Tuesday, 4 January 2011

BEAUTIFUL BLANDINGAN — the architecture and surrounds of a unique mountain village.

Yesterday I revisited the once quaint, tiny-town of Songan at the far end of the crater lake at Mount Batur. The locals are still warm and hospitable but the dreamy village-scape — a Shangri-la if ever there, was one — has been gutted by urban sprawl; the once exquisite temple complex – unique in Bali for its simplicity and elegance — has been renovated by the Transformer Crowd and now resembles a ‘Legoland’ of andesite shines and pavilion bases.

Some free-lance Balinese philanthropists were my hosts and I was transferred after a magical prayer session at the Pura Segara — twin priests intoned ancient mantras the mountain folk way— surrounded on one side by the ultimate vertical garden and on the other by the gentle lapping of the crater lake. After prayers I went with my ‘spiritual tourist’ friends to Blandingan, which sits in valley of extra-ordinary rural beauty, not unlike the north end of the Bedugul caldera. It was like the Songan I remembered from the 1970s: pristine, poetic but poor (no billboards or andesite). The temple architecture still has the ‘Shinto Meets Shanghai Deco’. I photographed in the upper terraces of Terunyan, and in the temples of Songan during the 1970s also.

The village itself is just a tow neat row of mountain huts — timber boxes with bamboo shingle-roofs, steeply pitched — gathered into clan (dadia) groups.

The only sound in the valley is the menacing throb on a large wantilan-load of cockfight gamblers at the bottom reaches of the village.