Ubud, Bali, Indonesia – The Land of Magic and Gods

The endless rows of bamboo poles – namely Penjor – decorated the narrow roads on this island, leading you to their tranquilized land yet filled with cultural vibrations. Being the only island in Indonesia with the majority Hindus – up to 83.5% of the population are Hindus, Bali has accumulated a list of ancient Hinduism beliefs and practices; surprisingly, many Balinese Hindus still practice them till date.  Arriving at their newly renovated Ngurah Rai International Airport, the cheerfulness and friendliness of Balinese lifted my spirit instantly. A short break is a must to rejuvenate my stressed out mind due to my never-ending work in Singapore.

Located around the Southeast of the Bali Island, Ubud is one of the must visit places in Bali; famous for its traditional craft and dance. This town is also surrounded by large areas of rainforest and rice terrace paddies; is a definite location to ease your greeneries thirst. The rice terraces at Tegalalang village cascaded down on the steep slope of the valley reflected the beauty of man-made nature. This ancient rice cultivation has not only placed an importance to Balinese agriculture, it has defined their main dietary requirement. The glaze from the shaded sun shadowed the tall standing trees while illuminating the various greens from its boring paddies.  This harmonious balance of nature with human agriculture creates a breathtaking moment and astonishing landscape, capturing the individual heart of each passerby.

 

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Tegalalang Rice Terraces – Photography by Kimy Chang

The instilled concept of Karma with the belief of the existence of invisible force has not only constructed the pillars for today’s Balinese traditions, it has safeguarded Balinese’s faith towards Hinduism.  The Kuningan festival, for instance, is a yearly Hindus’ celebration (210 days to be exact) marking the end of the Galungan holiday where their ancestors return back to their holy heaven from earth; happened to collide with my stay in Ubud. At the Pura Tirta Empul temple, large groups of Balinese Hindus as well as tourists swamp to this historical temple for this festival, creating a festive ambience filled with happiness. A national heritage site constructed during the Warmadewa Dynasty (approx. 940 AD) remains grand with thousands of worshippers visiting this temple each year. The ‘Holy water spring’, which is also a direct translation of what Titra Empul means, is for sure the main attraction of this site. Holy water sprung out from the vents was collected within the purification bath for worshippers to cleanse their soul while providing unlimited blessings to its devotees. Other celebration such as Odalan was also celebrated at one of the village temples which I visited. This once every thirty year’s celebration, which held in this temple, was a rare opportunity for me to further indulge in this magical Balinese culture. Nonstop dance performances and cock fighting were the common sight in this ceremony. (The Galungan, the Kuningan and the Nyepi are some of Balinese traditional festivals that happened yearly on this mythical island.)

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Offerings from devotees – Photography by Kimy Chang

Kecak! Kechak! The chant that twitches your inner soul is a traditional Balinese dance and music performance. The Kechak, or commonly known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant, is a trance inducing exorcism dance, which narrates the battle among the monkey like -Vanara with Prince Rama against the evil King Raven. The various hands and body movements seem to create a visual spell, snatching your vision at every moment. Even though the fire dance quickly marked the end of this short spectacular show, this performance had very much left me amazed throughout my whole evening.

The Barong Dance is also a must performance to watch in Ubud. This traditional performance portrays the complex relationship between the good and the evil. Barong, being the good lion-tiger looking mythical creature, protects Man (villagers) against the Evil Ranga from injury caused by daggers. As evil can never be accommodated, the Barong’s victory affirmed its power over the village, acting as a spiritual protector for mankind.

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Kecak Performance – Photography by Kimy Chang

The sound of crackling leaves from a nearby forest enchanted travelers to immerse themselves into its unique tranquility; walking along the stone pathway, the shades from the tress eased the scorching weather. The sacred Monkey Forest is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the village of Padangtegal, Ubud; is visited by more than 10,000 visitors per month. Within this conservation, there are more than 700 monkeys, about 189 tree species and numerous animalistic statues for visitors to quietly spend their hours. However, the unpredictable response from Monkeys could be a risk. It is thus important for visitors either to read the visitors’ guidelines or to keep away food prior to entering.

My four day trip to Ubud ended rather quickly. Though it has been a really short visit, my exposure to their local traditions and culture has deeply immersed me with great knowledge about Balinese Hinduism. Sadly to halt my visit, further exploration will have to wait till my next visit on this mysterious island. My travel experience on this island has only been great and full of awesome surprises.

Tips:

  • Bring mosquitoes repellent
  • Typical travel seasons are in July to October. My favourite is at the end of April as this is the low season where hotel prices are much cheaper compare to the high season plus there are fewer tourist groups.
  • Temple visit: Sarongs are required to visit temples. Ask your tour guide to provide you or you can also get them at local shops.

Below are some pictures which I took during my Bali trip:

Thank you for reading my blog.

All Photographs on this Blog, Copyright © 2015- 2017 Kimy Chang, All rights reserved

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