Tirta Gangga Blends Old & New

Tirta Gangga Blends Old & New
Tirta Gangga Blends Old & New

ABABI, Indonesia — Even the modern seems ancient when surrounded by so much of Bali’s cultural richness.

Tirta Gangga, a beautiful East Bali water temple, is a good example. Built in 1948 by Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem, the last king of Karangasem, to mark the 1,000-year-old holy spring named after the Ganga (River Ganges) appears ancient and mystical.

Tirta Gangga means “water of the Ganges” in Balinese. And the care with which the grounds were built is evident in the asymmetrical, nuanced layout.

Reflecting ponds stocked with goldfish and animist-influenced sculptures greet visitors to the three-acre garden grounds. A gated swimming pool that overlooks the careful landscaping is open to tourists for an additional 20,000 rupiyah ($2.19) over the entry fee. (An afternoon rain didn’t dissuade several Westerners from diving in.)

An 11-tiered fountain, reminiscent of a traditional Bali temple, rises from one of the pools, delicately intersected by small stone walkways. Another pool holds stepping stones that lead pedestrians around statues standing guard in the water.

Tucked up into the gentle slope that holds the royal family’s residences (and The Villas at Tirta Gangga), a small, gated shrine protects the original, ancient holy spring after which the area is named.

Near one of the entrances, a small canal channeled water around the perimeter of the gardens. There, a woman sat with her feet in the spring, cleaning a chicken in a plastic bowl when a fist-sized crab crawled by. Without hesitation, the woman pulled out a knife and hacked the crab to pieces.

Curiously, I find myself in awe of the natural beauty and (generally) the thoughtfulness with which Bali is treated — so much so that I’m almost starting to become immune to it. The only surprise was when the guide, which I had thought was included with admission, charged 50,000 rupiyah ($5.49) — well worth it, but unexpected.

Not as unexpected as the experience of durian, though.

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