It lay lifeless on an elevated platform, with its sides already being eaten. Its mouth was partly open, possibly its last scream. Packs of hungry carnivores sat next to it waiting to get their share. The crisp crackling of the roast pig glistened in the glow of the filament lamp and lured us in. Babi Guling is to Bali as what haggis is to Scotland!
We sat in the warung or food stall to try some of the famous suckling pig from the Gianyar area, next to Ubud. It is eaten with lawar, which is a mixture of spices, scrapped coconut, vegetables and rice. It was not my favourite thing in Bali but at least it was off my bucket-list. It was a pig and not a spider! https://biswadarshan.com/2014/09/01/lost-in-beijing-part-1-spiderman-2/
Grilled Fish with Fern-tip Salad and Grilled Vegetables
The previous day, whilst walking down the street of Ubud someone offered, “We have Indian food… come in for lunch”. It sounded enticing but I gave it a pass. I would rather have something local. I had grilled marinated fish wrapped in banana leaf served with fern-tip salad, it could be called a neo-Balinese dish. Fern tip salad is steamed edible fern mixed with spices and coconut. The taste was refreshing and reminded me of rain-washed tropical forest foliage.
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
Ruins of the Palace in Tirta Gangga
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.
“No photographs” cried one of the men who had ushered us inside the Kumari Ghar at Kathmandu Durbar Square.
A hush fell over, as Kumari or the Living-Goddess appeared from an ornate-wooden- central-bay window that faced the entrance. She was in her red -regalia. Her right palm was facing us in Abhayamudra and her eyes were emotionless. It was a surprise, as till that time I had not realised that only the Kumari of Kathmandu took visitors. I have seen that many photographers have taken a shot of Kumari, but I am aware that the privilege came at a high premium.
A Toran at Kumari Ghar Depicting Goddess Durga
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A Lady Sitting in front of Sakyamuni Buddha
On the door sill of the shrine, sat a rotund woman, basking in the light of butter lamps that burned on a pyramidal stand. A vajra sat directly aligned with the lamps, to strike admiration and spiritual tenacity amidst the faithful. Meanwhile, a Brazen Sakyamuni Buddha, enshrined inside MahaBuddha Temple gazed at our judgemental eyes.
The temple was built in 1600s by Abhaya Raj and was inspired by Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya,India. This temple was the first Buddhist temple built in Shikhara stye architecture. It was covered with floral motifs and terracotta reliefs of Buddha… no wonder this temple was an abode of thousand Buddhas.
The flickering lamps enchanted us and reminded us of sacred fires of Baglamukhi Temple(southeast of Patan). We had seen throngs of devotees sitting in front of Goddess Bagalamukhi’s shrine. The shrine complex hosted numerous temples dedicated to other Hindu Gods.
No sooner we were about to leave Baglamukhi Temple Complex than three children surrounded us.
“Photo, photo” they yelled in unison. Their smile was infectious, so we were glad to oblige. Why would these kids want to be photographed, may be to be showcased in a photographic magazine? Or it was there way of breaking ice with strangers!
Children at Bagalamukhi Temple
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Tagged #bagalamukhi, #buddha, #lalitpur, #lamp, #mahabuddha, #maya, #nepal, #patan, #sakyamuni, #temple, #vajra, #vihar, #vihara