March 22, 2009

Bali wedding day 4: pilgrimage to Besakih

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It's the day after the big wedding, and people began to take off. Some of us are sticking around Bali a bit longer, and decided to do some sightseeing. One of us flew on China Airlines and was able to organize a minibus with Dynasty Package (華航精致旅遊) to take us around. We gathered a posse of 10 and took off for the northern parts of the island, setting off just around 1pm.

Our destination was Pura Besakih, the "Mother Temple" on the slopes of Gunung Agung, Bali's highest peak and holiest mountain. I visited this holy temple on my first visit to Bali more than 10 years ago, but it was during rainy season and the mist was all around us. I was pretty excited to have a chance to return, especially on such a beautiful day. After a small detour and a quick stop for lunch along the way, we finally arrived at 5pm.

After making sure that everyone's got a sarong wrapped around their waist and covered up their bare shoulders, we set off on an uphill walk to the entrance. Along the way we hired a "guardian of the temple" - someone who is not an official guide but a local who can lead us inside the temple. Apparently tourists aren't allowed inside by themselves. We are in the middle of the Galungan - the semi-annual festival of victory celebrating the triumph of virtue over vice. This time around, there is a big celebration at Besakih that happens once every 10 years. There are umbul umbuls and penjors erected all over the temple grounds, and Besakih looks a lot more colorful than usual.

Our guardian slowly takes us around the main sights within the temple grounds, starting with the central temple of Pura Penataran Agung. We walked up the long flight of stairs to the entrance, but was only able to go just inside the main gate on the first level for a quick look. We continued uphill to visit a number of other temples, until we have reached the northern end of the complex. As Besakih sits about 1,000m above sea level, the views from here down to the rest of Bali is pretty spectacular. We also got clear views of the top of Gunung Agung, especially after the clouds cleared up in the late afternoon. The sun was beginning to set, and the warm glow basked all the structures - especially the gold paint on the merus - in beautiful light.

We bid our farewells to the guardian, and began our long journey back. It would be an hour and a half for the journey to Ubud, where we were checking into the Uma Ubud for 1 night. I bid farewell to my fellow travelers, and hope to be able to see them again soon. A quick shower after check-in, and I'm walking down Jalan Raya to my dinner appointment...a full two hours late!

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