20 October 2013
Colourful Buddhism on a Hindu island in Muslim land
A bit like the indomitable Gauls in the Roman empire, there is that unique Buddhist temple at the very north of the island of Bali, which is otherwise predominantly Hindu while the rest of Indonesia is Muslim (with some notable exceptions in the mountains). I wasn’t too sure though if that isolated Buddhist monastery, said to be the largest in Bali, would really be worth a visit.
When there are hundreds of temples (or other things) one can visit, it’s often a trade-off between seeing as many as possible with the hope of seeing different architectural types, and taking the time to appreciate a small subset more deeply. More often than not, there is a clear divide between the most interesting places and the bulk of other landmarks which would still be worth visiting if I were living there (or should it rather be when I will live there as part of my “retirement” plan to wander from place to place across the planet every 6 to 18 months?). It’s taking a guess at that divide, informed by reading guide books and forums, that makes my travel planning so tedious – and once I am on my trip, the divide becomes obvious, which is partly why I feel very confident about that idea of mine of high-end amazing and intense photo/cultural tours in small groups*, going back to places I now know very well.
That quiet Buddhist temple wasn’t located too far from the coast, and a few logical decisions at road turns allowed my obedient scooter to arrive at this monastery located on a hill. As its full name implies (Brahma Vihara Arama – can you pronounce it in one mouthful?!), it was a lovely “secluded place in which to walk”, strolling from one patio full of statues (the four-faced ones reminded me of the ones I had captured in Si Satchanalai in Thailand to another with a big, bright, yellow and red stupa, before arriving at a wide square with an imposing dark-stone structure on one side.
Do you notice something? Look more closely at those bell-shaped stupas: yes, they aren’t without recalling the ones of well-known Borobudur. Looking back at my sub-selection of pictures, I am pleasantly soothed by the spectrum of colours: the sky’s blues, the dragonfly’s reds and blacks, the lotus flower’s purples, the water lily’s greens, the statue’s whites and browns, the stupa’s yellows and reds. There was sometimes a bizarre juxtaposition between authentic artifacts and more modern(?), slightly kitsch statues and murals. But the quietness of the place, the view on the surrounding lush hills, the numerous angles which to take pictures from, really made for a relaxing visit before a long scooter ride through monsoon-type rain across the Balinese mountains (yay, once again, for my China-bought plastic rain cape… at least to protect my gear!).
* you simply need to message me if you are interested with that concept. The most likely pilot will take place during the first two weeks of May 2014 in Morocco.