As the sun slowly sinks into the the Indian Ocean, Tanah Lot temple appears even more spiritual in the fading light. On the high cliff overhang, the gentle crash of waves on the shore whispers comfort to couples walking hand in hand.
On a flight from Singapore to Bali 8 years ago, I was a little embarrassed when I realized I belonged to the 1% of single visitors to this destination, which is renowned as an island for honeymoons. The atmosphere on the flight was warm, with smiles on people’s faces and kisses exchanged between couples. It has been 8 years since that flight. I am visiting Bali again and still in that 1% of single people on the flight.
To me, Bali is not only the image of pristine green mountains, forests and the famous rice terraces of Ubud, or the soft waves from the beautiful beaches, but it is also the attractions such as Hindu temples with roofs made of straw, sitting by azure lakes. Simply put, Bali is a heaven for couples to enjoy their honeymoon.
The island itself is about 144 kilometres long and 80 kilometres wide. On my return visit, I am still fascinated by the fact that each sub- region of the island has distinct features. Bali as a destination conjures images of classic five- star resorts located by the white sandy beaches where the waves roll gently onto the shore. There are also spas in the resorts which offer Balinese ancient spa therapies to help improve blood circulation and energize your body after a day of tiring travelling around the island. The island also appeals to travelers with its famous spit-roasted pork, named babi guling. One may enjoy this meat by cutting some from a small pig fat enough to create a natural and tasty flavor, while it is still being roasted on the fire. The beautiful beaches bring tourists a lot of amazing experiences, particularly for those who love water sports such as windsurfing, scuba diving, snorkeling and skydiving.
Followers of Hinduism came from Java to Bali island around 100 BC and created a unique nuance for Bali that differentiated it from the 17,000 islands of the Indonesian island country. Contrary to what I thought at first when coming here, Hinduism in Bali is very different from the Hindu culture on the banks of the Ganges river in India, and people usually call it Bali’s Hindu civilization of Java. Hiding in the green coconuts are houses built in an architectural style which echoes the Hindu epic Ramayana and the unique Lara Jonggrang’s architecture of the Balinese people.
Early every morning, I like walking around the narrow lanes to enjoy the faint scent from the frangipanis on the small alters in front of the houses of the local people. They are preparing for worship rituals. Frangipanis are also worn in the hair by many girls while walking on the beach with their partners. Sesajen is the name of such small alters, and as part of a worshipping ritual, Balinese people offer a tray of carefully arranged herbs before each of their three daily meals. Key items of the tray are flowers, glutinous rice, cakes, and salt which are intended to bring prosperity and happiness in life.
I visit the Basakih temple in Kintamani town, near the Batur volcano to learn more about the Hindu culture of the island through the famous typical Lara Jonggrang architecture of Bali. Looking out from the temple on top of the mountain, Batur volcano is reflected in gorgeous details far below in the lake. The mountain, which is 700 metres high from the lake’s surface, was formed about 23.000 years ago by lava welling up from underground. Besakih Temple, also known as the”Mother Temple” contains 22 smaller temples inside. These temples mainly worship the Hindu gods Siva, Bramah and Vishnu. The structure of the center stone temple harks back to the 9th and 12 centuries.
The two powerful dynasties of Sailendra and Sanjaya emerged in the in the 9th century. To demonstrate their power, both undertook the construction of great temples. If the Sailendra dynasty built its Borobudur Buddhist temple in Yogyakarta, the Sanjaya of Mataram state also built its temples in the Lara Jonggrang style which are still preserved today.
The Lara Jonggrang complex consists of hundreds of big and small temples located in three square yards which represent the three worlds: the hearing world, the world of the sacred and the divine world. The central square, with 3 main temples worships the supreme deities of Hinduism: Shiva (the god of destruction – symbolizing death), Vishnu (the god of protection – representing the present life) and Brahma (the creator god – representing birth).
Just below the tower is the area with a series of stone culptures bounding a box containing the statue. Every two boxes join together to form a cube floating off high which represents that the gods are sitting in a lotus position. Such sculptures feature softness, subtlety and natural movements. Sculptures in the Lara Jonggrang style are no less valuable in comparison with those of Borobudur and they also focus on illustrating the Hindu Ramayana epic. It is incomplete to talk about ancient Central Java’s culture without mentioning Lara Jonggrang because both Borobudur and Lara Jonggrang capture the ancient Javanese culture of the period.
Romantic Sunset on the Indian Ocean
People go to Tanah Lot and Kuta Beach or Pura Luhur Uluwatu to watch the sunset gradually fall in the Indian Ocean. This is a memorable experience for any one visiting this place. For me, I prefer watching the sunset in Tanah Lot as the dimming light illuminates Tanah Lot temple.
Tanah Lot is the second most commonly used destination after the Water Temple, chosen to showcase Bali in travel magazines. According to the language of Balinese people, Bali means “land in the middle of the sea”. The temple was built on a cliff in the middle of the sea with the front side overlooking the Indian Ocean. The temple was built in the 15th century by the Brahmin monk named Nirartha. He came from Java, through Bali, and upon seeing the beautiful cliffs he decided to stop for a rest. He spent the night there and the next morning he got the idea to build the temple to worship the god of the sea to protect the island of Bali. The idea was shared with fishermen and the temple construction began. Underneath the foot of the temple a giant sea serpent is engraved. According to legend, this serpent fought against evil and protected the temple.
Sunset covers everything when the sun slowly sinks down. The image of Tanah Lot temple fades and momentarily become more mystical in the fragile golden rays of sunlight. On the high cliff, couples walk hand-in hand, listening to the whispering waves and taking in the crimson sunset. Some put their heads on their partners’ shoulders exchanging vows of love.
I decide to drop by a small stage, about 4 kilometres away,to watch the Jalan Sanghyang dance (also known as “Kecal”) which reenacts the Ramayana epic. This morning, I watched the Barong traditional dance of Bali which also depicts this epic, but there are a few segments I still do not understand well. This dance is from the island of Bali and dates from the 13th century. It is preserved to these days by Balian people.
The tale goes that King Dasarata promised one of his wives (as plotted by the Rahwana demon lord) he banished his son Prince Rama (the son of the King and Queen) and the Prince’ beautiful wife Sita together with his younger brother to the jungle for 10 years. In the jungle, the Rahwana demon lord saw how beautiful Sita was, so he tried to make her his wife.
The Rupture Sanghyang dance performance impresseses me with the passage of the gods torching and praying Vishnu (a god) for helping Rama. Watching the scene makes me imagine: the world is entering a period of darkness; the evil is darkness and is covering the good which is the lonely torch in the dark night.
When the sun completely sinks into the sea, the city lights illuminate the life of people in Kuta bay of Bali. Each café and restaurant has its own music band who play a variety of genres from rock and jazz to pop and classic. I have just entered the restaurant and ordered my meal when the music band on the stage greet me and ask me where I come from, and what music I would like them to perform. All I can say is “Hello”.
I feel so warm and romantic when having a meal under the moody light and listening to my favourite piece of music. At the tables nearby, people in love amorously look at each other. They kiss each other under the light. Offshore, the waves of Kuta bay keep rolling on the beach creating a whispering sound, not unlike the lovers whispering in each others ears. It is a sea of love.
- Flights from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to Bali are offered by Air Asia Tiger Air, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways.
- Bring with you USD which has a series from 2000 on. In Bali, USD which a series of 1996 or earlier is difficult to exchange and the exchange rate is also very low.
- The easiest way to get around the island is taxi. Blue Bird taxi company (refer to: www.bluebirdgroup.com) with its blue cars is available at most of the tourist attractions of the island. The cost is paid according to the meter. In addition, visitors can rent bicycles ($ 3 / day) or motorbike ($ 10 / day) to go around the island.
- When you reach Bali, do not forget to visit Pura Luhur Uluwatu, a mysterious temple which was built atop a rock cliff at Uluwatu. Entrance fee is Rp 5,000 ($ 0.5) and visitors must wear a sarong when entering as a sign ofreverence for the gods.
- In Bali, tourists should try babi guling (roasted pork), a specialty of Bali. Perhaps this dish is most delicious in the Ubud area because the pork is from hybrid pigs which are farmed in the wild and natural areas between the hills. Pigs of about 5 months age are put on bamboo skewers over a fire for roasting. The skin is thick and fat enough to make the meat crispy and retain the natural flavours to create an unforgetable experience for visitors. BU Oka restaurant is the best choice for travelers to Bali.
- If you want to enjoy the famous peking duck of Bali, tourists can come to Tepi Sawah restaurant (www.tepisawahvillas.com), Bebek Bengil (www.bebekbengil.com) or Pondok Tempo Doeloe Restaurant (8 Jalan Sunset. Tel: 62,361,919 6868). These restaurants are famous for the traditional food of Indonesia at affordable prices such as fried fish (gurame Goring), rice cooked with coconut milk (liwet nasi) and grilled chicken (ayam Bakar) …
- Take a relaxing massage and experience the traditional style of Bali. You will feel the difference which is hard to describe in words. The massage venues and spasalways bring satisfaction to visitors. These include: Jari Merani, Royal Kirana Spa and Bamboo Spa.
- In addition, going to the Potato Head Beach Club bar, The Rock Bar and Ku De Ta will help you fully relax at night time.