Bali, a place rich in cultural heritage


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Asia » Indonesia » Bali » Ubud
January 16th 2017
Published: January 21st 2017
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Have you ever woken up in a dark room and you couldn’t figure out where you are, you feel confused and somewhat lost. I’m sure it has happened to some of you sometime. Well, that’s what I felt when I woke up. My curtains were drawn, so the room was dark. I couldn’t figure out where I am. Oh, is it Ho Chi Minh City? Or is it Tokyo? Nah, must be my own bed in Calgary. I checked the time in my wrist watch. 4:30 am. My usual time to wake up. I could hear the birds chirping outside. Where the hell am I….oh crap, suddenly it flashed in a millisecond that I am sleeping in my hotel in Bali. I was about to jump out of the bed. Then I relaxed. The rental is coming to pick me up at 8:00am. Oh, I have plenty of time. I wrapped the blanket around me to get some more sleep. Nah, I couldn’t. I remembered today is my last day in Bali. I felt sad. And I know, that is my usual problem. So quickly I fall in love with a place and its people, and then I suffer from nostalgia. I am in Bali only for two days. It seems I am living here for ages. I am hanging around with Desi & her boyfriend Kadek for two days only. Looks like I know them from ever. Anyway, I kept the whole day aside to explore Bali only….no beaches, no water sports, no monkey business in the sky. Learn and get to know Bali before I leave. Desi will be with me as a guide for the all day. I needed some arm twisting for her to come with me. We made a deal; well, I promised her ice-cream for doing me this extra favour. She loves ice-cream and she said, ‘ok’.

I had a nice and slow breakfast sitting in outdoor patio. Some sparrows from the nearby guava tree were waiting for the right moment when to jump on my plate. Getting a piece of omelet early in the morning is definitely a bonus for them. I obliged them a little bit.

Wow! Sudana was there sharp at 8:00 am. He warned me, hurry up…there is a whole lot of traffic on the road. We crossed Sanur and headed towards Batubulan. We have to pick up Desi near her home in Batubulan. We were first going to see a village play – Barong dance. When we reached the village, Desi asked me to wait outside and arranged two tickets in discount price. My investment on ice-cream was already paying me return! Soon, the gallery was full and mostly with the foreign tourists. We were sitting near the front row. Desi was explaining me about the play.

“This is how it goes, Tab. The Barong dance represents an eternal struggle between good and evil spirit. They are all mythological characters. Barong is a mythological animal and represents a good spirit, whereas Rangda is a mythological monster that represents an evil spirit.”

“You know Desi, the similar concept also exists in India. They also burn the effigies of the bad spirits in India.” I told her

“You may be right. And this is true in many of our festivals….Shhh! it’s starting!”

During the entire one hour play, various characters and animals appeared and transformed to fearsome animals to threaten the good spirit. The play actually ended with unending fights just to reflect that the struggle between good and evil is eternal which never ends. I tried to absorb as much as I could as they were speaking in Bahasa, and my knowledge of Bahasa is limited. Desi helped. The part of the play that surprised me is the synergy with Hindu myths and Gods. One of the main characters was Dewi (Devi) Kunti, a renowned figure from the Indian epic Mahabharata. The Lord Siwa (Siva) was making someone immortal in the play, which sounds familiar with some of the Hindu tales.

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Many of you perhaps already know that Bali is becoming a fast growing expat heaven….many opening small scale businesses making bamboo handicraft, wood carving and wooden statues, painting and many more. It’s a peaceful place, conducive to the growth of business for both foreigners and locals alike and they are thriving. I probably could spend hours in the Mas village watching the artists chiseling the wooden pieces to transform those to amazing wooden decorations. The same applies for the paintings in Ubud …walls after walls are decorated with large paintings those ready for sale. Some could be pricey, but they are classy.

“Let’s go take a bite,” Desi chuckled. Yes, I realized I was getting hungry. “Well, I’m game.” I said with a grin on my face. Bebek Joni is a popular place for lunch among the foreigners, I noticed. We were lucky to get a table. I settled for a Cupcay…yes, I know what you are thinking, I am crazy to try Italian dish when in Bali. Anyway, the food was delicious; but guess what, there someone went crazy with ice-cream! And I don’t blame her…so much choice.

Time flies when you talk, especially in a lunch table. We were getting late and lots in the itinerary. In the whole afternoon, we visited three temples, starting with the Elephant Cave near Ubud. Each temple is archeological marvel. Stone carving at the entrance of the Elephant Cave or Goa Gajah as they call it locally is intricate but beautiful. The temple was built in 9th century and the site has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage.

Pura Tirta Empul in Tampaksiring is another must see temple. The temple has a bathing facility that many Balinese take bath for purification. As a matter of fact, I saw many westerners also were taking bath in the holy water. One is required to wear a ‘sarong’ before entering any of the temples. That is the custom.

One thing that struck me is the Balinese devotion to some of the Gods who are worshiped also in India. Brahma, Visnu and Maheswara or Siva – these Great Hindu trinity of supreme divinity is omnipresent in many of the shrines that I have visited in Bali and later in Borobudur. I read a few articles about how and when the Hinduism migrated to Bali, but I was surprised to learn that Bali was not the first place where the Hinduism first evolved. It was Kalimantan or Borneo in the West!

The light was soon disappearing from the horizon and dark clouds were hovering over us. We have yet to visit the famous rice terrace in Ubud. We drove through the narrow roads and I could see the pristine lifestyle that runs on both sides of the roads. I realized that justice is not done if one does not stay here for a few days to explore the heartland of Bali and Ubud. Sudana took a shortcut and drove through the lonely roads, often taking sharp turns to match the curves. Walla….I could see the rice terraces. Beautiful. I have seen rice terraces before in Muong Hoa valley in Sapa, Vietnam. Those are gorgeous. But there is a difference. The rice terraces in Sapa stand as supreme beauty on their own. They make you feel ‘Wow’. Here the rice terraces are nestled between the coconut trees and the nearby homes. In the fading day light, the collage of the rolling rice terraces, the village homes and the nearby streets with shops and eateries made them a picture perfect ‘serenity now’. And I treasured that moment so near and dear to my heart. I was absorbed in my thoughts when Desi reminded me, it’s time to go. I was yet to visit Desi’s home and meet her family and we have a dinner appointment with Kadek. Damn, why didn’t I plan to stay at least one extra day in Ubud?

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There was a downpour ahead of us when we drove to Desi’s home. I was lucky, didn’t face any rain in Bali, although it was November and the rainy season here. Desi was explaining the most important Balinese festival- the Galungan ceremony. The festival goes on for ten days ending with Kuningan ceremony. Again, it’s a celebration of triumph of good against evil, the right over wrong. Penjors, the bamboo pole decorated with coconut leafs were still visible in front of the houses. It was in early November. I wish I could be here few weeks earlier to witness the ceremony.

The car stopped next to Desi’s home. I met her whole family. It’s a joint family home,- her parents, aunt, niece, grandmother – all live there. Her mother, oh, such a sweet lady, she arranged snacks and coffee for me. Similar to other Balinese homes, they also have shrines inside. There was a ritual coming and her father was busy preparing for that. Desi showed me around the house. It was pretty much dark outside. And we were getting late for the dinner. It’s a bit of a drive to Sanur and Kadek will be waiting. I said goodbye to everyone and came out of the house. I felt content. It’s a home, and I wanted to have this experience of getting to know a happy Balinese family who made it home with love and ‘human bondage,’- the element of our very existence which is fading away fast from this world. I knew that money cannot buy this, just like money cannot buy happiness. “Thank you Desi”, I murmured!

The day ended with a great dinner in a classy restaurant. Some locals performed the Balinese dance. I believe we were one of the last patrons to leave the restaurant. It was time to say goodbye to Bali. I have an early flight next day to Labuan Bajo. My heart sank a bit. But I was glad that Desi and Kadek would join me later in the Borneo trip. I left many things undone in Bali, just like we leave many efforts undone in life. But the life goes on. It’s time to move on. An Uber dropped me at the hotel. It was close to midnight!

Next is Komodo dragons – stay tuned!


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27th January 2017
Rice terrace in Ubud

Famous rice fields
Love the rich green hillsides of Bali.
27th January 2017
Rice terrace in Ubud

Famous rice fields
It's beautiful indeed. I wish I could spend some more time walking down the rice fields. Definitely the next time!
27th January 2017
Entrance to the elephane cave

Bali
That would have to be the most elaborate entrance to a cave I have ever seen, Tab. Is it elaborate inside as well or at all? You have used your short stay in Bali well. Looking forward to where you head next.
27th January 2017
Entrance to the elephane cave

Elaborate cave entrance
Thanks Dave for your comments. Yes, the cave entrance is marvelous. The stone carvings are done painstakingly, I must say. Inside cave was not elaborate, but not that cramped either and still the offerings to the Hindu Supreme trinity goes on there.
2nd February 2017

Your beloved friend is coming to put comment
Wow Tab.. It is a good writing, i love everything u wrote and it feels like reading a novel hahaha Well, i think u need some correction in this writing: 1. My village is Batubulan instead of Batibulan 2. Club of sandwich in Bebek Joni Ubud? Do u mean Capcay sir? Finally i can put my comment here, someone will be happy with this and i will wait to read the borneo part Tab :D
2nd February 2017

My dreaded friend has put a comment
Ok, ok, thank you for the comment. Finally! Ok, I will correct Batubulan. And was it Capcay? I thought it was a club sandwich. Ok, I'll correct that too. I forgot to bring my BB; tonight. And yes, I have more to talk.

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