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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Gunung Kawi and Tirtha Empul (Bali)

We're getting to know everyone who lives in the area near us and Mr. Chu, a 76-year old Chinese man who had lived in the United States for thirty years, invited us and our neighbours to dinner one evening. He strongly suggested we don't miss the archeological site of Gunung Kawi. We are thankful for that, besides for the opportunity to get to know him better.

Gunung Kawi was a day trip north from Ubud to a town called Tampaksiring. Despite its size Ubud has only one traffic light. We pulled off as it turned red to take a photo of this beautiful statue.

It was pretty straightforward to get to Tampaksiring and once there a large sign directed us to the site. (Straightforward and signs are atypical Bali.) It was immediately apparent why not many tourists visit it; the streets are very narrow and there is absolutely no way a tour bus could get anywhere close enough to the entrance, even a car would have trouble. We love our scooter!

It has been concluded that Gunung Kawi is the shrine of King Udayana and his two sons, dating back to the eleventh-century. There are two temples separated by a river. Both have inscriptions that show the larger temple was for King Udayana and the smaller for two of his sons, Marakata and Wungsu. These sons also became Balinese kings, succeeding each other upon death. Here I am on the bridge over the Pakerisan River with King Udayana's temple behind me.

This is the close-up view. King Udayana has been enshrined in this temple -

And his sons have been enshrined in this temple across the river. It's a jungle here and must take a lot of upkeep. It was peaceful walking around and we only saw a few other people.

Gunung Kawi is also a centre of spiritual and religious training. However, at the present time there is some construction going on and we didn't see anyone who appeared to be in training.

This lizard slowed down when he realized we weren't going to chase him.

Enormous Jack fruit growing wild. We'll have to try this some time.

Tirtha Empul was a short ride away from Gunung Kawi but it was a different experience altogether. A large parking lot accommodated tour buses and cars and we were directed through a gamut of craft stalls to get to the exit. It was still lovely to see the beauty of the old temple and we didn't exactly have to battle crowds. A lot of tourists as well as Balinese nationals make the pilgrimage to give offerings and ask for blessings under the flow of pure water which bubbles up from an underground spring. The water is considered holy.

Here is the pool where people immerse themselves while still clothed, also wearing a sarong and sash. The ritual is to stop at each fountain, make an offering, request a blessing and receive it by immersing oneself under the flowing water.

This young girl had obviously been here before. Offerings are small baskets made from palm fronds and filled with flowers and grains of rice. An incense stick seems to be an optional extra. 

This Balinese family was clearly happy to be making the journey. The wife holds incense sticks and the offerings, one for each fountain, are in the bag. We wondered about the significance of the baby's head being shaven and discovered another Balinese ritual. They're shaved at the ages of 6-months and 1-year old, the reason being simply to encourage a thick head of hair as they grow up.

The sacred gates leading to the source of the pure water.

The pool at the source of the pure spring water. We could see it bubbling up from the side closest to the temple building. It appeared to be a high volume underground spring.

Temple detail, beautiful artistry.

On our way home we felt impelled to stop for these rice paddies just on the eastern outskirts of Ubud. The thing that makes them different from any others we've seen are the numerous mini temples dotting each paddy. It was a gorgeous day!

After eight days in Ubud we're heading out to explore more of Bali. Mr. Chu has kindly agreed to let us stash our biggest backpack at his house so we can travel extra light. We've rented the scooter for another week and playing it by ear with no accommodation booked. We're aiming to see Sideman, Amed, the north coast and Lake Bratan before returning to Ubud for one last night.

Note on current exchange rate: US$1.00 is about Indonesian Rupiah IDR12,160 is about ZAR10.60

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