On Bali, we skipped the beaches and traveled to an inland town called Ubud. There we stayed in a beautiful small hotel in the middle of the countryside, which meant lots of rice paddies. It was peaceful and serene.
Our timing in Bali was amazing as it fell on a holiday called the Nyepi, or Hindu New Year. Nyepi involves one day of amazing parades and one day of 100% silence.
Preparation for Nyepi involves (mostly) boys and men in the villages, who build giant statues called ohgo-ohgos out of styrofoam, papier mache and paint. The statues are really
scary creatures, e.g. half men, half animal, with huge claws, fangs, in scary stances. Or sometimes a female monster, with a creepy face and HUGE boobs or sometimes an animal like a tiger or dragon. These are carried by the men and boys with huge bamboo palettes for the parade on the night before the silent day. The different villages compete to make their statue look really fierce by careening it almost out of control as they walk along the parade route. We stood on a corner in a crowd and this huge tiger-like ohgo-ohgo was careening left and right and came super close to the crowd and stared down at us from way up high and very close. We were crushed in the mass of humanity lining the streets for the parade. It was a bit scary, as the guys with the tiger monster seemed to be enjoying scaring the crowd we were not sure how far they would take it! Dan was standing at the back of the crowd so he wouldn’t block the view for all the shorter people. Twice the surging crowd knocked him backward into the bushes. A video is here.
On the silent day we were “imprisoned” at our paradise hotel. The silent day is a stark contrast to the night before. Truly silent! Can you imagine they shut literally everything down? ATMs don’t work, restaurants are closed and there are special police who keep you off the streets. At night you can use lights but you have to close all your curtains. All transportation, except for ambulance traffic, is banned, and this includes closure of the airports! The idea is for everyone to have a shared day of reflection, being with family, and giving thanks. Sort of cool actually. We did hear that many Balinese people like to escape it and vacation on nearby islands to party!
There are lots of traditions and beliefs in Bali. On a bike ride through the country we saw numerous houses that have a double gate. There’s an attractive outer one to welcome visitors, and a horrible inner one to dispel bad spirits.
We also saw cows
that are kept tied up in their stalls 24×7. Their primary job is to generate fertilizer for the rice paddies. In another location they employed crop rotation by planting each year in sequence, rice, corn, lentils, chilis.
Appeasing and pleasing Gods and Demons is a daily ritual practice.
Offerings are left every day on ground – everywhere – in little leaf baskets, with flowers, leaves and burning incense sticks. We also saw lots of women carrying offerings to the temple on their heads.
The Ubud Monkey Forest describes its mission as conservation of the area within its boundaries according to the
Hindu principle of Tri Hata Karana (“Three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being”), which seeks to make people live harmoniously during their lives. It’s pretty fun to wander around among the monkeys watching them doing various things from grooming one another to stealing tourist wallets.