A trip to Bali would not be complete without visiting some of the temples and more rural areas. In fact, if you are planning a trip to Bali I would suggest skipping the southern beaches entirely and hightailing it into the mountains ASAP – I was actually quite disappointed with the Kuta and Jimbaran beach areas, which were so disgustingly dirty that I don’t understand why they draw so many tourists. I decided to stop eating seafood in Bali after I saw the beaches, which were covered in plastic garbage so thick that you couldn’t even see the sand in some places.
In contrast to its beaches, Bali’s countryside is lush and beautiful, especially the bright green rice terraces.
Over the course of two days, I hired drivers to take me into the countryside to see Tenah Lot, Besakih, and the Holy Water Temple.
The first temple stop was Tenah Lot – the iconic temple on the sea. Many people visit Tenah Lot in the evening to watch the sunset, but I opted to go earlier in the day so that I could avoid the crush of tourists. Tenah Lot is about 20 km from Denpasar, but the traffic was heavy coming from Kuta, so it took about an hour to get there and the weather was disappointingly gloomy. While my driver waited in the parking lot, I paid the entrance fee and wound my way through the maze of shops that tourists must pass through to get to the temple. The temple and the rock formations it was built on were beautiful – I can only imagine how stunning they would be on a nicer day with a beautiful sunset in the background.
Next, I visited the Mother Temple of Besakih. My driver pulled a sarong from the trunk of his car and wrapped it around me, and explained that I would have to hire a local guide to take me into the temple, but should not feel obligated to pay any additional money while inside. After haggling with the local guide for a bit based on my driver’s advice on the price I should pay, we set off for the temple at a brisk pace. The guide was friendly enough – offering to snap pictures every few minutes – but I would have rather wandered the temple alone and at my own pace. Still, because I am a terrible haggler, I paid a bit more than the going rate and gave him a nice tip – hopefully at least some of that money will go towards maintaining the temple.
Besakih’s tall spires are impressive, and I paused for a few minutes to watch a small prayer ceremony.
The Holy Water Temple (known as Tirta Empul Temple or Tampak Siring Temple) may have been my favorite. My driver, who was a devout Hindu, walked me around the temple and gave a riveting explanation of its history and importance in his religion. He explained that many people come to collect the fresh spring water that bubbles up from the ground the temple was constructed on to help them with certain ailments or to cleanse a new home or business.
He walked me over to one of the spouts and explained how I should take three sips of the water, then splash the water on my face three times, then on my head three times. I happily obliged – it was a welcome relief to Bali’s muggy heat.
After visiting a few of Bali’s most majestic temples, I understand why Bali draws so many people looking to get in touch with their spiritual side. Even I – possibly the least Zen person I know- was inspired to take a yoga class!
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