Very different sailing into Benoa, Bali, Indonesia today than the other places we have been. First, we arrived at noon instead of 7 or 8 in the morning. Second the harbor is noisy, buzzing with holiday activity. People are waving, yelling and screaming as speed boats pull Parasailers, big inflatable rafts and banana tubes. Next is the jet skiers buzzing around… all of this sharing the narrow channel we are in. Lastly, every 10 minutes a big passenger jet flies overhead on final approach to the airport across the harbor.
The hustle and bustle continue on shore. Cars, buses and twice as many motorcycles speeding along the freeway from the port to the city. The city, aside from temples to Hindu gods and offerings everywhere is much like other large cities. Many of the same brand names. Stone work and lush foliage and flowers make it more distinct.
Outside the city center, the roads are lined with stone walls to mark off the family property/compound. Traditional Balinese families live in compounds with several buildings for working, cooking, eating, sleeping and most important, a temple to the favored Hindu God or Gods. In the Northeast corner MUST be a temple to the Hindu god guarding the family. Daily offerings and prayers are part of the fabric of life. Twice a day is better, but at least at night. A wooden bell is struck in the local community temple to remind people. North is defined as “facing the mountain” so if you live north of the mountain, the temple is actually in the south corner according to a compass. We did not see any of the famous mountains as the clouds hung low all day.
First stop on our tour was a Batik “factory”, but more of an art gallery, fabric store. There was a display of the traditional method of applying wax and dying . In 3 mins, one of the women who would paint a design on your shirt or hat. We bought a couple of sarongs and a scarf. It was hard to chose with all the patterns.
Next off into the countryside to the Taman Ayun Royal temple from 1650’s. We drove through many towns and rice paddies. Work shops and small restaurants lined the road interspersed with the walled family compounds. It seemed like a town or neighborhood would specialize is a certain craft. You would see four wood carving places in a row and then four stone work shops in a row. Offering to the gods were everywhere in the homes, shops and street corners. Most of the roads were 2 lane, with lane being a concept rather than a fact. The traffic flowed around any obstacle, such as parked truck, low hanging trees, cars pulling out of driveways…. almost effortlessly. Mel and I closed our eyes a few times with many near misses, but there was no horn honking or indication of road rage. It all seemed to work as best as possible, just go with the flow.
Taman Ayun royal temple complex is a large scenic area surround by rivers, moats and terraces. The complex contains many temple platforms on the ascending terraces. There are temples with roofs for each of the odd numbers going up to 11 levels. The Gods favor odd numbers. We walked around lovely public areas of the grounds with many stone and wood carvings. You are supposed to have your shoulders and knees covered in reverence to the Gods. This includes the men. If you had shorts on, you could get a sarong. The sarongs are bright lime green, I think so to make sure you give them back. We peered over the wall at the inner area which is reserved for religious ceremonies only. It was a serene, peaceful place with many places to sit quietly.
More mountain roads and rice paddies on our way to lunch. Bali has self sustaining rice production, down to an engineering science. One of the other tours was to Ubud , an UNESCO site for its centuries old rice terraces still in use today. Lunch was in an ancient family compound surrounded by ponds, rice paddies and pasture for the cows. It is still owned by the family but they have made part of it as accommodations and a restaurant. Very exquisite, but not sure what building was a bedroom, living room or temple religious room. Could be interesting to stay there as the toilet was a walled in area with free standing shower head and the commode and vanity under a partial overhang. Every house is supposed to have an animal (dog, cat, rooster) to warn of black magic. Our lunch complex had both a dog and a rooster.
The lunch buffet was delicious. For you foodies: vegetable soup, spring rolls, fried fish in pineapple sauce, shrimp cakes, stir-fried veggie noodles, green bean salad and beef satay. Dessert was fruit including jackfruit and lychees, fruit flavored rice pudding in a banana leaf.
Next stop was the Tahan Lot temple which is built on an black lava tower island, accessible only during low tide. We arrived as high tide was coming in, so we only looked from the shore as the waves crashed around us. The pictures came out very dark because of the black lava rock and the rain. Our luck with dodging the rain all day ran out and the Gods blessed us with a downpour.
Arrived 90 mins late back to the ship because of bad Saturday night traffic. We were in time to see the local Balinese dance group perform. The costumes, music and dancers were entrancing.
Bali did not disappoint with all its charming and picturesque moments. Once again we only got a small taste and we wish for a bigger portion next time.