After a short overnight cruise from Komodo Island, we arrived at the Island of Bali. We were welcomed at the port by traditional Balinese dancers and musicians.
Bali is a Hindu nation and most of the architecture and lifestyle are based on these precepts. The Balinese celebrate the international New Year but also celebrate the Balinese New Year on March 7th which is called “Nyepi”, “Day of Silence”. On this day, no one can work, no travel is allowed (the airport is closed for 24 hours), no fires can be lit thus no cooking, no entertainment or pleasure (no radio, TV, internet). It is a day of silence, fasting, and meditation.
Our tour today was “East Bali Heritage” where we visited three significant historical locations in Balinese history: Klungkung Palace, Pura Kehen Temple, and the royal palace in Blahbatuh.
As we drove through the streets on our way to our first stop, we noticed a lot of these bamboo decorations hanging everywhere. These are called “Penjor”.
Penjor are tall tapered decorated poles hung in front of Balinese Hindu homes or businesses and made from bamboo. They are erected to symbolize the dominance of good (dharma) over evil (adharma) as well as to offer thanks to the gods. The curved part of the penjor thus symbolizes Mount Agung, the highest mountain in Bali that is considered the home of the gods. Roughly halfway down the pole is a structure called sanggah cucuk. This may be triangular in shape or it may be a simple “cage” and is used to place offerings for the gods when they come down to Earth for the religious celebration of Galungan.
Also along the way there are huge statues displaying scenes from the tales of the Hindu religion. They tower over the buildings around them. They are very beautifully carved and painted.
After about an hour and a half, we reached our first stop at the Klungkung Palace built at the end of the 17th century. This was a large royal complex but largely destroy by the Dutch in 1908.
Basically there are only three structures remain: Kerta Gosa (the Hall of Justice) and the Bale (Balinese spelling of Bali, pronounced the same) Kembang floating pavilion and one of the entrance gates.
The Hall of Justice was the court of the high king of Bali. Cases on the island that could not be resolved were transferred to this site. The King, three Brahmana priests, and other officials presided over the court and sat at the table in the middle of the hall. The accused sat on the floor and pondered his fate while viewing the ceiling which depicted different punishments in the afterlife, the results of karma, while they were awaiting sentencing.
Two scenes pictured here illustrate afterlife punishments: mistreating your parents (parents saw their children in half), and, mistreatment of animals (the animals torture the accused in the afterlife).
The Bale Kembang floating pavilion was a reception/entertainment hall for the King. The moat surrounding the pavilion gives it the appearance of floating.
At the pavilion and later at the museum we also saw two artisans at work: the first was a man in the floating pavilion completing a painting of a Hindu Religious screen on a handbag, and, a woman weaving a typical Balinese patterned cloth.
Our next stop was at the Pura Kehen Temple. Because of the religious nature of the site, we were required to wear a sarong if you weren’t wearing long pants. If your legs were covered, you still needed to wear a sash as a sign of respect/reverence.
The temple is built into a hillside so you have a few steps two climb before you actually enter the temple complex. At the 1st level there is a huge banyon tree with a shrine built into it’s side a good distance from the bottom. This level also has a few other shrines as well as ceremonial platforms.
After climbing a few more steps you arrive at the next level which contains several more shrines and platforms. The main structure dominating the level is the pagoda looking structure call a “Meru”. There are 11 levels with each one representing a Hindu alphabet character associate with a Hindu teaching of how to live one’s life.
A little higher up they store the ceremonial animals used during their religious ceremonies/festivals.
By now it was time for lunch. Lunch was served at several small open air buildings in the middle of a rice field. To get there we had to walk about 10 minutes from where the buses could park. It was at this time that they heavens decided to open the flood gates and rain! Boy did it rain, buckets and buckets. We all arrived somewhat soaked.
The menu consisted of several typical Balinese dishes: vegetarian spring roll, chips, white rice, smoked chicken, spicy fish satay (on the skewer), a stir fry noodle dish, corn cakes, and twice cooked chicken. We washed it down with a popular local beer. The food tasted great.
The rain had stopped by the time we finished lunch and some residents began to work in the rice paddy illustrating for us how they planted the rice and how they used oxen to prepared the paddy for planting.
We soon left and were on our way to our last stop at the Royal Palace in Blahbatuh.
This Royal Palace has only been opened to the public for the last 3 years. It is a rather extensive site and is still under restoration. As with Klungkung it has the standard ceremonial pavilions but a much more extensive family temple. Members of the royal family still live on a portion of the site today. They have no governmental responsibilities or influence.
One of the large statues on the site showed the Hindu God Vishnu riding the back of the deity, Garuda. The detail of the carving was truly amazing.
Our final courtyard visited had the floating pavilion. It was said to be used by the King for meditation.
We made our way back to a pavilion at the entrance, drank some tea/coffee, a few Balinese desserts and then it was back to bus and a one and half hour trip back the ship.