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Temples, a volcano, and some coffee

We woke up to a bright sunny day. Contrary to weather reports for this time of the year in Bali, we hardly experienced any rains. Not that I was complaining. I'd had enough of the gloomy Bangalore weather and continuous downpour that had ceased just a month before our travel; a ripple effect of the cyclonic rains at Chennai. I stuffed myself with the scrumptious breakfast at our hotel; croissants that crumbled into a buttery smoothness as I bit into them, crispy, sweet pancakes, and a bowl of colourful fresh fruits, umm, heavenly!

We clambered onto the seven-seater vehicle to visit the first temple on our list.The seating arrangements in the Innova were always interesting. The three kids got along like fire but it was exactly that. Fire, that would sometimes be a warm, happy glow binding them in amicable harmony and at other times, a fierce, raging tornado threatening to bring down the roof of the car. So, depending upon the mood and the sentiment, the adults took turns in maintaining the equilibrium. Much like the puzzle where a tiger, cow, goat, grass, and the human had to cross the river in a single boat.

I tried to take in as much of the local flavour as we zoomed past the lanes. The local houses around Bali are beautiful too. The architectural carvings on the pillars supporting the main entrance lent them an old world charm. The Balinese tradition is, in many ways, similar to our Hindu culture. They too make a daily offering to God; on a small woven basket made from palm leaves. These offerings are found almost everywhere: outside houses, restaurants, and places of worship.

The temples in Bali have a charm of their own. A huge enclosed space with many shrines ensconced within, they resemble, in a way, the temples in South India that also have smaller shrines devoted to other sub-deities within the main temple. The thatched roofs placed one above the other resemble our own gopuram. The Balinese mainly worship Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. However, tourists are not allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum. So, we missed drawing parallels between their deities and forms of worship with ours. Another interesting fact, in contrast to our Hindu temple culture, is that you are allowed to enter the temple premises with your footwear on.

The following pictures are from Goa Gajah, or the Elephant Cave, our first stop. This is more of an archaeological structure than a temple.

Lake Batur and Mount Kintamani was our next stop. The air turned cooler as we winded our way uphill. Kintamani is an active volcano that last erupted in 2000. We ambled towards the vantage point that was a restaurant with an upper-level deck overlooking the wide expanse of breathtaking beauty.

The shades of brown and black volcanic ash over the tall, stoic mountain on the left stood out in contrast to the shimmering blue-green water at its feet on the far right. Almost as though the towering structure, older and wiser with ravages of nature and time, stands as a guardian of the young and free-spirited that wants to explore the path ahead, unrestrained. I took in the beauty of it all slowly, imprinting them to the walls of my memory.

Our next destination generated some amusement as we listened to our guide enlightening us about the history of Kopi Luwak, Did we want to try it out?? Err...we looked at one another unsure. Only C was pretty sure he absolutely had to taste it, the dubious coffee extraction story notwithstanding. Well, I hadn't expected anything else from a true blood coffee lover! His excitement soon rubbed off on us and we made a beeline to the nearest coffee plantation. Apart from tasting the over-priced Kopi which I felt was overrated for all its proclamation of fineness and purity (?), we got to sample about 12 different varieties of tea. I immensely enjoyed the latter part.We purchased packets of the lemongrass and ginger varieties and set off for Tanah Lot temple located on the west coast. As we made our descent in our vehicle, sudden heavy droplets of rain splattered the car windshield which soon turned to an unrestrained shower. The downpour lasted for a total of 15 minutes!

Even as the skies cleared up. we stopped by for lunch at a lovely restaurant that was artistically done up and had a view like this:

By the time we hit the plains, the heat and humidity got to us and we dozed off for most of the travel time.

Bali's temples are not only beautifully constructed, they are also scenically located. Tanah Lot is a cave temple, situated off the sea coast. The cave at the bottom houses a holy spring water source. The priests chant a little mantra, sprinkle holy water on you and apply a tilak with rice grains on the forehead. A frangipani flower is also stuck behind your ears. We got to taste the sweet holy spring water (perceived similarly to our tirtha) that flowed naturally from inside the rock.

We later stood on the rocky cliffs with the super-excited kids in tow. Our laughs were drowned by the gusty sea breeze. The strong, big waves that hit the rocky structure at quick successions took us by surprise and unnerved me a bit. C held on to R's hand with a firm grip and led him a little away to a safer landing.

After clicking some pictures of the glorious sunset, we called it a day. But not before feasting our eyes on the colourful trinket stores that lined the lanes leading us out of the temple area.


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