A stony demon stood in the middle of the path, baring his fangs to remind us of impending perils that lay ahead. The moss infested kingdom was home to lawless brutes that followed their own code-of-conduct.
Moments later, I looked back towards the entrance; a tourist appeared, swinging his camera in one hand and clutching a bunch of bananas in the other one.
Pointing at the sauntering sitting duck, my friend,Shannon said, “Is he stu-”
The man screamed, the bananas were snatched, and his noble quest was over. Only bravest, rather naïve, visitors would think of feeding the monkeys. Surely, there was a symbiotic relationship between the monkeys and the banana vendor, who stood at the main entrance of the forest.
Feast of Yam and Sweet Potatoes!
The stony path led to a serpent that held in its coils meters wide pool of water; a pool that indulged the juvenile primates in diving games, that was common amidst their human counterparts. Branches of dead trees stood next to the water providing them a perfect perch. Beside the pool laid a feast of yam and sweet potatoes. While the mature males of the troupe were busy stuffing their faces, the youngsters monkeyed around in water. Next to a massive banyan tree, not far from the water,were rocks. It was the place to dry up in the sun.
“Want to see Dolphins?” offered a tour operator.
Digging our heels into the dark sand, we looked far at the horizon, and shook our heads. The sun will soon set and the dolphins will be lost to the world.
“One price for two people”
“Not interested” I said without making eye contact. Not that I wanted to be rude but that was an effective way of shaking off a lout with a snout. He went away.
Beside the beach, next to the frangipani trees were numerous cafes and a market. The market sold many hand-crafted curios, wooden carvings, t-shirts and tours. Most of the artwork and tours were dedicated to, well, dolphins.
Goa Lawah or Bat Cave
I moved towards the cave; a gush of rancid breath emanated from its bowels and gagged me. The black mass on the ceiling moved unsynchronised with the cacophony of countless squeaks. It was the realm of Basuki, a massive serpent, the guardian of Earth’s equilibrium. Had I been a few centuries earlier, I would have been terrified.
Goa Lawah was a bat cave set in a hill called Bukit Tengah on the south east coast of Bali. As per popular belief, the cave was connected to Mother Temple of Besakih, Mecca of Bali, which was 30 kilometres away. The site was revered by the Balinese Hindus; and opening of the cave had a shrine dedicated to Shiva, God of Destruction.
Goa Lawah Temple
Dewa, our driver, ran towards the kiosk-cart. It was time for his lunch. “Give me a shout, when you guys have seen the palace. I am just around.” We turned around to see where he headed for.
“Bakso Babi 100% Haram” read the signage on top of a cart. Babi means pork; and bakso, meatballs with broth. No wonder he ran like a predator about the ambush a sitting duck. I wondered the feasibility of such marketing ploy in the Jakarta or Dubai!
The Ujung Water Palace was located, five kilometres from Amalapura, in the village of Seraya. Raja of Kargasem had built the palace. He was the same king who had built Taman Tirta Gangga Palace. (Read here – https://biswadarshan.com/2014/12/29/a-dip-in-balinese-ganges/ ). May be, His Highness had developed a set of gills.
Ujung Water Palace