This isn't your usual gap yah tale. As part of our Asia issue, Miriam Klampferer gives her insight into the culture and heritage of the Indonesian island, Bali.
Despite the long flight, the Indonesian island Bali and the whole country in general are definitely worth a visit. Located in the Indian Ocean, north west of Australia, Bali has a population of 4 million people. It is one of the smallest Indonesian islands but one of the richest in terms of breath-taking landscapes and culture.
Although Bali is multi-religious with Christian, Buddhist and Muslim minorities, Hinduism is the predominant religion and almost everything there has spiritual meaning. Flower-petal offerings are placed next to almost every building, just as they are placed on statues of Hindu gods. Even as a tourist, it was possible to experience some Hindu customs and ceremonies.
Religion and dancing are inseparably intertwined, and since Balinese people are so friendly and proud of their culture, they are happy to show it to visitors. I watched two of the most special Balinese dance performances, the “Legong dance” and the” Kecak fire dance” both involving incredibly colourful costumes and make-up for the dancers as well as unique animal-masks.
Even funeral ceremonies are colourful celebrations in Balinese culture because the Balinese believe in reincarnation and celebrate the wonderful new life of their deceased. In the funeral procession the body is carried to the crematorium in a multi-level tower made of bamboo, paper, silk and flowers. It represents the Hindu universe and is carried on the shoulders of a group of men. The number of tiers varies with the caste of the deceased. Only the rich and members of higher castes can afford to pay for taller towers. In Ubud, a town in the heart of Bali, I was incredibly lucky to experience such a ceremony first-hand. Several major roads were shut down in the course of the procession and the tower was accompanied by family members and friends singing and playing traditional music.
A trip to Bali would not be complete without visiting some of the island’s estimated 10,000 temples. Amongst others, I went to the most important Balinese temple “Besakih”, or so-called”mother-temple”, which arises in the midst of a fascinating volcano-landscape. I also visited “Pura Tana Lot”, the “seaside temple” which can only be accessed at low-tide without getting wet feet. I also experienced “Klungkung” which is a major washing ritual of hundreds of people.
What made my trip to Bali so memorable and wonderful was undoubtedly the people. I found the Balinese to be generous and genuinely welcoming. Despite the majority working in agriculture or fishing and being very poor, they were always so friendly and kind to us. It was beautiful to encounter such a colourful and overwhelmingly positive culture.
Featured image: Epigram / Ellie Caulfield