Port of Benoa, Island of Bali (Indonesia)
I had set the alarm for 7 am. When I opened the drapes, you could feel the heat immediately. Due to the port change, a lot of the tours had to be reworked. Mine, (BAL-CW), was supposed to be an afternoon tour to the “Mother Temple” & a visit to the walled village of Tenganan (which is somehow lost in time so they say). I am thankful for small favors….an afternoon tour would have been brutal in this heat. Since we were now docked (instead of anchored) at the Port of Benoa (much further south on the island), some sites had to be eliminated due to the increased distance. The Shore Excursion Staff did an outstanding job at the last minute in finding new places for us to go.
Liz brought my preordered breakfast of toast, granola & yogurt & grape juice about 7:30. I had a few minutes before meeting my tour group, to go outside on the aft deck & see what was on the port side of the ship. There was soft, melodic music & a bevy of lovely Balinese dancers in bright, colorful costumes. And it was hot! The kind of humidity that kept fogging up the camera lens.
So, my morning tour departed at 8:30. I was assigned minivan #2. Our guide’s name was Wayan; our driver, Karya. You all know by now that I love getting the back row of seats on the big buses. This does not apply to the back seats of a minivan. Even inching sideways past the rows of seats is nearly impossible for me to maneuver. And when you’re getting on & off & on & off numerous times, you begin to wonder…..”Is what I’m about to see even worth climbing out of this sardine can”? You have to hang on to something when they turn corners cause you’re likely to end up in the lap of the person who’s unfortunate enough to be back there with you. With all the rattling around I can’t even read the notes I was scribbling in my journal; & lots of photos have this special effect called blurring.
Traffic is chaotic; & they somehow manage to move 2 lanes worth of vehicles in a single lane. Traffic jams clogged the roundabouts. Motorcycles weave in & out. At least most of them were wearing helmets; & despite the intense heat, they were wearing long sleeved leather jackets. From my perspective, it looked like 50% of the businesses are related to stonework. For miles & miles, side by side, stone carvers have displays of urns, statues of Buddha, ornamentation for their home ‘temples’ & statues for gardens or fountain tops. We were speeding & bouncing around, I wasn’t able to catch a photo of this phenomena.
We’d pass through small towns, lots of rice fields, villages to big cities. The Balinese are an extremely religious & spiritual people. Everyone has a ‘temple’ of some form or fashion in front of their home and business. A great number of these ‘temples’ are simply woven grasses or reeds that form an arch high up in the sky, with simple woven baskets at the base. Many times each day, the Balinese people bring some sort of offering to the various Gods in thanks for their blessings. You will often see tiny little trays of flower petals in the middle of the sidewalk. Some bring offerings of fruits or vegetables from their respective gardens.
There is a full moon tonight (so we were told): & there were several large processions in the streets as people made their way to the village temples with offerings. We passed through several small towns that had very large & ornate ‘village temples’.
It’s not that unusual to see American franchises in foreign countries; but I was surprised to see Circle K, Esso service stations & Ace Hardware stores. And they all, including Mickey D’s, have pagoda style roofs AND a ‘temple’ out front.
Wayan was not the easiest person to understand; but he tried. I kept noticing all the men sitting in the shade, along the sides of the road; while the women were either working in the rice fields or walking along the roads balancing huge baskets of ‘stuff’ on their heads. Don’t misunderstand….I realize this is the Indonesian way of life. But things were looking a little too one-sided. And now & then, I would get chauvinistic vibes from some subtle comments that Wayan made. The a/c vents weren’t quite reaching the back of the van. When I mentioned this, he said I’d get used to it. After our first stop consisted of walking in the bright sun, I asked him if it would be okay if I took my umbrella when we walked at the temple. He said, ‘But it’s not raining’. I said, ‘I know; but it will provide shade’. He said, ‘But it’s getting cloudy’. At first I wondered if it would have been disrespectful to carry an umbrella to visit an outdoor temple; but other people did later that afternoon. Then it dawned on me, that he might think I just being a ‘wussy girl’. That did not set well with me.
But on with the show…..instead of visiting Tenganan village, we toured the Old Royal Court, Floating Pavilion & Museum of Justice in the city of Klungkung. We were given a long sarong to wrap around our lower body & a brighter color narrow scarf to wear on top of that around the waist. The sarong, of course, is for modesty & a way of showing respect. The narrow scarf is to promote self control & to ward off evil thoughts.
The Floating Temple of Justice was gorgeous. A beautiful pagoda with massive stone carved railings; bas relief panels in the ceiling depicting evil doing & repentance surrounded by a moat-type reflecting pool with lily pads floating on it. In the center sat a long carved wood table with 6 ornately carved red & gold wooden chairs where the ‘trial’ was held.
We took a quick look in the small museum & the temple next door. The altar was already filling up with the offerings that were brought this morning.
At each stop, both arriving & departing, a swarm of vendors would surround the vehicle; & very persistently try to sell you anything & everything. I have a hard time with no; but saying it repeatedly without getting annoyed is not easy. This is their livelihood; & I can’t fault them for working it as hard as they do.
We drove through many more rural areas on our way to the Mother Temple. We passed numerous roadside establishments (for lack of a better word) that were either serving food or peddling various food stuffs. They were nothing more than corrugated tin roofs with wooden benches & tables & an occasional sheet of plastic to block the sun or rain. The roads were littered with blowing plastic bags & other debris.
Before visiting the temple we made an unexpected stop for refreshments at the Puri Bosa Restaurant. (This was another of those last minute additions to the tours.) On this cliff, overlooking sloping fields of rice, we were served fried wontons, fried bananas, spring rolls & Balinese cakes (tapioca crepes filled with coconut & brown sugar), along with choice of drink. There was a narrow paved footpath that was just below the terrace where we were sitting; & there was a steady stream of locals passing by doing the things they do on a daily basis. Kids holding their moms hands on the way home from school. People carrying wood or baskets of food on their heads as they headed home. The occasional motorcycle would speed past.
It was so quiet up there; & so green. We all spotted this bird with neon blue wings flitting from tree to tree. The bird was rather small; but so bright in color that you couldn’t NOT see it. It was a good test of the zoom lens on the new camera. Don’t know what kind of bird it was; but it was beautiful.
Back in the van, we passed ‘cow country’ as we climbed higher up toward Mount Agung. The highlight of this tour was to visit the Holy Besakih Temple (or the Mother Temple as it is referred to). It is actually a complex comprised of 22 separate temples that date back to the 11th century. Prior to the introduction of the Hindu religion on Bali, it was dedicated to the dragon God (Besuki); & accessible only to the privileged rajas.
The stepped terraces are designed to bring the worshipers up & closer to the top of the sacred mountain. Needless to say, I did not climb; the temperature was well in the upper 90’s by now. The scenes playing out around those of us that were waiting in the shade, were entertaining enough. There were families making their way in elaborate colored sarongs, carrying their offerings. Some with baskets of corn; one man with a hand woven basket holding a live chicken (poor chicken); children playing as their parents worked; one woman sitting in the shade breast feeling. Just a normal day in Bali; yet so exotic.
On the way back to the van, we HAD to pass the obligatory shops selling luscious looking food, sarongs, t-shirts, fruit, bottles of water. The driver did not cool down the van before we arrived; & we dove into the stash of cold, lavender scented wash cloths in the ice chest that Crystal sends out with each of the tour’s escorts. It was mostly cloudy up on the mountain; but the sky was blue when we got closer to the dock.
We arrived back at the ship about 2pm; it felt like we had been gone all day. The only place open at this time of day for lunch was the Trident Grill. The heat had gotten to me; & I only wanted a little something to tide me over until dinner time. Andres fixed a yummy grilled cheese sandwich with some chips. I brought it down the cabin so I could change out of the damp clothing. (Running out of clean clothes; must take time to do laundry.) After I ate & got cooled down, I had a refreshing nap. Got up & started working on the couple of hundred photos I had taken today.
The dining menu was Mardi Gras themed; Liz delivered my simply fabulous dinner at 7:45. I had a crab cake appetizer that was topped with mixed greens, sitting on a bed of creole remoulade sauce. Great ratio of crab meat to filler……VERY good.
Being a big gumbo lover, I had to try Crystal’s to see if they know how to do it ‘right’. And they do; with a deep brown roux (not tomato based as some are), chock full of spicy Andouille sausage & okra. Rich & hardy..
My main course was seared jumbo prawns served with pumpkin, pork & mushroom jambalaya (way better than it may sound). It was accompanied by three pepper slaw. Excellent!
We were scheduled to depart at 8 pm. But just as we had to adjust our arrival to coincide with high tide last night, we had to do the same tonight. I went out on the aft deck to wait. Watched Mr. & Mrs. “T” perfecting their shuffleboard skills. Finally, about 9:30 the tide was high enough that we could easily slip out without scraping something. Tonight we get to turn the clock back one more hour.
I came back in & worked a while longer on the photos. But I didn’t last long; this day just wiped me out. In bed by 11.