Goa Lawah (Bat Temple)

About halfway to Goa Lawah (Bat Temple) there was a loud hissing noise followed by an ominous thud and clunking sound every couple of seconds. Pak Wayan (our taxi driver) was busy rabbiting away to Wayan who was sat in the passenger seat (our friend and housekeeper) and both seemed oblivious to the fact that we had a flat tyre. It was left therefore to the Irishman and myself (the other 2 Wayans) to be the purveyors of the bad news.

We pulled into the side of the road and all four of us stepped out of the car to survey the damage. Somehow a huge bolt had pierced its way through the thick rubber, rendering it beyond repair and the deflated tyre was now as flat as a proverbial pancake.

In the UK there is a car repair company called KWIK FIT and their slogan is, ‘You can’t get quicker than a Kwik-Fit fitter’ – well actually I think you can.  I’ve got to hand it to him, Pak Wayan had that flat tyre off faster than a whores knickers and it was soon replaced with the spare from the boot with equal speed and dexterity. This is a man who clearly doesn’t like to hang about.

Thanks to no further incidents, we arrived an hour later at the over flowing car park opposite the Bat Temple. It seemed that the world and his wife were there that day as the place was literally heaving with Balinese Hindus and a tiny smattering of tourists like ourselves.

Before we were allowed to go anywhere, Wayan made sure that we were looking suitably booted and suited for our temple visit. I’m not sure that my red kikoi (Kenyan cotton beach wrap)(which also doubles as my night attire) wrapped over my bright pink linen trousers, or the loud zebra patterned scarf that I draped over my shoulders in place of a kebaya entirely passed muster with the boss, but Zandra Rhodes and Vivienne Westwood would have been well impressed, that I am sure of.

The Bat Temple really is something quite special. Set into the side of a steep cliff, just a few metres from the sea, it is home to literally thousands of huge bats and a few Rock Pythons so I am told. I didn’t see any pythons but the bats were very much in evidence. I’m not a huge lover of bats, and to be honest they give me the willies but it’s got to be said that this was a sight to behold. The noise they made was extraordinary as they shrieked and whirred around in the cave whilst Balinese worshippers queued to leave blessings and say their prayers. Being ‘Aliens’ Irishman and I were not allowed to actually go into the temple, but I was quite happy just to watch everything that was going on around us and take in the sights and sounds as yet more and more people flocked into the space around the cave opening.

If you use a magnifying glass, you will be able to see the bats hanging on the walls at the back of the cave.

After a while we left the temple, crossed the road and went down to the beach to find a place to have a cold drink. There had been a cremation earlier (hence the large number of people) and the black sand was strewn with hundreds upon thousands of small baskets containing offerings. There were still many Hindus on the beach and after a short while a priest walked down to the sea with a basket. Suddenly there was much screaming and shouting and yelping from the crowd that had formed around him as he threw into the sea, young chickens, and ducklings. Within the space of a minute or so the tiny birds had been plucked out of the water by a group of eager boys who then ran off with them. This spectacle was something that I have not seen before and Wayan explained as best she could that this is a Hindu custom.

What followed next was simply heartbreaking. Within 10 minutes the chicks and ducklings had been tossed into the air, beaten and then torn apart, their tiny, limp bodies then dispatched into the sand along with the rest of the rubbish and crap that was strewn along the shore.

I’m not sure if this is what the priest had in mind when he performed the ceremony minutes earlier, but one thing is certain, it left the Irishman and I feeling sickened and furious at seeing such gratuitous cruelty and we couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there.


11 thoughts on “Goa Lawah (Bat Temple)

    1. It was heartbreaking Martha – I couldn’t wait to leave. The temple was beautiful and I’m glad we saw it but I could have done without witnessing the sad episode on the beach 😦


  1. Lottie,

    Is it supposed to be part of the custom? i know in different parts of the world their are lots of customs that definitly seem strange and unreal to myself.



  2. Hi Aaron – the Priest dispatching the ducklings and young chickens into the sea is yes, but I’m not sure that the boys torturing them is. Wayan tried to explain the significance of what the Priest was doing but it got lost a bit in the translation – there is a lot that I need to learn!


  3. What a writer you are, Lottie! You have a wonderful way of taking one through a gamut of emotions. In this case: laughter, fascination, and sadness. I’ve been doing a bit of research on this ritual myself and from what I’ve found, you’re absolutely correct. The priest throws the animals into the sea as a sacrifice to ward off evil, but the torture etc is not meant to be part of it. However, the animals are meant to die of drowning.

    LIke yourself, I find accepting any type of cruelty a bitter and difficult pill to swallow. Yet, I also believe that we must respect others spiritual beliefs. A real dilemma. Grrrr…

    On to the laughter portion of your post! “Pak Wayan had that flat tyre off faster than a whores knickers.” I love seeing this alien (to me) world through your western eyes.

    Fascination? The architecture of these temples is truly fascinating…and inspiring. Those umbrella thingies are quite cool, as well. LOVE the bats (magnifying glass was not necessary once I enlarged the photo!). As always, most excellent photos, Sister!!


    1. Ik, I am so impressed with your research and what you’ve come up with. I feel I’ve been rather remiss in not looking this up before I wrote about it.
      I was going by what Wayan had told me but you have actually answered one of the questions that I asked her and that was ‘should the ducklings/chicks have stayed in the sea?’ – this was the part that she found difficult to explain to me. Now the plot thins……

      These were definitely the hugest bats that I have ever seen. At least 8 sizes bigger than the ones that I am used to seeing here. Frankly I don’t care what size they are, I have always had a morbid fear of getting one tangled up in my hair and then biting me. The chances of this happening are pretty slim but then I like to torture myself with these imaginings on occasion, it keeps me on my toes!

      Thanks for your great detective work and for your lovely comment! 🙂


  4. Very interesting story, and certainly had the macabre to it. A ceremony I went to , similar beach, maybe same temple, they offered ducks to the sea, but there was no savage behavior ( http://farsidetravel.net/2011/12/18/trancing-out-in-bali/ )

    I also witnessed a few sacrifices and was equally unsettled from a few remarks, alone and at the temple, only bule , maybe i was imagining too much http://farsidetravel.net/2012/08/08/vishnus-hunger-is-insatiable-bali/ story

    ” Pak Wayan had that flat tyre off faster than a whores knickers” Just love that line, Pak Wayan reminds of Sana! my culture guide and driver, who also dresses me up in crazy apparel to get me into many temples so far!


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