This long-overdue post covers the final excursions we took on our aborted Viking World Wonders cruise that ended in Bali.
Yes, this post is stale, but when we arrived back in the states on March 10th we were in no mood to write (or even read) blogs for a while. With the world turned topsy-turvy our motivation went down the drain. Although still drowning in depressing news, I decided to finally write this post with the hope it will at least distract our readers for a few minutes. I really had to rely on my pictures to help me recollect our last stop, and what we did and saw.
Bali is the most popular island holiday destination in the Indonesian archipelago, and we learned why. It’s home to an ancient culture known for its warm hospitality as well as its exotic temples – palaces set against stunning natural backdrops and fabulous beaches. While agriculture is the island’s biggest employer, 70% of Balinese people rely on tourism for a living. We fear what’s happening there now due to Covid-19, the loss of tourism could prove catastrophic for the population of 4.2 million people, echoing the economic pain rippling around the world right now.
What I can recall from one of our tour guides is that Bali is known for its unique history and traditions, with thousands of revered temples, busy markets, and deeply spiritual Balinese people. While many Indonesians base their faith in Islam, 83% of Bali’s population practice Balinese Hinduism. As a society dominated by Hinduism, the Balinese lifestyle, buildings, and traditions are heavily influenced by this culture of earth’s oldest religion. Many homes we passed had a temple prominently displayed in the front yard:
Because of its very religious society and number of Hindu temples, Bali is called “The Island of a Thousand Puras (Temples)”, or “The Island of the Gods.” We saw hundreds of temples and statues – large and small – standing sentry over homes and businesses everywhere. They are used for different purposes; some for worship, some for cremation, and some for specific ceremonies throughout the year. But we only visited two.
Pura Agung Jagatnatha Temple
The capital city of Denpasar holds the largest and most important public Hindu temple, situated in the center of the city. Like many others on the island, this temple consists of sprawling courtyards with a series of shrines arranged around them. It’s dedicated to the existence of the supreme God Sanhyang Widi, and is elaborately decorated with carvings symbolizing Balinese Hinduism. It’s a popular worship place for local residents to leave their offerings:
We noticed that statues and objects all over the island featured sarongs, usually of black and white checkered cloths. Our local guide advised that it symbolizes the good (white) and the bad (black) spirits. The differences set the balance of the universe, like the Tiongkok people who have Yin and Yang – the sign which signifies the ‘black’ and ‘white’ sides of the world.
Our guide explained that offerings are an “everyday-must-do” tradition performed several times daily for all Balinese worshippers. The small square or round offerings called canang are made from strips of coconut leaves filled with several flowers, candies, cigarettes, cookies, rice, etc. Canangs can be seen on the streets and in hotels, offices, banks and homes. We even saw them on the beach!
Next to the temple was the Bali Museum, a small set of buildings that displayed items relating to Balinese rituals and Hindu traditions. I was distracted by several couples/entourages as their wedding photos were being taken in the courtyard:
Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple
Pura Luhur Uluwatu is located at the southern tip of the island, at the edge of the Bukit Badung peninsula. One of the most important temples in all of Bali, it’s dedicated to Shiva (aka Rudra), the destructive aspects of the divine. Uluwatu’s stunning cliff-side scenery is the main attraction besides the temple itself, but we didn’t have time to walk the entire stretch of the cliff:
The temple is inhabited by dozens of monkeys that are notorious for snatching visitor’s eyeglasses and destroying them, so Steve and others left their eyeglass on the bus.
Garuda Wisnu Kencana
Bali’s most iconic landmark is a cultural park with the largest artistic statue in southeast Asia. The Garuda Wisnu Kencana soars to a height of over 393′, higher than the Statue of Liberty. We caught our first glimpse of it from the ship as we docked (see first photo above).
This is a huge traditional shopping spot in the center of the city’s economy, the largest market in Denpasar City. Colorful sights and smells greeted us as we almost got lost in the vast place:
Bright colorful textiles:
Tasty exotic fruits!
Balinese women carried big baskets on their heads:
Ready-made canang were widely available, and nicely arranged to attract buyers:
Bali is known for its gorgeous beaches! The movie “Eat, Pray and Love” was filmed in Bali.
An interesting fact: in Bali, a family’s first male child is always named Wayan. If a second boy is born, his name is always Made. A third boy is called Nyoman and the fourth Ketut. We met several crew members on our cruise named Made, one of them even delivered my birthday cake!
We learned so much in one day, and it wasn’t nearly long enough. Bali is an interesting island and definitely worth a visit. Well, once the Coronavirus has been wiped out, that is…