Sunday, January 2, 2011

Travelogue Bali: Tanah Lot

I was rather disappointed when I first saw Tanah Lot.

You heard so much about it, and how every single travel review swoon over its beautiful temple and breathtaking sunset. Well, the day I arrived it was so cloudy that the sun couldn’t even peek out of it, and there were two millions people converging at the spot. Junk food’s plastic wrapper and mineral bottles were strewn all over the ground; some were lodged in between the nook and cranny of the jagged black rocks. It was rather dirty for a place so hallow.

Getting to Tanah Lot itself was such a hassle, and knowing that I won’t be able to make it out in time to Kuta, I decided to spend the night here. There were only a few accommodations available with uncompetitive price due to the lack of demand, as Tanah Lot is a typical place that warrants only a quick stop for photo ops as there is nothing else to do around the area (though I read about a great beach trekking that starts from Tanah Lot to another beach towards the north, but I did not have the time to check it out). Tourists come in droves on shuttle busses during the day, but the area pretty much died down with the setting sun.

I checked in at Dewi Shanti Hotel, conveniently located a few meters off the main entrance, put down my luggage and went for a quick stroll. The temple area consisted of a rolling grassy area planted with trees and shrubberies, and vertical cliff that drops suddenly into the sea. It had just rained, so everything was still gloomy and misty – with the grass swaying to the wind, I could easily pretend that I was in a scene from “Sense and Sensibility”, when the distraught Marianne, upon discovering that Willoughby was in relationship with another girl, ventured into the field, lost herself in the rain and was then rescued by the heroic Colonel Brandon (alas, there was no colonel rescuing this particular damsel in distress on the island of Bali).

A few promontories jutted towards the ocean, each was erected with a temple, which you can’t enter unless for praying, so the tourists would only roam the outer area. In the ocean below, surfers were tackling the evening surf. I tried to find a quite spot, but there was pretty much none. The place was jam-packed with people. With bodies upon bodies scrambling for the best spot to take pictures, the area was alive with chatters and laughter. Among the Japanese tourists wearing straw hats and flower garlands were locals picnicking with their family – the children running barefooted on the field – and even more locals praying and giving offerings. Amidst the orderly chaos, I quietly observed a family on their knees in front of an altar decorated with a few statues. The mother bowed her head in prayer, her hands clasped in front of her chest, and her two small daughters behind her mimicked her action. The grandmother was sitting besides them, making sure that they had their gesture correct.

Afterwards, I searched for a place where I can sit down and write. I settled at the top of the steps that leads down to the beach, which has an unobstructed view of a small temple perched on top of an arched outcrop. I filled in a few pages of my travel diary and did a few sketches of the temples. An elderly Caucasian couple walked by, observed me deep at work, and snapped a photo of my sketch. “Beautiful, beautiful…”, she muttered. (Oh, tetiba I rasa macam artist pulak, ahaks…)

The next morning, I woke up early – after all, I had too much sleep by going to bed at 8 pm last night!- and went out for a morning walk. Tanah Lot looked so much different, so much serene in it being deserted. The sun was out, there was barely any tourist there. I was pretty much alone absorbing its tranquility; the park staff were collecting the garbage (Tanah Lot is a lot more cleaner that early of the day, thanks to the staff. Tourists anywhere should really be more environmental-friendly and respectful during visitation), and the souvenir peddlers waiting for the first sell of the day.

I went down to the rocky beach and stood as close as possible to the water edge. With no one around, all I heard was the sound of the wave and the wind. Ah, what a bliss. A few crabs were scuttling on the ground. I let the ocean sprayed its mist against my sun-burned face. It was rather hypnotic watching the wave crashing upon the cliff. Thirty minutes could go by without you realizing you’ve been staring emptily towards the ocean. It was such a peaceful time – my mind was empty, nothing worried me. You watched the wave rolled in from a distance and then it smashed onto the rocks, spraying upwards, turning all white and frosty. Then just as quick as it came, it retreated back into the sea.

The first impression does count, but if we immediately dismiss it without giving it a chance to prove its worth, we might be the one on the losing side.


  1. The sketch is indeed beautiful.

  2. x leh lawan your skill la. you are the artist. ingat lagi drawing2 zaman sekolah dulu. mmg power.. heh