Welcome to the Gates of Heaven.
This temple is Instagram-famous for a giant stone gate framing a spectacular view of nearby Mount Agung, the largest and most frequently-irritated volcano on Bali, which is saying something.
On the way up the mountain, we puzzled over a curious feature of this temple’s Instagram feed. Sometimes the gate frames a Russian across an ancient stone courtyard, and sometimes it frames a Russian across a dramatic reflecting pool of water… but it ALWAYS frames the same aspect of Mt. Agung, and nothing but empty air in between. 🤔
Wisdom is the participation trophy at the end of youth, so I kept my own counsel. But on ascending to the outer sanctum we discovered three things:
- Murphy had wreathed Mt. Agung in cloud for the occasion.
- The prime picture-taking spot was occupied by a friendly young Balinese gent who for an extra dollar would take the shot across a reflective sheet of glass.
- The inner sanctum, guarded by the actual Gates of Heaven, is another flight of stairs up the mountain.
The inner sanctum is closed to visitors, but in exchange for a small donation, the local monk will happily meet you at the door, share a bit of conversation, and reward your effort with a bracelet of tri-colored yarn.
The monk observed that every visitor walks past the Dragon Stairs to pose at what they think is the Gates of Heaven. And some visitors even pose for another photo at the foot of the Dragon Stairs, right beneath the Gates of Heaven. But few visitors actually climb the Dragon Stairs, and fewer still bother to knock on his door.
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