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Published: July 13th 2015
I think we were surprised to learn that Bali was not typically Indonesian but an unusual island with a mixture of Hindi and indigenous culture. Bali is an anomaly – not only is it the only Hindu enclave in the world’s biggest Muslim nation, but the Hinduism practised here would be unrecognisable in India, flavoured as it is by Buddhism and, more significantly, animism. The people of Bali worship the big things - the trees, rocks and, most importantly, the mountain.
We left the boat by tender and landed at a resort village where we were greeted by an extremely friendly reception organised by the ship's agents, but also to unbelievable levels of hassle by local sales people, of which more later.
We were herded onto the coach for the tour (we had used some more of our on-board credit) to Penglipuran Village which is a licensed "Tourism Village". Tourist Villages have been specifically developed to allow visitors to see how Balinese people traditionally lived and worked. Penglipuran village is a beautiful highland village in the regency of Bangli in East Bali. While most of its residents have embraced modernity, its individual compounds are well-kept to look traditional with
visitors in mind, with manicured gardens lining the single linear stone-paved street that runs through the centre of the village toward the Pura Desa (village temple). The village is surrounded by walls and is accessed by age-old arched entrance gates that conceal the houses within. This compound housing architecture provides residences for the extended family, but with distinct buildings within the compound for different functions. There are separate buildings for the main parlour/lounge, for bedrooms, for the kitchen and, in each house, for worship as a minimum. Throughout the years Penglipuran village has evolved into a community based tourism site. Some villagers even run shops inside, and ‘donations’ are customary but not in any way mandatory. The fact that it is a tourist attraction was evidenced by the fact that everything in the "shops" was priced in $US.
The village offers a cool mountain atmosphere at around 700m above sea level, and spans over a hundred hectares, comprising bamboo forests, farming land and the main village neighbourhood site. You are able to enter any of the houses through their arched gates, and you are welcomed by friendly residents who willingly show you around their compound. Old bricks still stand
in their place, traditional kitchens are covered in soot from the billowing wood fire hearths, and the compounds are uniquely laid out, each following old Balinese spatial and architectural set of rules. We entered the home of a wood carving family compound and then went into a painting family compound.
Back on the coach, we continued to a spectacular volcanic area known as Mount Batur and Lake Batur. This was an uphill drive for at least 15 km to a height of 1700 m to the rim of a caldera (lip of a blown up volcano). Mount Batur (Gunung Batur) is an active volcano located at the center of two concentric calderas north west of Mount Agung. The south east side of the larger 10×13 km caldera contains a caldera lake (Lake Batur). The inner 7.5 km wide caldera, has been dated at about 23,670 and 28,500 years ago. Pretty relieved that it is not as active as the volcano in Yemen the other day (otherwise we would be toast!). We then went for lunch at a local restaurant. The level of sales hassle here was incredible. We were inside with a fence all around and hawkers were literally
throwing goods over the fence for us to buy.
After lunch we drove back down from the rim of the volcano to an indigenous local village where much of the building material comprised worked bamboo - and this bamboo was up to 10 m high - even the roof tiles were made of sliced and shaped bamboo. Preserved as a tourist phenomenon, each house/compound had to be licensed for a given number of family members just as at Penglipuran.
Finally, we returned via the very fine Kehen Chinese Temple (Pura Kehen). The temple is located in located in Cempaga in the Bangli District in the region of Kintamani. We climbed three sets of stairs to reach the entrance and, as we entered, we were handed sarongs to wear out of religious respect (they weren't very fetching). On entry we found ourselves in a courtyard.
The temple is set on the foot of a wooded hill and was established in the 13th century (but could have even been earlier according to the blurb). It was built to serve as the royal temple of the Bangli Kingdom, now the Regency of Bangli. There were two more courtyards inside. The
temple is aligned north-south, with the north part being the highest part of the temple. The three areas were the outer sanctum (where we had entered from the street) , the middle sanctum , and the inner main sanctum. In the first courtyard there was a huge Banyan Tree that is over 400 years old. The middle sanctum is accessed via a split gateway. This is a transitional area between the outer and inner sanctums. There were several shrines here. This is the area used to prepare any ceremonial offerings. The inner sanctum is the most sacred and features an 11 tier Meru Tower (the principal shrine in a Balinese Temple).
On our return journey to the ship we passed black volcanic sand beaches, before arriving at the port where we experienced more sales hassle. M told the lady at the T-shirt stall that she would definitely buy something is she would leave her alone to choose something without any hastle. T-shirt secured we returned to the ship. With the benefit of hindsight, we wished we'd done the day ourselves, as we would have seen more of Bali with a hire car - although our tour guide was really
excellent and we had a great day.
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