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A Feast for the Senses in Bali

Author: pakce  |  Category: Destination Bali Indo

Temples, rice terraces and persistent vendors Floating Pavilion.

When the driver turns the van onto the highway, Bali’s 3 million inhabitants are everywhere. Motorcycles whiz in and out of traffic on a street crowded with vans and dump trucks that pay little heed to traffic laws. Uniformed schoolchildren walk beside the road carrying straw bundles used to sweep the schoolyard. Storekeepers squat in the shade of an overhang, their shops hugging the dusty pavement.

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The Bali Hindu religion, a mix of Hindu and Buddhism, is a visible presence throughout the island. Temples and shrines peak over the gray brick walls of family compounds. Inside, a temple with at least three shrines faces northeast towards the sacred mountain, Gunung Agung.

In the rice terraces, a temple guards a flooded field where women bend over tender shoots, their hats shielding them from the intense sun. The offerings of flowers and herbs placed on roadsides and wall ledges perfumes the air.

At the town of Klungkung, we tour Kerta Gosa (the Hall of Justice.) Part of an 18th century royal palace, this open-air pavilion’s ceiling is a visual rulebook of the laws of Hindu society.

Another thatched-roof pavilion is surrounded by a moat populated by goldfish and lotus flowers. Known as the Floating Pavilion, Bale Kambang’s painted ceiling tells the story of Sang Sutasoma whose supernatural powers turned arrows and spears into flowers. A museum housing a few artifacts, pictures and masks, completes the complex.

Vendors swarm as we return to the parking lot.

“Lady, very nice, very beautiful, you will like.” A man pushes silver jewelry in front of my face. I shake my head, “No.”

Sellers poke merchandise-laden arms into our vehicle making it difficult to shut the door. With pickpockets in the crowd and vendors selling fake items, this is not a good place to buy anything.

^Top

Wood, silver and batik artisans, plus Pura Kehen temple

Pura Kehen temple. Photo by Donna L. Hull.

At the village of Mas, the van drives through a guarded gate where an elegant building houses a woodcarving cooperative. Men and women lounge on the steps of a shady veranda waiting to guide visitors. They become expert salespeople by the tour’s end.

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The sweet smell of wood shavings mixes with the sharp tang of veneer. A woodcarver chisels a half-finished piece while, next to him, a woman rubs stain onto a giant elephant. My hands glide across a Buddha’s silky smooth stomach. The mahogany wood feels surprisingly cold.

At a visit to Celuk, known for silversmithing, women sit behind tables on a narrow front porch making treasures from tiny slivers of metal. Inside the building, long glass cases display thousands of handmade creations.

Batik artisans work on the porch at Tonpati, too. In their showroom, a counter-top arrangement of intricately designed scarves creates a kaleidoscope of luxurious silk.

“Would you like to visit a Balinese home?” Wisia asks.

Great-grandfather greets us at the compound entrance. Inside, a one-room cooking house sits across from several small huts used for sleeping. An open room in the center of the complex houses celebrations and ceremonies. It is also where the oldest family member sleeps.

Two statues of a human body with a gargoyle head guard the family’s temple entrance. Enclosed by a wall, the temple is a flat area with several shrines standing in a row.

Tonight’s dinner appears around the corner — a porcupine. He sleeps in his cage while a black hen clucks to her chicks as they scratch through a pile of oval shaped leaves.

Great-grandfather waits for us to pay our respects when we exit the compound. I place a monetary gift in his open hand. He smiles a toothless grin and bows.

Even on the rural road to Penelokan, motorcycles buzz around us. At an overlook, good weather provides a view of the active volcano, Gunung Batur, and Lake Batur. Black lava flows are visible in the crater that is 18 miles in diameter and 600 feet deep. Wisia says that when the volcano erupts, it becomes nightly entertainment for the islanders who come to watch the fiery show.

A visit to Pura Kehen, one of an estimated 10,000 Balinese temples, completes the day. This 12th century shrine rises steeply up a hill and into the steamy jungle. Breathing heavily, the group trudges up steps that lead to an ornate entrance. To show respect, we wear pink sashes tied around our waists. On the first terrace, a bell tower stands beneath a 500-year-old banyan tree. The main shrine sits on the next terrace, mostly obscured by scaffolding in preparation for an upcoming celebration.

As the van races back to the ship, Wisia says, “If tonight is clear, watch for the lanterns of night fishermen as your ship leaves the harbor.”

The moon shines a silver path across the water. The long blast of a horn rides the warm breeze, announcing our departure. In the distance, tiny points of light bob in the water winking a Bali goodbye.

Many cruise ships offer “Bali As You Please.” At $240, which includes a van, driver and interpreter for eight hours, it’s a hassle-free introduction to an exotic culture.

Temples, rice terraces and persistent vendors

Floating Pavilion. Photo by Donna L. Hull.

My husband and I are sharing a private excursion with another couple from the ship. It includes a driver and interpreter plus air-conditioned van, providing eight hours of cool comfort combined with an individualized itinerary.

When the driver turns the van onto the highway, Bali’s 3 million inhabitants are everywhere. Motorcycles whiz in and out of traffic on a street crowded with vans and dump trucks that pay little heed to traffic laws. Uniformed schoolchildren walk beside the road carrying straw bundles used to sweep the schoolyard. Storekeepers squat in the shade of an overhang, their shops hugging the dusty pavement.

The Bali Hindu religion, a mix of Hindu and Buddhism, is a visible presence throughout the island. Temples and shrines peak over the gray brick walls of family compounds. Inside, a temple with at least three shrines faces northeast towards the sacred mountain, Gunung Agung.

In the rice terraces, a temple guards a flooded field where women bend over tender shoots, their hats shielding them from the intense sun. The offerings of flowers and herbs placed on roadsides and wall ledges perfumes the air.

At the town of Klungkung, we tour Kerta Gosa (the Hall of Justice.) Part of an 18th century royal palace, this open-air pavilion’s ceiling is a visual rulebook of the laws of Hindu society.

Another thatched-roof pavilion is surrounded by a moat populated by goldfish and lotus flowers. Known as the Floating Pavilion, Bale Kambang’s painted ceiling tells the story of Sang Sutasoma whose supernatural powers turned arrows and spears into flowers. A museum housing a few artifacts, pictures and masks, completes the complex.

Vendors swarm as we return to the parking lot.

“Lady, very nice, very beautiful, you will like.” A man pushes silver jewelry in front of my face. I shake my head, “No.”

Sellers poke merchandise-laden arms into our vehicle making it difficult to shut the door. With pickpockets in the crowd and vendors selling fake items, this is not a good place to buy anything.

Wood, silver and batik artisans, plus Pura Kehen temple

Pura Kehen temple. Photo by Donna L. Hull.

At the village of Mas, the van drives through a guarded gate where an elegant building houses a woodcarving cooperative. Men and women lounge on the steps of a shady veranda waiting to guide visitors. They become expert salespeople by the tour’s end.

The sweet smell of wood shavings mixes with the sharp tang of veneer. A woodcarver chisels a half-finished piece while, next to him, a woman rubs stain onto a giant elephant. My hands glide across a Buddha’s silky smooth stomach. The mahogany wood feels surprisingly cold.

At a visit to Celuk, known for silversmithing, women sit behind tables on a narrow front porch making treasures from tiny slivers of metal. Inside the building, long glass cases display thousands of handmade creations.

Batik artisans work on the porch at Tonpati, too. In their showroom, a counter-top arrangement of intricately designed scarves creates a kaleidoscope of luxurious silk.

“Would you like to visit a Balinese home?” Wisia asks.

Great-grandfather greets us at the compound entrance. Inside, a one-room cooking house sits across from several small huts used for sleeping. An open room in the center of the complex houses celebrations and ceremonies. It is also where the oldest family member sleeps.

Two statues of a human body with a gargoyle head guard the family’s temple entrance. Enclosed by a wall, the temple is a flat area with several shrines standing in a row.

Tonight’s dinner appears around the corner — a porcupine. He sleeps in his cage while a black hen clucks to her chicks as they scratch through a pile of oval shaped leaves.

Great-grandfather waits for us to pay our respects when we exit the compound. I place a monetary gift in his open hand. He smiles a toothless grin and bows.

Even on the rural road to Penelokan, motorcycles buzz around us. At an overlook, good weather provides a view of the active volcano, Gunung Batur, and Lake Batur. Black lava flows are visible in the crater that is 18 miles in diameter and 600 feet deep. Wisia says that when the volcano erupts, it becomes nightly entertainment for the islanders who come to watch the fiery show.

A visit to Pura Kehen, one of an estimated 10,000 Balinese temples, completes the day. This 12th century shrine rises steeply up a hill and into the steamy jungle. Breathing heavily, the group trudges up steps that lead to an ornate entrance. To show respect, we wear pink sashes tied around our waists. On the first terrace, a bell tower stands beneath a 500-year-old banyan tree. The main shrine sits on the next terrace, mostly obscured by scaffolding in preparation for an upcoming celebration.

As the van races back to the ship, Wisia says, “If tonight is clear, watch for the lanterns of night fishermen as your ship leaves the harbor.”

The moon shines a silver path across the water. The long blast of a horn rides the warm breeze, announcing our departure. In the distance, tiny points of light bob in the water winking a Bali goodbye.

Many cruise ships offer “Bali As You Please.” At $240, which includes a van, driver and interpreter for eight hours, it’s a hassle-free introduction to an exotic culture.

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