We have now spent 3 days in Paradise and if I had to sum up Bali in just one word, it would be – Intoxicating.
Having spent the last month in Jakarta – the great, grey megalopolis that is now our home, the joy of spending a few days here is indescribably wonderful!
If you’ve been following my previous blogs, you’ll know that Pedro’s and my visit to Bali has been a long time in the making so it’s even the more sweet now that we have actually arrived and are experiencing it for the first time.
As we stepped off the plane last Thursday and drove the 45 minutes to our hotel, it is true to say that even on first sight we fell in love with Bali. Everything that we saw was a sight for sore eyes after Jakarta. Our taxi ride took us through tiny villages where banyan, coconut, and jackfruit trees lined the roads and everywhere there where tiny shrines with offerings placed beneath them. All the villages have a temple and each house has it’s own shrine. The brickwork is an Etruscan red colour and there are various shades of ochre and terracotta thrown in just for good measure. To an artist’s eye, this is a delight. The house builder’s use bamboo scaffolding and palm leaves are plaited and woven to cover and shade doorways or decorate house fronts and entrances. There is nothing artificial here and everything from this rich verdant island is utilised in some shape or form.
Iridescent green paddy fields slope down in terraces, curving through the landscape and bright red flowers used for the temples and offerings called Pacar grow in swathes alongside them. There are flowers and shrubs, growing everywhere and the hot air is heavy with the scent of frangipani, oleander and jasmine.
Bali is 95% Hindu and it seems that celebration and giving thanks is key to everything. Yesterday was Tumpek Landep a wonderful festival giving thanks and gratitude to the God Sanghyang Pasupati who rules over steel implements.
Cars, mopeds, bicycles even scissors and laptops are festooned with flowers and palm garlands as a token of thanks for their everyday use by the islanders.
The festival that really gets my imagination going though is Nyepi Day. From what I’ve gathered, Nyepi day is a major festival and holiday, where the entire island comes to a standstill and is marked by total silence for 24 hours. No activity takes place, the airport is closed and there are no cars on the roads. It is forbidden to light fires for the 24hr duration and everyone is encouraged to stay in doors. At the appointed hour, a calm hush descends over the island for an entire day. The reason for this festival is to trick the evil spirits into believing that the island is deserted so that they leave it alone for another year. I think it’s magical and I love it in theory though in practice I’m not sure I could do an hour in silence let alone an entire day!
The day after Nyepi there is a massive celebration with much feasting and jollifications, and I should imagine a lot of verbal diarrhoea.
Aside from the wonderful flora on the island, there is a pretty impressive amount of fauna too. Lots of monkeys (which some householders also keep as pets) snakes such as King Cobras and Reticulated Pythons (which I’m fairly sure don’t fit into the ‘pet’ category) Giant Black Squirrels which I’m absolutely longing to see and of course Asian Palm Civets, those infamous beasts that poop out the most expensive coffee beans in the world. One pound of Kopi Luwak coffee will knock you back a staggering $160…..
In my next blog I will be talking about the crass commercialism, the designer hippies and the ‘uglier’ side of Bali. For the moment I just wanted to give you my utopian view of it.