Indonesia is filled with temples that are magical and have mind-blowing architectures. Heading west along the main road to Pemuteran, in the north of Bali, a trio of very interesting temples dating back to the 16th Century is nestled between the mountains and the sea. The temples are located in the Pulaki area and are named Pura Pabean, Pula Pulaki and Pura Melanting. The one I want to tell you about today is called Pura Pabean, also known as Geriya Konco Dewi.
Pura Pabean is located on hilly grounds bordering the ocean and it overlooks the picturesque coast towards Pemuteran. We were on the way back from a day trip to Bali Barat National Park and I saw the temple seaside parking-lot by chance. I parked the car by some welcoming umbrellas and ceremonial flags, and we started climbing the few steps that led to the temple entrance. The short climb was worth its while for the view over the vast ocean below. Stunning.
Halfway through, the first monkeys came to watch us. They stood still on the iron railing, peeping at us without much interest.
At the top, a whole troop of primates played on the ground they looked non-threatening, still we had become quite wary of these animals, which can nick anything not securely attached to you. I advise to leave sunglasses or drink bottles behind.
Sunglasses were not needed, as several menacing clouds were covering the sky, leaving no chance for the sun rays to carve through them. We were apparently the only visitors at the time; inside the temple grounds, we silently marveled at the unusual blend of Balinese and Chinese decorations, with Hinduism and Taoism symbols such as the poisitive Hindu deity Shiva, Confucius, as well as one complex dedicated to Kuan Yin and the Buddha; a great marriage of different cultures often exhibited in Bali temples.
There are impressive buildings complete with symmetric structures, art sculptures and unique bas-reliefs. The lush mountains behind, crowned by dark-grey clouds, served as the perfect backdrop. Lotus ponds hosting fish and lotus plants completed the picture. Oh, and the ever-present monkeys of course, escorting us with a hint of curiosity.
A beautifully carved arch welcomed us to a descending stairs that leads down to the beach at the bottom.
This is a great way to gain a privileged location from where to take pictures. Down at the beach at the bottom, the vast expanse of the open sea seemed to challenge us. There are large sacred stones arbitrarily piled and huge trees in bloom. Looking up at the temple from this vintage point gave us a good view of the compound.
A later chat with a Balinese local friend provided us with a more complete perspective of Pura Pabean. First of all, my friend stressed how crucial it is to understand the significance and meaning of Balinese temples: most are built either high up on the mountains (symbolizing the good – where sympathetic gods live) or down by the sea (symbolizing the evil – where the demons live).
There are two theories about the utility of the temple. Ones suggests that Pura Pabean served as an entrance check point to Bali for Chinese seafarer merchants carrying a wide range of merchandise to be sold on the island several centuries ago. This has not been historically confirmed and seems to have been brought about by the fact that ‘Pabean’ translated into English means ‘customs’. The other theory states the temple was dedicated to sailors and fishermen departing from Bali, who would come here for their final prayer and to ask for a safe journey.
Pura Pabean is easy to find. It is opposite Pura Pulaki, on the major Singaraja-Gilimanuk road, about 50km from Lovina. A notice at the bottom of the beach steps advises a sarong and a sash are required; we did not need these, yet if you are planning to visit Bali temples, I advise always to carry these items with you. Find location and coordinates on http://wikimapia.org/27501661/Pura-Pabean