Day # 10,654 1/2: My favorite aspect of Balinese Hinduism is the strong belief in karma, which is why the terrorist attacks that occurred in Bali in 2002 and 2005 (violent Islamist groups set off several bombs in tourist areas, killing hundreds) were even more of a shock to the locals- they just couldn’t imagine why anyone would choose to act that way. Bali is the only island in Indonesia that is Hindu- Java and Sumatra are fiercely Muslim, and Flores (which we visited next) is strongly Catholic; the religious tension is palpable in some parts of the country, which makes Indonesia feel much more a collection of separate nations than I’d imagined.
In between telling us about Hinduism and the Balinese caste system (both remnants of Indian influence), Budi took us to Gunung Kawi, one of the most famous of the Balinese temples.
By this time, it was pouring rain, which only made the visit better. I could’ve stayed there all day, listening to the rain falling and the resident rooster crowing away.
Budi then took us to Pura Tirtha Empul, which is a temple surrounding what the Hindu people consider one of their holy springs. They come to dip in the spring waters for purification of mind & spirit in an explosion of color and incense smoke and prayer.
After a long day full of sensory overload, it was time to bid Budi adieu. More than a driver or guide, we left Budi as a friend and as an example of the love and cultural passion universal amongst the Balinese people.
Less weighty than our temple visits but nonetheless exciting, we made it back just in time for afternoon tea served on our patio. (Fine, we are bougie, but screw it- interrupting the day for cake & tea is always awesome.)
Virtually all visitors to Ubud spend their nights attending one of the Balinese dance performances put on around town. Because the authentic dances can last up to 18hrs, and we Westerners have the attention span of goldfish, they mercifully put on no-less-amazing, hour-long tourist performances. We weren’t sure what to expect out of the Legong Dance performed at the Ubud Community Hall, but it was spectacular. And made even better by the lovely woman selling cold 50 cent sodas up and down the aisles.
A huge reason why I love traveling is because it introduces me to new perspectives, which I collect like little souvenirs and try to draw upon in my Real Life. Of all the newness of that day in Bali, one thing in particular stuck with me:
Budi mentioned that he used to be an artisan. He was a woodcarver before the bombing of 2005, when his studio and home were destroyed. Despite having to rebuild his life, he said he held no ill feelings; in fact, he completely changed his profession because he wanted visitors to understand the beauty of his home and not to focus on past negativity. The only way to respond to any of life’s setbacks, he said, smiling his big grin, is with love and understanding. Good comes from good, right?
That may be all the religion I need.
To explore my next day’s adventures getting stuck in a rice paddy and coming eye to… eyes… with a serious spider, click here!
Details of the Day:
Accommodations: More on this in another post, but Hotel Kajane is one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed, anywhere. So much so that Mr. M & I didn’t want to leave the room. Or villa, in this case, as a two-story villa plus private pool costs the same as a regular hotel room back in the states. If you need more incentive, the Kajane spa offers 90-minute massages + flower foot bath for $25. You read that right. $25.
Guide: If you couldn’t already tell, we loved Budi. We were put in contact with him through Hotel Kajane and cannot recommend him highly enough. Bonus #1: his car is immaculate, comfortable, and air-conditioned. Bonus #2: he speaks amazing English… which we supplemented by teaching him the phrase “Keep it real,” complete with fist bump.
The other English slang someone had taught him? He kept saying ‘shit for face’ when referring to men at Balinese gatherings… Mr. M & I were SO confused until we realized he meant ‘shit-faced‘- that they tend to get really drunk! I suggested he leave that one out when interacting with his stuffier clients… maybe just stick with the fist bump.
Balinese Dance Performances: Any hotel you stay at in Ubud will carry the current dance performance schedule. Go with the flow, and see any that’s offered on the night(s) you’re there- every one we saw exceeded expectations.
Tips & Tricks:
Although Bali is often thought of as a high-end island destination, it still is a developing nation, and many of the Balinese make their living from tourism. For that reason, you WILL be accosted by people aggressively trying to sell you sarongs, woodcarvings, tours, taxi rides, the list goes on and on. Similarly, the roads are not set up for mass tourism. Do not expect to keep a strict schedule- you may likely be held up by a procession, parade, or other religious celebration.
Sarongs and sashes are required for both men & women to enter the Balinese temples. Rent yours from the gate in front and consider bringing a scarf or shawl to cover your shoulders, too.