It is rare to travel to a place that doesn't remind you of anything you have ever seen. Bali is that place. Many people travel there for the beaches and the parties. I went there for the culture and the unmistakable photography opportunities. The island is lush, tropical, modern and developing at the same time, and uniquely Hindu which permeates through the region. I will let the photos do the talking.
Behind the scenes video:
Getting to Indonesia from LAX required two flights, with a layover in Taipei. When we landed in Denpasar, the airport was remarkably modern with a mix of Dutch and Indonesian architecture. Outside the airport were Hindu temples dotting the sidewalk in between commercial buildings. The roadways had Hindu gods in the median. We passed by Banyan trees, wrapped with black and white sarongs. The hot and humid air and smelled of smokey incense. It was clear that we had landed in one of the most culturally interesting locations.
We took a taxi to our hotel and along the route were Western billboards, surf shops, and craft stores selling every kind of raw material from wood to stone statues. The street life in Indonesia was fascinating and completely opposite to the Western roads of structure and insurance laws. The roadways in Bali were swarmed with motorscoters - whole families on motorscooters, kids without helmets, drivers carrying giant bushels of produce, Hello Kitty helmets. I could stay entertained just by watching them out of my car window.
1. Tirta Empul Temple
The first Hindu temple we went to is Tirta Empul Temple. This is a Hindu temple built in 962 AD famous for its holy spring water. The fountains are used by the Balinese Hindu population (and tourists) for ritual purification. Many people were giving offerings, or small palm leaf baskets filled with flowers, candies, coins, incense, crackers, and even cigarettes to the gods. As our tour guide explained, Balinese Hindus believe in one god, but many manifestations in god.
2. Mount Batur
This is an active volcano on Bali that last erupted in 2000. The mountain draws adventure tourists for trekking, especially at sunset and sunrise. Whether you are photographing it from atop the mountain on below, it is impressive.
3. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
This is the iconic Hindu temple. In fact the image of the temple is on the Indonesian 50,000 Rupiah bill (equal to about a $5 US bill). It is located on Lake Bratan and surrounded by lush gardens where many locals go for picnics and family gatherings. The temple was built in the 17th century in worship of the main Hindu trinity, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, as well as the lake goddess, Dewi Danu. The temple is used as an offerings ceremonial site for the lake goddess. The worshipers paddle out on colorful boats to deliver the offerings.
4. Rice Terraces (Tegalalang Rice Terrace and Jatiluwih Rice Terraces)
The town in the center of Bali is called Ubud, known for its plentiful rice terraces, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We hiked through the terraces, which are tiered platforms of rice covering the mountainsides. We even spotted the farmers plowing and seeding the rice.
There is so much to cover in Bali that I will have a Part 2 to cover more beautiful sights. What are your favorite places to photograph in Bali?
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