Continued from Southern Bali: Part One
Driven around by Tasman and Weda (our Bali Barong guide and driver), we immediately noticed that Bali, which practices its own unique blend of Hinduism and Buddhism, has a lot of temples.
Thousands, in fact. Every small village has a community temple, and each individual village family has their own temple.
Then there are larger temples that honor a particular Hindu saint or sacred animal — feral tabby cats at Kerangasem, silvery macaque monkeys at Alas Kedaton, or the two types of Balinese bats, very small (at Goa Lawah) and absolutely enormous.
Offerings of palm leaves, flowers, and sometimes fruit are prepared and delivered daily to temples of all kinds to be blessed, and then these offerings are placed everywhere people are — houses, beaches, even cars.
Some temples, like the dramatic and ancient Tanah Lot, are striking for their locations. Carved from rocks that jut straight up from the ocean, worshippers can only reach this temple before and after high tide; otherwise, the rock bridge that leads to it is drowned head-high.
On the cliffs above Tanah Lot, we were kindly accosted by a large group of Balinese high school students on a class trip. They acted both shy and excited, as if they thought we were famous people — and we tried to gently disabuse them of this misunderstanding. But then Tasman explained that they merely wanted to take pictures of and with the first Americans they’d ever seen. I felt a little like a panda bear cub at the zoo — warm, fuzzy, and the object of gawking.
Also at Tanah Lot, we were led to a touristy restaurant, Melasti, at the end of the temple grounds on yet another cliff overlooking the ocean. I don’t recommend it, but when you’re in the thrall of a tour guide, sometimes your dining choices aren’t your own….even on Christmas night.
If it hadn’t been raining, we’d have insisted on sitting outside on the cliffside patio, but no such luck. At this place, you pick the seafood and amount you’d like (in grams), and they make it for you on the spot in the messiest sauces possible; you can absolutely ask the proprietor to crack/de-shell anything for you, but it’s still best to surround yourself with lots of their one-ply napkins.
Because this was Christmas at a business geared towards people who actually celebrate it (unlike, say, someone who’s Balinese), the place was festooned with colored lights and prowled by a band of would-be rockers in Santa hats looking to nab a big tip for holding you captive with a few cover songs. If you give yourself over to the warm ocean breeze and inherent fromage, this place could actually be a highlight of Southern Bali…but probably not.
* For more photos from Southern Bali, click here.
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Continued in Northwestern Bali