Many cultures have “sacred springs” in their tradition, and Bali has some famous ones that attract tourists by the busload. When our friend Adri offers to show us a more obscure water-temple experience, we are delighted. If I’m going to have a transcendent experience, it had best be away from crowds.
A drive of less than an hour from Ubud along unpretentious country roads brings us to Taman Beji Samuan. We pay a nominal fee for admission—it seems to be a private operation—and start down the trail toward the river.
The trail quickly becomes a stairway, descending the steep riverbank. This is a true rainforest, and the vegetation in the hillside shows it.
It’s 300 steps down to the river. Before we get there, we reach a powerful waterfall…
A little farther down, the trail takes us to a little “landing” where another of the sacred springs is. But first, we must go to a kiosk to acquire a set of offering gifts: a banana-leaf tray of flowers and sprouts. (These are not only used at sacred sites; every Balinese household or place of business places such a tray at their front entrance each morning, to invite the blessings of the gods). This is the only time we see anyone else on the trail: my favorite kind of pilgrimage!
This is also a favorite hangout for monkeys—possibly because the trays of offerings include food. (Or, are they attracted to the sacred spring for spiritual reasons? Or, the kiosk attendants feed them, for company?)
It’s also time to put dry clothes and other belongings into storage, because we’re going to get soaked. So, no photos below this point.
The river is awesome. Fresh water pours out of the riverbank, so pure that drinking it, as well as washing in it, is a transcendent experience in itself. No further ritual needed.
When we climb back up to the “landing” area, however, where the first spring is, protocol requires ritual at the pool. We bathe, add our offerings to those of previous pilgrims, and watch the monkeys watching us, before fetching our dry clothes and starting up the 200 remaining stairs to the entrance.