Our last stop in Asia was Bali, Indonesia. We had found some cheap flights and the dates suited us so we headed off for the island. We were expecting an interesting but fairly frantic stay where Australian holidaymakers and international backpackers collide! What we arrived to find was quite the opposite…. empty streets, closed shops, few people and a feel of calm anticipation in the air…. what was going on?!
In fact we had arrived on the eve of Bali’s Nyepi festival. This Balinese, Hindu festival falls around March every year to signal their new years celebrations. The evening we had arrived everything shuts down at around 4pm (including all transport including air transport – we were lucky to get in on one of the last flights!) ready for a ‘monster’ parade in the streets. This ‘Bhuta Yajna Ritual’ involves several monsters or ‘ogoh-ogoh’ being paraded around the streets to a chorus of local musicians and others with hand held flames. The Ogoh-Ogoh’s are designed individually each year by a local group (e.g. a school or organisation) and depict an element of (usually satirical) ‘demons’. After the parade they are dismembered or burnt in the streets or beaches.
It was quite a sight – like something between new years, Halloween and carnival! It felt like a real treat and privilege to be there.
The following day is the day of silence where many Hindus’ refrain from working, travelling, pleasure or entertainment. Many also fast and are fully silent for 24 hours. Tourists and non-Hindus are also not allowed to leave their hotel grounds and curtains must be tightly shut from sunset. The idea being that the demons will fly over the island that night and it will appear uninhabited – so they move on! Good plan.
The following day we managed to almost miss the eclipse over Indonesia because we had not reset the time on our alarm clock since leaving Thailand. Idiots. Still we managed to catch the last 20 minutes or so from the comfort of our hotel pool….!
The rest of our few days in Seminyak went back to ‘normal’, busy streets, tasty food (we managed to find lots of very tasty and cheap local food between all the glamorous restaurants and cocktail bars!) and lots and lots of tourists.
We only ventured to Seminyak Beach once – there were red flags up advising against swimming so we stuck to the hotel pool which was a little disappointing. We reflected that we have probably been a bit spoilt by amazing beaches on this trip!
The sunsets from Seminyak (and Kuta) were stunning though…
It was boiling hot and we couldn’t wait for the next leg of the trip which involved going inland and ta bit higher, to Ubud, the central ‘cultural heart’ of Bali.