All dressed up in their holiday best.
Saturday was Kuningan, an important holiday in Bali. Kuningan takes place ten days after Galungan, and represents the day when the spirits ascend into heaven. Kuningan takes its name from the fact that special offerings of yellow rice (nasi kuning) are made by coloring ordinary white rice with tumeric (kunyit).
It is a happy holiday, with everybody visiting the temple dressed in their best finery. Elaborate offerings of food and drink are brought to the temple, as well as placed in the many shrines in homes, restaurants and stores. Everybody is in a pretty good mood; most people have the day off, and kids have been on school holiday for the past ten days. Most stores and restaurants are closed, at least until the afternoon.
This was also the day I visited the Ubud Palace. While Indonesia is now a republic with democratically elected leaders, Balinese royalty is still viewed with respect. The royal family stills lives in the palace, though with little real power.
The forecourt of the palace is open to the public, and was crowded with Japanese visitors. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many Japanese tourists in one place as I
have seen daily in Ubud. Busloads come in every day, blocking streets and tying up traffic when they arrive.
The inner courtyard was closed, but as I wandered around, a Balinese gentleman came up to me and asked if I would like to go in. I said yes, and he led me past the “Closed” sign.
Once inside the courtyard walls he told me that the royal family still lived there, behind yet another set of walls. He also said it was customary to make a donation (which I could give to him) that was used for the upkeep of the grounds. I gave him a small amount, he cautioned me to be very quiet, and then he promptly disappeared. I have a feeling that he had no more authority to let me in the palace grounds than the Japanese tourists taking pictures, but, what the heck - no one threw me out.
I have no idea of the financial situation of the royal family, but I can tell you that their garage was stuffed with SUVs. Bali, May 22, 2010
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