Asia | South East Asia | Indonesia | Nusa Tenggara | Bali – The Mother Temple and Eastern Bali
Hired a car with 2 other women from the homestay. Linda and Jennifer, both from Toronto. Our driver was also named Ketut, a gorgeous, 20ish Balinese man with long black hair. His English is so-so but then again, my Bahasa Bali leaves a lot to be desired too.
Our first stop was Besakih where the touts are relentless. You pay for parking, hten make a donation to the temple. This is all good and well. The temple is gargantuan but does not have the ‘holy place’ aura I’ve felt in Jerusalem and Uxmal. The ‘guardians’ at Besakih detract from the experience. Seems to be an elaborate tour scam. They latch onto you and make you pay at the end under the premise that foreigners cannot view the temple without a Balinese. My ‘guide’ did at least try to tell me info about the complex but I could not understand his though his accent. Tipped the guardian 3000 rp — he got pissy — then his friend wanted money too but I told him no. Jenn shook her guardian by being really nasty.
After this we took a long winding drive through rice paddies and small towns. It was laundry day. Clothes get washed in streams and then dried at the side of the road or on street signs. It was also ‘wash the kids’ day. A lot of kids were playing naked in various river branches.
Jenn wanted to eat lunch near a beach. We were south of Padang Bai. Ketut pulled into a parking lot filled with vendors who all ran to our car. This included a number of children trying to give us ‘free’ necklaces. This wasn’t as disturbing as the very young children at Besakih who hand you flowers and then ask for $. We went to a warung across the street but it only had drinks and chips. The place proudly boasted a color TV which blasted MTV Asia. Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’ video had a rapt audience of our guide, a few kids and some old ladies with bundles on their heads. I can’t imagine what they make of this, I’m sure.
We drove away and went to a small fishing compound, a cluster of shaky looking corrugated tin houses. When we pulled in people slowly came over to the car, but not to sell us stuff. They just wanted to say hi and mostly stare. After all, it’s not often 3 solid white women get out of a jeep in their yard. They asked us where we were from. But as they didn’t know any more English than that and I can only ask for bottled water and a W.C. in balinese it was a short conversation. The kids followed us a bit as we walked to the water. Black sand beach (volcanic ash colors the sand) and dark blue water. So dramatic. Great views of Lombak and Nusa Penida. A bunch of people from Penida were on the beach stocking up on soda and foods to bring back to their island. The boats were small considering how much food and people they were supposed to carry. Walked along the beach a while.
Went inland and stopped by the side of the road at a scary looking warung but the food was good. Amazing chicken sate and nice mountain view. Ketut ate with us but I don’t think he can really follow our conversations. I asked him if he had kids because that seemed to be the etiquette with strangers (God knows how many times I fielded the question in the last few days) but I think I only emabarrassed him. I wonder how he, like other Balinese, feel about constantly hearing westerners say how cheap Bali is while they struggle to survive. It embarrasses me when I hear this and I can’t contribute to those conversations. So far Besakih is the only place I visted where you see the most tourism corruption, both in the people’s dealings with tourists (animosity) and the fact that there are soda stands actually inside the temples. In Mexico you pay high entrance fees for the pyramids, but this gives you a mayan guide and no vendors are allowed past the parking lot so the grounds themselves stay more natural.
We drove through Klung Klung on the way to Goa Gajah – the Elephant Cave. There is a carving of Ganesh over the mouth of the cave and inside a small shrine. There are also some springs with statues and fish in them. Very small but definitely worth the look. After this we went back to Ketut’s Homestay.
I didn’t have time for dinner so I went straight to the Legong dance performance after soaking my sand-filled blisters (yummy). Also a beautiful performance. What’s interesting is that the dancers don’t come out at the end to take bows. At the end of the performance someone just comes out to say the show is over, go home.