Chasing the Sunset: Taman Ayun and Tanah Lot, West Bali

Inner Temples Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Taman Ayun Temple
January rains wash over the palm thatch roofs of the meru towers in the inner sanctum of Pura Taman Ayun, Mengwi, West Bali, and turn the grass in the complex a soggy green.

You are taking a chance in the tropics during the wet season!

Bali, that volcanic tropical paradise just eight degrees south of the equator, is in the path of the west monsoon from October to April, with heavy rains typical from December through March.

But, there are a lot of reasons to love Bali, any time of year. The window of opportunity for my husband and myself was in January, so we crossed our fingers and booked our flights.

Bali is known for it’s “sunset spots”, with one of the more famous being the beautiful Hindu temple Pura Tanah Lot sitting on it’s own rocky outcrop in the Indian OceanAfter consulting with my old (1999) Lonely Planet guide and a local driver, I decided that would make a romantic spot for dinner. 

Bali is also known as the “Island of a Thousand Puras (Temples)”. About 83.5% of the population is Hindu, practicing a version of Hinduism that has its roots in Indian Hinduism, Buddhism, Balinese animistic traditions and ancestor worship. Wikipedia estimates that there are 20,000 temples and shrines around the island; I’m not sure if they are counting the shrines found in front of and within almost every home, but there are certainly temples everywhere, and you don’t walk more than a few feet before passing a shrine of some description.

We were staying on Sanur Beach, on the east coast – well situated for tropical sunrises over the jukung, the brightly painted outrigger canoes, that are anchored on the shallow waters. But Bali is such a small island – only 153 km (95 mi) wide and about 112 km (69 mi) north to south – that you can comfortably get from one side the other, and the meandering drive from Sanur to Pura Tanah Lot in search of a sunset left plenty of time for stops at sights along the way.

If only the rains would hold off…

Morning on Sanur Beach, Bali

Morning on Sanur Beach

Silhouette of a seated man at sunrise, Sanur Beach Bali

Watching the Sunrise
Even during the wet season, the rains can pass quickly, …

Indonesian outrigger boats in the sunrise, Sanur Beach Bali

Sanur Sunrise
… making for some spectacular sunrises on the east coast. The small wooden outrigger canoes known as cadik or jukung dot the shallow waters.

Pergola and a wooden boat in the Sunrise, Sanur Bali

Pergola in the Morning

Balinese woman placing offerings outside a gated courtyard, Surin, Bali

Making Offerings
Putting out offerings to gods every day is a normal part of Balinese routine. Old offerings often lay around in piles.

Woman in a sarong entering Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Entering Taman Ayun Temple
Built in 1634, Pura Taman Ayun was the main temple of the Mengwi kingdom. ‘Taman Ayun’ means ‘beautiful garden’; the temple is set in a beautiful park with trees and ponds, and surrounded by a moat. Access is across the moat and through the Candi Bentar, the entry gateway, which looks like an intricate tower that has been split in two.

Entry to the inner courtyard, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Kori Agung, Pura Taman Ayun
The access to in inner courtyard in a Balinese temple (the Kori Agung) is similar to the outer entry (the Candi Bentar), except that it is stepped and gated. It is closed to non-worshippers.

Dvarapala, Temple Detail, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

A fierce guardian (a dvarapala) statue sits each side of the entry to keep evil spirits out of the inner temple.

Floral stonework, Temple Detail, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Temple Detail
All around the temple, the cement is intricately cast and the stonework is beautifully carved. The lichen and mosses that grow in the humid climate only add to the beauty.

Banana-leaf offering tray, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Offering Tray
Banana-leaf trays of flowers, rice, and incense are dotted around the shrines as offerings.

Ornate stone and brickwork, Temple Detail, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Inside Taman Ayun Temple

Inner Temples Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Inner Shrines: Taman Ayun Temple
Taman Ayun Temple was built as a place to worship the royal ancestors. Meru, the multi-tiered tower-shrines, are dedicated to gods and ancestors; the tallest tower has eleven tiers and represents Bali’s second-highest mountain, Gunung Batukau.

Barong Cat, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Barong Cat
A Barong is a mythological animal with a cat, tiger, or pig face, that is a defender of good. As symbols of the protector, they are often represented in dance.

Temple Cat, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Temple Cat
There are several real cats – as opposed to Barong cats – scattered around the temple grounds.

Temple Kitten, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Temple Kitten

Two caged Asian Palm Civets, Taman Ayu Sari Agro, Bali

Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus Hermaphroditus)
Just down the road, we stopped in at a luwak (civet) coffee plantation and outlet.

Young Balinese woman hand-roasting coffee, , Taman Ayu Sari Agro, Bali

Roasting Coffee
Billed as “eco tourism”, mini-plantations where visitors are shown coffee, tea, ginger, and other spice plants, are dotted all over Bali. A demonstration of hand-roasting coffee, followed by coffee- and tea-tasting is part of the brief tour.

Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus Hermaphroditus), Taman Ayu Sari Agro, Bali

Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus Hermaphroditus)
There is some ethical controversy over the most expensive product: kopi luwak or civet coffee, made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the civets, then passed through their digestive tracts. I was pleased that some of the civets here were loose, friendly, and appeared well cared for.

Pura Batu Bolong silhouetted against gray sky and ocean, Tanah Lot Bali

Pura Batu Bolong
Sitting on a rocky promontory jutting into the Indian Ocean, Batu Bolong Temple is a small shrine a short distance north of the famous Tanah Lot Temple.

Pura Batu Bolong silhouetted against gray sky and ocean, Tanah Lot Bali

Pura Batu Bolong
Even in the pouring rain, with the waves crashing in, it is a delicately beautiful shrine.

Rain and high seas over Tanah Lot Temple in West Bali.

Tanah Lot
On another promontory just further south, Tanah Lot is one of Bali’s most venerated sea temples, and probably the most-photographed. Even in the grim January weather, tourists and pilgrims are huddled in raincoats and under umbrellas on the connection pathway.

Rain and high seas over Tanah Lot temple in West Bali.

Tanah Lot
Rain blows down and waves splash up over Pura Tana Lot. We won’t be treated to a sunset tonight, I fear.

Portrait backlit Balinese Singer, Tanah Lot Temple in West Bali.

Balinese Singer
Instead of a sunset, we make do with a serenade over dinner as we wait for the light to fall.

Even in a tropical paradise like Bali, I suppose it’s a bit greedy expecting both a sunrise and sunset on the same day!

Text: Happy TravelsOne out of two is still pretty good – 

And, we had a lovely day long the way.

Pictures: 25January2017

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