring, in which visitors clean themselves spiritually and physically. Right before, the faithful receive the blessing of a priest in another room in a group prayer. Jasmine blossoms seem to play an important role here, as I see many scattered on the ground – and the jasmine scent is quite dominant in the air. There is a very pleasant atmosphere :). Although everyone is wearing very festive robe, it does not feel like some sort of “forced” event – everyone seems relaxed.
Since this piqued my interest, I turn to a group of guys who look like senior highschoolers (as they already have English classes in school for sure), and ask them what the occasion for all those numerous temple visits is. Today is the beginning of school, and students, parents and teachers visit the temples together to pray for a successful school year. For the guys, my question seems to be a quite welcome opportunity to make use of their English skills they learned from school. The conversation develops very quickly into relaxed small talk, in which I also get some tips for good restaurants in Ubud.
Ulun Danu Batur –
After quite some long drive we arrive at Ulun Danu Batur. From the top you have a great view at the valley below. Especially the path which the lava took back then is clearly visible: Higher level plains are still green forested… Everything else seems covered in volcanic rock. We have to wear a sarong at the temple itself: It was a good choice to buy one, since lending or purchasing one here is quite expensive. This time, we’ll have to have a “guide” accompany us – on voluntarily payment. A very skinny teenager joins us… Perhaps having a local companion during your visit is mandatory here, to make sure tourists don’t come up with nonsense ? There are some other visitors here (Indonesian) allowed to walk alone… The temple itself is not really particularly worth seeing – but the view surely is. If I knew of the view before and wanted to visit places on my own I had certainly still wanted to visit this temple. The boy does not explain that much… We rather start having some small talk. Strange, he thinks I resemble Tom Cruise… just that I am too bearded… Now… Was this a compliment or an insult ? In addition to the obligatory exit-through-the-giftshop there is also an old guy at one of the viewpoints selling pictures made with colors containing volcanic stone… there are also some drawings of figures from the Ramayana saga that seem quite nice. But the supposedly “volcanic stone” which I get put in my hand to show me what the color is made of looks more like some colored, a bit porous, regular brick to me. Shouldn’t volcanic stone be almost weightless? A bit scepticism and the exorbitantly high price drops soon to a more reasonable one… Although this certainly is by no means “volcanic stone color”, I still buy a piece I like.
Kopi Luwak Plantation –
Same as yesterday, there is also a cocoa and coffee plantation visit planned. As said before: It is in the tour package, so it can be good, or not. We don’t get any more information compared to yesterday, but there is a terrace you have a nice view on rice fields while you can have some coffee. I buy some Red Rice- and Mangosteen-Tea, since you can also taste various tea kinds here.
Goa Gajah –
Our final destination is Goa Gajah, a temple known for its “Elephant Cave”. The very relaxed, calm atmosphere is very similar to that of Gunung Kawi before. A narrow footpath through a fairly dense jungle leads even further to some smaller temples, having some beautifully landscaped gardens with ponds (Similar to other places, some old trees with fine, interwoven roots are regarded as sacred – recognizable by the a checkered fabric which is put around them). There are lots of carvings in the Rocks, not only at the cave entrance. Being in this Forest, with all those carved rocks just hearing some animal sounds? Somehow I have to think of Simon the Sorcerer .
For a small donation you can even get a blessing (Including fertility and good sex ) from a priest in a 10-minute ritual.
Just as we arrive, the school ceremony seems to be underway here. A parade, accompanied by musicians, is walking on the main road. Its destination is probably a temple east of Jalan Kajeng Road. We end our day by visiting the nearby temple Taman Saraswati, which has a huge pond full of water lilies, and have dinner at the Bakan Wu Rus warung afterwards. Unfortunately, they are out of the typical suckling pig delicacy “Babi Guling”, so I order Nasi Ayam. Yum!
On our way back I notice an advertisement for a Sunrise tour on Mount Batur. Interesting.