08.30 Departure from Balam Bali Villa
10.00 Visit to Penglipuran & Walk in the bamboo forest
11.30 Departure to Besakih temple
13.00 Arrival at Besakih, Lunch in a local warung, and Visit to Besakih temple
15.00 Departure to Klungkung and Visit to the Court of Justice
18.30 Arrival at the Villa
Acclaimed among the major tourist sites, this charming village has
benefited from a highly successful restoration program. Its charm runs a
risk of the overwhelmingly excessive, as if popped into a conservation
jar where nothing might intervene to contaminate it. Too clean, too
swept up, indeed perhaps over-polished, but magnificent all the same!
The grandiloquent avenue flanked with houses either side, advances
towards the magnificent temple, facades coated with moss, and roofs
secured with bamboo lagging.
The village has indeed always been noted for its specialization in bamboo, which the villagers handle with remarkable dexterity and originality. Penglipuran remains the centre for the finest woven baskets, the celebrated offering baskets. It is also renowned for its curious roofs, unmatched in all Bali even if this very specificity runs the risk of monotony. The inhabitants will invite you to visit their homes in the hope of selling you a basket. All the young people have departed, without future even as guides since most groups arrive with their own guide.
The climb to the temple is spectacular. On the left, just in front of the temple, you will discover the Bale Agung, the great village meeting house. The principal trading resource for the villagers lies beyond in the 75 hectare bamboo forest.
The village has been founded around 1000 years ago. Its location is very special. It is exactly South of Mount Batur, and West of Mount Agung. Giving a sacred orientation by the founder of village was a tricky challenge. Oriented to Mount Batur would make Mount Agung furious, and vice-versa. A clever solution was than proposed: the village, as a global, is oriented direction North, to Mount Batur. The main street indeed goes up, by a succession of landings, symbolising a long ascent to the world of the gods, meaning “up”. At the end of the village, the superb temple closes the street. Penglipuran is the only village in Bali with a perspective. It gives to the village its majestic character.
In order to celebrate as well the powerful god Agung, all family temples are oriented to Mount Agung and not to Mount Batur. This double orientation is unique and results in a superb mother plan guiding the constructor who created the village.
The plan of the village can be seen indeed as a cosmological representation of the religious world of most of the Balinese:
This cosmogony representation is expressed in the shape of all simple temples one can see everywhere in Bali, mostly in the rice fields. The base is the world of the spirits, the pillar is the world of the humans and the throne on the top is the world of the gods
The number of houses remained unchanged: 76. Should a family wish to extend a house for a news family member, it is possible only in the back of one house. To each family one hectare of bamboo forest is associated. Just before the temple, one can see a superb long house, for the meeting of the married men of the village, forming the council of Penglipuran. There, as well, women are preparing offerings for temple ceremonies.
The temple is remarkable by its size, the superb long houses, and the unique bamboo covering on the roofs. The first pavilion on the left, behind bamboo curtains, contains the superb gamelan instrument. The holy court contains a large number of shrines. One of it presents a large stone. Nobody in the village seems to remember what is the meaning of this strange shrine. It dates probably back to the oldest age of Penglipuran, when the first occupation is mentioned, in the 8th century.
When you are facing the temple, walk to the right around 100 metres,
until you reach the road. Turn left and walk 150 metres up, along the
road. The road turns 90° to the left. Go straight, inside the Bamboo
forest, along a paved alley. The walk is pleasant, in a strange and
superb forest. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH THE BAMBOO, the creamy sections are
covered with microscopic needles! The walk makes a loop and you reach
again the road. Go down the road about 20 metres, and on the left, a
little path marked with offering brings you again in the forest. After
30 metres, you will reach the most mysterious temple of Bali, the temple
to the spirit of Mother Earth”. The temple is just a square (around 7 x
7 metres) cleared inside the forest. The entrance is made of planted
bushes, leaving space in the middle to enter the square. PLEASE DO NOT
ENTER! This temple is believed to be extremely powerful. Villagers from
Penglipuran reported to us that only people with adequate offerings can
enter the square without risk. Others would be lost in the square,
desperately searching for the exit. Some perform black magic inside to
cast spells against enemies, neighbours or family members. Go back to
the main road, follow it downward until it turns 90° left. Continue
straight, and you will go along the wall of the temple, back to the
The temple of Besakih is the most important sanctuary on the island. It
is a group of numberless temples, a city of temples indeed, destined for
the great families of Bali, as well as a collection of “generic”
temples dedicated to the Hindu trinity: Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu. The road
from Penglipuran to Besakih is very picturesque; you will cross villages
specialized in the production of wood carved temples for the family
temples present in all Balinese family houses.
We recommend you taking a guide for visiting Besakih temple. Firstly, you will no longer be aggressed by the offer of a guide, once you have already chosen one. Next, a minimum of explanation avoids being handicapped in understanding the complexity of this site, which is, for the Balinese the ‘Navel of the World’. It should be noted that contrary to their insistence, the guide is NOT obligatory. There are guides in French and English. It must be admitted that the approach to the temple is somewhat disagreeable. It is also advisable to have brought a sarong in anticipation to avoid the aggressions of the temple merchants. It should be admitted that many of these guides are also students who are struggling to pay their studies.
If you don’t want a guide, our map below can help you visit the temples of Besakih. Please do not be too close to the Balinese who are praying, and do not enter into the private family temples.
Having finally entered into the sanctuary, it is difficult to avoid noticing an impressive flight of stairs climbing to the principal temple. After prayer, in vast groups the Balinese descend the steps they have mounted by side aisles. These Balinese often arrive by truck, there might be as many as 50 piled into the truck skip and it is a moving spectacle during ceremonies to see the rails of the tip-lorry open on all these
Balinese splendidly dressed with turban, sarong and “over-sarong), not to mention the women laden with offerings, advancing towards the main temple. This temple, the Pura Penataran Agung is dedicated to Shiva and not the Hindu trinity indicated by the three thrones on the sanctuary altar. The three thrones are representing, indeed, three manifestation of the god Shiva. It is not possible to enter the temple, but the ceremony may be viewed by taking the path leading to the left of the immense staircase and peering through the wall (which is not as shocking as might appear). If you have taken a guide, he will lead you a few metres into the sanctuary bordering the places of prayer. Do not accept any king of solicitation to get a benediction or to pray. It would be a trick resulting in a fine to pay at very high cost!
This Vishnu temple alone constitutes one of the elements of a Hindu trinity realised by this temple (Pura Penataran Agung) for Shiva, by the temple Pura Kiduling Kreteg for Brahma (on the right) and finally Pura Batu Madeg for Vishnu (on the left). These three temples reproduce at the most sacred level of the island the structure of the temple of villages with the Pura Puseh (temple of origins), the Pura Desa temple of the village, and the Pura Dalem, temple of the dead. The three temples of Besakih are therefore like village temples, but at the scale of the whole island. It is the inhabitants of the entire island that gather there when the major ceremonies take place once every hundred years. These three temples are also cardinal temples, the great Trinity temple representing the Centre, the Kiduling Kreteg, the South, the Batu Madeg the North, then the Gelap for the East and the Ulun Kulkul for the West. Each district of the island is associated with one of these temples. The three temples also symbolize also the three elements : Pura Pemataran Agung symbolizes the Wind (Destruction), Pura Batu Madeg the Water (particularly worshipped by the farmers) and Pura Dangin Kreteg the Fire (creation).
Around these general temples are added temples for the great family lineages of the island, particularly when one climbs on the right hand-side of the main sanctuary. If your guide has a family temple, ask him to take you there to pray. Learn the very beautiful gestural of prayer, with the flower between the fingers. Even if one is agnostic, it is very touching. The highest temple, the Pura Gelap, is very strange. Carved out of black lava it possesses a disturbing nature. A staircase framed by a spectacular double rank in the form of a snake-dragon climbs towards the sanctuary. It is often in the clouds, which reinforces all the more its mystic power. Please do not go further than the first courtyard even if the guide invites you to do it.
In a park of this ancient royal capital subsists the Taman Gili, two buildings which remain the last vestiges of a vast palace destroyed by the Dutch in 1908 after the collective suicide of the whole royal family and its Court. The best-known among pavilions of the group is not the largest floating in water, but the smallest on the corner, called Kerta Gosa. This bale or palace presents cycles of traditional Balinese paintings over the whole interior surface of its roof structure. Despite the continual patching up and restoration, they constitute a unique island monument. This pavilion was apparently the council chamber where the king and the priests gathered to debate the interests of the kingdom. It later assumed the function of court of justice. The Mahabharata and moral tales of Indian origin inspires the paintings spread over 267 panels. This iconography would have served to clarify understanding on punishments risked for poor conduct.
The great bale placed in the middle of the pool is the Kambang Bale or floating pavilion. The wooden structure of the building was rebuilt during the 1940’s. The ceiling paintings show scenes of Balinese mythology, particularly scenes from the life of a Buddhist saint, Sutasoma, who showed his force without ever slipping into aggression.
The museum closing one side of the site is barely worth the visit. Apart from a single model of the palace which permits understanding the considerable patrimonial losses caused by the Dutch during the wars against the kingdoms of Bali scarcely a century ago.