The mist that carpeted the surrounding mountains crept into the lake, and the moisture laden breeze chilled our bones. The white sky reflected on the rippled water surface that became the canvas on which stood the lady of the lake. Soon, it started drizzling, I opened my travel umbrella that had a phrase on it. It said,” I love Scotland”. It was my Excalibur and we were in Avalon!
Pura Ulan Danu
Pura Ulun Danu or the Temple of Goddess Danu stood on the western shores of the Lake Bratan. It was built 1500 metres above sea level on Beddugul plateau in the 16th century by King of Mengwi, I Gusti Agung Putu. However, there were records of a shrine older than the current one at the same site. The Temple complex consisted of four temple structures. Three of them dedicated to the Hindu trinity, Brahma – the creator, Vishnu – the administrator, and Shiva – the destroyer. And the fourth one was dedicated to fertility Goddess Danu. Being built on an island, the last temple seemed afloat on water. In Balinese, Danu meant lake. In Rig Vega, Danu was the goddess of Dark waters and the mother of Demons or Danavas. Some scholars believe that the pro-Aryan deity inspired the name of the European river Danube.
“Don’t speak to any of the villagers” Dewa, our driver, widened his eyes and continued, “you guys are with me”.
The instructions given before heading for the Mother Besakih Temple reminded me of stories involving secret societies. The temple complex was infamous for louts forcing tourists to hire local guides who then extorted high fees from the naïve targets. Any resistance by the visitors led to aggressive vocal display of expletives.
On our way to the village, our car was stopped by a few women who held plates with flowers and incense. They demanded monetary offerings for our safe passage. I handed them the smallest possible rupiah note. They demanded more. I looked at Dewa “No more! I come from India; This is extortion!”
The gang backed off and let our car go.
Moments later, we made a pit stop to wrap sarong around our waists. Dewa changed into a figure of piety by dressing in white. Continue reading
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
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