Bali: Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK), Uluwatu Temple and Kecak Dance in One Day
Due to the close proximity, Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) Cultural Park and Uluwatu Temple can be visited in the same day. Both are located at the southwest tip of Bali. It’s best to visit GWK first in the morning or afternoon, and Uluwatu Temple in the late afternoon. The reason is: sunset at Uluwatu Temple is awesome. Furthermore, there is daily performance of Kecak Dance at 6pm at Uluwatu Temple which you should really watch.
Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) is made up 3 words. Garuda is a selfless bird who touches Wisnu’s heart with his strength and determination during his struggle to find Amertha (a potion of immortality) to save his mother. Wisnu is the God of Vishnu, one of the 3 gods in Hindu. Once Garuda successfully saved his mother, he is entrusted to be Wisnu’s vehicle. Kencana means gold. Both Garuda and Wisnu wear crown of gold. In addition, Garuda is also the national symbol of Indonesia, due to its admirable characteristics in folklores, such as bravery, wisdom, strength, determination, discipline, and many more.
GWK Cultural Park, as the name suggests, is a park that aims to showcase, educate and preserve the culture and arts. We paid Rp 70 000 per local adult, and Rp 10 000 for car parking. Upon getting the tickets, we took the red shuttle bus to go to the entrance. It was just a short ride, but an uphill one. One funny thing is, this shuttle bus only send visitor from ticket counter to entrance, but not the other way. So once you are done with the park, you have to walk back to ticket counter (while passing through souvenir shops), or simply call your driver to pick you up from entrance like what we did.
The main highlights of GWK for me are: Wisnu’s statue, Garuda’s statue, and the shows at Amphitheater. Before entering the statue areas, you need to wear a yellow belt (selendang), which is provided for free by GWK. The combination of Garuda and Wisnu’s statue was initially planned to be 120m tall and 64m wide, however it is yet to be completed. At the moment, Wisnu & Garuda’s statues are still separated. Wisnu’s statue is about 20m tall and located at Plaza Wisnu, while Garuda’s statue is located at Plaza Garuda. The amphitheater and street theater have daily culture shows for every hour, you may view their schedule here. We happened to catch Balinese Dance show, where 5 traditional dances were performed. There are plenty of restaurants at GWK in case you haven’t eaten. There are also souvenir shops, both inside and outside the park. Outside ones are located along the sloping road, between park entrance and ticket counter.
Once we were done with GWK, we continued our journey to Uluwatu Temple. The entrance ticket is Rp 30k for adults. The warning board at the ticket counter about monkeys should be an obvious hint that monkeys are the majority inhabitant of the temple, and that you should not take the warning lightly. We witnessed a naughty monkey grabbed the glasses from a woman, straight from her face. She was in complete shock, everyone tried to snatch the glasses back but nobody succeeded. Some guys threw food to them, they gladly accepted the food and kept holding on to the glasses. My friend remarked that throwing food is a bad practice because it acted as positive reinforcement to the monkey for stealing glasses. Only when a monkey trainer in red shirt came, the glasses were released by the monkey.
Our driver helped us to buy the ticket for Kecak Dance, so that he would get free ticket. The ticket counter for Kecak only opens about an hour before the show start. We paid Rp 100k per adult ticket. They mentioned in the website that if you book online, there is 15% discount, but you need to do bank transfer for payment. I didn’t want such hassle because I do not have Indonesian bank account and I don’t really trust payment through bank transfer, so I purchased on the spot. Upon paying, we were given ticket and a story of the dance. The story is available in many languages, such as Indonesian, English, Japanese, etc. We decided to enter the stage early so that we could get a good seat and enjoy the sunset! Sadly there wasn’t any sunset because it was cloudy. And sadly, we didn’t get to visit the temple itself, Pura Luhur Uluwatu. Next time maybe!
It turns out that Kecak Dance here has pretty high volume of visitors. On the day of our visit, the organizers were basically squeezing visitors into all possible spaces. We were lucky to be seated at upper side of the stage, and my lens could zoom past some heads in front of me. The dance is 1 hour long. A group of men, about 47 of them, chant “cak” almost without stop throughout the whole show, while shaking their bodies and hands performing dances. The performed scenes are based on Ramayana story. Spoiler alert! Here’s a short summary: Sita (Rama’s wife), the protagonist, is abducted by Ravana (the demon). Hanuman, a protagonist monkey, tries to save Sita, however Ravana catches him and sets him on fire. Hanuman has the power to put off the flames and finally Ravana is defeated. It is a good performance. I would highly recommend everyone who visits Uluwatu Temple, to watch this show.