So anyways, my husband was full of questions.
‘Was it like this when you came here last time?’
I told him that I wasn’t sure.
‘Were there this many people here?’
Ummm, I think so.
‘Was it this hot?’
I look at him sideways. He gets the hint. ‘Yeah, ok, I know…it’s Bali- it’s always this hot.’
‘What about all the shops?’ he continues. ‘Surely you remember them?’
How could I forget the rows and rows of hawker stalls selling the same t-shirts and dresses that they sell along Jalan Padma, Poppies Lane and every other “art market” on the island. Then there’s the over-sized wooden penises. How could I forget them? And anyways, what is the correct plural for penises? Peni, perhaps? Maybe with a double i?
He points out one that’s different from the run of the mill over-sized wooden penises. Some creative genius has artfully (?) popped one on a wooden turtle shell to form the, ahem, head. The mind does indeed boggle.
‘Was this the place you and Shelley ate at?’ He indicates one of the warungs located inside the hawker compound.
‘No,’ I reply. I’m sure of that much.
We’re at Tanah Lot, or Pura Tanah Lot, to be precise-ish. It’s one of the most spiritually important, and photogenic, of the sea temples. As such (I suspect less because of the spirituality than the fact that it’s photogenic) it attracts thousands (yes, thousands) of visitors every day- at 30,000RPI a pop.
They come for the sunsets, to see the temple silhouetted as the sun dips behind it to the west. I’m pretty sure they don’t come for the hawkers, the over priced water or the turtle wooden penises.
I was last here three years ago- with my friend Shelley. It was- for each of us- our first time in Bali.
We hired a driver in Jalan Padma, under estimated the traffic, and arrived just in time for the sunset, pushing our way through the crowds to find a vantage point. It was then that I discovered that I’d left the memory card for my camera in the computer back at the hotel. #majorfail #awkwardmoment #nophotosoftanahlot.
Afterwards, we went to a restaurant west of the temple, perched high above the cliffs. We ate grilled seafood, and drank lots of beer as the waves pounded below. We both agreed that the experience was far too romantic to be wasted on the two of us. We both agreed that the next time we came, we’d be with our husbands. Mine has been hearing about it ever since.
For me, that night was last night.
I don’t recall the warungs crowded on the east side- Sunset Corner- forcing you to reserve a table and buy something before you can get access to the money shot.
I don’t recall the tide being out so far, and I don’t recall the crowds clustered on the rock platforms.
The sunset, although not as spectacular as I would have hoped for, is as I remember.
As for the restaurant? Warung Mandala, once I find it, is exactly where I remember it being, and the menu is exactly as it was back then. The singing troubadors are singing the same hits from the 80’s and the same Van Morrisorn classics that still gather at the top of my top 10 most disliked song list.
We’re early enough to grab a prime table and have a front row view to nature’s show- even though the famous silhouette of the temple itself is not visible from this side.
Our meal, at 800,000RPI (about $80) is probably the most expensive that we’ve had on the island.
What did we eat? A whole red snapper and lobster. That’s it. Both were brushed with some sort of bumbu spice mix, and then grilled to perfection before being served with steamed rice, water spinach and sambal. That’s it.
The seafood is as scrummy as I remember, the experience is as romantic as I remember (although this time not wasted on a couple of mates)…and the traffic home is as disastrous as I remember. And my husband loved it.