Driving through the Port of Benoa, we were struck by the hustle and bustle of this busy port town. People were taking a variety of modes of transportation, from cars, to scooters, to trucks, to small canal boats, to the occasional traditional horse-drawn carriage.
Due to our abbreviated time in Bali, we confined our visit to the southern region, starting with the capital city of Denspar. Founded as a market town (its name translates into “north market”), Denspar offers bright, bustling markets as well as serene, elegant temples. A visit to the local markets offers an almost overwhelming array of colors, sights, sounds, smells, and products. The food market has floors for “wet goods” such as meat and fish and “dry goods” such as fruits and vegetables. While we were able to identify much of it, some of the more exotic items were simply delightful to look at.
We browsed the galleries at the Bali Museum featuring local art and rich history. While we were there, a number of beautiful young couples were taking pre-wedding photos in traditional Balinese garb. We understand that these photos will be utilized on their wedding invitations. With permission, we captured some of these precious moments.
On Denspar’s north side, we visited the temple of Jagatnatha, the most important Hindu Kahyangan temple in the city. Dedicated to the existence of the supreme God, Sanghyang Widi, it is elaborately decorated with carvings symbolizing Balinese Hinduism.
We then traveled to the southernmost part of Bali where we stopped at Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) Park, one of Bali’s most iconic landmarks. The GWK statue depicts Wisnu riding Garuda. In Hindu mythology, Lord Wisnu is seen as the protector of the Universe, while his trusted companion, the mighty eagle-like Garuda represents loyalty and selfless devotion. Kencana means gold, and both are adorned in crowns of gold mosaic. The Garuda is also the national emblem of Indonesia and represents freedom. Designed by renowned Balinese artist Nyoman Nuarta, the statue is made of copper and brass. It stands 397 feet high and has a wingspan of 210 feet. Its distinct green color comes from oxidization as the copper ages. In addition to the magnificent, imposing statue, the GWK Park includes beautiful gardens, a lotus pond, theaters, cinema, food court, and a commercial strip. Traditional Balinese performances and parades are offered throughout the day, making this a delightful place to learn more about Balinese culture.
We traveled a bit further south to Pura Luhur Uluwatu, site of the magnificent Uluwatu Temple. Renowned for its picturesque location 250 feet above the Indian Ocean, Uluwatu is surrounded by a small forest where hundreds of monkeys dwell. It is believed that these monkeys guard the temple from any bad spirits. But our guide gave us a strong warning to remove our glasses, earrings, and any other tempting adornments, as the monkeys are quite aggressive and have been known to steal glasses and jewelry with great skill! We saw one help himself to a can of soda and an egg, but we’re not sure where that egg came from! At this temple, we were asked to wear a kamben, a sarong that is worn to cover the lower part of the body. We were told that the kamben is tied around the waist and should fall just below the knees. For men, it is customary to wrap from left to right, representing the good (dharma.) Men’s kambens are a bit longer, suggesting that men should cover more ground in supporting their families. Women tie their kambens from right to left as a sign that women are saktis, keeping the men balanced. Dating back to the 11th century, this beautiful example of Balinese architecture is adorned with traditional gateways and ancient sculptures, but it’s the location that makes it truly special.
After our visit to Uluwatu, we traveled to the tranquil Jimbaran Bay for a traditional Balinese seafood dinner on the beach, a fitting end to an incredible day.
After a very busy day of sightseeing, we opted for a drive to the beach at a popular resort in Nusa Dua. The white sandy beach provided a tranquil end for our two days in Bali, and the ride gave us a different perspective on this lush, beautiful island as we saw pretty parts of Bali that are very popular with tourists.
Not sure where we’re headed next, but our two days in Bali were full and fun. We’re so grateful to have had the chance to experience the beauty of Bali.