All islands have the blessing of beautiful sunsets and sunrises – in the space of a day, you can see a sun rising out over the ocean, and then see the same sun being devoured by a huge expanse of water in the evenings.
Being a later riser, the only sunrise I enjoyed in Bali was from the top of Batur, which covered in clouds, was a little muted. But I did enjoy two beautiful sunsets – both near remarkable temples located on ocean fronts.
The first sunset was at Uluwatu – a temple in the south-west of Bali in Bukit peninsula. The most remarkable feature of this temple is its location – perched atop a steep cliff which rises from the ocean. Parts of the temple are closed to visitors, amongst them the main prayer area. The day being Diwali, I would have like to go in and offer prayers, but I had to contend myself with roaming through the grounds, and enjoying the beautiful view from above.
The temple is held captive by monkeys – you will find them everywhere and visitors were strongly discouraged to wear glasses, or keep anything in hands. However, as I sat down on one of the ledges, a very determined and fierce monkey approached me, and took out a slipper from my feet – I made no attempt to resist. One of the locals got the monkey to drop the exchange in return of a fruit, and asked me for a tip in exchange – it turns out that this is a regular means of earning at the temple, and I would not be surprised if the locals were training the monkeys to do exactly this.
Aside from the monkeys, Uluwatu is a very peaceful place. Near the temple grounds, a performance of kecak dance is organized, but since it happens around sunset, I skipped it to enjoy the sunset instead. It was beautiful to see the sun go down slowly into the waters, covered partially by a layer of cloud. The backdrop of Uluwatu structures made it even more majestic.
Our second beautiful sunset was at Tanah Lot, towards North-west parts of the province. Both Tanah Lot and Uluwatu are part of the nine directional temples of Bali, which, located at strategic locations protect the people from evil forces. It is easy to see that the people fear water, and consider it a major source of dark forces, as most of the temples are located near water bodies.
Tanah Lot is a very unusual structure, made almost like a ship, and you can access it only in low tides. Thankfully, at the time we went, it was a low tide and we could go close. Visitors are not allowed inside the temple, but the view of the structure from the outside, sitting almost in the ocean is very alluring.
It is rather difficult to capture the temple and the sunset in the same frame, especially because it is a very crowded place (crowded without being intrusive though, as everyone quickly gets absorbed in the sunset or the dramatic temple structure). So I focused on them separately. Since here you are at the shore (unlike Uluwatu where you are on the cliff), the sunset feels much closer. From its brilliant orange glow, we saw the sun become a small ball of fire, slowly, almost painstakingly.
We had approached the temple not from the parking lot, but from the end of a nearby hotel. There are no vendors on this side, which apparently cause a lot of annoyance from the parking end. After the sunset, we also exited from this end, as the Kecak dance was to be held next to the hotel. Kecak dance is a traditional Balinese dance form where they enact the story of Ramayana. It is the equivalent of Ramlila, though the presentation is more musical. The tale is narrated by nearly 150 people sitting in a circle, and as they narrate, characters come and perform the story. At sometime, the narrators become part of the story, and then quickly go back to narration. It is a lovely experience, and if you have time, you should view this trance-like performance.