Bali is a place that immediately put me back into my comfort zone. Not only was it the temperature that was amazing, but the green bamboo and palm trees, the colorful flowers, the temples in every home, the amazing stone artwork on the most simple of walls and sidewalks made Bali an incredible place. The thing that makes Bali the best for me though is the people. I have never meet a country with more happy and helpful people than in Bali.
When we arrived from India we had 2 weeks of people trying to rip us off, take advantage of our good nature and constantly hound us endlessly without stopping to buy this, buy that… it was exhausting. Coming to Bali we still had our guard up when we left the airport. We strapped on our bags tight and we were going to walk out to go to a grocery store to get a sim card for Justin’s phone. We were ready for 100 different people to ask us for a taxi or where we are going, and following us just to make sure. That didn’t happen here. A friendly, “do you need a taxi?” And a simple no with a smile was all it took. Some of the taxi drivers even helped us find our way to the sim card place.
We spend the first bit of time in Bali in a place called Ubud. As we pulled into the temple enriched town we saw the swarms of white faces and my stomach dropped. After spending so much time in India and not seeing many foreigners I was a little sad that I saw more foreign faces than that of the Balinese people. It was one of those places like Mexico (I’m guessing… I’ve never actually been) where all the shops and people were dedicated to working for the tourists and the culture had been slightly lost. We got in and found our place after a long day of travel and fell fast asleep.
After figuring out our plan and venturing around in the morning I decided that even though this place was swarming with tourists it still had a deep embedded culture in what the Balinese people believed. They are Hindu people but much different than that of the Indian Hindu people. They have so many believes, ceremonies, and rituals that take place every and it is amazing to watch. We happened to visit the Monkey temple in the center of Ubud on the first day we ventured out and we visited at the perfect time. They were having a ceremony at the temple which would stop us from entering the temple but we got to watch as the ceremony take place. There was music and offerings brought to the temple and all the people were elaborately dressed some with masks that covered up the bodies of 4 or 5 people. They paraded through the temple streets among the masses of tourists and locals as they made their way to the main temple. It was amazing to see.
It was also amazing to see the cemetery sites in the temple. I learned that when Balinese people die they are buried in the cemetery and when the cemetery becomes full (its a small cemetery of about 100 graves) they dig up the bodies, wash them, and then they are all cremated in a ceremony on the same day. The Balinese view death as a very spiritual thing. They believe that it is part of a continuous cycle that involves birth, life, and death. When a person dies they will be reborn as a reincarnated child. To be reincarnated they must be released in the cremation ceremony. The goal of the people attending the ceremony is to help the dying person cut any ties they have with their old life so that they can move on and be happy in a new life. If the body is that of someone who is very wealthy or high up in society they might be cremated immediately. But if the person was just a normal part of society it could take the family up to 5 years for the cemetery to fill up and for the people to afford to have the ceremonial cremation. After the cremation they place the ashes in a coconut and bring the coconut to the ocean to release it.
Our next day in Bali was spent on a day long bike ride through the rice fields and around the authentic part of Bali (as apposed to the tourist circus). We visited a family and learned how the Balinese make the offerings every morning at the temples and we were able to try and make one as well. We also went to visit a coffee field where we tried multiple different types of coffee and even the Bali Lewak coffee. This is a coffee bean that is eaten by a Lewak animal (civet) and then the coffee bean is fermented in the belly of the animal and pooped out. Yep! Pooped out, yuck! Then they dig through the poop and process the bean and that’s what is brewed to make our coffee. It really didn’t taste much different from other coffee but then again I’m not much of a coffee critic. I also feel a little bad for the Lewak animal since I’m sure the only thing they eat in their cage is coffee beans, i feel that if they were free they might have more variety in food choice. After our coffee break we ventured onward to ride more around Bali. Overall it was a great experience to see the authentic and real part of Bali life.
The last adventure for the night involved us going to a fire dance at a temple where they showcased the story of Rama through traditional dancing/acting. Darja and I wanted a better seat so we sat up front on the steps of the temple and were basically in the dancing sitting side by side with the men that surrounded the fire.