Ricefields and Prayers

Trip Start Jun 25, 2012
Trip End Jul 24, 2012

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Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday 13 july
After 3 days in the north, we travel to Sidemen in the south-east of Bali. Transport by bemo is quite difficult for this trip, so we hire a car+driver for 400.000 Rp. We pass through the outskirts of Ubud and see roads clogged by cars and scooters, tourist souvenir shops, tourist restaurants, tourist cocktail bars, tourist tattoo shops, tourist fitness shops, tourist scooter rent&repair, tourist tour operators. We also see local craftsmen making wood art, stone sculptures or paintings and their shops filled with these items they  want to sell to tourists. We cancel a planned daytrip in Ubud, as the last thing we want is being challenged by touts and salesmen all day.
After a speedy ride of 3hrs we arrive at the Uma Agung Villa in Sidemen. This location is stunning! We have a room with view on ricepaddies. The rooms are large with spacious bathrooms. The kids dive into the swimming pool. We hesitate to extend our stay with one day. However, the weather is not on our side and it is cloudy and wet, not improving in the next days. We hear from the homefront that the weather in Belgium has not improved, with rain and cold temperatures continuing.  Sidemen almost feels like home but a bit warmer. Another thing which makes us think about home is the call of the roosters in the morning (also in Munduk), and the extended section of western dishes on the menu.

Saturday 14 july
Today we explore Sidemen in the morning. All around are ricefields and chiliplantations. I tried the chilies. The taste is good, a bit like sweet paprika; with a knack the pod explodes when you bite and the juice of the chili invades your mouth. First sweet, then warm until the sides of your tongue tingle and hurt when you breathe in. After a few minutes it's gone. Yes, they are hot, but  not the hottest I've eaten. Anja stops with the tip, while I could have had a second one.
Every house here has their own Pura (temple). In Munduk it wasn't that apparent yet, but here it is clear that Hinduism is a part of daily life, with offerings in the morning, mid day and evening. For ceremonies it is the Hindu calendar period of cremations and death. Curiously, funerals ceremonies are being held everywhere we pass or go. Are all Balinese Hindu dying in this lunar month ? Or are special ceremonies held with the ashes of cremation of all those who died in the past year ? Another noticeable thing is that, compared to Java, there are no imams calling for prayer at 5AM or anytime during the day. However, the Muslims in Java also live their religion to the fullest with prayers multiple times per day. In the afternoon we all have massages at the spa of the hotel.

Sunday 15 july

Today we have planned a trip bringing us to Besakih, Pura Kehen in Bangli, Tirta Empul near Tampaksiring and via Klungkung (Kerta Gosa and traditional market) back to Sidemen.
Pickup is at 7AM and we are at Besakih at 8AM, before the tourists arrive. Actually, the ticket office is not even open yet, and we get the tickets from an official on a scooter. The cars have to park about 800m from the entrance of the temple complex, so the tourists have to walk 800m along souvenir shops and warungs. As we are so early only a few shops are open and no touts are there. We enter the Besakih temple complex as first visitors of the day. Besakih is considered the most holy temple on Bali by Balinese Hindus. Regularly, ceremonies are held for any of the 50 or so gods housed in this complex. It is huge. As non-Hindu we cannot enter any of the temples themselves, we can only walk around in between them. It is rather special, being the only ones there and gives us a feeling of a ghostly abandoned temple complex, hidden in the clouds. However after some time we see that in the largest temple, a ceremony is going on, but the height of the walls makes it difficult to follow. In another smaller complex Hindu believers are arriving, dressed on their Sunday's best and light incence sticks before they enter. Although the Balinese are open about their beliefs, we do get the looks of some of them. As we go back, more Balinese are entering the main temple. Its about 9.15 when we leave the temple and the first bus of tourists arrives. Next is a stop at Pura Kehen in Bangli on our way to Tirta Empul. When we arrive about 3 minibusses are already there. Ai ! Tourists we think. Entering the temple, we hear the singing along for a Hindu ceremony. About twenty Balinese are sitting in group to pray for the temple god. We are the only tourists there and keep our distance to show respect. I only take a few pictures. They do notice us. We put our hands together and make a little bow to show respect and say hello. The ceremony takes about 10 minutes. The temple is one of the most beautiful temples we've seen so far.
We continue to Tirta Empul, to see the bathing of Hindu in the holy waters. When we get there we first go through a building with a large pond with koi fish. Koi fish of about 1m long, to much of Sietse's interest. Then enter the holy place which contains individual ceremonial temples. Many tourists are there. The temple has a functional meaning and ceremonies are held per family. Sometimes 10, sometimes 20 Balinese family members are praying in public. Some tourists don't care and walk around without taking much distance. After this court is a pond where the source of the water is. It is like a fumarole blowing out silver-grey sand. This water then pours in the baths where Balinese families are bathing. When we enter this place, it feels like a privilege that we can be observers to this. Non-Hindus cannot bathe here. We stay some time to follow the process of this ritual washing.

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