Ceremonies in Bail Temples include offerings to the gods, prayer, dances, music and feasts. All members of a community – men, women and children play roles during a multi-day ceremony. Hear children from the Tampaksiring area play familiar music as the adults perform in the main Temple. Bali has its own “brand” of Hinduism which is reflected in everyday life.
A Colourful parade in the Giyanar District of Bali Indonesia. Watch the video as locals from villages parade through the streets of Bali in traditional Balinese dress. Festive live music adds to the delightful atmosphere.
In this parade, people representing a variety of villages are traditionally dressed in bright vibrant colours and their faces are painted as you would see during a village ceremony. Each village also creates a large “float,” if you will. (Think American parades during the New Year celebrations.) The massive and ornately decorated floats are carried on the male villager’s shoulders from the beginning of the parade until the end. Now, that’s a workout! Loud beats from drums set the cadence of everyone’s steps. There are cheers from the spectators, who are shoulder to shoulder along the streets of Giyanar, and special approval when one’s own villagers pass by.
The parade and showmanship are a competition of sorts and a friendly one at that. Of course, I have an affinity to the village named Penempaham. Penempaham is where my Bali story began three years ago. You can read about my Balinese journey throughout this blog.
This day was due to be an opportunity to photograph and capture video of traditional costume and Balinese Hindu symbols from people of different villages. All went well until I realised there was no battery in the camera. Yes, I am indeed a professional. I am also human with a forgetful mind.
I accomplished half of the mission as I witnessed a remarkable cultural display and a lot of beautiful people. The other half of the task was merely captured with the iPhone. Hey ho.
Each time I’m in Bali, my affinity and respect grow for the Balinese. I see the good and the darker sides of their religion; mostly good.
In recent years attending a full moon ceremony became common amongst tour companies in Bali. Busloads of tourists are dropped off at main Temples only to be left to wonder what is taking place. For a ceremony so serious, being left to wonder hardly accomplishes much for those wanting to know more about Balinese culture.
It is possible to attend ceremonies in small villages, and they are aplenty throughout Bali. Small villages offer an authentic experience and the likelihood of being the only foreigner at the Temple is high. My first experience at a full moon ceremony was in Penempahan, which until recently wasn’t identified on a map.
Upon arrival, I was met by Gede, a young Balinese, who was curious why I was there. After I told him, he welcomed me in the Temple and took me through every part of the ceremony. Gede also explained to me what was happening right in front of me. I not only witnessed the procession into the temple but also learned the importance of offerings for the gods. Quite especially, I was blessed by the priest during the ceremony and prayed with the villagers. The Balinese Hindu pray for good health, good fortune, or plentiful rice crops. The Balinese are descended from Indian Hindus, though over time, Balinese Hinduism developed into its own unique religion.
It turned out Gede is the son of the Village Leader. Since that day, Gede and I have become great friends; I’ve been a guest at his family compound and today we are working on a project together. Throughout the blog, you will read about Gede. You never do know who you will meet during travel. You also don’t know when your family will expand as Gede and I are now brothers.
Rowing across Lake Batur at the base of Mt Batur with a 360-degree view in Bali. The journey begins in a small village called Trunyan led and rowed by a local villager. A boat rowing across the water is the only way to the village Temple Temple and the Magic Tree.
Traditionally, the Balinese are cremated during a village ceremony. In Trunyan, the deceased are laid beneath a tree nearly a thousand years old and left to decay. It is said this tree has magic powers to protect the deceased and keep the odour away. This very same tree helps the souls from the body leave this life and move onto the next. During my visit, there were three bodies whose souls had departed. Skulls from ancestors were strewn about and some neatly lined across a wall area.
What I thought would be a gruesome sight was spiritual in nature and comforting. Coolness in the air freshened the memorial and the towering “magic tree” shaded the area in filtered sombre light. Additionally, the Balinese will leave some of the favourite things of the deceased. Perhaps a favoured drink or clothing or artefact. Each “gravesite” is decorated in some sort of fashion and a bamboo cage-like structure is placed over the body.
Hindus view death differently than Westerners as they believe there is rebirth into the same family. There is a comforting notion in this if your family is wonderful, though it’s safe to say the Balinese view family differently than Westerners.
The boat ride toward the Temple and the magic tree is quiet. There is no motor on the boat because the lake is sacred. A man at the front of the large boat and another in the back gently row us to the burial site. On one side of the boat, the active Mount Batur is across the lake in the distance. On the other side are high rocky cliffs with lush tropical foliage dangling into the water.
Very few tourists make this journey as you have to go to know the magic tree exists and you have to know how to drive to the small Trunyan village. The road to Trunyan veers from the main road and then there are many twists and turns on a narrow road that is also quite hilly. Expect to feel as if you’re on a roller coaster that hugs Lake Batur.
The entire journey, magic tree included, is not for the faint of heart. If you are up for a fascinating lesson in Balinese Hinduism, then be sure to make your way to Trunyan. Ask a local to escort you. You won’t be disappointed.
From Bhutan to Tokyo to Thailand and Bali. Highlights from some of the most idyllic places in Asia.
Honestly, before travelling to Asia, my only exposure to Asians relates to tourists I’d see in other places across the world and Las Vegas. This sounds odd and silly but it’s true. Asia and its culture were always completely foreign to me. Perhaps it was discomfort for the unknown that kept me away for so long and unsure when I arrived.
My uncertainty about travelling to a place is remarkably stunning given the fact I typically have no problem jumping into a foreign culture with eyes closed and arms wide open. Immediately after arriving, however, I knew I arrived home.
Tokyo is nice though there is a barrier simply due to the language. Words and feelings don’t translate easily in Japan. Once I reached Bangkok, everything changed. The Thai people are some of the best in the world. Their smiles are infectious and their humour melts any apprehension away. Bangkok itself is a bit chaotic but her people make up the difference.
I’ve written extensively about Bhutan on this blog and expect to see more soon. Bhutan is a land that touched deep within my soul. Even today when I view photos or think back to my experience, tears of happiness come to my eyes. When a place touches so deeply like Bhutan has done for me, you know it is not only special but a place worth a re-visit.
And then Bali. I visited Bali on a whim and without a thought of what I’d do once I arrived. In my quest to find an authentic experience in Bali, I met Wish. Wish took me to his home, biking through rice terraces and motorbiking through the countryside. Had I not met Wish, my interest in the Island of Gods wouldn’t have been strong enough to draw me back.
I’ve mentioned time and time before to travel with an open mind and an open heart. Asia is part of me now and its philosophy of life is one I will explore more in the days ahead.
Travel (should) bring the unexpected to your senses, your perspectives and everything you know about life and what you know. Sometimes travel experiences and the people you meet along the way can turn your world upside down.
All of the above and more have happened while I’ve travelled around the world. In the western world, it’s doubtful you’ll experience anything but what you are accustomed to at home. When you step into developing countries, be ready for almost anything.
Travel with me will always lead you to expect the unexpected. I love change, challenging what I know, testing my limits and being amongst the unfamiliar. The parts I love about travel are often uncomfortable for others. Go with the flow, whatever happens, happens. There is a general timetable yet no strict itinerary or agenda.
Experience. Simply experience where you are and who you’re with. Love every bit of life while you are doing whatever it is you’re doing. Scare yourself and learn you are braver than you ever thought you could be. Put your trust in someone you don’t know and rely upon the kindness of strangers.
Learn to love yourself, by yourself. If you can be by yourself and have the time of your life, you can do anything. Turn your world upside down then find the right side up. Has your world changed or have you changed?
My first genuine encounter with Balinese culture was in the small village of Tampaksiring called Penempaham. I was the only foreigner in the Temple that day and was warmly welcomed by the villagers. I had no idea what was happening but a young Balinese boy quickly befriended me and explained all that was taking place.
It was on this day I began to wrap my head around the genuine dedication the Balinese have to their beliefs, as well as the strong sense of community. This was also the day my love for Bali grew immensely. If you are looking for a rich cultural adventure and travel destination you will not forget, add Bali to your list of top places to visit.
These are a few things I learned while in the small Balinese village: In Bali, there is no single day without a ceremony. It is an obligation for the Balinese to promote balance relations among human, gods and nature. Those principles are materialized through a sacrifice called Yadnya. Yadnya can be a very simple thing like giving a slice of one’s food to a wandering dog or cleaning up rubbish in a temple area. Yadnya, or giving away, is the root of most ceremonies in Bali.
There are five obligations or Panca Yadnya. Dewa Yadnya is for thanking the God, Pitra Yadnya to respect the ancestor’s souls. Manusa Yadnya is for cleaning human souls. Rsi Yadnya is held when someone wants to be a priest and Bhuta Yadnya is for thanking nature and balancing positive and negative powers. Yadnya is reflected through ceremonies.
Hundreds of ceremonies are regularly held anywhere in Bali and each is based on one of the Panca Yadnya. Different traditions from one village to another create more variations across the island.
Take time to step away from the comfortable resorts designed to make you not want to leave. Venture into a cultural education you will never find in a textbook by visiting a small village.
In 2014 I met Gede in his village, Penempahan, during a full moon ceremony. You may remember I mentioned Gede being the one who welcomed me into his village’s Temple and explained what the ceremony meant. That very same day, Gede shared with me his main goal in life which is to help preserve Balinese culture and tell the story of Bali. This story of Bali is one away from the beach resorts and the one the Balinese genuinely live.
Gede was 22 years old at the time. As I listened, I couldn’t help but think I don’t know anyone in this world who is 22 with such a lofty goal as Gede’s. That day I gave Gede my camera and told him to capture as much as he could with the camera, then send it to me via email. After the ceremony finished, I left the village thinking I would either hear from Gede or I wouldn’t.
After returning home I didn’t give much thought to our conversation. I only recalled what a splendid experience being in the village had been. Then out of the blue and months later, I received an email from Gede. Included in his email were at least a hundred photographs and short video clips. I just smiled. Needless to say, I was impressed by the amount of work he had done.
At this point, I knew Gede was serious and there was absolutely no way I would not help him achieve his goal. About six months after this, I returned to Bali with Gede’s own new camera in hand. Our journey began. I taught Gede the fundamentals of photography and he taught me a whole lot about Bali and Balinese Hinduism.
Putu is Gede’s cousin. He would join us for each outing and it turns out Putu has a keen interest in filmmaking. I have to be honest. I only taught these young men what the buttons are for on the cameras. Innately, they have an unmeasurable amount of talent. Their eye for photography and video is greater than most people I know. Their talent no longer surprises me but it does keep me in awe.
I began working with these young men in Bali teaching them the art of photography. The truth is they are teaching me more than I am teaching them. Through the process, they have become my brothers. Gede and Putu truly are Bali photography masters and I am fortunate to know them.
When you travel to areas of the world, where life is different as are opportunities, it is difficult for this gentleman not to want to give back. I like to share my knowledge, and if I can, I’ll do everything possible to help others advance themselves or achieve their dreams. I’m not foolish to think I can change the world; this is impossible. What I can do is give others the tools to change their world.
Open eyes, an open heart, believing in others, respect and a bit of compassion can make a difference in other people’s lives. It is easy to walk away from a place where you travel and make memories with you. Next time, please remember you, too, can make a huge difference even with small gestures.
Great video of children swimming in a natural pool at Pura Mengening in Tampaksiring Bali. It is scenes like this that make travel worthwhile. This is the way life should be – all without a care in the world.
To reach the area, go down a few stairs (ok, more than a few), and you will find two pools with clear crisp water. The source of the water comes from a cliff and between roots of trees. Fresh cool air, beautifully natural and shaded scenery add to the charm of the area, confirming paradise is indeed in Bali.
There is one pool for women and girls and another for the men and boys. This is where the real charm of the area becomes evident. Some bring their soap to bathe while the children leap from rocks, push each other into the water and relentlessly splash.
I spent hours simply taking the scene in while my camera captured the moments. I simply sat and watched and was taken back to my own childhood. Back then I was often left to entertain myself with my own vivid imagination. There were no buttons to push or electronics pulling me into a black hole of nothingness. I had to actually use my mind in creative ways if I didn’t want to be bored silly. The kids in the Pura Mengening pools reminded me of that time and a reminder that kids are kids in any language or culture. Such a beautiful sight and one to remember.
If you prefer the ocean, listen to the waves of the Indian Ocean ::
Travel Destination :: Bali. Children at the Penempaham Temple.
Bali is also known as “The Island of Gods,” and ceremonies are held for almost anything. During the more auspicious days, elaborate ceremonies are held such as this – the Full Moon Ceremony. Everyone in a village participates, including the children as seen here playing music. If Bali is your travel destination, be sure to arrange a visit to a local temple during a ceremony. What awaits you? Bursts of colour, festive music, praying in the Temple, traditional dress (which you will be required to wear) and a true sense of being a part of a Balinese community.