Island of the Gods

14 October 2019, Nusa Penida Island. A Hindu shrine.

Bali, also known as The Island of The Gods, sits a short flight from Australia and consequently has a bit of a reputation as where bogans head for a cheap getaway. Sitting immediately next to the airport the once sleepy fishing village of Kuta, with it’s surf-able white sandy beach, became a hub for tourists wanting to indulge in sun, sea, cheap booze, and affordable accommodation. Many people don’t really venture past this growing tourist hub on the south of the island, which is a real shame because there is so much more to explore! 

10 Oct 2019. Uluwatu Temple, Bali. Kecak dancers perform a rendition of the Hindu epic Ramayana at Uluwatu temple for tourists at sunset.

Known as the Island of the Gods, Bali is unique in Indonesia as a predominately Hindu island. Ancient temples spot the island, and each morning offerings are laid in the street. Balinese Hinduism differs from its ancient Indian origins, and amalgamates aspects of animism, ancestor worship, as well as its subcontinental roots.

Developed in the 1930’s by German painter and musician Walter Spies and Indonesian dancer Wayan Limbak, the recanting of the Hindu epic Ramayana is put to a hypnotic musical trance in a performance known as Kecak or Ramayana Monkey Chant. This is recreated each evening during sunset at the ancient Uluwatu temple and climaxes with the dancer playing Hanuman kicking burning embers in a trance-like state. 

14 October 2019, Nusa Penida (Penida Island), Bali. Stunning beaches accessed by climbing down remarkably steep and dangerous cliffs.

While it’s often that you giggle at the ridiculous influencers doing silly things for photos, it’s not hard to see why. The beauty of the island is spectacular. Beaches only accessibly by traversing dangerous cliffs, monkeys perched clandestinely in trees, lush forest vegetation, and seemingly endless tiered rice paddy fields are entrancing. Each year, several tourists perish in the attempt to get the perfect shot for the ‘gram. 

15 October 2019, Devils Tear, Nusa Lembongan. Tourists taking photos get a little too close to cliffs. Apparently the ropes are new with approximately five people per year dying from trying to get the perfect selfie.

12 Oct 2019. Besakih Temple, the largest and holiest of Hindu temples in Bali. In use as a place of worship since at least the thirteenth century, the temple sits by the islands tallest volcano, Mt Agung.

Located to the north east of the island lays two active volcanos. Mount Agung, the tallest, erupted recently and is consequently off-limits to ascend. At the foothills of Mount Agung, lays one of Bali’s largest and holiest temples. With six levels, Besakih Temple, comprises of 23 individual temples. The temple is approximately 800 years old and was nearly destroyed when the lava-flow from Mount Agung’s 1963 eruption missing the temple by mere metres. I’m told that on a clear day, the mountain forms the perfect backdrop for the temple, but sadly, our experience was obscured by clouds.

 Laying between two calderas, Mount Batur rises proudly above the clouds and capture the first glimmer of morning light. It can be climbed with the assistance of a guide, and is typically done so very early in the morning. While the peak can be busy, it isn’t hard to find a secluded spot to reflect. 

18 October 2019, Mt Batur, Bali. The sun breaks the horizon over Lombok as seen from Mt Batur. An active volcano, Mt Batur is home to monkeys, bats, and the recently acknowledged Kintamani dog. It takes approximately two hours to summit the 1700m high crater with groups typically leaving at 3 am. Trekkers are rewarded with eggs and banana cooked in the volcanos steam, as well views of other volcanoes on the islands of Lombok and Java.

Nestled against the eastern shore of Lake Batur and accessible only by a chartered boat is the ancient village of Trunyan. Home to the indigenous Bali Aga people, Trunyan, amongst other things known for its unique cemetery. Villagers who have passed of old age and have in their life been married are placed in a bamboo cage and left to decompose. A nearby banyan tree is said to absorb the smell of the decomposition. Often, local animals speed up the process. There are only ten plots in the cemetery, and once filled, the bones are moved to a nearby alter. Effigies and grave goods lay around the small cemetery.

17 Oct 2019, Trunyan, Bali. A small lizard feeds on the decaying remains at the Trunyan cemetery.

It isn’t explicitly clear why the Taman Festival theme park was abandoned. Lying on the outskirts of Denpasar, the huge site sits quietly being reclaimed by the forest, save for the occasional sound of an animal or the crashing of waves at the nearby beach. Theories about the place include financial difficulties, a mysterious lightning induced fire, and supernatural beings are often given. It really doesn’t change the experience of walking through the abandoned site. 

16 October 2019, Sanur Beach, Bali. 70mm film, broken glass, tiles, and graffiti are slowly being reclaimed by the jungle spare the occasional tourist.

As mentioned earlier, Bali is also known as the Island of the Gods. Temples are everywhere. Some are larger and have a longer history than others. Some were buried in the jungle for hundreds of years…
Goa Gajah was rediscovered by Dutch archeologists in 1923. Its pools and fountains remained hidden metres away until 1954. The temple displays both Buddhist and Hindu deities and sits at the meeting point of two rivers. 

18 Oct 2019, Ubud, Bali. It is unclear when Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) was constructed, but judging by its style, the sanctuary was most likely used for meditation and carved in the 11th century.

It’s definitely fair to say that for personally, I adore monkeys. The Monkey Forest in Ubud, while quite manicured, is a place where monkeys rule. The cheeky little Balinese long-tailed monkeys live within a sanctuary containing several temples. A river runs through the forested area, and tourists are able to freely walk and interact with the monkeys. Some of these interactions are more desired than others, with some monkeys able to rifle through bags and steal hats in search of food. The monkey is tended to by the local Padangtegal Village who aim to preserve the temples spiritual sanctity, while ensuring the monkeys are looked after under the Hindu principal of Tri Hata Karana (“Three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being”) - ensuring a harmonious relationship between humans, nature, and the Supreme Being. 

20 October 2019, Ubud, Bali. Ubud Monkey Forest, is the sanctuary and natural habitat of the Balinese long-tailed Monkey. About 750 monkeys live at the first which also contains important temples.

Nestled alongside the ancient Taman Ayun, the Ogah Ogah museum holds a collection of Ogah Ogahs from the annual Balinese Ngrupuk festival. Becoming a feature since the 1980s, the monster like dolls are made of bamboo, wood, styrofoam, and paper. Each village builds at least one Ogah Ogah with some villages youth groups contributing more. The word “Ogah Ogah” comes from the Balinese word for “shaken”, which happens as they are carried through the streets by worshipers. The Ogah Ogahs represent negative aspects of the physical and spiritual world and offer a critique on society.

21 October 2019, Badung, Bali. Nestled alongside the ancient Taman Ayun, the Ogah Ogah museum holds a collection of Ogah Ogahs from the annual Balinese Ngrupuk festival.

Constructed in to 10th century, Tirta Empul is famous for its springs which Balinese Hindus believe gives fresh holy water. As part of ritualistic purification, people travel far and wide to bathe in the ancient baths. There was even a kid feeding the koi his ice cream. 

20 Oct 2019, Tampaksiring, Bali. Worshippers partake in a religious ceremony at the Tirta Empul water temple. Built in 962 A.D., the temple consists of numerous pools and showers used for ritualistic bathing.

12 Oct 2019, Desa Abang, Bali. Musicians partake in a funeral procession.

Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with sipping a cocktail on a beach and going for a surf. If cheap massages are your thing, then that’s great, but there is so so much more to explore! 


Nepal is intoxicating. The sights, sounds, smells, feels.. When the opportunity to go on a quick holiday came up, I knew I had to head back. The only problem is a week wasn’t long enough. That said, I often feel a lifetime wouldn’t be enough.

Using Format