Christians in Bali

Trip Start Mar 04, 2004
Trip End Jul 02, 2005

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Where I stayed
Hotel Bromo Permai

Flag of Indonesia  ,
Friday, May 14, 2004

So I was thinking "I've been in Bali for nearly two weeks and now its time for some Javanese culture and adventure, but first I have to get out of Bali." Turned out to be a rewarding day that could have been just another bus ride.
Starting out from Kuta, Bali I was up very early to catch a bemo (public bus) to Denpasar, the transport hub. Normally bemos won't take tourists from Kuta but like everything in Kuta, if you do it in the early morning its 10 times easier. As I got into the bemo I watched a Hindu temple procession round the corner. Lots of yellow, gold and white, a gamelan orchestra and a five-tiered portable shrine tipping crazily. With only the usual Bali transport hassles I made it Tanah Lot on the south-west coast. Tanah Lot is the most important sea temple for the Hindus, is a huge tourist draw, and is apprently one of the top places to be in Bali for sunset. As soon as I saw the little island the temple was perched on I couldn't help but think "This temple is 'cute'." Not sure if a temple can be 'cute' but that was my impression. I was carrying 21kgs of luggage but managed some good pics from a number of different vantage points. The waves crashing against the island and the wat the architecture of the temple mixed perfectly with the greenery made picture taking easy.
Next was a long bus ride to Palasari, which is the biggest, and only, Catholic community in Bali. I was there to see their cathedral and was not disappointed. Upon my arrival I was introduced to Brother Marcus, a monk staying at the attached monastery. Brother Marcus very graciously agreed to show me around the cathedral and tell me about the Catholics in Indonesia as well as his personal story. Turns out he is from West Timor, which is a Catholic Indonesian island, and has spent the last two years in Bali. Before that he served Rome for ten years, living not too far from the Pope. The cathedral was impressive. Standard crucifix design but with many Balinese touches. Not exactly heretical touches but the nod to Hindu temple motifs and architecture, particularly in the entrance, was certainly there. This is very much in line with the syncretic nature of much religion in the Indonesian archipelago and made for a stunning chruch. Brother Marcus told me that the congregation was about 600 strong, remaining steady, if not growing a bit. Marcus also explained the heirarchy of the church Indonesia and how the cathedral had been built in 1959.
I was pleasantly surprised when Marcus volunteered to drive me to Belimbingsari (very good chance I am spelling this wrong as I left my notes in my room) which is the main Protestant community and is beside Palasari. I was very thankful for the offer, especially after I saw the maze of backroads we went through. A shy young Balinese girl opened up the Protestant church for us, because the Pastor was in Denpasar for the day. As we entered Brother Marcus whispered to me that this was the first time he had been in the Protestant church as well. The church was an open-air design that made superb use of water and gardens. It felt very airy compared to the Catholic cathedral. A sense of inclusion versus a sense of awe. These churches aren't the easiet places to find but are worth the trouble, especially if you find a soul as amiable as Marcus.
As we left Marcus decided he would drive me to Gilimanuk where I could catch the ferry to Java. I was amazed at how this kind man had taken me under his wing so quickly, spending hours guiding me around and now driving me to the ferry.
After many thanks to Marcus I boarded the ferry, leaving Hindu Bali for the seemingly much more alien Muslim island of Java. A long bus ride followed and I arrived in Probolingo at 2130. Sadly the end of my day was marred by a serious disaggreement over my bemo fare. A tout tried to seriously rip me off but I caught on and at the end of the ride to the hotel demanded cash back. I think this unusual tactic worked primarily because I threatened to call the police and yelled very loud while looking very angry. The hassle part of travel in Indonesia is never fun but it comes with the experience. I stayed at the Hotel Bromo Permai as recommened in the Lonely Planet. I found an infestation of ants in my room. A battle involving much squashing and use of DEET spray followed. I was actually victorious in this particular battle and got a decent sleep.
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