Two for Ten Thouuuuuusaaaaaand!

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Indonesia – June 2011

Besakih Temple, often referred to as Bali’s “Mother Temple,” sits high on the southwestern slopes of Mount Agung. It is considered to be the largest and holiest of the island’s temples and, to the Balinese, visiting the temple sanctuaries of Besakih is a special pilgrimage. Many stairs lead up to the sacred mountainside, leading to the many temples that vary according to type, status, and function.

Pura Besakih features three main temples dedicated to the Hindu trinity. Pura Penataran Agung has white banners for Shiva, the destroyer; Pura Kiduling Kreteg features red banners for Brahma, the creator; and Pura Batu Madeg represents Vishnu, the preserver, with its black banners. One can visit many other smaller temples in the complex, but often their inner courtyards are closed to the public as they’re reserved for pilgrims. Pura Besakih is the only temple open to every devotee from any caste. This is due to its role as the primal center of all ceremonial activities.

While a beautiful and expansive location, one is followed the whole time by young girls selling packs of postcards. Outside the temple complex, from the parking area to the stairs, one hears the incessant cry of “One for 10,000!” At the time, 10,000 Indonesian rupiah is a little over $1. Inside the complex the offer becomes “Two for 10,000!” This offer follows you everywhere—outside temples, inside temples, resting at the top—from every direction and from dozens of girls and is pronounced “Two for ten thouuuuuusaaaaaaand!”

My wife finally gives in while heading out of the complex, figuring this will silence the offers. No such luck. We continue to be followed and offered packets of postcards. Even when one of the girls is informed that postcards have already been purchased, she simply replies, “But not from me!”

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