Our driver, Mangku, took us out to see more of Ubud. We drove through traditional villages and a mile stretch of Indonesian arts. Balinese paintings, sculptures, textiles, wooden carvings, wind chimes, melted glass, and dreamcatchers created by local artisans were lined down the narrow street.
We had lunch overlooking the Tegalalang Rice Terrace. The scenery didn’t seem real, but it seemed like how I picture Bali in my brain. An aesthetic display of terraces were sketched into the green slopes and hillsides. Palm trees swayed. Local farmers wore hats woven from coconut leaves.
There were many tourists, as it is one of Ubud’s main attractions. But instead of allowing the crowds to ruin the beauty of the moment, we could see ourselves as one of them… fellow wanderers seeking the treasures of the world.
Eric and I were pretty silent during lunch. We were both staring at the majestic landscape and breathing in the moment with gratitude.
We shared Nasi Goreng, Gadu Gadu, fresh watermelon juice, and handmade ice cream bars.
After lunch we visited Tirta Empul, a Hindu Balinese temple. Tirta Empul means “Holy Spring” in Balinese. An old, beautiful banyan tree was wrapped in sacred cloth. At the foot of the tree was a shrine for praying, meditating, and leaving offerings for the gods.
The temple is known for its bathing structure that contains fresh spring water for purification rituals. Mangku told us that he and his people come to the temple once a month to not only cleanse their bodies, but to purify their minds and spirits. He said he will come to Tirta Empul if he thinks bad thoughts or has bad dreams.
It sounds very beautiful and sacred. However, what Eric and I witnessed was more like a waterpark fiasco for tourists. It just didn’t feel right. Tourists were swimming and splashing around the pools. We didn’t feel comfortable there, but tried to make the best of it.
After researching this temple, I learned that it was built between the 10th and 14th century. Like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the structures in Tirta Empul seem ancient. Though there are many Hindu gods, Tirta Empul is dedicated to Vishnu, the supreme god who preserves and protects.
I believe it is important to immerse ourselves in experiences and culture when we travel. And I saw some travelers observing the sacred rituals with respect.
Escaping the crowds, we followed a wave of quietude to another yard of the temple and found a path less traveled. It was there that we could pause in veneration and feel the sacred spirituality that envelopes the grounds. The crystal clarity of the spring water is so pure that it is completely transparent, and the temple is surrounded by Bali’s luscious vegetation.
After returning to Kupu Kupu, I felt weary. Eric wanted to go out on a scooter, explore, and have dinner somewhere local. I wanted that too… But deep down I just wanted to take it easy, rest, and connect with him before the remainder of my energy faded. And it was fading fast.
I wanted to be fun. I didn’t want my exhaustion to ruin his experience, but I knew I would be happier and healthier for the rest of our trip if I allowed my body to recharge. We were in desperate need of showers after being out in the humid climate all day, and I knew we wouldn’t make love if we left, went to dinner, then came back to a shower. It would be so late, and I was already drifting.
Luckily I was honest with him, told him I was tired, and we stayed. Eric ate bread and a papaya. I snacked on nuts and peanut butter pretzels that Mum sent me from America. I was ready for my nightly routines to be finished.. I could have showered alone, brushed my teeth, then crawled into bed. But I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. It’s not every day that we are in a romantic oasis in Ubud, Bali with access to an outdoor shower.
Being together was our priority. Not together like in the same space, but truly together.. Present in mind and body and spirit.
We showered together. We kissed. He kissed me exactly the way I like.. His tongue gently caressed mine, causing shivers to erupt from my skin. He still gives me chills.
Steam.. breathing… touching… feeling…. trembling…
We pressed our bodies against each other and turned the outdoor shower into our own holy spring.
We connected at Kupu Kupu. It was romantic and renewing, and exactly what I wanted and needed. It was sacred and holy and purifying. Love is a religion that leads to a higher path. We worshipped each other.
I put on his big, comfy t-shirt that makes me feel at home no matter where we are.
We loved each other again and again.