Day #108 - More Monuments, Temples & Monkeys

Bali Rice Field
So last night was interesting! I couldn't sleep too soundly and James didn't have the best of nights either. This meant that although my stomach and bowels had calmed down (too much information too soon?) we were both a little tired this morning. However, we had no time to lie in though, since we had booked another £50 day tour and I was determined not to miss out this time. 

So after a light breakfast (not taking any risks) we climbed into our lovely air conditioned SUV to be greeted by our wonderfully friendly driver Erwin. 

We started our day at Tanah Lot an hour away. Tanah Lot" aptly translates to "Land in the Sea," perfectly capturing its unique location. This iconic temple perched on an impressive offshore rock formation is more than just a stunning sight; it's a tapestry woven with myths, legends, and deep cultural significance with its impressive geology, holy sea snake temple and stunning sacred islands reserved for local worshipers. We were greeted by its impressive sea arch and rock formations quite different to any we see in England. It was quite a sight to behold.

Nest on our itinerary was Alas Kedaton Monkey Sanctuary, nestled amidst the emerald rice fields of Tabanan. This sadly has been hit hard by the pandemic and was very quiet. Few tourists visit this as it's not on the main 'Bali Instagram tour'. This is a shame, since looking at the many shuttered shops and large car park, it must have been quite busy before and a lot of local people no doubt relied on its business. 

The monkeys (long-tailed macaques) here were more friendly than Uluwatu temple, they were everywhere and the new born babies were so cute and tiny. Unlike traditional zoos, Alas Kedaton prioritizes the monkeys' well-being. They roam freely, foraging for food and maintaining their natural social structures. The sanctuary emphasizes co-existence and respect for the animals, offering a glimpse into their fascinating world.

There were some incredible fruit bats that had been "tamed" by a local handler. After seeing the bats in Sydney from afar, it was fascinating to see them up close (but not too close!) Our guide did invite us to hold them and they were very easy to pick up and unfurl their wings. 

Our next stop which was part of our private tour, was the Bedugul Traditional Market near the lake of the second largest lake Danau Beratan, a vibrant hive of activity where the pulse of Balinese life beats strong. We were immediately embraced by a kaleidoscope of sights, smells, and sounds. Stalls piled high with exotic fruits, colourful clothes and cloths, so many spices plus a shocking array of plastic tat (cheap kids' toys and such like). We weren't in the position to buy anything (we had no cash with us since we had been unable to withdraw cash from the ATMs that morning), not that we wanted anything on sale, but we did want to want to support the local economy and felt bad we couldn't.

We did witness a parade that passed by. It was a parade that was part of the cremation rituals and this one, we were told, was the returning of the soul back to the family's temple, which has to take place within a year of the actual cremation itself. 

We travelled to our lunch destination, Secret Garden Village - a new, purpose built tourist destination, definitely aimed at the instagram generation. It is located at Luwus Bedugul and claims to be bringing the new 'Edu-vacation' concept the environment in an engaging way. Since it was tipping down with rain, we didn't indulge in any selfie taking but we could definitely see the potential. Lunch was delicious, but I was keeping it light after yesterday's stomach trauma!

Our next stop felt like entering a scene from a fairytale. Mist from the recent rainstorm, clung to the emerald slopes of the mountains surrounding Ulun Danu Beratan Temple. The temple itself, a masterpiece of tiered merus (pagodas) mirrored in the still waters of Lake Beratan, giving it the impression that it is floating in the waters  - well it does when the tide is in, which it wasn't for us! Nevertheless, it was still and impressive and beautiful sight. 

It took us a while to get to our final destination (the Mengwi Royal Temple) since the main road we needed had become blocked by a fallen tree in the aforementioned rainstorm. Sadly, we didn't know this until we had sat in a line of slow moving traffic for about half and hour and then we had to turn around and retrace our steps in order to take a longer, less direct route to the temple. With not many roads in parts of the island, it can become very congested very easily. 
So two hour later we arrived - at least the rain had stopped!
We were immediately captivated by the sight of its towering pagodas, their tiered roofs reaching towards the sky like fingers seeking blessings from the heavens. The ornate carvings were a feast for the eyes, each detail whispering tales of the temple's rich history as the spiritual center of the Mengwi kingdom.

Like the Uluwatu Temple we visited on Day #105, we were asked to don a sarong (yes, I just typed that!) before exploring this magnificent monument.
Surrounded by a moat filled with lotus flowers, the temple seemed to float, creating a sense of ethereal beauty - which is what I guess they were going for! We wandered through the courtyards, each one revealing new intricacies, from the intricately painted gates to the stone guardian statues watching over the sacred grounds. We were a little shocked by the public wantilan (a large wall-less hall placed under a large multi-tiered roof) where there were figured depicting a cock-fighting scene; we didn't expect something so violent in a temple. Apparently, cockfighting is a religious obligation at every Balinese temple festival or religious ceremony. The blood of the losing cockerel is used in the ceremony. However, since 1981, the government of Indonesia has banned cockfighting activities in Indonesia, when it is considered as gambling. Since then, holding one in a village wantilan has been banned, with the exception in a temple compound. A wantilan in the Pura Taman Ayun temple complex still holds a cockfighting ceremony during a certain purification ritual, according to Wikipedia.
Violent sports aside, it was a magnificent temple and we got a sense of history and tradition from our visit, especially since it is still actively used in some of Bali's most important occasions. 

Then it was time to head home. As we road through rural Bali, we were able to reflect on our day and a culture and the traditions that are so very different from our own, but at the heart of both of them, there is that human need for acceptance, understanding and a place in the world. 

Back at the hotel, dinner was calling, and it was fire night again at the poolside restaurant with a nice view across to the Hard Rock Cafe.