Bali and its amazing temples – both the Hindu and Buddhist ones are so beautiful! I love how the Balinese people are always conserving and maintaining the temples (partly for the tourism and economy) and doing such a good job with it.
They have also come to accept that Bali will always be full of tourists at anytime of the year, and so most of these temples already prepared handy sarongs for tourists who are unaware of the dress code. It is considered disrespectful to enter/view certain temples without covering your legs (for those who are in shorts). I think it’s great, as Bali is way too hot to be wearing jeans or slacks throughout the day. (Unlike my experience when I was in Cambodia, you not only need to wear long pants, women must also wear long sleeves or be denied entry.)
Before you start, do remember to read the Bali guide that has great travel tips for first timers. I also have a post on things to do in Bali (and also some of the things we wished we did). If you’re a seasoned traveller, well, you can still give it a look – there’s always something new to learn.
PURA TANAH LOT, TABANAN
This place is huge, and very, very crowded. Maybe because it was the school holidays or the timing, but we were there at sunset and the place is crawling with locals and tourists alike. Tanah Lot is actually a large rock formation, surrounded by water – and by sunset, the tide is still quite low for us to walk across towards it.
But first, before crossing, you will see a cave with a sign saying ‘Ular Suci’, which means the Holy Snake. You can walk in, give a donation, and touch the snake that’s snoozing inside a crevice in the rock. The snake is a zebra-like, black and white-striped snake which is said to have lived a very long life. A man who sits beside the snake will mutter blessings and prayers for you as you touch the snake. He will shine a torch light to show you where the snake is as it is quite dark in the cave. Our tour guide says that according to legend, if the snake sense that you have a bad soul, it will bite you.
Once that is done, we walked across the low tides (which still has quite a bit of strong waves coming in, reminding me of our experience in Krabi, when visiting Tub & Mor Island) Within the rock formation, there is a queue – you must first wash your face/drink from the holy spring, before you get your blessing from the Hindu monk. The monk will sprinkle holy water upon your head, plant rice beads on your forehead and place a jasmine flower behind your ear; all while giving you his blessing. You should of course, give a donation.
Once you have your blessing, you are then allowed to walk up the stone steps onto the rock formation to view the sunset and incoming waves. The rock formation is gorgeous, as you can see from our photos, and so is the sunset! Pretty much the temple to visit when in Bali.
GOA GAJAH, UBUD
Despite its misleading name which translates to Elephant Cave, there are no elephants or even carvings of elephants around it. The site was pretty much built back then for meditation and prayers, and you will be required to wear a sarong if you are in shorts. The famous cave itself – with the menacing head and cave opening for its mouth – is dark and dingy, and filled with incense smoke. You can find the fragmentary remains of the phallic symbol of the Hindu god Shiva, and its female counterpart the Yoni, plus a statue of Shiva’s son, the elephant-headed god Ganesha.
Outside the cave, is a large square bathing pool with carved waterspouts. However, it was dry when we visited and the pool was empty. Walking further down past the pool, there is a stream and some remnants of rocks against the hillside. A temple guide will be there, he will guide you across the rocks and slippery stream to see the hidden side of the crumbling rock – there are ancient carvings of stupas (domes for housing Buddhist relics) that are now covered in green moss. Very interesting. Be sure to tip the guide though, he will be asking. The rest of the surrounding area is part of the hill, with a few crumbling steps leading into the forest unknown.
The entrance fees are IDR15,000 (MYR4) and I can’t remember, but I don’t think there’s a fee for renting the sarong.
PURA LUHUR ULUWATU
This temple here is probably one that I enjoyed a lot. Because every evening, there is a special kecak dance which is very popular with tourists. And I can see why! The dance uses no music, but only the voices of about 40 men who harmonizes the background music according to the storyline.
I won’t spoil the story for you, but it is a story about Rama, the monkey God and saving the girl he loves from adversaries. It is based on a Hindu legend. You will be given an English script that depicts the entire story for you, so do read it before the show begins. Also, being early to catch the best seats and a good camera would be great as the sunset is gorgeous to behold. The show begins just as the sun begins to set, as you can see from my photos below how things start to get from bright to dark.
The temple is also located on a precarious cliff side and the view of the waves hitting the shore is absolutely breathtaking! On another note, this temple is also dangerous because of the monkeys that inhabit the area. Beware of them as they are very light-fingered and be sure to stow away loose items like caps, sunglasses, coins in your pockets, jewellery and mobile phones. Once they are taken from you, it’s going to be almost impossible to retrieve them back. Some tourists claim that the monkeys are trained to steal for their masters, so do not give them that opportunity.
GARUDA WISNU KENCANA CULTURAL PARK (GWK)
This isn’t technically a temple, but it is a cultural park built for the cultural preservation of the Hindu religion in Bali, dedicated to the hindu God Vishnu. Throughout the day, there are a few shows and cultural dances that will be performed in various amphitheatres. We were a little late in arriving here, so we caught only the end of a dance that featured the ‘barong’, a sort of king of the spirits that looks like a lion.
We did however manage to see the ongoing work of building the large statues of Vishnu and his bird, Garuda. The finished status is supposed to be 390ft tall, of Vishnu riding Garuda, and gilded in gold. Our tour guide estimates another 2 years to completion. Other than the clean, open spaces and various statues, there really isn’t much to do there unless there is an ongoing show or performance. We didn’t stay long and left the park after a while.
And that’s a wrap for all the temples of Bali. There is definitely loads of other temples to visit, but I think the popular ones were good enough. Temples are places of worship and we definitely shouldn’t make it a sport of visiting every temple in Bali. After all, they should be sacred and private, instead of having thousands of foreigners swarming in every day.
If you ever go to Bali, do let me know which temple you enjoyed the most!