Bali // Tanah Lot + managing expectations

I'd love to give you a raving review of Tanah Lot, complete with gorgeous photos and fun travel tips. but I can't. instead, I want to talk about managing your expectations while traveling.

Tanah Lot is one of the most famous temples on Bali. the name means the place where land meets water [literally Tanah = land and Lot = water] and its quite an accurate description. this temple was built on a piece of rock which is only accessible during low tide. at high tide it appears to be an island.

when we decided to take a tour of the island and visit temples, this was one I was really excited to visit. but in reality, it was a huge disappointment.

here's how it goes: you see an image of a place an instantly fall in love. you think "I must go there, to this magical place." but you arrive and things are not as pictured. it's dirty and crowded.

I'd like to partially blame my disappointment on Pinterest. but the truth is, I forgot the cardinal rule: real life is not like Pinterest. it's true of recipes and crafts, and it's true of travel destinations.

by the way, SO many of the travel photos you see on Pinterest are photoshopped – to make the water more blue, remove trash + tourists, even change trees to be purple. seriously. look at the images listed when you search for Tanah Lot on Pinterest. half of these images have serious photoshop going, and some aren't even of Tanah Lot!

we arrived after a full day of driving around the island. having eaten a really terrible and overpriced lunch, then spending two hours on narrow winding roads, I was feeling pretty nauseous. even before we got out of the car we could see the place was packed. most of the set tours end at Tanah Lot for sunset, so everyone was just hanging out until then.

you have to hand over your tickets to enter, and they direct you into a maze of stalls all selling the same tshirts, carvings, and cheap souvenirs. there are no signs telling you which way the temple is, and in fact you start off heading in the complete opposite direction. if you can make your way out of the giant maze-like tourist trap, you will find the coast.

it was swarmed with people. we managed to find the cliff where you can get a shot of the temple [after getting lost in another area of shop stalls.] I don’t really like crowds. and I hate when I’m trying to take a picture and someone just walks right in front of me. I was hot and tired and frustrated… so after I took two shots I was ready to find a little more space.

but before I could escape, a group of teenage boys came up and asked to take a picture with me. this was the fifth time I had been asked to take a picture that day… it seems that tourists of various Asian and Pacific nationalities find blondes such a rarity that they warrant documentation. the first few times I found it cute, but by this point I felt like a walking freak show and didn’t want to end up being posted on some kid’s facebook as “look at this white girl we found!”

I was asked two more times to take pictures before we finally escaped Tanah Lot.

Tanah Lot is an interesting thing to see in and of itself, but my experience there was terrible. all four of us were too exhausted, hungry, and tired to enjoy it. so rather than force ourselves to stick around another 3 hours for sunset... we went back to Ubud for some Mexican food. [it's amazing how tacos + margaritas fix almost anything.]

I'm sure that you can go to Tanah Lot and have a wonderful time. go at sunset, or sunrise, go at low tide or in low season. go when you aren't mentally and physically and emotionally exhausted. go when you have a realistic idea of what to expect. I didn't, and I didn't really enjoy myself.

I'm not going to lie and tell you it was fantastic and magical. a lot of times we share only our positive experiences and pretty pictures about travel, but the pictures never tell the whole story. it can be easy to expect the "Pinterest perfect" idea we have of a place. and even easier to be crushed when the reality doesn't live up to the hype.

but I do hope that the next time you're planning a trip and searching for sights, you take things with a grain of salt. [and yes, this is totally me trying to disguise me giving myself advice as me giving you advice.] there are amazing things out there in this world to see - go see them with a mindset that will allow you to be amazed by what they actually are.

linking up with the Expat Diaries

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