Legendary Bali…..Island of the Gods. More than 20,000 temples are here, a mixture of both Buddhism and Hinduism. In addition to its deeply spiritual reputation, or maybe in part because of it, Bali has become synonymous with paradise, a mystical island with so much to offer.
Everyone talks about going to Bali, seeing Bali, relaxing in Bali, celebrating the culture of Bali. But, as we have heard in answers on Jeopardy, for example, some people think it is in the Caribbean or off the coast of Africa or in Japan. Australians vacation in Bali as their favorite vacation spot, but when asked if they have ever been to Indonesia, they will often answer, “no.” Amazing.
We traveled to Klungkung Kertagosa, a building compound designed and built in 1710 in the city of Semarapura. The compound contains the Bale Kambang floating pavilion and the Hall of Justice, with its elaborate ceiling murals, still in great condition after more than 300 years. After that, it was on to the Pura Kehen temple complex, built in the 11th century. A series of stairs leads to the gold entrance door, where the demonic face of Kala Makara stands guard over the temple grounds. The Balinese believe there are spirits everywhere….both benign and malicious. You will see a lot of statues and gods scattered among the photos. Families live behind arched gated entrances, built to resemble temples. Behind each of these entrances are screens called aling aling, intended to keep evil spirits away. Since the Hindu must pray each day, in a temple, they are built all over compounds to make praying more accessible. Families tend to live in a compound, with grandparents in one dwelling, parents in the next, and yet again, children in the next. Their homes are passed down ancestrally…we were told that to sell a family compound was unthinkable. The Balinese also leave daily appeasements for the gods, incense and food wrapped in banana leaves. We were wondering why our tour guide wasn’t telling us what all of these hundreds of temples were that we passed, only to realize they were residences, and really nothing special to anyone, except us.
Lunch was a delicious Indonesian buffet in an open-air pavilion, with fried rice, chicken, shrimp, corn cakes, tropical fruit salad, mixed vegetables, and spring rolls, with coconut crepes, lime crumble, and fresh fruit for dessert. The pavilion was situated next to rice paddies, and there are photos of the pavilion and a worker with water buffalo harvesting rice in the paddy. Our final stop was Puri Agung, a royal palace built around 1600.
The first two photos are the floating pavilion at Klungkung, and the third is the old entrance to the presidential palace. In the fourth photo is an example of one of the street roundabouts, all of which seemed to have an elaborate carved statue in the middle. Traffic doesn’t look too terrible in the photo, but it was wild. The traffic weaves and dances more than it moves. Everyone eases around cars, trucks, buses, and scooters in front of them in a single lane; accordingly, the vehicle being passed moves over a bit toward the shoulder to allow passage. Nobody ever slows down when someone is stopped ahead…they just ease around, in front of someone else, and keep going. Since this all takes place in one lane, we often passed with oh, like a whole inch to spare! It is something to witness! No accidents, of course.
After that are the photos of Kala Makara, standing guard, and the steep stairway to reach the top and view the leaflike stepped temple inside, which we found so unusual. You’ll notice that in a few photos, the statues are draped in checked fabric. This is to indicate the Hindu belief in yin and yang, good and evil, black and white….we, and all of nature, exist with both dualities.
The ceiling panel photos just before the last photo are done in the Kamasan style and depict punishments by the gods for human behaviors. The first is a dragon sculpture standing guard. Following that is a depiction of someone being boiled in a pot, with their feet and buttocks exposed, all for the infraction of lying. After that are punishments for various sexual infractions, with angry gods doing the cutting and burning…yuck.
And, so appropriate, you are thinking…they end with a gorgeous view of sunset. Nope. It is sunrise, and we really liked the way the clouds resemble a dragon and its breath, trailing up toward the heavens…a link with the Komodo dragons from the previous day!