I am an expert at liberating rice from my braces

Trip Start Jul 05, 2008
Trip End Aug 30, 2008

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Thursday, July 17, 2008

I have seen many, many ancient things in the past couple of days. Here's a quick run down:

Goa Gajah
aka "Elephant Cave".  It is a thousand years old, only excavated in 1952. Sarah Dedecker, if you're reading this, I was thinking of you.  The entrance to the cave is remarkarble. Basically you walk through the god's mouth. You can see him pushing back the evil demons (carved into the cliff) with his fingers so that you can pass safely through. Inside there are three phallic representations which represent fire (destruction), water (protection), and fire (creation). The guide told me that elephants are important to the Balinese, hense they are usually symbols at schools and universities for wisdom. 
somebody else's picture:

Gunung Kawi
I hired me a bike and off I went. I got terrifically lost near a place called Tampaksiring, because there are 2 Gunung Kawis, so people kept giving me opposing directions! Oh well, a workout's a workout.  What's cool about these ancient Balinese temples is that they are still very much use.  People come there several times a day to make offerings. You feel like it should be a museum, but it isn't.
This place felt very ancient.  It is believed that each of these shrines were carved out from the cliff to honor a member of the ancient royal family from  the 10th century, but no one really knows for sure. They are close to 8m tall.
somebody else's picture:

Titra Empul
Biked here after Gunung Kawi.  This place was very cool.  It is a sprawling ancient water temple.  The water comes out from underground volcanic springs.  It was jam-packed with Balinese bathing in the holy water (remember, water = protection!). Men and women bathe together, clothed.  This temple is my favorite because it was so active by real people, not a gussied up site for tourists. It was living and breathing (quite literally. one of the pools had black volcanic water bubbling up). It was awesome.
somebody else's picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rachel_and_aaron/337026842/

Something to understand : none of these sites are just one room or one cave. They are more like big complexes with multiple architectural works and ruins and lots of shrines. They are so old.  The stone is worn down by entrances and stairs where millions of people have walked over the centuries.  And people are still using them; they are placing offerings and sprinkling holy water as tourists clack away with their cameras.  The temples are a suspension of time.  They feel very, very important.
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