travel postcards, practical advice, images and snippets of randomness

Indonesia

Some guide books say that Bali has 20,000 temples, some say 50,000. Either figure is believable: travelling through the countryside or urban areas you seem to encounter one every few meters.

Many of the small temples are private and inside houses, but there are some key ones that are open for access (apart from the inner courtyards), here are two more: Taman Ayun, a large moated temple to the north of Denpasar and Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, the lake temple in the north of the island.

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…

Before I get into this rant (for that’s what it is), let me preface it by saying that most of the people here are charming, polite and attentive (probably too attentive, see earlier post), and that restaurant standards are excellent, if a little bland in terms of offering… I also realise that this is not most peoples’ opinion: maybe my hotel is in the wrong place, maybe I’m just not a ‘resort’ person…

On with the rant:

I’m staying in Bali in an area called Seminyak, actually it’s just to the north of Seminyak in an area that is developing fast. This development is ad hoc and seemingly unplanned, which has resulted in ribbon development of narrow roads running off the main highway down to the beach. There is often no cross road linking between these ribbons, so something a few hundred metres away requires a detour of several kilometres to get there. In this heat and humidity that means the walk from hell, a taxi or motorbike hire.
The roads are narrow, often lined with drainage ditches and the traffic is fast. Whatever your mode of transport (including foot) it’s dangerous – and I’m used to cycling in Chiang Mai. Maps are hard to come by and no one seems to know where anything is; and all in all, I’m getting a bit pissed off.

I just asked the reception staff if there was anything resembling a centre to this place and would it be feasible to get a taxi for a few hours to drive around. Blank looks all round, but after involving 3 staff, 2 phones and a computer (I have no idea why) a taxi was duly summoned. When it arrived I was quoted a price which I immediately halved and 10 minutes later ended up in downtown Seminyak.

Seminyak

Seminyak

Well, it’s a bit like West Bromwich with humidity really, except the cafés play that fucking Ibiza drone music that never seems to begin or end, just hangs there in space, like a migraine…

I appreciate that I’m getting a very narrow view of the place, and will get up into the hills, but I’m really not warming to Bali. The beach near me is filthy, absolutely covered in plastic and rubbish; I’m told this is because it’s rainy season and it’s being washed down. Franky I don’t care, it’s a mess and in a place that makes its living from tourism it’s unacceptable; they are happy the take the tourist dollar, they need to deal with this. There are some very swanky beach clubs overlooking this tide of plastic, perhaps they don’t expect their guests to get off their loungers and actually venture to the sea.

Seminyak - beach

Seminyak – beach

I suppose the most disappointing thing is that it’s neither one thing or another. What I’ve seen so far lacks character and yet fails on simple things like being able to get around easily, have clean beaches etc… It could be anywhere on earth; its not what I expected.

Other annoyances include addition of service and tax to displayed prices, street hawkers’ constant badgering to look at their tat and I have had a hell of a job getting hold of a bucket, but that’s another story.

I hope the interior proves more interesting, the prospect of which is the only thing that keeps me here.

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