Monday, January 18, 2016

Culture in Bali

Pura Ulan Danu Bratan

I loved Bali as a cultural destination.  Hundreds of temples- called pura. Unique food. Handmade goods. Interesting clothing.  It was one of those places that you were anxious to look at everything because it was just so different. It was also the first place I'd been where the majority of people were Hindu. Bali is the exception in a country that includes the largest Muslim population in the world.

As soon as you arrive at the airport, you realize you are in a unique place.  Take a look at the gates! I had never seen anything like it.  




We only visited a couple of temples.  You can go to the locations, but unless you are a practicing Hindu, you aren't allowed inside most temples.  The most famous temples became that way because of the setting they are placed, like the one shown at the top of this post.  It's a pretty building, but being on a lake with mountains behind sets it apart from the average temple. You'll often see gold paint and ornate statues. 


There's Pura Uluwatu at the end of this long walk on the cliff

This is a place where the offerings are women's work.  You can see women everywhere at all times of the day placing offerings, which are mostly organic and biodegradable, in front of stone statues or on the steps of temples. I knew about the offerings but I was totally unprepared for how many offerings were on display daily. It's big business now that so many women work.  Working women still need to make their offerings so they buy them from women who weave palm or banana leaves into small boxes filled with beautiful leaves, flower blossoms, and doused in holy water. Even our drivers had them inside their vans on the dashboard.  As explained to us by one of the guides, the focus is on pure intention and to attract good luck, good health, good everything. The offerings are placed one day and the next morning the streets and altars are swept clean so they can begin anew. They also decorate with marigolds like no other place I've ever seen. It makes everything colorful and more interesting to see. We  received a flower necklace upon arrival to our hotel. To me it seemed like paradise, but in truth, the people who live here often will never make enough money to travel off the island they were born on.  The average daily wage is about $10. 
Daily offerings being made
Marigolds in front of a shop's door mat in Ubud
Flower necklaces given upon arrival
The scenery is tropical and lush, especially during the rainy season which starts in late December. The rice fields are planted with a variety of rices so that they can be harvested several times a year.  We went to Tegalalang village where terraces are planted. There seems to be beauty in everything they do, and nothing is wasted. Even though you see hundreds of rice fields, they still don't have enough to feed their own people and need to import rice. It's the main food used daily by the locals.  I often ordered an Indonesian breakfast- a scoop of fried rice with veggies topped by an egg.  Sometimes I'd order a caffe latte, which was a work of art in itself. Everything has beauty as a value added.

Indonesian breakfast

Coffee as an art form

Batiks are made in Bali.  Some are hand painted.  Others are hand woven.  You can buy beautiful saris or quilts. They also make silver jewelry, and carved wooden objects. Other local products include chocolate, coffee and tea. The saris are worn by most people.  It's a hot humid climate and they are comfortable and modest.  The head scarf is often worn by men. I found beauty and purpose in everything. It makes you want to know more, see more, and be part of the culture.  Such an amazing place is Bali!
Saris in lush gold

Quilts in brilliant colors

Women painting batiks at a cloth cooperative
One of our guides dressed in traditional garb

A family making their offering dressed in saris

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