Saturday, April 01, 2006

Island of the Gods

So if Malaysia was difficult to grasp geographically, Indonesia is a crazy massive collection of 5000km of islands, rising and dipping across the equator. The instant we landed in Bali, we knew we wouldn't want to leave. We decided to focus our time in Ubud-which has a ton of Balinese Hindu temples, ancient sites, awesome art and handiwork and not to mention, great cuisine. We had decided to splurge (60 bucks a night) and we stayed in this awesome resort called Tjampuhan Hotel and Spa. We were greeted with a glass of rice wine, escorted to our room which was a beautiful bungalow overlooking lush vegetation with a natural hot springs pool. The next morning, we checked out the Monkey Forest Sanctuary (yes, more vicious moneys) where we saw the high temple of the dead. We then strolled around, and immersed ourselves (literally because it's all around you) in Balinese culture and the people.

We also checked out some of the cool temples around Ubud, the Elephant Caves, the Moon temple, Lake Batur and Gunung Kawai, which houses one of Bali’s oldest and largest monuments. One of the coolest shrines was made from carvings in a rock 7meters high, which in order to get to, we had to trek through a field of beautiful rice paddies. I think one of the reasons why we loved Bali so much is the richness of the culture and its people. As Hindus, it was fascinating for us to learn about the Balinese Hinduism, which is actually quite different from that of in India. Originating from the Majapahits who ruled Bali in the 13th century, it became a mix of the already existing Balinese beliefs and customs, which were that of animism and always present spirits. The Balinese still worship the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, but they also have a supreme god, Sanghyang Widi. And interestingly, unlike in India, where deities are freely displaced in temples, the temples in Bali consist more of intricate carvings rather than any particular diety.

We also had a chance to see traditional Balinese dancing…Kecak, Barong and Legong. Through these dances, with the accompaniment of a chanting choir, they frequently tell the story of the Ramayan and Mahabharat. The next day we went nuts at the market and the art galleries…we found some amazing paintings and handicrafts. After 3 days, we were sad to end our paradise in Ubud..but we were off to adenture by sea to the island of Lombok.

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