Day 204: Tanah Lot For The Delay

Tue. 5th March 2013

The Land In The Middle Of The SeaWe’re a little disappointed to be heading west rather than east today. We had wanted to get out to Flores and Komodo – to see the dragons and perhaps for a spot of diving as well as a bit of sightseeing (as well as ticking off another couple of Indonesia’s islands). However, a combination of poor weather and running out of time means that we are heading back to Bali and then on to Java. We have already put Indonesia on our ‘must  come back’ to list – though when we do, it will be in dry season!

Wherever I lay my laptop... Lombok airport is pretty quietThis, in turn means we have the delights of Lion Air and Denpasar airport on Bali. The good news is that Kuta is only a 25 minute drive from the (new) airport and so we are quickly there (we do regret, however, not stopping at one of the traditional Sasak villages on the way up to have a look at the traditional weaving). The bad news is that Lion Air live down to their reputation and (after charging us for excess baggage that we didn’t have to pay for on the way over) the plane is 2 hours late – just like the guide books say it will be.

The new bypass for Kuta / Denpasar (Bali) being builtThe upside of our return to Bali is that it gives us a chance to see more of the island – we only really covered the south on our previous stay and there is a lot more that is worth seeing. Our hotel for tonight is booked in Tanah Lot which is the sight of the biggest and most famous Hindu water temple in Bali – it also completes the set of water temples that we saw in Seminyak and Ulu Watu. Watching the sunset here is apparently one of the must do activities in Bali.

What every swimming pool needs!As per usual, we had booked our hotel – the Dewi Sinta – through booking.com. This site has been our most reliable hotel finder. We have never had a hotel say ‘what reservation?’ to us and through a  combination of the pictures, the hotel’s own description and the reviews from other travellers we generally have a pretty good idea of what the hotel will be like. (Once you ignore the “I’m giving this hotel a rating of 1/10 because the carrot batons weren’t all the same size” reviews). If we were true backpackers (i.e. young) we’d just turn up in a town and then start looking but I’m too chicken (and dislike surprises) for that.

How to do what you need to do!What we weren’t expecting though was for the hotel to be right in the temple complex itself – well actually in the middle of the street market just in front of the temple but still beyond the pay booth. And so we had to buy our ticket for the temple (all of £2 each) before getting to the hotel. Otherwise the user descriptions on booking.com were pretty spot on – 30 years ago this would have been a 5 star hotel with its 2-storey villas and the ornate swimming pool complete with dragon gargoyles. So the grandeur is faded but it is still spacious, comfortable and cheap! Our one quibble would be with the bathroom where the toilet is seemingly in the middle of the room and comes complete with instructions (well, a diagram) on how to use it.

Moody atmospherics!As the rain is holding off and although sunset is still a couple of hours away, you never know what the weather will be like in a couple of hours or tomorrow morning and so we are straight off and out to get some pictures of the temple. And quite a sight it is too, standing on a rocky islet just 10 or 20 yards/metres off coast. Access for the priests is (I think) along a rocky causeway but the waves are breaking over it obscuring the view. We later find out that the name Tanah Lot means Land in the Middle of the Sea.

Rocky promontory with another temple - and great views back at Tanah LotThere is a viewing platform on the shore opposite the temple where people play chicken with the waves – the further out along the rocks you go, the better the view and the fewer people between you and the temple but the greater the chance of getting wet. I had the bottom of my shorts splashed by a wave and so was somewhere in the middle. The coastal path then goes up and along the cliff for a little way in either direction giving different views and perspectives on the temple as well as of other promontories. All the while, the waves crash in.

Street vendors on road down to the templeThe whole complex is a weird mixture of spirituality and commercialism. There is a sense of presence from the temples, guarded by fearsome statues along with the palm-frond basket offerings placed by the locals. But the road down to the temple is lined with street vendors – t-shirts seem to be the main offering. Along the coast there are high-tech hawkers with digital cameras and portable printers selling people photos of themselves against the dramatic backdrop of the temple or the coastline.

Well, we sort of got a sunsetWhen sunset comes, it is too cloudy to be really spectacular but there is a sufficient change of light and colour to get a feel for it as well as a few atmospheric photos. Afterwards, the complex quickly gets quieter as the vendors pack up and the majority of the tourists return to their coaches. Whilst we didn’t know it at the time, we got lucky in picking this hotel and we are glad that our travelling for the day is done. (Tomorrow’s travelling is a different issue, we don’t have that confirmed yet!)

How chicken are you?We have just confirmed the “its and ill wind…” proverb – the winds that kept us from getting to Flores have let us seem more of Bali and Java. Whilst Tanah Lot is not in the same league as Chichen Itza it is still a worthwhile place to visit. Bali seems to be full of all sorts of pleasant surprises (or maybe we didn’t do enough research before leaving home)! There is so much more to the island than beaches, surfing and nightclubs. We’re glad that we got back to Bali and have a chance to see a few more of the treasures of this lovely island.

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