A visit to the Mengwi Royal Temple

So on a dreary afternoon, we ventured to the Mengwi Royal Temple, also known as the Taman Ayun Temple in Bali, Indonesia. Other than being a huge and well landscaped complex, this temple complex hosts the altar reserved for the royalty of Mengwi. Some structures looked old but not ancient, while some looked quite modern, all looked well maintained.

Our driver dropped us off at the entrance to the temple and right away you can see the splendor of it all, not grandiose but rather a large, clean, minimalist complex with sparsely placed structures surrounded by plenty of space with a very well maintained landscape. At the ticket both we paid a nominal entrance fee and proceeded in. Our driver had mentioned that some temples require the usage of a sarong if your pants/skirt/shorts are above the knees some do not. This one did and provided the sarong for my daughters who were wearing shorts (I was informed by my older daughter that hers was a ‘skort’ not a shorts or skirt. I told her, “too bad, you still have to wear it”). What caught me by surprise is when my kids pointed out a sign that said something to the effect of “no entry if you’re on your menstrual cycle.” As if they’d check, I’d wondered as we walked away. Anyways, something to note, I can understand and respect the rule, just taken aback by the prominent sign I guess. I do recall some Buddhist temples having this rule as well. Something to be mindful of, I suppose, if you’re a believer and don’t want “bad karma”.

As we made our way in we had a toilet break and in the area was a snack shop and a rather large cock fighting ‘arena’. I’ve never seen one so legit looking but didn’t think it was still being used to fight roosters as they had placed mannequins inside the fighting area so you’d know exactly what this space is for. My hopes of it being non functional other than for offering a glimpse of historic cultural practices were kinda dashed when I saw a big cage with rooster in it. I couldn’t see everything as it was in an off limits to the public, tucked away in the back area enclosed by a tall bamboo fence. I supposed I shouldn’t have been surprised, as cock fighting is a part of many South East Asian cultures and this being the royal temple, it should be ‘fit for a king’, right?

Continuing on we came up to a big wall that had an elaborate entry point. I’m guessing this is the entry to the area where people go to pray, place offerings etc. I didn’t think it would be gated and locked, but it was. So to see this “main” section, you have to take the inclined path that leads around this wall. Not knowing what to expect, I still didn’t expect what we saw. Basically the front wall with the gate is the short side of one end of a rectangle wall structure. Directly behind these walls is a narrow moat, and within the moat is where all the altars, statues, trees and other things are. If I had to guess, this inner area is about the size of an ice hockey rink. The stone structures and carvings looked weathered and old but well maintained giving them a dated but not ancient look. At the back there’s an elevated area to get a better look. Here’s a couple shots:

Back behind the this main temple area is a vast park with a path that goes in and around it, with gazebo placed here and there. We didn’t have the time to walk the whole park nor did the weather allow us to (it started to rain at this point) so we headed towards some pavilions for some cover.

As we made our way to the exit/entrance we stopped to get some drinks at the gift shop. It was while looking around drinking water that I notice the rooster cage but also stone steps up to a gate. I decided to go check it out. the gate at the top of the steps was locked but you can see into the area quite easily. Maybe this is the ‘royal altars’?

Here’s a few images taken in around the Mengwi Temple complex:

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A couple hours at the Ceking Rice Terrace

We visited the Ceking Rice Terrace in Bali, Indonesia on our second day in Bali. Now I have to admit, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about going to a rice paddy farm. I mean, not having been to one before, how interesting could it be, right? Boy, am I happy to be wrong!

On the drive in, I began to see the beauty. The rice terrace was in sort of a large ravine, below street level. The golden rice plants really stood out from the surrounding greenery. As we neared the ‘tourist’ area, our driver rolled down the window and spoke with the ticket agent and told us the price, I wasn’t really paying attention, too busy looking for spots to take some photos but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t unreasonable (no one complained about it, haha). This area is just a long stretch of road with souvenir shops and eateries on both sides of the street. To get to the rice fields you had to find the staircase down and fortunately for us, our driver dropped us right in front of it. There was a small sign indicating the entrance but it could easily be missed because if you look down over the railing (in between the shop houses), you’ll just see more shops or eateries. Some have zig zagging paths downwards seemingly into the terrace but they could very easily lead you somewhere like a short rice paddy field or a plank suspended by two tall palm trees (that you can pay to swing on) or a hidden “coffee shop”. Oh, some have a “selfie spot” too so keep an eye out for those as well (they might ‘require’ a donation to use though).

It was starting to drizzle so we went into the shops to look at stuff. There were a lot of local arts and crafts on display as well as the usual touristy souvenirs. Our driver, again, indicated that this area is cheaper than in town and that we should bargain for better pricing. This area’s terraces were more green than gold so I decided to walk a couple blocks back the way we came in to take photos of the golden rice fields, as my family went shopping. At the check point, where we paid the entrance fee, is where the sidewalk ended so I was walking on the street for a bit. Not an issue as the drivers did very well to avoid hitting me. I noticed there were people who looked like tourists in these rice fields so there was an entrance somewhere but unsure of the weather and not wanting to go shot less,  I decided not to take any time to find it. I found a spot along the street, in a building under construction and began taking pictures (I asked the workers in there for permission first, of course). I got some shots I was happy with so i made my way back. At the check point, I just showed my ticket to the ‘guard’ who nodded and I walked back to meet my family. Here’s some shots:

The drizzling had stopped a bit earlier, so down we went zig zagging down the path until it started to get muddy and that pretty much ended our journey into the rice fields. I mean I could have kept going and take photos of other tourists, but i don’t find that fun. So we went to hang out at one of the coffee shops, we picked one that wasn’t crowded and they were more than happy to let me set up for some family shots, even helping me move a table and some chairs! My younger daughter started making a small fuss near the entrance while my older daughter was like “aww cooool!” so I walked over to check it out and saw this:

It may not look big in the photo but it was big enough that when I saw it, I said it was fake. The relief on my younger kid’s face didn’t last too long as the waitress started laughing and said it was real and that there were a lot below in the rice fields. That prompted my older daughter to want to find some but was reminded by my wife about her pretty white sandals. Darn it. So we sat back down and my kids started showing me the loot that they had scored and the “cool” shop that they have to go back to because they saw some other loot that they’ve decided that they were going back to buy.  I guess I should find comfort in the thought that they at least take the time to think about their purchases, sigh. Plus it all goes back to the local artists so it’s great!

Oh, before I forget, after going down the first flight of steps to the shops just below street level, then a short zig zag down a path to the actual start of the path into the rice terraces, there is a person sitting behind a makeshift table collecting a donation based entrance fee.  According to our driver, the rice farmers are paid by the shop keepers on the street to keep the farms going so this “by donation” entrance fee probably goes directly to the farmers. Overall, I had a good time at the Ceking Rice Terrace and am glad that I got to experience it. Sitting in a coffee shop with an ice cold local beer over looking the rice terrace offers a certain tranquility that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Well worth the trip, in our opinions! Here’s some shots from the coffee shop:

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A couple hours at Pura Tanah Lot

Tanah Lot, an ocean front Balinese Temple complex. What’s so special? Let me try to show you with some images I shot and by recounting my experience there.

As usual, I never seem to have enough time at the sites we plan to see. Maybe the place is just that awesome or I’m just too easily impressed, jury is still out on that. For our trip to Bali we chose a villa in the city of Seminyak and hired a driver to take us around. Since we landed in the morning and check-in was in the afternoon, we went to visit Pura Tanah Lot (Pura means temple in Balinese). After driving for what seemed like 45min or so we arrived at Tanah Lot. We paid the entrance fee at the car park entrance and proceeded in. After letting us alight at the entrance, our driver went to park the car and stayed with our bags.

Before you can get to the temples and altars, you have to walk through a plaza of shops and eateries, then a lane with more shops and eateries on either side. From what I could see the shops carry a variety of local made souvenir type items and some religious type bead jewelry. According our driver, prices here are cheaper than in town and we “must” bargain for better prices. We didn’t get a chance to try any of the food at Tanah Lot nor did we do any shopping because we decided to “see the site” first. A short 5 min walk down the lane and you’ll start to see intricate stone carvings of Balinese mythological beings and temple altars, which signals the start of the temple areas.

The time we went, mid morning/noon-ish, there weren’t too many people around, locals or tourists so it was a pleasant stroll around the premises. Surprisingly, to me, there were a lot of local photographers offering to take pictures of you, they are easily spotted as they tote around large, black, sling bags with the red ‘Canon’ logo on them. I’m not sure what the pricing is though as none of them came over to us (probably because they saw my camera and tripod). Anyways, the structures look old and weathered but not dilapidated nor antique/relic ish. the mythological stone carvings are brightly painted and look stunning as opposed to faded and peeling. The entire complex is basically litter free, a rarity in Asia, in my experience. Quite refreshing.

The “star of the show” at Tanah Lot is the the temple on top of this large rock. At the base of the rock is an altar within a shallow cave in which a few stone figures are displayed. There is also a spring of fresh water inside. Why is this peculiar? well, when it is high tide the rock is surrounded by ocean. When it’s low tide, you can walk right up to the altar. At the time we went, the tide was coming in. We did see people at the altar and a few brave people wading towards it. The water looked to be, at most, about knee high and it didn’t look to be too difficult a trek.  One of my daughters really wanted to go over for a look see while the other was a tad hesitant and the plan was for me to escort them one at a time. We walked up some stone stairs for a higher vantage point to view the temple and find a spot to set down our bags. So off came our socks and shoes. Thankfully, I had my typical travel attire on, t-shirt, hoodie, compression pants and track pants. So I pulled off the track pants and pulled my t-shirt as low as I could. With all my bits covered, I then put the rain cover on my ThinkTankPhoto, Speed Freak, waist bag. I can fit my Canon 7D2 with a 24-105 and my 5D2 with a 17-40, lenses and hoods attached! I mention all this because it is an awesome bag and my gear didn’t get wet at all! Read on for more details.

So off we went. No shoes definitely wasn’t a good idea but who wants to walk around in wet socks and shoes, right?. You can’t see what you’re stepping on and being a rocky sea floor it was uneven and sharp at some points with dips here and there that caused some balance issues. Plus the swash (the rush of water after a wave breaks) didn’t help. There are sure footed locals standing at various points between the shore and the altar giving you a general idea of where it’s most safe to walk but they didn’t really go out of their way to help. When we reached the altar, we were drenched from just below the waist. We didn’t account for how high the water would come up or how strong it would be after the waves broke. It didn’t look that bad from the shore!

At the altar, there were the local guides who show you where the fresh water spring is and you can take a sip from it. They will also ask you for a donation, quite um, enthusiastically. We made a donation and they subsequently squished rice on our foreheads and a put a plumeria flower in our hair, as a blessing. The stone carvings were quite eroded but you can still make out what they are. On either side of the altar is a way up to the temple. Both paths were gated shut when we were there so we couldn’t get all the way to the top. We did walk a bit up the path on the left to take some pictures before heading back. By the time we got to shore, we were drenched from belly/chest down. The local guides were very helpful on the way back we each had someone helping us back, which was awesome because the water had risen and felt more turbulent. Upon reaching the beach directly opposite the altar we noticed a cave and signage indicating that a “sacred snake” dwells in it, we looked in but didn’t see anything. We also didn’t venture in close enough for them to solicit donations either.

So we went back up the stairs to where my wife and younger daughter were waiting and still laughing at how ridiculous we looked getting to and from the altar and at how wet we were. It was at this point that my younger kid chickened out from making the journey to the altar. So I proceeded to take the rain sleeve off my waist pouch and SPLOOOSH a bunch of water splattered all over the place! I think we all gasped simultaneously. I opened up my waist bag and lo and behold, my gear was dry! The interior bottom was just slightly moist whereas the outside was wet. The water was trapped between the rain sleeve and the bag and for that long I would have expected my gear to be wet but nope, all dry! What a relief!

So off we went to explore the other areas, take pics and get dry. The premises is huge! We didn’t even get to the other side where there was another temple that, to me, looked really interesting! We had to leave to make our check in time but here’s a pic:

My wife and I found this place to be calming and serene, our daughters not so much, they did find it a nice place to visit though. I’d be very interested to come back during sunrise/sunset hours, I bet it’ll be even more picturesque.

Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

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Victoria, BC – A place to remember and revisit

Victoria, British Columbia, what a beautiful city. I’m uncertain I have the words to describe how I feel about this awesomely peaceful yet vibrant city. I guess I’ll start with why I went there in the first place. Victoria is the capital of the province of British Columbia, Canada and Located on Vancouver Island, which is just a short but very scenic ferry’s ride from Vancouver, where I grew up.

So long story short, I met my wife during our stint at university in the USA, living in the foreign students dorm. I took her home (to Vancouver), we got married and had our honeymoon in Victoria. Now 20++ years later we’re back, with kids! It was awesome that my brothers could come along to reminisce about our childhood trips to Victoria, unfortunately not all the attractions were around this time and our trip was limited to a weekend. I put up a couple of posts about the places we did get to visit if you’re interested, Craigdarroch Castle and Butchart Gardens. So why Victoria? My wife loves Victorian (the era) culture and history so naturally Victoria, BC was the place to take her as the Victorian ambiance is still very much preserved. They still have horse and buggy rides downtown in front of the Parliament buildings which the kids really, really wanted to ride until they got closer and noticed the smell, hahaha.

So after a pleasant highway drive we get to the city, traffic is light and sparse and parking was readily available. We took our usual tourist walk to see the harbour, the parliament buildings of British Columbia, the famous Empress Hotel, wax museum and Undersea Gardens and some shops in the area. So much has changed, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, after all it’s been 20+ years since we’ve been back but it was surprising nonetheless two instances stood out most. Now when it comes to making up stuff to tell the kids, I’m pretty good. So as I was telling my kids about the Provinces of Canada and the provincial shields from what I could remember from high school, my youngest says, “Dad, you said 10 provinces and 2 territories that’s 12 shields plus the big one for Canada, then what’s this one for?” She was pointing to a 14th shield, one I’ve never seen before or even heard of and I guess my loss of words and the “lost” look on my face gave me away because my eldest daughter says, “now we know how much attention daddy paid in class”. So I had to Google and the thirteenth shield is for the territory of Nanavut created by Canada in 1999, phew, way after my high school days. We all had a big laugh at that. The other big shocker was when I went to pay for some souvenirs and the total was like twenty dollars and 41 cents. So I paid in exact change and the teenage looking cashier picks up the penny and asks me, “what’s this?” I looked at him, he looked at me and I said “a penny”, he looked at me weirdly as I was probably looking at him weirdly so I took the penny to make sure it wasn’t some Asian coin that I didn’t filter out of my travel wallet properly, but no, it was a Canadian penny, so I gave it back and said “ya, one cent Canadian.” He says, “OH! Where did you get it from?” I said, “my pocket.” Again we exchanged ‘looks’. He asks again, in an accusatory voice “where’d you get it from?” I told him again, “my pocket but I can’t tell you exactly which shop I got it from!” I’m getting mad now and he pushes the penny back to me and says, “we don’t use those anymore, haven’t for a long time, we just round up or down to the closest nickel.” “Well, that’s news to me,” I said and pocketed the penny. My kids looked at me and I looked at them and shrugged. When I asked my brothers about it outside, they all burst out laughing and confirmed that pennies aren’t used anymore.

The Empress Hotel I remember was totally covered in ivy, as you can see (in the image above), it’s not anymore. I think it had more character when it was covered with ivy. Gone is the Wax Museum and Undersea Garden but we did manage to find some whale watching tour boats both large and small, some brick churches, totem poles and some First Nation landmarks (I love First Nation Arts and Culture). All this just walking around downtown Victoria with a limited amount of time. I think I would love to retire and live in Victoria, if I could ever afford to retire, lol. It’s not crowded, people are friendly, it’s spacious, not polluted, I can go on but I hope you get the picture. The only thing that wasn’t so great are the prices, they seemed on the high side but maybe that’s because we were in the tourist areas.

Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes,

Ray

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1001 Places to remember – Introducing Butchart Gardens to the next generation

If you’re a fan of flowers and visiting Victoria (British Columbia, Canada) then you definitely must go visit Butchart Gardens, especially in the summer when all the gardens are in full bloom. If you’re a flower fanatic, it would be worth a trip to Victoria from Vancouver! I remember visiting Butchart Gardens in the summers, as a child (too young to appreciate nature but I remember the rose garden was impressive) and walking until my legs felt like they were going to fall off. So, my brothers and I decided we should subject our children to the wonders of walking vast distances. OOPS, I mean showing our children the wonder and beauty of plants and flowers. The only ‘problem’ was that I took my family back home during early spring (still kind of cold, sunny but chilly) there weren’t that many gardens in full bloom but there were enough in bloom or about to bloom to keep things interesting. Plus it was nice not having crowds of people all over the place and made it easy to keep track of everyone (for those goofy family photos). It was especially nice to let the younger kiddos wander on their own and still being able to keep an eye on them.

A lot of the buildings still look the same as when I used to visit, decades ago, and all the “iconic” statues that I remember were still there. The park is actually bigger than what I remember, I thought it would seem smaller since I’ve grown and my strides are much longer, but no, we still walked until my legs felt like falling off. Then again, it could be old age or the weight of my backpack full of camera gear. I’m pretty sure there are more garden display and fountain areas than before because due to time constraints, we didn’t even get to walk through them all and we had absolutely no recollection of some areas within the park. We even found an indoor carousel that wasn’t there when I was a kid, not fair, lol. There are benches and rock ledges spread sparsely around this dog friendly park but I didn’t notice that many so if you need a break and see a rest area, take it.

Although there weren’t as many flowers to marvel at, we still had a blast reminiscing and recreating past photos. During one of our ‘messing around, reminiscing’ sessions at one of the statues, we were told by some fellow park goers (yearly members) that Butchart Garden’s is even more beautiful and fun in the winter, when there’s snow! Anyways, we had to cut the messing around to a minimum as we still had a lot to see in the park and other sites in Victoria, like the Craigdarroch Castle (which I wrote about in this post). We only had the long weekend to spend in Victoria as everyone else had to be back to work.

If you get hungry there’s a tea house and restaurant, sadly I’ve never been inside either one, maybe next time. Maybe next time I’ll get better images of the gardens because I won’t be too busy messing around and taking pictures of us messing around (it was a consensus that I’m not allowed to post those photos, lol). There is also a huge gift shop where they sell all the usual gift shop type stuff but what was amazing was the huge variety of seeds you can buy to plant in your own garden. I’m not sure if they sell seeds for all the plants and flowers you can find in the park, but it looked possible, from the sheer number of different seed packets I saw.

Consider following me for updates and to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes,

Ray

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