Bali, a spiritual island of beauty

by Katherine Li-hsia on 週一, 31 十二月 2007 評論
We decided to go to Bali on holidays, after my girlfriend who happens to be an islander from Taiwan had praised the Indonesian island as a little paradise on earth. She had repeatedly told me about the beauty of the white sandy beaches, the luxurious nature, or the great variety of the culture and the gentleness and “softness” of the Balinese people, all of which convinced me to go and have a look. We consequently arrived in the capital Denpasar on the 1st of December, where a minibus (the call it Bemo) from the hotel we had booked was waiting for us. While driving through the hectic and polluted streets of Denpasar, crowded with cars, minibuses and loads of motorcycles, I didn’t quite get the feeling yet, of being in one of the most beautiful places in this part of the world! We arrived late at night in Nusa Dua, an enclave and planned resort with a seemingly sense of artificiality, that would also happen to host, just a few days away, the United Nations Climate Change Conference starting from the 3 to 14th December. The next two days were spent lazily lying down on the beach, swimming in the pool, enjoying the local food, especially a late dinner with a treat of seafood, right on the beach at Jimbaran, and spoiling ourselves with oil massage. Even though all this was very nice and relaxing, something told me that, this was not what Bali Island was really about, or at least, it was not what I was looking for.
After Nusa Dua, we decided to head to Ubud, considered as the cultural center of Bali, located in the highlands toward the center of the island. We started our journey toward Ubud, passing through some small villages, noticing temples in almost every corner, mostly small ones in front of each house, but also bigger ones with amazingly intricate and beautifully stone-carved doors and walls. Temples are present literally everywhere in Bali and therefore, one can feel a certain “religious atmosphere” in the air. It is nearly impossible to overstate the importance of religion in Bali. Every morning and evening all across Bali, the women and girls of the family make and place, each with a brief ceremony, dozens of small offerings to the gods. Religion is the basis for most daily life. The majority of Balinese (90%) practice a form of the Hindu religion which they call Agama Hindu Dharma (Religion of the Hindu Doctrine), it represents a unique amalgam of Hindu and Buddhist elements that were grafted onto a base of pre-existing animist beliefs and customs. It is rather difficult to determine in Bali exactly where religion stops and other social and cultural forms – entertainment, agricultural planning, work, childbirth, rites of passages – begin.
In almost every small village we stopped by, on our way to Ubud, we met friendly and smiling people, even though some of them were obviously enduring hardships and a rather tough life. Just before arriving in Ubud, we saw some magnificent wet-rice terraces, surrounded by palm trees and coconut trees, the whole picture very green, amazing!
While in Ubud, we were able to experience quite some cultural entertainment and performing arts, ranging from Traditional music played by Gamelan orchestra, to the Barong dance performance, which is one of Bali’s most famous and popular dances, usually described as a contest between good and evil, the good Barong and the evil witch Rangda.
While riding a motorcycle and heading toward the east cost, we also randomly stopped in a small village in the countryside to listen and watch a Gamelan and dance performance that was played and danced by kids, one of the highlights of our trip, because of the very special atmosphere, and the great smiles of all these people. We finally reached a place called Candidasa on the east coast where the sand was almost black or at least very dark and it started raining very heavily, so we found a shelter under the tent of a coconut vendor, with whom we had a lot of fun, using almost only body language to communicate.
Our trip in Bali ended back down on the south coast in Seminyak, another popular and developed “beach & surf” location, although the way it has been developed still respects the harmony of the surrounding nature. Bali is definitely a spiritual island of beauty.

(Photos M. Conforto-Galli)

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