Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kings' Follies

All over the world there are monuments to the follies of monarchs. One of my favourites is Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, where a completely mad member of the royal family built the typical Disneyland castle in the mountains. Then in Austria there's a fantastic water palace where fountains spout water at you from all sorts of hidden spots - the ultimate water pistol theme park.
Balinese kings are no different, also enjoying the building of water palaces. Water is of course sacred in Bali so these palaces are not merely for enjoyment, but for veneration as well. Once the king has finished channelling the clear springwater through numerous pools and fountains, it flows out into the nearby paddy fields for farming.
In east Bali, the kings got on better with the Dutch invaders, so there are still some intact palaces. One such water garden is Tirrta Gangga. It's on the bus route north of Amlapura towards Tulamben, set in a picturesque valley amongst the rice fields. Upon arrival you will be met by guides offering their services, it's up to you whether you purchase or not.
My guide was mute, couldn't speak at all. He solved this minor problem through excellent sign language and a set of laminated cards with the appropriate facts about the palace clearly documented in English. I suspect he had cards in other languages as well. I don't know whether someone had helped him to get these cards but they certainly allowed him to make not only a living, but to provide us tourists with a little more than the basic facts. Often one engages a guide only to find that his English isn't good enough to really explain more than you can get from the guidebook, or his English is good but his knowledge sketchy. It was indeed a pleasant surprise and with typical Balinese hospitality he took me all over the gardens and up the nearby hill for a birdseye view.
I don't know why he was mute, but I'm glad he has a worthwhile job and he really was alot of fun with his very colourful gesturing explanations. PHOTOS

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