Indonesia - Bali - 4 Temples and A Ceremony
Oct 1, 2003
|There are approximately 100,000 Hindu temples in Bali. I had not yet experienced one. We were about to change that. Quite unknowingly, we picked a great day to visit temples as it was Full Moon, and special ceremonies were taking place at the temples. I don't know the significance of Full Moon to Balinese Hindus, but from the size and elaborateness of the ceremonies we attended, it's apparently a big deal!
After our week in Java, we arrived in Bali feeling overjoyed to be back in civilization. We spent 3 days in Kuta making plans for our next adventure and, well, just enjoying some good food, soft beds, flush toilets, hot showers and cold beer before moving on again. And since we had a few days to kill, we decided it was time to visit some temples.
We visited not one, not two, but did a whirlwind tour of four Hindu temples in one day. We went from sunrise on the east coast to sunset on the west coast and various places around Bali in between. At the end of the day I was pretty much templed out, but I had learned some interesting things about Balinese temples ...
Lesson #1: Size matters. Some temples are quite small and plain, just your everyday garden variety, literally one or two on every street. Then there are others that are larger, used for special ceremonies, are more scenic, touristy, and much more difficult to get to. These are the ones we visited.
Lesson #2: The fancier the temple, the more difficult it is to reach. We've noticed that Indonesia is NOT the most handicap-friendly country in the world (this is a huge understatement), and temples are a perfect example. For instance, Ulluwatu is perched high on a rocky cliff overlooking the raging seas, accessible only by climbing endless sets of stairs. Tannah Lot is built on a rocky ledge in the ocean, accessible only by crossing the seabed at low tide (unfortunately we arrived during high tide so could only admire from afar). Tampaksiring is located deep down in a beautiful valley, surrounded by beautiful rice fields and babbling brooks but yes, you guessed it, accessible only by descending millions of stairs. I mean, they're all very beautiful settings, but was it really necessary to build them where it's so difficult to go and pray?!
Lesson #3: Temple entry will only be awarded to those people strong enough to withstand the battle of the agressive souvenir vendors lined up from car park to front gate.
Lesson #4: No sarong, no sleeved shirt, no waist scarf = no temple entry. If you do arrive unprepared, however, sarongs and waist scarves can be rented from the temple for a small fee. Also worth noting is that women are prohibited from entering a temple during menstruation.
Now, if you've survived the stairs and vendors, and haven't yet passed out from wearing more clothes than most humans can tolerate in this incessant heat, you're treated to a beautiful sight once you finally pass through the entry gates. Balinese people quietly come and go from the worship area, praying and giving offerings. The scent of incense drifts softly through the air. Lush green gardens and beautiful rivers or lakes surround you. A calm and peaceful atmosphere prevails. Or at least it usually does ... but as I mentioned before, it was Full Moon and big ceremonies were taking place.
At first we approached the ceremony areas quite hesitantly, feeling somewhat like intruders. But the Balinese people are hospitable and since we were properly attired, polite, and no doubt because JP can fluently speak the language, we were soon invited to join the festivities.
The temples were marvelously transformed. Worship areas were decorated with white and gold umbrellas, bamboo streamers and colorful banners. Even the little stone gods were sporting fresh new sarongs. The Balinese people were likewise dressed in their finest sarongs and ceremonial attire ... why is it that they never look hot and sweaty when wearing all this clothing? Some of the larger ceremonies had gamelan musicians (xylophone-like instrument) and dance performances. Men were cooking satays by the thousands, which were first given as offerings and then distributed to attendees to eat and enjoy. Women strolled by, balancing large offering baskets of fresh fruit, rice cakes and flowers on their heads. Being in the "can barely chew gum and walk" category, I was totally envious of these beautiful, graceful, exotic women!
We ate satays, enjoyed the entertainment, chatted with locals and other tourists, and snapped off tons of photos. At the end of the day we returned to Kuta feeling exhausted but also very fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in these wonderful Full Moon ceremonies ... even though we're still none the wiser on their significance.
On a final, more serious note, October 12th was the one-year anniversary of the Bali Bomb. We were very surprised when we returned from Java (on around Oct 8th I think) to see that an increased number of tourists had arrived in Kuta while we were gone, no doubt a lot of family members and friends paying tribute to those killed in the bomb. There was also an increased security presence around town. We read that 200 additional armed guards had been brought in to watch over the memorial ceremonies. I also noticed that a new monument had been unveiled at the bombsite listing the names of all those killed - mostly Australians and Indonesians but I noticed 2 Canadian names on the list.
It was interesting to be in Bali a year after the bomb, but quite honestly we were happier to escape the hordes of extra people and the commercialism and hype that had grasped Kuta during what, in my view, should have been a time for respect and remembrance. We left Bali again on October 11th headed for Flores and a new adventure.