Up until now we had avoided visiting the nearby Elephant Cave due to too many negative reports (small and boring, too many touts), but as it is one of the tourist destinations of Ubud we thought we better go there anyway. We were pleasantly surprised, we are either easy to please or our expectations were so low that it seemed good in comparison.
It does not start well, having to pass the art and souvenir shops lining the path to the ticket office. They are all trying to sell you sarongs that you apparently need to enter the temple, which they give to you for free with your entrance fee.
The Elephant Cave, or more correctly Goa Gajah, is an old temple built in the 9th century. The most impressive thing about the cave is the façade. Surrounding the entrance to the cave is a relief of various menacing creatures and demons carved into the rock. One theory is that the primary figure was once thought to be an elephant, from which they got the nickname Elephant Cave. The alternative theory is the name came from the statue of the Hindu elephant god inside.
Inside the cave is not very big, despite its name. The cave is man-made in the shape of a T, and at each end of the top of the T was a small shrine, one with a statue of Ganesha, the other with some lingams. It was too smokey and a bit dark and scary for Jetson, and not much to hang around for anyway.
In front of the cave is an extensive bathing pool, only excavated in the 1950s. The pool features five statues depicting Hindu angels holding vases that act as waterspouts.
In addition to the tourists lining up to get their photo taken with the stone angels, locals were collecting the special water. They are pretty brave if they drink it.
Behind the cave area is a large flight of steps leading down to a nice lush area along a river, then steps up to a Buddhist temple and then some shops selling tourist things of course.
Luckily the path looped around and we were able to walk back through a rice field to the main area and out, and back past more shops again!
What You Need To Know
- Goa Gajah is located at Bedulu village just 2 km south-east of Ubud on the main road to Gianyar.
- open daily 08:00 – 16.00
- entrance fee is Rp 6,000 (in 2015)
- you must wear a sarong and waist sash (provided if needed).
- as with any temple in Bali, women are forbidden to enter at certain times of the month.