Stepping out of Ngurah Rai International Airport and into the hot sticky heat of Bali, I was met by an overwhelming sea of faces waving signs, name cards and calls of “taxi? taxi?” from local drivers. It was a welcomed relief to see a young, smiling Balinese man, holding a sign with my name on it. His name is Mully, the transfer driver from the hotel I was to stay at, Waka Maya.
After quick introductions and bags loaded, we were off to the hotel. Even on the short drive from the airport to Sanur, Mully’s in depth knowledge and conversation about Bali was impressive. So much so, that I asked if he could show me around this culturally rich and diverse island known as Bali. Thankfully he agreed, and in the coming days, set off to not only explore this wonderful place, but learn about its people, religion and culture in more depth than I could have hoped for.
The first day began with a visit to Tirta Empul Temple. The Balinese believe the springs at Tirta Empul Temple are that of an infinite creation and hold miraculous healing powers. Tirta means “The holy water” in Indonesian language. Watching the bubbling spring mixing up a mystical mist of loose gravel and somewhat luminous green algae that lines the rectangle stone pond, Mully explains the legend behind what causes this magical holy water.
“Long ago, Bali was ruled by an arrogant and powerful king, Mayadenawa. Believing he was more powerful than the gods themselves, he poisoned the waters to kill all that challenged him. Legend has it that the God Indra managed to defeat the evil king, and turns the waters from poison to pure and holy, with a pierce to the ground with his arrow.”
To honour Indra, the Balinese built the temple around this water source. It is here in a long stone pond, lined with rich green algae and the odd lotus flower; you can see the place Indra’s arrow pierced the ground, as the waters bubble and spring to the surface.
This magical story of good winning over evil captivates the mind as I walked around in the sensation like you have been transported back in time, engulfed by the magic of the mystical tale, exploring the bathing pools and surrounding temple.
After giving an offering made of woven bamboo, a mix of colourful flowers and some Indonesian Rupiah on top, I walk away with a bottle filled with this holy blessed water, to later splash over my head with the belief it will purify and heal.
The following days were occupied exploring Kintamani and the active volcano of Mount Batur, sunset at the temple on the sea, Tanah Lot, and an impromptu visit to the local healing and medicine man, Mr Ketut Liyer (who became popular due to the recent Julia Roberts movie, Eat, Pray, Love) who told me of promising future fortunes.
Shopping is unavoidable in Bali, so in between sightseeing; I bartered my way around the markets of Melasti, Mataharia, Poppy’s Lane and the traditional Badung markets in Denpansar.
My last evening was spent taking in one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen, as the sun filtered through an array of pinks, purples, oranges and yellows, before slowly disappearing on the horizon at Kuta Beach.
Amongst all the beauty and wonder of the island, I learnt the balance the Balinese people find in life through their culture and beliefs. I learnt that sometimes no matter how hard you try barter down, you just won’t get that Bintang shirt any cheaper, that you should only have one Arak Mojito a night, and that a hand held fan is the best 10,000 rupiah you will ever spend in Bali.