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Published: March 13th 2013
Yesterday was a crazy day on Bali. It was Nyepi – Balinese New Year. The day before was the loud festival with ogoh-ogoh stuff, I’ll write about it in my next post. People blocked the streets and were dancing and making the most noise possible before the Silent day.
Actually I had no idea what this “holiday” is really like. I started to get it when in the morning I found a list of rules on our breakfast table. It said: no lighting fires (electric lights must be kept low), no working, no travelling (no traffic on roads at all, everything is closed, even the airport), no TV or radio sounds must be heard, no entertainment or pleasure (!)… Here I thought – what kind of holiday is this?? Sounds more like a sorrow-day. No pleasure... do they expect me to suffer instead?
We also found that the Internet in our hotel wasn’t working, and the owner explained they turned it off also because of the holiday (however he did turn it on again in the evening after our numerous requests).
Next – no swimming in the sea and even no going out in the street! The only
people who are allowed to be outdoors – the Pecalang, traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed. Wow… and what would happen if some tourist goes out? "Will they really arrest him?" - I thought. Later I had an answer to this question and it was positive =()
I began to understand why we saw so many people on ferry going to Java the day before. The Balinese themselves were running away from this holiday to wait in comfort till it’s over.
At first it was unusual and peaceful – no noise from cars, streets were deserted. We decided to have a walk to the beach, there was almost no one around except 2 boys playing. And no Pecalang or police also 😊 The beach was empty, looked like a desert island, very romantic.
Only later I realized how lucky I was being here on this day, in Pemuteran. On the north of Bali there is a bit less of religious fanaticism and the rules are not so strictly followed. But one of my friends was unlucky to be in Kuta.
The Balinese can follow their rituals as much
as they want. But why must I do the same? It’s not my holiday, it’s not my religion – what’s the reason for me to lock myself up in the room like in jail? Why lose a whole day of my vacation? With these thoughts in her head she went out in the street… and immediately 5 people at a time rushed to her, blocked her way and shouted that she must go back to the hotel. When she refused and tried to talk to them, they wouldn’t listen, they just grabbed her hands and dragged her by force. And said that they will call the police, who will put handcuffs on her and deport from the country. She was so full of indignation at their actions, she said she would gladly call the police herself. But the policeman said the same thing - that she must go back to the hotel or she’ll be arrested! So she got scared they would really do something to her and retreated.
There is no such law actually that tells tourists to stay in hotels at Nyepi. So the police was on guard of a religious superstition in this case and didn’t
care for a real law violation – that 5 men grabbed a girl and used force to her. And that is a bad sign – when narrow-minded bigotry gets priority to law.
Later I searched in the internet and found more stories about tourists being arrested and fined on Nyepi day.
In the evening the hotel owner came to our room and asked to switch off the light on our terrace, because Muslims (!) in the neighboring house will complain about him. So Nyepi is not just a Hindu holiday, Balinese of all religions share the same bigotry.
And they do sit in complete darkness in their houses all evening. I didn’t see any light at all in the owner’s house or in any house nearby. No TV, no even talking aloud, nothing. How bored they must feel. And this they call a holiday! I’ve changed my attitude to Balinese holidays. I had a rosy picture of them before – like something bright and cheerful, with costumes, dances. And I think most people have. But now I see the other side of it.
I also wonder why all tourists seem to be completely satisfied with being
kept in hotels like in jail all day? Why nobody calls to their embassies with complaints?
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