Hiraeth, longing for a place that’s far or not even existing is a theme for me, the moment I started exploring my spirituality. I caught a serious case of wander flu, and I know it’s not just a matter of moving in a physical sense but in an energetic way. I’m craving for growth and expansion, to be triggered by the rightful place only my soul will know.
I was eyeing an island as my first international destination for years. With a half-baked itinerary last 2017, I booked a plane ticket, and there I was reunited with my soul place on Earth, Bali. I cannot explain the rush of life I felt when I saw the island from the plane’s window. I knew I was entering a new cycle, a new energetic space. There must be something with the fact that I manifested a dream destination. It gave me a sense of power to create the life that I want. If you’re feeling a cosmic push to go within and experience a place on a deeper level, I’m happy to share a list of Bali’s must-visit spiritual destinations. You’ve seen them in countless blogs, but have you really SEEN them?
SACRED MONKEY FOREST, UBUD
The Sacred Monkey Forest isn’t just a sanctuary for the Balinese Long Tailed Monkeys, it’s sanctified by the locals. Smacked in one of the main roads of Ubud, the infamous tourist spot operates with the Hindu principle Tri Hata Karana or Three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being. Peaceful co-existence between humans and nature is one of those principles. The monkeys won’t mind your presence unless you have food. Locals sell bananas inside but remember that you’re still dealing with the wild. Should you wish to feed them, do-it-carefully. I personally suggest to let them be and do your own thing in the forest, it is huge so you’ll definitely find a corner where you can relax or meditate. Prioritize conservation over entertainment for the safety of both species.
Entrance Fee: 50,000 IDR (4 USD) for Adults and 40,000 IDR (3 USD) for Ages 3-12 Years
How to get there: From Ubud Palace, you can reach the forest in 5 mins via scooter. Take the Jalan Monkey Forest Road, the street intersecting Jalan Raya Ubud. Just go straight and you’ll see one of the entrances to the forest. Alternatively, you can hire a driver for your convenience. I suggest Bali Female Drivers.
GOA GAJAH, BEDULU
Built-in the 11th Century, Goa Gajah or Elephant Cave is considered to be an important historical site in Bali. Located in Bedulu, southeast of Ubud. The unique and eerie temple has predominantly Buddhist and Hindu influence. Some resources claim that the name Elephant Cave was coined after Lord Ganesh, the Elephant-head son of Shiva. That theory made me appreciate the temple more as I love Ganesh and Vishnu. Despite its appearance, it was actually built as a place for meditation and spiritual cleansing, mainly for Buddhist Monks and Shiva Priests. It’s shown by the dents in the cave where priests and monks once sat, and the bathing place outside of the cave. Inside you’ll see offerings and burning incense. Balinese people still use it for rituals, so please be sensitive and observant enough not to disturb any ongoing ceremony when visiting.
Entrance Fee: 15,000 IDR (1.5 USD)
How to get there: Click this for direction. Getting to Goa Gajah is far more tricky because there’s a lot of turns involved. Since public transport is not available in Ubud and is limited throughout Bali, you can get a metered taxi or a trusted driver/guide. I recommend Mr. Goody who’s been my guide last 2017.
GUNUNG KAWI, TAMPAK SIRING
Tampak Siring, an adjacent village has amazing temples too, such as Gunung Kawi and Tirta Water Empul. I was mind blown with the level of artistry and hard work, ancient people put in to build these temples. Gunung Kawi for instance, has 7-meter niches carved in a rock cliff. According to legends, the first five shrines are dedicated to King Anak Wungsu and his concubines, providing homes for their souls after death. Aside from being a funerary complex of Balinese royalties, it also served as a meditation place, proven by the small meditation caves believed to be used by monks and pilgrims. Beside the shrine rock complex is a courtyard that is still being used by locals. Every third full moon or Purnama Katiga, locals celebrate the Pidolan Temple Anniversary attracting different pilgrims.
Entrance Fee: 15,000 IDR (1.5 USD)
How to get there: Click this for direction. Once you got there, you need to descend on 200 plus steps, walking pass a striking rice field. Also, the site is cut into 2 sections with the Pakerisan River flowing in between, sanctifying it. If the old man who’s selling coconut juice is still at the bridge, it won’t hurt to buy one. Honestly, you’ll need it.
TIRTA WATER EMPUL, TAMPAK SIRING
Tirta Water Empul was the one I deeply resonated with. Doing a purification ritual on my birthday is by far the most memorable and spiritual activity I’ve done in Bali. The temple was created in the 10th century to honor Vishnu. It stands as one of the most important temples in Bali because locals believe that the water from it not only cleanses the soul but also heals the body. It has 3 sections, Jaba Pura (front yard), Jaba Tengah (central yard) and Jeroan (inner yard). Jabah Tengah has a bathing area (3 pools) with 30 spouts, beaming water straight from a spring. This spring is also the source of Pakerisan River. You can ask your guide about the procedure, but in case you’ll go there solo, I’ve written an elaborate guide on how to do the purification ritual (based on what my guide taught me).
Entrance Fee: 15,000 IDR (1.5 USD)
How to get there: Click this for direction. From Gunung Kawi finding Tirta is easy, it will just take you around 15 mins. I suggest going to Tirta first as it could get really crowded, then just work your way up to Gunung Kawi.
Must know: Due to the deteriorating water quality, visitors are being discouraged to drink the water. Also if you don’t like the crowd, you can try the Gunung Kawi ”Sebatu” instead.
Abundance is best paid forward.
Let’s plant seeds of GOOD KARMA.
Summer of 2018 I visited Bali again, with a fast-paced 2-week itinerary. After staying in Ubud for 2 nights I decided to go off-the-beaten in Sidemen [ssi-dah-men], a quaint village in the western part of the island. Roughly one and a half hour away from Ubud, this place will give you a taste of “Real Bali”, with the typical Balinese terrain sans the tourists and foreigner-owned establishments. The place is no way commercialized, there are villas or homestays available but unlike the tourist spots mentioned above, Sidemen maintained its rawness.
I will never forget the feeling of calmness I had in this place. I booked a villa with a mosque next to it and a view of Mt. Agung from the terrace. My mornings consisted of sitting at the terrace, having a breakfast served by the warmest host, and looking at Mt. Agung. The afternoons were reserved for activities. Sunsets were extra special though, aside from watching the colors of the sky change and the mountain disappears in the abyss, my silence was also accompanied by chants from the mosque and songs of the crickets. I brought my stones and crystals with me during this trip, and it was in Sidemen that I had the best meditation to date.
Entrance Fee: your willingness to go back to work
How to get there: If you want to save the extra cash and don’t mind tanning, you can get a motorbike instead. I hired Made a reliable motorbike driver. It will also make you reach the village faster, some roads were under construction and it’s causing a bit of traffic congestion.
MOTHER TEMPLE, BESAKIH
Most tourists visit Sidemen as a stopover to Besakih which houses the Mother Temple. Built more than a thousand years ago, it is considered as the most important temple for Hindu religion in the island, where any caste can pay homage. According to legends, the name ‘Besakih’ was coined after ‘Basuki’ the dragon deity dwelling on the mountain. It is a compound of 80 separate temples, with Pura Penataran Agung or the Great Temple of State stands as the focal point. Pura Penataran has a central shrine dedicated to Bhrama, Vishnu and Shiva, the Hindu trinity. There are a lot of shrines spread across the compound, but of course, most of the inner courtyards are off limits to tourists. They are reserved for legit worshipers.
Perhaps the charm of Besakih Temple lies in its geographical position. It is standing on the southwestern slope of the island’s highest mountain, Gunung Agung. This position provides a closer look to the volcano and a breathtaking view of the ocean, but it also serves as a challenge. Gunung Agung is an active volcano, and it erupted many times already. The most notable one though is the 1963 eruption, as the lava missed the temple. This incident is considered to be miraculous by the locals.
Entrance Fee: 60,000 IDR (5 USD)
How to get there: Click this for directions. Since the directions from Sidemen will vary based on your accommodation, I’ve chosen Ubud Palace to be the starting point. If you’re from Sidemen though, ask your host for tours as they most likely have it. If not you can walk around, different taxi and tour operators are just around the corner.
Additional Info: For your safety, keep up with Mount Agung Daily Report , a public group in Facebook that gives regular updates about volcanic activities.
SUNSETS AND CONCLUSIONS
No doubt, I’ll hold this island in high regard. There are other spiritual destinations I have yet to see, and for sure they’re going to blow my mind just the same, but the amount of wisdom Bali gave me while I was traveling there alone is incomparable. It made me feel more present, grateful and carefree, to my hyperactive mind’s delight.
I can not wait to go back next year to recharge. I know there’s so much more to experience. The soul more than anything is our guide. Do what makes it vibe high. Go to that place, connect with that person, listen to that music, do what it seeks. Our soul knows what we need, and it might put us in an uncomfortable position sometimes, but trust that you’ll be where you’re meant to be. I’m meant to be in Bali.
Have you found your power place? Share in the comments below!