From magnificent mountains to rugged coastlines to volcanic hillsides to black sandy beaches, it’s no surprise Bali is known as the Island of the Gods. Located between the Java and Lombok island, Bali (Balikapapan) boasts a rich and diverse culture that’s quite peculiar. The Balinese architecture is no less prominent with the island housing thousands of Hindu temples in every nook and cranny. The predominantly Hindu culture is certainly a rare form in the Muslim dominated country of Indonesia.
It was in the late 1970s that a flock of hippies went on to explore this beautiful island, especially the beaches of Kuta that attracted many surfers. You’ll be amazed to see how the city still retains its purification rituals by priests in white as well as the gracious use of natural materials like bamboo and coconut wood for architectural work and many other purposes.
I’m here to learn and educate myself about the Balinese culture and most importantly its history; not precisely from a Xerox of information compiled online or books. I would rather hear from the locals who abide by the tradition everyday. Bahasa is the language spoken in Indonesia, also Kawi spoken in some parts. Not many here speak English and so my thrive to understand the local life is quite minimal.
Balinese Spiritual Offering
There ‘s a spiritual feel in the Balinese land as you wake up every morning, apart from the roosters crocking their lungs out. The women folks religiously begin their day with prayers at their homes, some in their local shops while some in a temple. At the crack of the dawn, the women here splash a bucket of water in their front porch.
The smell of the incense when lit. Bunches of Plumeria and various colours of Frangipani are adorned mildly on an intricately square-shaped palm leaves pinned together with bamboo sticks like a basket called the Canang Sari. The decorated palm couture is prayed and kept in every nook and corner of Bali. The different colours of flowers in this palm tray symbolizes a Hindu God. Sometimes the offering includes betel nuts, lime and even tobacco. The Balinese offering known as Banten is a form dedication to god as a Thank you note as well as to the demons – not as a prayer per say but as a request to go away.
I stroll through Ubud market at 9.am this morning and notice the locals going about their daily offerings carrying a thatched palm bucket on their shoulders. It has all their belongings for the prayer. Observing more made me more curious about the Balinese culture and their uniformed dedication. While I can’t enter a temple wearing pants or shorts, I began to get comfortable with the sarong and sash – I quite like the contrast of purple sarong and yellow sash.
At goa gajah, an old woman invites us and gestures to join our hands and pray to Buddha. She dips a bamboo stick into the holy water and sprinkles onto our hands and suggests to drink the water. She then takes raw rice and dabs them onto our forehead. Finally, she keeps a frangipaani on our ears.When I begin to feel that it’s for a godly cause, she points to a tiny glass box loaded with money. After all nothing comes for free. Blessings in bali comes with a price.
At ubud market, Bargain is key as the prices they did set for me as a ‘last price’ had gone down to literally half the price than first quoted. People here are friendly, some willing to help with sole intention of being friendly and some try their deciduous luck on offering a price to the assistance.
Abundance of Landscapes and Food
The greenery and the praying behaviour here takes me back to gods own country – Kerala. Having said that, the lush of coconut trees, banana, rice and the perfectly manicured paddy fields creates Bali what it is and none alike. The paddy fields at Jatiluwih (Rice terrace) follow the traditional irrigation system called the Subak.
The Balinese seem to make use of things that grow in their own land from rice, coffee, clove, to lettuce. My food is mostly rice stacked like an upside-down bowl with chicken satay as a side dish – complete with ginger dressing. The food is placed on a circle shaped banana leaf. Indonesian breakfast comes heavy with rice and noodles – not for a light eater like me. So my options have been toast and egg, with fruits and Bali black kope (coffee) or white kope sachez. Warungs (family owned restaurants) serves the cheapest yet tasty food. One of the best warung food we had was at One homestay; food is cheap and tasty, and the view is to die for.
Diverse Weather Conditions
The mountains slightly up north makes me love Bali more and more. Temperatures in kintamani go down to almost 10 degrees. A drift from the heat and tourist population in kuta and ubud(south). Perhaps my travel to bali has been at the right time that it feels like a land of solitude.
Our commute through all Bali is on a scooter. The photographs clicked here need no filter, the colours are naturally bright. Our research on homestays with a splendid view at Ubud, Batur and Munduk has added up extensively to our inner bliss. It is different from java – the locals have hardly met people outside their junction.
A two-hour motorbike ride from Kintamani in the rains, the cold weather and the hairpin bend roads through jungles land you to the mountainous village of Munduk.The village has a similar feel to Cemaro Lawang in Java.
Bali has been full of surprises and it officially tops my suggestion list to anybody who are off to some soul – searching, while the island stays true to those effected by wanderlust.
Want to explore Bali like I did? Read the post on how to explore Bali on a motorbike