In anticipation, my toes dug into the bed of the stream. It was going to be a treat. I inhaled the wet grass and relaxed. The plantain trees and boulders surrounded the spot; offering some seclusion. The stream burbled by, whilst we waited for our turn. Clothes on the rock meant someone was bathing behind it. Just then, ripples of laughter of children and their grandmother reaffirmed our belief that locals used the spring.
The previous evening, we had checked into the nearby Dau Homestay. On our walk, through the paddy fields, to our accommodation, we noticed the spring. Who cared if the homestay had no hot water? Besides, Tirta Gangga Palace was less than a few hundred metres away.
Tirta Gangga was a revered site for the Hindu Balinese. It referred to the area and also was the name of a water palace built by built in 1948 by the Raja of Karangasem. The palace was destroyed in the 1963 volcanic eruption of Mount Agung. Later, it was restored to its original design and layout.
The palace displayed the sort of water indulgence that was popular before the water-theme parks of today. Tirta Gangga Palace housed several pools and fountains. It displayed several sculptures and artworks set in well-manicured lawns. The garden of the palace was a perfect place for a picnic.
Located right in the palace compound was Tirta Ayu Hotel. It was an upscale accommodation in the area.
Built on the same level, as the previous hotel, was Tirta Ganga Villas. Old parts of the royal palace formed an integral part of the opulent hotel. As expected, their Balinese villas here reeked of indulgence. The coffee shop overlooked the gardens of the water palace and of course, the prices were not cheap.
Outside Tirta Gangga Palace were several shops and warungs (restaurants). Sadly, as the rest of Bali, prices quoted to tourists were much higher than that to Indonesians. This was a major reason why the locals looked at tourists with dollar-tinted glasses. However, amidst the chaos of commercialisation lay some places which made everyone welcome. One such place was right opposite to the parking area called the Genta Bali Warung. Besides the typical Balinese and Indonesian delicacies, their menu also featured several puddings and interesting drinks like arak and black rice wine.
Soon, our wait had ended, and we came face to face with Grandma. She flashed her lone incisor in surprise, and her wrinkled, sunken eyes gleamed at us. She adjusted her scant hair to one side of her head. Her doting grandchildren nudged her, and she left with a beaming smile as if to say, “Welcome to our world, hope you enjoy it.”
The bath I had on that day was memorable. No wonder they called this place Tirta Ganga or Water of the Ganges.