This story, to me, is such a splendid explanation of what I have found on this Indonesian Island. The history of Bali is obviously much longer and more complex and the Island would see many more conflicts, internal struggles, dutch colonial imperialism and a raging tourist industry before I planted my feet in Denpasar. However, this romanticised idea of a culturally potent seed planted in the late middle ages seems so evident in this wonderfully diverse place. Like some cut off island in evolutionary biology, Bali has maintained it’s special breed of Hindu religion, feudal caste system and communal society. It’s a wonderfully crazy mix. The Balinese are a cheerful people and everyday there’s a ceremony or a dance going on, either as a procession in the street or in the countless temples that dot every village.
To really get a good dose of culture you should venture inland. We spend the Indonesian newyear on the east side of Bali in the water palace called Tirttagangga. The Balinese New-year is a curious ritualistic event on the 22nd-23rd of March which we got to experience firsthand. It starts out with the “Ogoh-Ogoh” a festive evening parading barges around the village with demonic statues made of bamboo and paper symbolising negative elements or malevolent spirits. The entire community, young and old, gathers in a competitive display of these impressive creations, shouting and shaking them about in the streets. The evening climatically ends by burning the Ogoh-Ogoh. The next day is Nyepi, the day of silence. In a starch contrast to the evening before, the entire island shuts down. Everyone stays at home, guests are not allowed to leave the hotels, any form of transportation is banned- even the airport closes. This is presumably to ‘hide’ from the evil spirits. The thinking is that on Nyepi the spirits will find no people and will leave Bali alone for another year. I don’t see a lot of other modern societies that could pull off this kind of stunt.
Aside from the rich and quirky culture, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Bali. Upscale Seminyak is a surprisingly good food-scene with affordable eating experiences from around the world. I’m personally not particularly blown away by the Indonesian fare, but the options available here should satisfy most people. We traveled to artsy Ubud, we climbed the active volcano Mt. Batur, biked around Mt. Agung and we visited neighbouring Gili island for a bit of beach RNR. It’s no wonder that Bali is such an attractive destination, here’s something for everyone. Let’s do a quick rundown of the good and the bad.
Bali is such a diverse and sprawling place with so many different things going on. Wether you’re a foodie, a relax-by-the-pool, a cultural nut or the adventurous type (or all of them, like me) you’ll find that this relatively small island has something to offer.