Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cremation Ceremony | Bali | Indonesia

It started with a beat. I was laying on the beach, reading a book, when a drum core and complete gamelan marched by down the beach. Aside from reminding me how much I miss college football in the fall, it alerted me to a storm brewing in the distance and I decided to pack it up for the afternoon. As I was walking back to my motorbike, this procession rounded the corner and made its way down the beach. And then, I figured out what it was: a funeral procession.

Without wanting to sound morbid, I admit that I had hoped to see a Balinese cremation before I left the island. When I moved to Indonesia, one of the things my mom recalled from her childhood trip to Bali was the distinct pagentry of such an event. Since it's not exactly something that you look up on a tour, I was fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time!

After observing for a few minutes, the first thing that struck me was how different this cremation was from western-style funerals. This was a celebration not a funeral. In usual Indonesian fashion, the family of the deceased was responsible for entertaining and feeding their community. One of the men who had carried the coffin was kind enough to put up with my less than perfect Indonesian and enlighten me as to the events of the ceremony. Upon removing the coffin from the chariot, the men circled around the pyre several times before lowering the casket into the equine effigy and bestowing blessings upon it.

The male members of the funeral party conducted the blessings and chants. Since this ceremony took place on a very public beach, it was not long before a crowd of curious tourists half surrounded the spectacle. The family, very kindly, did not seem to notice. I was informed that the woman below in white was the widow.

**Please note that below are some images of the cremation that might be considered disturbing by some

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Taman Ayun | Bali | Indonesia

Taman Ayun was the first temple I visited in Bali on my first trip to the island three years ago so it seemed fitting that it was also the last that I visited. I love this temple because of the area surrounding it. Overpopulation and pollution on the main islands of Indonesia often mean that open green spaces are hard to find. In contrast, this particular temple is surrounded by sprawling expanses of grass and tranquil wooded areas. It is also distinguished by the moat that surrounds the compound, a remnant from its days as the center of Mengwi empire. It is a lovely place to meander for an afternoon.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Goa Gajah | Bali | Indonesia

I love the smell of Bali. Whether emerging from a temple or rising from a streetside offering, incense fuses with every other smell on the island. There is a certain air of mystique about the island of which smell is a heavily contributing factor.

Goa Gajah, or the elephant cave, is nestled in a hillside, surrounded by lush beauty. For a beautiful area, there were a proportionately small number of tourists which made it all the more enjoyable. The temple part is nice enough but I immensely enjoyed meandering the grounds after. Unlike many things in Indonesia, this place is very pedestrian friendly.

The site of most interest to me was off the beaten path. After going down a very long set of stairs, crossing a stream and walking up another very long set of stairs, I visited a smaller temple. What was hiding behind it was so cool! I walked around the back and found several heads and animals that had been carved into the stone of the hillside long ago. Now covered with vibrant green moss, they looked like they wanted to escape. I continued walking down a path back there, away from the main attraction to find that these carvings continued. Unfortunately, I paused to take a peek in a cavern that I stumbled upon, and in horror movie fashion, heard something growling from the darkness. I took that opportunity to quickly, but quietly, head back to the main thoroughfare, but wishing that I had been able to continue to see what was around the corner.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Jatiluwih Rice Fields | Bali | Indonesia

When planning my drive to Ulun Danu, I noticed a spot on Google Maps marked Jatiluwih Rice Fields. I was intrigued and since it was on my way back to Ubud from the temple, I decided  to wind that way. I was undoubtedly on the receiving end of quite a few bewildered stares. While winding down the mountain through villages on a one lane road, I encountered a bit of traffic, which I later discovered to be a religious procession heading in the same direction.

After pausing a moment to ponder where these people might be headed, since it was rather remote, I continued on my way. This deviation from my original plan was definitely worth it. The rice was sprouting a vivid green in every direction as far a the eye could see.

As I was admiring the scenery, I caught a glimpse of the same procession, which had apparently reached its destination, immersing themselves in the valley's river.

On a sidenote, I quickly discovered that rainy season was still in full swing on the island of Bali. Since I was on a rental bike, I did not have any of my rain gear with me and as a result, had to stop no less than four times at little shacks on the side of the road to wait out the ferocious bouts of precipitation. When I was about 20 minutes away from my hotel, it began to pour. I stopped at the first empty shelter I found. I had been there for about an hour when I saw a motorbike make a u-turn in the middle of the road and drove straight for me. The man jumped off of his bike and ran over to me. From under his plastic cover, he produced a brand new, silver and neon yellow poncho.

What he said next was one of the most suprising and kind things I have heard in all of my three years here. He told me that he had passed me awhile ago and since he knew the rain wasn't going to stop any time soon, he went to the nearest store and bought me a poncho. He worked for a hotel and was used to helping tourists. I was almost speechless. This complete stranger was on his way to work but stopped and actually turned around to help someone in need. In a place like Bali, where tourists are constantly taking advantage of local people, this was really the last place I expected such an act of kindness. He even stayed to make sure that I got everything covered up and knew directions to where I was headed. Since he wouldn't accept any monetary thanks for his kindness, I would like to take a moment to promote Hotel Mulia near Ubud, at which he works and note that if they hire people who care so much about their work to take it to the streets, then it must be an upstanding establishment.