Today, I wrote my second post for the A-to-Z Challenge. In this challenge, bloggers from all over the world have pledged to write one post every day for 26 days in April, except on Sundays. Such commitment! 😉 The topics to write on will follow the letters of the alphabet, starting with ‘A’ on 1 April, followed by ‘B’ on 2 April, and so forth…
B is for BALI
It was one of those places that featured prominently in posters and travel magazines. I have wanted to go to Bali since before there was Air Asia, when I was a research assistant at the Institute of Oceanography, UPM Terengganu and doing my Masters in 2000. Somebody put up a poster of an International Coral Reef Conference on the wall right in front of my desk, which got me interested in going to the mystical and enchanted island.
An island and province of Indonesia, Bali is the No.1 tourist destination in the country. It has its own unique blend of culture and architecture, and over 80% of its inhabitants are Balinese Hindu. The island is renowned for its highly developed arts, dance, painting, sculpture, metalwork, leather and music. I love Balinese gamelan music.
The best time to visit Bali is during the dry season, from April to October. Please take note that visitors should not go during the Balinese new year in March, because all shops and businesses will be closed on the third day. Called Nyepi, this day is a religious event. Nyepi actually means ‘to keep silent’. So, please do not expect dynamic and exciting activities on this day.
I travelled to Bali over a decade later, in 2012. My favourite place in Bali was Tanah Lot. The landscape was just breathtakingly surreal. If there was a signature location that represented Bali, this was it.
The journey to Kintamani took a few hours of travel by car. From the little town, one can see Mount Batur, an active volcano. The blackish lava field from the 1968 eruption is still visible today.
Beside Mount Batur is Lake Batur, a scenic lake where locals rear fish. They also plant vegetables and other agricultural produce in the lush volcanic soil next to the lake.
Plants and animals
The locals like to use leaves and flowers as decorations. These are placed outside restaurants as well as used as offerings for prayers.
The people of Bali are very religious. Early every the morning, offerings are made in front of their houses and shop lots. Unlike most of Muslim-majority Indonesia, the locals practise a combination of local beliefs and Hindu influences from mainland Southeast Asia and South Asia. Gods and demigods are worshipped together with Buddhist heroes, the spirits of ancestors, indigenous agricultural deities and sacred places.
Greenery abounds everywhere in Bali, and flowers and trees feature very prominently in gardens. One of the most common flowering trees in Bali is the frangipani, available in a profusion of colours. Ladies put the flowers in their hair and offer them with their prayers.
Rice is a staple diet of Indonesians, and the people of Bali plant it on hilly ground, in tiers. The landscape covered with rice fields also attracts visitors because of its scenic beauty.
While exploring the little lanes of Legian, I saw this little rooster with upright tail, sitting on its bamboo enclosure, in a garden outside some houses.
I love the unique blend of architectural elements in Balinese buildings. Best of all, houses are still constructed by hand, as can be seen in Legian. The details are elaborate, with a story waiting to be told at every carved panel and stone statue.
Elaborate and beautifully artistic architecture is the hallmark of Bali. Every house features such decorative elements and it is part of what attracts tourists to visit the island every year.
Stone statues and reliefs are prominent in house compounds as well as public spaces. Some of the town streets are literally lined with shops selling sculptures and statues, ready to be packed and transported to any location in Indonesia or overseas.
One particularly memorable statue was a gigantic Garuda at Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) Cultural Park. The Garuda is a large bird-like creature or humanoid bird that appears in both Hinduism and Buddhism. The Garuda is the fabled mount of Lord Vishnu. It is the national symbol of Indonesia, and the country styles its image as a Javanese eagle.
The Barong is a mythical lion-like creature in the legends of Bali. He is the king of the spirits and leader of the good. His enemy is Rangda, the demon queen, who is said to be the mother of all spirit guarders. The Barong dance is a depiction of the battle between good and evil, represented by Barong and Rangda, respectively.
Bali is fantastic and beautiful and four days is definitely not enough to see most of the island. I hope to go there again one day, to visit Tanah Lot at sunset, and all the places I did not go to, such as Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and Pura Luhur Uluwatu.