New year Bali style
Trip Start Sep 29, 2009
42Trip End Mar 22, 2010
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Where I stayed
Arrival: Minibus at 22.00 on 6th March
Part of Indonesia but very different from Java, Bali is very much its own island. It has sometimes been described as Australia's Ibiza with Kuta as the party town but we stayed in Sanur, which I have seen described as Kuta in a cardigan! Suited us just fine.
Unlike Muslim Java the population here is mainly Balinese Hindu. It is a joy to see the fresh flower petals every morning, to smell the incense and to see the local ladies carry the temple offerings on their heads. Our waitress demonstrated this trick with cups of coffee by the pool and told us she has practised since she was a little girl.
An important Hindu symbol here is a swastika, same name as Hitler’s offensive symbol but with different orientation. Our guide tells us it symbolises the 9 temples on Bali with the Mother Temple at the centre but I have also read that it is an ancient symbol for good fortune, luck and wellbeing and is a widely used icon in Hindu art and on buildings, not just on Bali.
To visit the Temples we both had to don a sarong and a sash. At Besakih, the Mother Temple, on the slopes of Mt Agung, our guide explained how the different temples are reserved for different castes. There are 4 castes and study is the key to move up the chain but I am also pleased to learn that it is open to every man and woman to attain priesthood, the highest caste. Blacksmiths are considered a step up from farmers, which would mean that poor grandfather Booth took a step backwards! I rather suspect that we are given the simplified version and that the whole thing is more complex!
The Sacred Monkey forest sanctuary plays an important part in the spiritual life of the village of Ubud and is also the site of several research and conservation programmes. The three Holy Monkey Temples were built in the 14th century
The guide who explained this to me tells me about a forthcoming group cremation and explained that many tourists want to watch these. This is the second macabre interest in death rituals that I have come across. In Tibet and neighbouring areas of China some gruesome souls watch Sky Burials. Ecologically sound it may be but it should not be a tourist attraction!
The monkeys are very cute and non aggressive although they did jump on me at the entrance when I bought bananas. I was in grave danger of losing my elasticated sundress as they hung off it!
The Bat cave turned out to be a pleasant surprise as it was not the dark, damp, smelly cave I anticipated
We were lucky to be here for Balinese New Year. The rituals last several days; offerings have to be made and icons have to be taken to the sea to be cleansed. Many hundreds gather on the beach in front of makeshift Altars. All are dressed in traditional costume, the men with sarongs and headbands, and the women with embroidered blouses and their hair beautifully tied back and decorated with flowers. It is all very relaxed with children eating, men smoking, women chatting, then the hands are raised together in prayer and the priests sprinkle the Holy Water.
The highlight of these celebrations is New Year’s Eve when the Ogu-Ogu are paraded through the town. These huge effigies symbolise the evil spirits and they have to be chased out before the new year
New Year’s Day, or Nyepi, in Balinese, is a day of silence. No traffic or pedestrians are allowed on the streets, no work is to be done, no lights shown. This is to discourage the evil spirits from coming back. No-one at home!
I am fascinated by how their religion permeates the lives of the Balinese. It has been a wonderful end to an amazing journey.
And this is the end. Although we were very tempted when we discovered that we were only 2 hours away from Darwin!
However, flights are booked and we leave here for London on the 18th, with a stopover in Doha. Too bad we didn’t know before booking that Bobbie and John were to be there as we might have arranged things differently but, as it is, we have a 90 minute turrnaround. We will spend the weekend in London with Julie, Marcus, Marianne and Scott and then Easyjet it home on the 22nd. Sadly, it is way cheaper than the train!
Thanks for all your lovely comments and emails.
Shirley & John.
Departure: Flight to London at 22.30 on 18th March.