Beyond Selfies at Lampungan

After a short frustrated moment about the missed selfie, we started to notice life around us.

Ktut, who drove us today, said, “Our lives are full of ritual.” And certainly on a Lampungan festival day, a day after Galingan festival, crowds of Balinese made the trek up to what Instagrammers call “Heaven’s Gate” a temple gate opening up to a view of Mount Agung when the sky is clear.

A number of posts on Instagram feature lots of visitors posing between the portal structures, a bed of clouds behind them, making it look like they are at Heaven’s Gate.

Lampungan actually means “Lamp of God” in Balinese, and it is the first level of entrances to a temple complex the highest of which is not accessible by motorbike, only by steep trek on foot.

The first level is where tourists are taken by their guides.

On the day we made the trip, we planned to arrive earlier than the crowds, to avoid the long lines of people who posed in front of the gate made famous by tourists through social media. We left the Ubud villa at 6.00 and arrived at Lampungan parking lot at the bottom of the hill around 8.45 or so.

Balinese walking up to the temple, Mt. Agung in the background.

We took a local bus with the crowds of Balinese up the winding road to the drop off point, and then walked up the steep slope to the temple.

Because there were not many tourists, we had expected a better opportunity for clean, Instagram-ready shots of ourselves.

But because it was not a tourist hour yet, and there were no long lines of people wanting selfies, we did not have the ‘protection’ from interference in our frames. People kept walking in and out of the frames.

Waiting for the bus.

So we didn’t get the perfect shot for Instagram. It was a bit frustrating, at the moment. But when we discussed how we felt, it was clear that we had been seduced into thinking our Lampungan visit was less enjoyable simply because it was not something we could post on social media.

The feeling lasted for a fleeting moment. Soon, we began to notice the life around us.

There were Balinese making the steep walk up the hill to make offerings at the temple.

Women carrying offerings.

Mt. Agung was visible with the sky clear, and on the way down, the active volcano greeted us from the window of our local bus.

From the bus window.
Mount Agung from the bus.

Perhaps the Balinese have lives that mark time through rituals in the tight-knit villages.

We also mark time in our own rituals, of posting everything we do and eat and see and find fascinating.

Imagine that.

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