Pura Besakih (Mother Temple) Or ‘A Car Filled With Wayans’

The Irishman and I have become rather lazy recently; rather than spending our weekends visiting temples, and learning about the rich culture and heritage of Bali, we’ve taken to slobbing around at home instead. When I say slobbing, I don’t mean that we are slumped in front of the TV  (us Nev’s wouldn’t never dream of doing something like that ha-ha!) I mean that we are mostly writing, reading or, painting, and if we are feeling particularly adventurous we head off to a beach. It’s wonderful, and it’s a great respite from Jakarta, but its not exactly taking full advantage of, or making the most of all the amazing sights and incredible experiences that Bali has to offer us whilst we are here.

To get us out of this cycle of cultural inertia, we decided to book our favourite taxi driver Pak Wayan to take us on a temple tour last Sunday. It’s a little confusing in Bali because there are only 4 names. Wayan is the name given to the firstborn, Made, the second, Nyoman, the third and Ketut, the fourth. If a fifth child comes along that child will also be known as Wayan and so on, and so forth. As Wayan,( our friend and super help and advisor on all matters Balinese) also came along for the ride, it meant much confusion everytime either of us asked a question starting with ‘Wayan, …….’ (Irishman and I are both Wayans. Stictly speaking that meant that on Sunday, there were 4 Wayans in Paks taxi)

This is probably going to be too much information but having now revealed  aspects about my toilet habits in a previous post that leave little, or nothing to the imagination, I don’t think there is any harm in now talking about menstruation. I may as well cover the whole gamut of my bodily functions over the course of this blog, especially since any dignity that I may once have had has gone, and there is no longer any hope of my ever being seen as sophisticated. That particular guise has flown right out of the window.

Many of you reading this post, will already be aware that in Hindu custom, women are forbidden from entering a temple, placing offerings or taking part in any religious ceremony whilst they are having their period. It is considered unclean and the God’s would not be amused if this rule was disobeyed. Now the problem is that we love Wayan and think of her as family,  if ever we are going on an outing she is always an important part of it. The trouble is that invariably one of us is having our period just at the time when the promise of a temple tour or important Hindu festival/ceremony is on the cards. By a stroke of good fortune last weekend, both of us were in a suitable part of our ‘cycles’ not to incur the wrath of the Gods so we decided to do a double whammy and visit not just one, but two temples whilst our luck was in.

We set off early as the trip to the first temple, Goa Lawah, or Bat Cave Temple was over an hours drive away. Pak Wayans taxi, old and battered though it is, works like a dream, except for the flat tyre we had and the a/c that conked out years ago.  As there was not a cloud in the sky that morning, or any hint of a breeze, it made for a rather sticky journey.

I’m not going to write about the Bat Cave Temple today, I’ll save it for another day for fear of giving you Temple photo overload.

After leaving Bat Temple we headed south, following the coastal road, which was surrounded by fields growing tobacco and maize until we turned off west and started the slow but picturesque climb up into the hills where workers tended their padi fields.  Halfway up we encountered an ancient bus ahead of us, which struggling to climb the steep pass, groaned and belched out thick, black, noxious clouds of exhaust, it’s fumes nearly choking us. As the road was so narrow and steep, it meant that we were stuck behind this toxic, belching, farting monster for quite awhile before we could overtake and then at last roll down our windows and get some air. The higher we climbed, the denser the vegetation became and after a while we felt as if we were right in the heart of the jungle. Unfamiliar birds called from the treetops, and we became quite adept at spotting all the fruits and spices growing on either side of the road. Villagers had placed bags over giant Jackfruits to protect them from the marauding insects before they ripened. These giant fruit, hung like huge, spiky, pendulous rugby balls from the trees around us and  bunches of tiny, sweet, bananas grew everywhere. There were mangoes, pineapples, papaya, snake fruits, cloves and nutmegs, even cocoa pods. The list of things that we spotted read like something from an exotic fruit store except this was all growing naturally in the wild. It reminded me a bit of being on a school nature trip.

We eventually arrived in the small village of Besakih and decided that the first port of call  was stopping somewhere to find lunch. We managed to find a place that had, without a shadow of a doubt, the worst Soto Ayam (chicken soup) that any of us had ever eaten. We all gagged when we tasted it. It was so disgusting that none of us could eat it so we just ate the plain rice that accompanied it, with a squirt of ketcap manis (sweet soy sauce) to liven it up a bit. So much for the special lunchtime treat that we’d promised the other two Wayans.

We bought our tickets for the temple but declined the offer of a guide (they will tell you that you need one to go into the temple but you do not) and a ride on a moped. and instead walked the 1km up the hill to the temple. I should point out that this is not just any temple; this is The most important temple on Bali, Besakih Temple or Mother Temple.

The temples started to be built over 1,000 years ago, and this stunning place of worship is honoured and revered by the Balinese. It is vast with around 23 temples and associated shrines, covering several acres. The complex is laid out in terraces, built on the side of Mount Agung, the highest and most revered mountain in Bali. It’s a volcanic mountain, that last erupted in 1963, killing 1,700 people. The lava flow from the erupton, missed the temple by just meters. The Hindu Balinese believe that this was a miracle and a sign from the Gods.

21 thoughts on “Pura Besakih (Mother Temple) Or ‘A Car Filled With Wayans’

  1. Hello Lottie,

    Thanks for your visit. Sorry for this late reply – just got back from a lovely holiday in Italy.

    Did you see Bali starlings there? 😉
    I miss Indonesian nasi goreng.


    1. Hello!! How great to hear from you 🙂

      No, sadly no Bali Starlings 😦 they are almost extinct now due to being caught and kept in captivity. There is a great program going on at The Green School in conservation. They are breeding them in captivity and then will release them back into the wild once the numbers are back up.

      Nasi Goreng is THE Best! check out The Mousehole Cat when you have a chance and I hope that you had a great time in Italy.


  2. The rule about the menstruating women dates from the days before we had maxi pads and all the rest, when letting women into temples was a liability; you never knew if they were going to bleed over everything. Yet the rules remain.
    I think it’s orthodox Jews who have the ‘no menstruating women in the kitchen’ rule, with much the same reasoning. Although personally I’m voting to make that one more popular; anything that keeps me out of the kitchen is fine with me.


    1. Bloody Hell!!

      Orthodox Jewish women may not be ‘close’ to their husbands whilst menstruating or, for 2 further weeks afterwards which must be terrible if you are a Jewish nymphomaniac.

      I have a feeling that they don’t get out of their kitchen duties so lightly, it’s not being able to make bread (almost wrote bed!) something to do with the yeast not rising if you’ve got a maxi pad in your knickers.


  3. Lottie, you often had a car full of wayans when your kids were small……oh, no, wait……. that’s Glasgow speak “weyans” meaning minors, or small children, the number of which increases in direct proportion to the decrease in gross income per household, allegedly.
    Fantastic photos, can we go visit when i come out?
    Thankfully god dried up all my flows so i can do temples anytime, however he also dried up the synovial fluid in my joints so Bali toilets, squat and drops, fill me with trepidation.


    1. I’ve told you before, but I’ll tell you again B, ‘The Stool-Master’ (patents pending) will be the answer to your prayers. Peds working on the design as I speak…..

      Synovial liquid vanishing too? oh there is so much to look forward too!


  4. Glad you liked it Steph!

    One of the reasons that I didn’t want a guide aside from the fact that A) I’m not into scams where its obvious that they just want to screw more money out of you unnecessarily and B) a trick to make you believe that you can’t go into the temple without them, is that I have the attention span of a knat and the memory of a goldfish so even if we had hired a guide I would have forgotten every single thing that I had been told within seconds. I much prefer wandering around places like that at my own pace and then doing the research afterwards.

    I still have so much to learn about Bali but temples are a good place to start and of course they are very beautiful!

    I should have pointed out in my post that when visiting a temple you must wear a sarong and ideally, also a white kebayah. If you dont have a kebayah then a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up is fine. I didn’t have a kebayah or a white shirt so I chucked my large floaty black and white zebra print scarf around my shoulders and wrapped a bright red sarong over the top of my fushia pink linen trousers…..Zandra Rhodes would have been proud of me!


  5. Well, this is odd! I left a comment for you on the 26th and apparently it did not show up. Not sure what happened! 

    Lottie, I love that you call reading, writing, and painting just “slobbing around at home.” Haha! I do know what you mean, though, and I always find it interesting how complacent we can become when we live somewhere for while. When my husband and I go on vacation it’s always non-stop activity, but when we’re home we tend to hang around “slobbing,” as you say.

    I loved hearing about all the amazing fruit and spices that just grow naturally in the hills. It’s sad to hear that women are considered “unclean” during their cycle. The stigma is not new of course, and really does exist everywhere. In westernized societies it’s just not as blatant, though this doesn’t make it any less painful.

    In B&W and sepia, the temple roofs look like an alien world. Stunning. I love the one with the weather vane in the foreground. There’s something almost disturbing about the image…like it might come to life. Definitely intriguing.

    Sophistication is overrated, Sister, and by its true definition genuinely doesn’t have the best of connotations. Bringing up those “unmentionable” topics, presenting them with pragmatism, humor, and a teacher’s flair makes you a woman of the world, which I believe is a far more valuable commodity than “sophistication.”


    1. Good morning dear Sister! and how lovely to wake up and find your comment in my in-box! always a good start to the day 🙂

      I had a feeling that you might like the picture with the weather vane in it. It was such an incongrous sight and made me laugh, especially when the breeze caught it and it whirred around madly making the chicken and cock, not only move in a pecking motion, but also make a clucking sound!

      I was still feeling glum having witnessed those acts of barbarity on the beach so with that still going on in my head, plus the fact that the skies were quite overcast, I decided to stick with B&W and sepia for the pictures. I love how the silhouettes of the temples stand out in some of them, colour may well have detracted rather than added in this case.

      How weird about the comment not showing up? As you know I have problems being able to leave comments on yours – I tried and failed thrice to leave a comment on your last post so ended up sending an email instead with a link to the Gertrude Jekyll garden on Lindisfarne, Holy Island in Northumberland.

      I was enormously touched by your last paragraph, thank you 🙂


  6. Hi Lottie,

    Wow, some of your photos are downright gorgeous! Can you believe I’ve lived here for oh-so-long and yet to hit Besakih.. and not for reasons related to Das Period 🙂 I think it’s the hordes of touts that keeps me away… But I shall go anyway sometime when I return, cuz I have a very particular purpose.. (more another time!)

    Loved your descriptions of nature’s bounty that’s always at our fingertips on this island – thank you Mother Earth!!


    1. The touts are an absolute pain in the arse, but BE BOLD! and BE FIRM! and you’ll soon be striding up the hill towards the temple. Having said that, I have to warn you that you will still have to run the gauntlet of all the shop keepers trying to sell you wooden penis bottle-openers and gaudy sarongs but hey! I know that you can handle that!

      I’d love to go back to Besakih (if only to find a warung that can make half-decent Soto Ayam) so if you want a bold companion, I’m your lady.

      I’m glad you liked the photos, and my descriptions of nature’s bounty. Thank you Amit, it’s much appreciated. xo


      1. Oh don’t you just LOVE all those penis whatchamacallits?! Especially the ones that get the dotted-painted treatment all around 🙂

        I’m definitely planning to go to Besakih when I return from abroad – especially because I am now more convinced than ever that I need to go see the bone balian there… a friend went last Saturday and, no kidding, he’s healed her back!
        Oh, and of course, we’ll have to track down the bestest warung in the area 🙂
        Stay tuned… xo


    1. Thanks Amberr! yes the temples are amazing, very special and it’s great to have this opportunity to visit so many of them. I’m pleased to report that on the menstrual front, both Wayan and I (for the time being at least) are perfectly synchronized and in harmony with each other, almost down to the same day in fact!!


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