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Culture Clash

Pura Bersakih, The Mother Temple of Bali. Mmm, spectacular indeed it is, but a visit here is not without its hassles – and if you think the following is me moaning check Trip Advisor…

Pura Bersakih, Bali - front

Pura Bersakih, Bali – front

On arrival you have to leave the car some 600m away from the temple entrance and buy tickets. You then have to run the gamut of sarong sales folk (sorry, got one) and sash sellers (OK, you got me there, I forgot my sash) that will be required to get in to the temple.

The next task is to get your tickets checked (yes, the ones you just bought), this involves a cursory glance at said tickets and then a sales pitch about how you need a guide; some sort of register was produced at this point – presumably to authenticate something or other – but I resisted… Guides can be great, but sometimes I just want to wander.
Having passed this test you now have the option of walking 600m up a fairly steep hill – past soft drinks, hats, more sarong sellers etc… or you can take a motorbike to whizz you to the top – fee negotiable of course.

Pura Bersakih, Bali

Pura Bersakih, Bali

So, you are in… you are at the entrance of Pura Bersakih, The Mother Temple, and you can see it majestically rising up the hillside framed by the giant volcano behind (on a clear day).

Pura Bersakih, Bali

Pura Bersakih, Bali

Unfortunately, the ticket you hold only allows you to wander the extremities of the temple, as entrance to the main temple is for Hindus only – the sign says so. Now, despite being a complete atheist I do know some facts about religion, and one of the things I know is that you can not become a Hindu, you can only be born one; so it was rather remiss of the ticket seller not to point out that your only chance of getting in is reincarnation – something the average visitor probably didn’t factor in.

Fortunately, all of that shit and old fashioned principle can be happily put to one side for the simple payment of 100,000 Rhp – pay up and you are in.
This ‘flexibility’ really gets on my nerves and I have a hard time keeping a straight face/ not testing the limits of flexibility…

  • ‘That sign says Hindus only, why can 100,000 Rhp make me a Hindu?’
  • ‘Well, it can’t, but we can guide you to make sure you make no mistakes on the inside’
  • ‘Oh, I see, what kind of mistakes am I likely to make’
  • ‘You might walk somewhere, you shouldn’t’

etc etc, but if you want in, pay up and shut up… after making them squirm a bit anyway…

These guardians against unintentional religious and social faux pas don’t however seem to be very bothered about all the tat and soft drinks sellers inside – but maybe they are Hindu and can do what the fuck they like…

I have no problem paying to get into places like this, they need money to pay for upkeep; what riles me is that fact that this is so clearly extortion and misdirection of funds, I’m fairly sure none of this cash works its way back to the temple.

Anyway; the place itself: spectacular and must be even more so on a clear day, worth all the crap you have to put up with to get in. The guides are marginally useful, but just trot out the same stuff you will have already read if you do any kind of research before visiting – however you will almost certainly have to relent and use one, and you will be asked for a tip.

There was a purification ceremony going on when I visited – to celebrate some repairs; maybe some of the cash does end up in the right place, who knows…

Service standards are rightly famous across South East Asia; supported by the fact that people are generally kind and polite in this part of the world. It’s a cultural and often religious thing; we have mostly abandoned both of these influences in the west.

It can however get ‘a bit much’. The place I’m staying in at the moment is a smallish hotel in a trendy part of Bali; I guess you could use the word boutique if you were so inclined.
It would also seem that I am the only guest at the moment so the staff are hyper attentive; and no matter how familiar you are with this level of service, there is something distinctly unnerving about looking up from your breakfast and seeing 3 vigilant staff watching you intently from behind the bar; knowing that your slightest movement or glance is being interpreted as a request of some kind, when in fact you just need to scratch your arse.
It’s also somewhat disconcerting that the second you finish with a dish one of them sweeps in to clear it, reaching almost comic proportions when they come in on a parabolic trajectory to try and fool you, it was obvious he was coming for me, there was no one else there…

They also seem a bit wary of me, which is my fault entirely; whilst I am normally sweetness personified, I was somewhat fractious when I got here yesterday. The result of a 2am wake up call and a very early departure from Bangkok. After a four and a half hour flight I then had to deal with the taxi twonks at Bali Airport, who, whilst sitting in front of a sign stating that the price to my destination was 80,000 asked for 120,000. (now; the value is not important, but the difference is, and no one like to feel ripped off; however I have also learnt that saving 50p and ending up making the journey in the back of a cattle truck is not really a win…)
On arrival at the hotel there was some shenanigans with my credit card, then they took me to a room with some building work going on nearby, and I might have accidentally said ‘if that doesn’t fucking stop right now I’m out of here’.
The direct approach doesn’t usually work here, but the building and drilling was wrapped up quickly and the staff have been on pins ever since.

There are also a lot of staff, some of them are tarting the place up with fresh paint, but there are loads of people floating about – often with brooms – and others involved with ‘security’… Security against what I have no idea, as it’s hard to imagine a calmer place. One of the security peoples’ main duties seems to be to keep an eye on me, or at least it seems that way as he’s stationed across from my room just watching all day. Perhaps he works for Obama. Obama follows me on twitter actually, so that would be pointless. You can check, Hi Barak…

Anyway, I digress…

I’m sure the service will calm down a bit when another guest arrives – but until then I guess I will learn to live with it. What with all this being watched and the smell of fresh paint I think I know how the Queen feels.

The anti-government protests are all pervasive, and it’s hard to separate the two events – this may well be intentional – and protesters were inserting themselves into tourist snaps of Chinese characters. All part of history I guess and I wasn’t going to complain.

Bangkok Chinese New Year

Bangkok Chinese New Year

Spotted another Utility Vehicle this morning – this one as a full service grocery store. How many shops do visit (or visit you) that can achieve 30 mph?

Thai Utility Vehicle - Grocery Store

Thai Utility Vehicle – Grocery Store

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