A Rainy Day in Bali, Indonesia

A great number of Holland America employees come from Indonesia having attended the Holland America training facility in Jakarta. As a result we are expecting to have a number of the crew’s family members come aboard on these port days in Bali and Makassar to visit with loved ones.

For years the Dutch East India Company explored the waters of Indonesia seeking spices and gems. Today gas and oil are exported and a number of minerals are mined for exports as well as indigo, orchids, and teak.

We were to dock about 7 AM, however, a local passenger ferry tied up in our berth during the night and, after much time and seemingly useless negotiations with officials, it finally departed the dock a little after 9 AM, thus delaying all the shore excursions from the ship.

Due to our late start, our itinerary was shifted and the bus headed up into the volcanic, mountainous area north of Klungkung, towards Besakih Temple (the Mother Temple of Bali). The road rose sharply with hairpin curves, steep drop-offs, dense vegetation, and small villages clinging to the slopes as we drove ever upward.

The island of Bali is shaped like a chicken after laying an egg.

Chicken Egg

When were within about twenty minutes of reaching the Besakih Temple, our bus pulled over to the edge of the road and stopped. We had smelled smoke and, indeed, some thing was smoking. Our guide told us to use the rear exit and get off the bus as quickly as we could, taking all our possessions with us. The bus driver and guide were afraid of fire breaking out at any moment.

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We complied and both the bus driver and guide were shouting into cell phones alerting the company of our plight. We were left on the roadside, dodging the trucks and mopeds, and made our way to stand in front of a tiny hardware store.

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Students from a nearby school were on their way home from Saturday morning classes so we took a few of pictures of them. The people living nearby all looked at us, as we had become the observed and not the spectators in this instance.

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In a short time a small van pulled up and seven of us got in. The plans had changed and we were taken to the restaurant where we were supposed to have lunch after visiting the high temple rather than before it.

Our buffet lunch was very good at this resort perched on the edge of the volcanic slope overlooking acres of rice fields and terraces that seemed to stretch for miles. The scenery was breathtaking, but hard to photograph in the mist.

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We had to wait for another bus to be driven up from the city (about 1 ½ hours away), so the local peddlers took advantage of us by offering us all sorts of wares. Both Mary Jane and I bought a lovely sarong. We did not have any local money with us, but the women took US dollars gleefully, even though we had been told they could not be used in this country.

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Finally our new bus came and we were on the road again.

About 95 percent of the Balinese are Hindu and temples dot the countryside all over this island. Besakih is said to be the most important of all. The clouds had been threatening all morning and as we entered the parking lot for the temple the heavens opened up and poured rain. Should we make the walk up to the temple or not was the question.

We decided to make an attempt (without our cameras) and put on plastic rain slickers the tour operator provided. We headed out on the 900-meter hike up a very steep incline. If we had done our math before starting out, we would have realized that the distance was a little over a half mile. The torrent like water coming off the hill was ankle deep in places. Luckily, the roadway was rough in texture so we could keep traction as we climbed. We both questioned our sanity, but we wanted to see what we had come so far to see and upward we went. The temple is comprised of 23 separate, but related, individual temples. No doubt the mountain backdrop is impressive in sunny, cloud-free day, but with the storm clouds hanging heavy over the area, the view was less than dramatic and appeared mostly grey rather than “like a citadel in the clouds” as it was described in the literature.

The buildings and their roofs were mildew covered and of dark concrete and stone. The lovely flowers at each level of steps that you climbed were bright and cheerful. We were glad we had not risked ruining our cameras on this trek as we arrived back at the bus positively drenched from head to toe from a combination of sweat, rain and wind. Thank heavens we had on Zenergy pants and lightweight cotton blouses that dried out quickly as we continued on our trip.

We drove another hour and a half to reach our second destination: Puri Agung Karangasem, known as the Water Palace that is the compound built in the 19th century by the first king and is maintained by descendants of the kingdom’s royal family. The architecture of the palace combines three different styles: Balinese influence can be found on the carving of Hindu’s statues and the reliefs on the walls of the building; European influence can be found in the architecture of the main building with its large veranda; and Chinese architecture is seen in the style of he windows, door, and other ornaments.

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The gardens and water features with koi were beautiful in design and fresh flowers graced many statues and were strategically located around the facility. We would have enjoyed spending more time here exploring, enjoying the beauty, and taking photographs.

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Mary Jane got somewhat lost and, when she asked for directions, she was taken through one of their homes and exited out a door near where I was at that moment. Imagine our mutual surprise.

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On our way back to the port, we stopped to see the Klungkung Kertagosa, which was designed and built in 1710 by some of the finest artisans in the country. The compound contains the beautiful Bale Kambang floating pavilion and the Kertagosa (Royal Court of Justice), both with elaborate ceiling murals that are still in great condition, depicting early Balinese history.

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