I am drawn to spiritual Bali and today I wake up feeling the need to be blessed. I want to select three temples and experience a spiritual day in Bali. For this reason, I decide on Tirta Empul, in Ubud ( central area ) , Uluwatu temple in Jimbaran (south-east) and finally sunset at Tanah lot in Tanah Lot (SOUTH west)
The reason I chose these three is because of the traffic in Bali. Bali traffic is demented. The Temples are reasonably close to each other to allow me the possibility of navigating from one to the other within the same day.
Bali has over 20,000 temples. Some of them are merely shrines. There are some spectacular temples in Bali, but they are nothing like the European grand cathedrals. They are built as worship spots in areas that evoke spirituality. So my spiritual day in Bali certainly does not exhaust the list for a traveler looking for temples in Bali.
Tirta Empul Temple
I am lodging in Canggu (south-west of Bali). Tirta Empul Temple in Ubud is an hours drive away. I pre-
arranged for a car and driver for the entire day. The cost is Rp. 600,000 (equivalent of $40) including fuel. Wayan (meaning first born) picked me up from my villa at 7.30 am and even brought me a Luwak coffee as we headed out towards Ubud. Driving through lush rice fields and swaying palm I was already getting in the sacred mood of a spiritual day in Bali.
In June 2017, during a holiday in Bali former US President Barack Obama, together with Michelle Obama and his daughters Malia and Natasha, made Tirta Empul one of their selected Temples to experience a holy day in Bali.
Tirta Empul is the holy water temple. It has been revered for more than a 1000 years and the Balinese visit this site to get purified and blessed in the holy waters which are running into a dam and pools running down from the volcanic mountains. Today tourists from all over the world visit and marvel at the beautifully manicured gardens and get refreshed in the cool waters when bathing in the temple.
I realized that I needed an hour to visit the whole site and also visit every fountain or station to do a full experience.
If you are a female flying solo, you should avoid your “special time of the month “ when visiting temples as this is strictly forbidden and considered unholy.
You should also carry two or more sarongs with you as you are expected to be covered from shoulders
to ankles when visiting Puras as they are known in Balinese. However, sarongs are available at a nominal rental fee in case you forget.
When you enter the temple you first go through the grand temple door that leads to gardens and then you proceed into the inner core of the temple and the baths. Here is where you wear the traditional emerald green sarongs and enter into the rather fresh holy waters.
There are two pools and thirty water spouts in total and you queue to start off from the left, where you bathe your face and head, pray and move into the next one. The last two water spouts of the first pool are untouchable, as the water here is reserved to bathe the dead before cremation.
Once the purification process is done you move to the inner core of the temple which is a holy reservoir where water flows out of the earth and feeds the pools.
A sideline on the importance of the first holy temple in my spiritual day in Bali:
The Balinese believe that the evolution of Tirta Empul involves the legend of the battle between a
powerful and magical king named Mayadenawa and the God Indra. This was the great battle of good and evil. Tirta Empul is considered the most important temple in this war and is always most revered during the Gregorian NEW year of Galungan and KUNINGAN.
Before you leave Ubud I would recommend that you visit one of the famous Luwak coffee sites scattered around the area, or better still stop at Kampung Cafe and have some of their delicious homemade ginger tea.
2nd HOLY PIT STOP Uluwatu Temple
Uluwatu is a 70-minute drive from TIRTA EMPUL, and this is mostly due to heavy traffic. It was already noon by the time we arrive in ULUWATU or Purs Luhur as it is known. Uluwatu is a temple perched some 70 meters on the cliff face of the Pecatu Jimbaran area of Bali (very close to where you land when flying into Bali).
Uluwatu temple and the views are nothing short of extreme spectacular. My only misgiving is the
number of Makaks literally monkeying around and stealing your sunglasses, hats and anything that is remotely bling. These monkeys are seriously naughty.
Uluwatu like Tanah Lot (my last pit stop today) is a backdrop to amazing sunsets. If this is going to be your last stop of the day, I recommend that you go down to JIMBARAN BEACH And pick some live seafood and have it BBQ’D on the beach for sunset.
The temple itself is a three hundred something meter walk on the sides of walls of the temple. This is a spot you should pick a day of good weather to visit. The views of the Indian Ocean crashing into the rocks below and washed in areas of white sand is totally breathtaking.
The Hindu Balinese believe that the powers of the Hindu Trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva converge here. Uluwatu Temple is the place of worship of Siva Rudra, the Hindu Goddess of all the elements of the universe.
The temple is recently restored after a massive storm In 1999 when thunderbolt and lightning Set parts of the Temple on fire. It is a place of holy pilgrims all quietly filing and feeling the spirits of the gods.
In terms of a spiritual day in Bali, the Tirta Empul has evoked the more feeling of holiness whereas Uluwatu is much more visual and spectacular.
A Spiritual Day in Bali – Last Temple Stop – Tanah Lot
It is now 2.00 p.m and I stop for lunch and refreshments at the Ayana in Uluwatu. This is definitely worth the visit – even if it is a little bit pricey. The Ayana is host to the world-famous Rock Bar and the views are totally breathtaking. If you have the time and you can make your budget stretch a little, the Ayana is a show stopper and will be a memory to cherish.
By 3.00 p.m I am heading towards Tanah Lot which is in the South West Coast of Bali and I nap in the car because it requires 90 minutes of suicidal driving to get to it.
We arrive at 4.30 p.m which is really perfect timing for prayer, sightseeing and sunset.
Tanah Lot Temple again is chosen for its setting. It is a rock which is not far from the shore, which is easily reached at low tide and over which a temple has been built. The typical black stone from the lava of volcanic Bali is again the primary material. Perched on the endless horizon, Tanah Lot is iconic.
I am told of the superstition that surrounds Tanah Lot. You should either visit the Temple solo or as a married couple! As the myth goes, if you are visiting the temple with your lover – you will never reach the alter and your partner will never become your spouse! So all you single ladies looking for love, this could be the perfect place.
Tanah Lot or “The Rock in the Sea” dates back to the 16th century. It is said that the Holy Man Dang Hyang Nirartha happened on the Rock on one of his travels. He sat and rested there. Later the fishermen of the area brought him foods and gifts and he asked them to build a shrine on the rock because it was a holy place.
Tanah Lot is a shrine built to honour the Gods of the Sea and is one of at least seven temples built in the Indian Ocean set to revere the Balinese Sea Gods.
After spending an hour ambling over the rocks I entered the cave where to my surprise there is a Holy Man playing with a black and white snake (not my idea of fun) as a mantra for praying.
I recommend that you use very sensible flat shoes when visiting Tanah Lot as parts of the area to get to it can be a challenge to navigate.
Later, I walked back up to the balconies looking over the Rock and had some fresh young coconut (kelapa mudah) and waited for sunset.
I am not surprised that Tanah Lot has become famous as a backdrop for the perfect sunset. The skies turn from blue to pink and purple as the sun sinks into the water – surprisingly fast.
A Spiritual Day in Bali – Conclusion
Temple hopping in Bali could be somewhat taxing, but it is worth the effort. Even if you do not embrace the faith, the spiritual experience does leave you in a better place with yourself.
I did end my day in a beautiful spot. As soon as the sun got swallowed by the vast ocean – I walked to the Pan Pacific Hotel which is bang in the middle of the Nirvana Golf Club in Tanah Lot and gifted myself a well-deserved glass of wine and an exquisite salad on the verandah overlooking the sea and Tanah Lot Temple
Matur Suksma – A big Thank you in Balinese
- Hello I’m Mariella
- Female Flying Solo Tips