Exotic Bali

 

Early on in our marriage, and when we could afford to do it, my husband and I realized we loved to visit exotic places. We would study the cultures so that we were prepared as much as possible for whatever might come our way. And when we didn’t know what we were doing in a particular country or situation, we weren’t afraid to ask questions. We’ve been to Japan, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, and to tamer places like Australia, Italy, and Great Britain. But one of our very first exotic trips was to Bali, and we weren’t disappointed.

Bali is the only island in Indonesia that survived the religious incursions of Buddhism and Islam, mainly due to its isolation and the Dutch influence. The Balinese have their own unique practices they include with the traditional Hindu worship.

When I decided to tell you about Bali, I was stunned to realize that over 20 years had passed since we’d been there. We were fortunate to discover a guide/driver through a friend, who was not only reliable and friendly, but generous, too.

Our driver was Hindu, and he was gracious enough to take us to his home. In the courtyard were various spirit houses where they made offerings every day to the ancestors. And several times he wanted to assure us that all religions were valuable; he wasn’t an elitist about being Hindu.

We visited the performance of many traditional, cultural performances with dramatic actors, colorful costumes and dancing, often accompanied by gamelans (Balinese orchestras), which you see playing for the dancers in the video. We also visited regional temples, and discovered wonderful food. One of our favorites was Nasi Goreng.

*     *     *     *

One of the highlights of our trip was our driver taking us on the monthly excursion the people of his village made, from his little village temple to the Main Temple. We walked the entire way, under umbrellas, as we tried to protect ourselves from the occasional downpour. Our driver used his own and his wife’s clothes to dress us in traditional garb! We were so honored!

When we arrived at the Main Temple, we watched as mothers bustled around their little daughters who were dressed in the finery of celebration. Later they would dance a traditional dance in ornate clothing and jewelry.

Later, we watched as hundreds of people from the region carried fruit offerings, often on their heads, in a long procession to a central area. The gamelan accompanied them, playing celebratory and religious songs. The ritual went on for quite a long time, but our driver was nice enough to take us back to our condo before we turned into pumpkins!

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As I reflect on our Bali journey, a number of memories come to mind. We visited in 1999 before the Bali bombings in 2002. I wonder if our driver’s business may have been devastated by the chaos created, since he worked on his own.

I also think of the hard-working people we encountered; how much we enjoyed visiting different villages that often specialized in particular crafts such as wood carving, jewelry, weaving, and pottery; reminding ourselves to keep breathing as we watched people with two parents and two children on tiny motorbikes dodging in and out of traffic; and studying the large temples that decorated the landscape. We traveled with the mindset of just taking in the experience with as little judgment as possible, yet appreciating the culture and environment we would enter on our return home.

We’ve never returned to Bali. There were so many other places to see. But it does have a special place in our hearts—the people, the beauty and the pure adventure of our first international trip.

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  1. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    The best writing about travel gives one a yearning to visit the place described. Your post does this. 

    And with respect to your guides statement that “he wanted to assure us that all religions were valuable”, all religion is valuable. It is a corrective to human hubris. To believe that there is, or that  it is possible that there is, something beyond human knowledge and institutions imbues us with a humility about and alertness for human folly in government and society.

    • #1
  2. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    I noticed that both the dancers and the musicians all seemed to be women. Is that universal in traditional Balinese culture or just the makeup of this particular ensemble? @susanquinn

    (Edit Sorry, I missed the guys in the smaller picture below. Still a very interesting and entertaining post.)

     

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Rodin (View Comment):

    The best writing about travel gives one a yearning to visit the place described. Your post does this.

    And with respect to your guides statement that “he wanted to assure us that all religions were valuable”, all religion is valuable. It is a corrective to human hubris. To believe that there is, or that it is possible that there is, something beyond human knowledge and institutions imbues us with a humility about and alertness for human folly in government and society.

    It shows that no matter where you go, wisdom can show up in every corner of the world. And today, humility is sadly lacking in our country. Thanks!

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Here is a gamalen of men:

     

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    And we saw a performance like this as well:

     

    • #5
  6. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Susan Quinn: Bali is the only island in Indonesia that survived the religious incursions of Buddhism and Islam, mainly due to its isolation and the Dutch influence. The Balinese have their own unique practices they include with the traditional Hindu worship.

    I didn’t know that.

    I don’t expect to ever visit the region, so I’ll use your travel stories as a surrogate.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    I don’t expect to ever visit the region, so I’ll use your travel stories as a surrogate.

    Sounds like a good trade between us, doesn’t it? ;-)

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I forgot to mention in the post that the politics were pretty hot while we visited. Our driver recommended that we stay at our condo one day when a big motorcycle rally was planned; he was afraid there might be violence. Also, we passed up a visit to Boropudur on Java, because people worried there could be disruption and violence. That was a shame; Boropudur was one of the biggest Buddhist temples in the world, and was discovered under centuries of forests and growth. Still, I was fine with our decision not to travel there.

    • #8
  9. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Why am I thinking of “Bali Hai” from South Pacific?

    • #9
  10. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    My husband got to spend a couple of days in Bali about 25 years ago, as he waited to go to another area for his work. He has not stopped talking about how lovely it was. He sat on the beach one day, eating delicious (and humongous) shrimp that were grilled on a big old converted barrel by the fellow who had caught the shrimp that morning. 

    I need to go visit, too.

     

    • #10
  11. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    Great post and lovely pictures, Susan. We lived in Jakarta from 2009-2014 and took many trips to Bali. It is truly a magical place. Thanks for reviving many memories.

    We also lived there in 1989. Two of my wife’s sisters lived there then and another came to live with us. One who lived there married a rich Malaysian and they built a hotel on Kuta Beach – not far from where the bombings were.

    I could go on and on but won’t.

    Thanks again.

    • #11
  12. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    A wonderful travel tale with photographs.

    Stop by and sign up for the last few open days in June’s theme: “Journeys.”

    There are two major monthly Group Writing projects. One is the Quote of the Day project, now managed by @she. This is the other project, in which Ricochet members claim a day of the month to write on a proposed theme. This is an easy way to expose your writing to a general audience, with a bit of accountability and topical guidance to encourage writing for its own sake.

    • #12
  13. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Here is a gamalen of men:

     

    I feel like even Trump would say, “Darn that’s alot of glitz and gold.” 

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Here is a gamalen of men:

     

    I feel like even Trump would say, “Darn that’s alot of glitz and gold.”

     

    Trump would be in his glory there, Henry!

    • #14