Sunday, 9 March 2014

Pura Tanah Lot, Bali-Indonesia

Pura Tanah Lot

My mind was filled with anticipation as the van approached Pura Tanah Lot (often known as Tanah Lot only). I have heard a lot of this temple before coming here. It was the star icon of Bali. During our journey, our driver Aple stressed on the fact that one has not consider visited Bali without visiting Tanah Lot. I agreed with him wholeheartedly after witnessing the effort of the local tourism authority has put in to promote this star attraction.

Gate to Tanah Lot
As expected, we saw loads of tourists at the entrance to Tanah Lot. Many of them were from China. We have to walk a distance through alleys lined with tourists' shops to the temple. I could not stop feeling a bit disappointed that this attraction has become overly-commercialized and evolved into a tourist trap. On the other hand, I was also comforted by the fact that the temple has provided many locals there a kind of livelihood. Well, life was always so ironical.

Charlotte with deity's statue
We knew we were closed when the crowd got thicker and the smell of sea struck our nose. We could also hear the sound of the waves crushing against the rocks. Our paces picked up. Finally we saw what we came to witness. The temple was a simple one but the setting was not. Set on top of a rocky formation- "Tanah" which means land in Balinese, the temple stood facing the Indian Ocean which represented the "Lot" and thus came the combined name Tanah Lot. The ferocious waves struck mercilessly and relentlessly against the temple ground. But like a monstrous guardian, Tanah Lot stood firm on it's ground and seemed to protect it's believers safely before the shoreline. Many locals believed a gigantic snake guarded the temple ground from those visiting the holy ground with ill intents.

Tanah Lot at Sunset 1
Welcome to Tanah Lot
As the tide was not too high, many visitors took the opportunity to wet their feet and  visited the temple area (You cannot visit the temple at high tide). Priests were at the temple to bless those who gave a donation for a good cause. We chose not to visit the temple. Instead, we went to  higher ground to wait for the sunset. The sunset at Tanah Lot was always described as something one would die for. It might be overly exaggerated but it was truly something worth waiting for.

Family Photo at Tanah Lot
We could hear religious music when the sun began to set. I guessed it should be telling the visitors to get ready for the sunset view. When the sun began it's descend into the blue horizon, Tanah Lot was bathed in it's heavenly-like golden rays.  The view was indeed breathtaking. We knew the golden moment would be short and hardly blinked our eyes as we absorbed the beautiful scenery. The waves seemed to got stronger and added to the spectacular aura of the whole place.

Golden Sunset at Tanah Lot

We have visited many temples before but was still fascinated by Tanah Lot. It's presence by the sea made the temple unique.  Is it a must to visit when you are in Bali? Well, it always depends on one's perspective and what he/she is looking for. My philosophy is always "Relax and do not hold high expectation. You will have a more fruitful and enjoyable trip". Have a great time when you are here next time ;-)!   

Tanah Lot at Sunset 2

 *This article was a recap during my visit to Pura Tanah Lot on 19 March 2013

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Monday, 3 March 2014

Taiwan Travel Tips

Yeliu, Taiwan

Before I start, I must put a disclaimer that I am not an expert for traveling in Taiwan. Although I have been to there 3 times already, I still have much to learn about the country. This blog is to share with everyone on the various ways that I adopted to have a more worry-free trip and save money on my visits to Taiwan. Please feel free to share at the comments' column on any tips you may have for the benefits of those traveling there soon.

1. Planning
Planning is the essential part of my traveling. Planning does not mean planning for your itineraries only. Before you step into Taiwan, learn a bit on it's history, the people and their culture. It will help you co-relate on the food, architectures, museum displays etc you get to see in this splendid country. I strongly believe this will certainly make your trip more fulfilling.  All these information can be easily retrieved from the internet.

2. Transport  
I must say Taiwan's transport system is one of the best around. Do your homework on the transports' availability to the places you are visiting. If you are utilizing the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), trains and buses in Taipei, make sure you get the EasyCard from any convenience stores or the main train station. You will enjoy considerable discounts with the cards. Note that Kaohsiung has their own version of the EasyCard which cannot be used in Taipei and vice verse. For HSR (High Speed Rail) travel if you are visiting the different cities of Taiwan, make sure you book the tickets early through their website and get discounts as high as 40%! This is a significant amount if you are traveling in groups or a family.

3. Lodging
I always make in a point to stay near the Taipei Main Station. The reason is very simple. Taipei Main Station houses all the transports needed to travel to all parts of Taiwan. It saves me a lot of time by staying close. For my last trip, I have stayed in Orange Forte Hotel and Cosmos Hotel which are a stone's throw from the Taipei Main Station. I have not regretted my decisions. Book the hotels through trustworthy booking websites which many times offer good discounted rates. I use for most of my hotel bookings.

4. Admission Discounts
I must certainly mention Ibon for admission discounts. Their machines can be found in almost all Taiwan's convenience stores. It offers discounted tickets to various theme parks, places of interests etc in Taiwan. I saved a significant sum on admission fees courtesy of it's service with visit to Taipei 101, Eda Theme Park and Leofoo Theme Park.

5. Taiwan Embassy
This may vary country to country. I actually managed to get free vouchers for souvenirs and subsidized tickets to theme parks after producing flight tickets to my local Taiwan Embassy. You may want to check this up at your own country. 

Hope the above tips can help you plan a better trip to Taiwan. Do share your personal tips at the comments' column.

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