On our last night in Bangkok, Tina decided to play it safe
and eat dinner in the Empress Hotel, rather than out on the streets.
I had no appetite and was busy packing and preparing for our departure
to Bali. Pad Thai noodles was her main course. In the middle of the night
she was in the acute stages of food poisoning with all the expected symptoms.
It was at this point that our large medical kit came to the rescue. We
had a flight at 8:40am which we were not going to miss. Unable to
hold anything on her stomach, she required something injectable. Check!
Phenergan injectable. This got her to the airport though she continued to
look like death warmed over. The flight was an agony but she made it alive.
As we tried to disembark from the plane there was no hiding the fact from
the stewardesses that Tina was acutely ill and a wheel chair was immediately
brought up for our use. Then the real Red Carpet treatment began as a Thai
Air employee personally escorted us through emigration and customs with no
standing in line delays. At one point a suspicious customs official questioned
whether Tina was really sick or trying to pull some sort of "fast one".
But the Thai Air people stuck by us and took us by the hand as it were all
the way to our taxi waiting for us. Our first stop in Bali was the Swastika
hotel in Sanur and Tina's first stop was bed.
As we left the airport on our 25 minute drive to Sanur, we passed
this massive, stunning sculpture in the center of the roadway round-about.
It stood about 40 feet high and 60 feet in length. The theme, one repeated
often in Bali, was of Hindu mythology.
Five days later, Sarah arrived in Bali on a flight from Brisbane.
How wonderful it was to see her after her departure for Australia 4
months earlier. There were lots of hugs and kisses and then a beeline
for the Bounty hotel on Kuta beach. The Bounty is rather famous as the
young people's party hotel, most of whom are from Australia. We thought
Sarah would like it, but she was ready for a nice, quiet beach. We asked
some young people where the best snorkeling was and they recommended Nusa
Lembongan, a small island off the east coast of Bali. So, off we went on
a small, double outrigger boat. The crossing took maybe an hour and a half,
and was made up of mostly young tourists from Europe and Australia. Nusa
L. is also quite famous for its surfing off the encircling reef. This picture
of Sarah, on the left, was taken from our hotel front steps. This hotel
which fronted immediately upon the beach cost us a grand total of $6 per
night (breakfast included). This was a wonderful opportunity to soak up
the sun, stroll on the beach, snorkel and watch the local fisherman and
seaweed farmers go about their business.
We went on two special snorkeling trips around the back side of
the island, to a tiny island called Nusa Ceningan. The coral and marine
life was just outstanding, and the water was crystal clear. Sarah and I went
on a "drift" snorkel trip there, in 8 knot currents along sheer cliff. That
was a challenge! We held hands and drifted along watching marine life and
rock outcroppings whiz by.
Life on this tiny island is a blend of tourism and tradition. It
has its challenges, one of which is salt water intrusion in the wells. So
everyone bathes in salt water and drink only bottled water. The view in the
early mornings was of the spectacular volcano Gunung Agung on Bali, across
We quickly discovered in Bali that the Hindu culture is one of
numerous ceremonies. These are occasions for the entire village to participate
in and involve dressing up and bringing offerings to the temple. The priests
say prayers, bless all the villagers and offerings are made to the various
gods and ancestors. It seemed to us like there was a ceremony at one temple
or another almost every day. Indeed, every village has multiple temples
and every family also has a temple and ancestral shrines in its family
compound. It is a daily duty for one of the woman in the family to lay offerings
at various locations throughout the family compound as well as at whatever
place of business they may have. Offerings are made to both the good spirits
and the evil spirits since it is thought keeping both happy are essential
to the family's well being. Misfortune in the family is generally explained
as a form of retribution from the spirits for the misdeeds of family members.
Another example which illustrates how many are the ceremonies is the first
year of life for every child. No less than 6 different ceremonies are
held from the time of conception till the first year of life (which is
day 210 in the Balinese calendar). These ceremonies are for the purpose
of ensuring a healthy baby, warding of sickness or disease which the spirits
could bring upon them. The ceremony held on day 210 commemorates the First
time the child is permitted to touch the ground. Until this time they are
constantly held and carried about. We went to a number of these ceremonies,
including one cremation ceremony.
To the right are examples of the beautiful and tasty
offerings that the women bring to the temple for the ceremonies. The more
elaborate the ceremonies the more elaborate are the offerings. Women spend
a considerable amount of their time preparing the offerings. At the end
of the ceremony after the gods have taken due notice of the offerings which
have been laid out before them the women pack them back up on their heads
and bring them home to share with their families. At the ceremony where
this photograph was taken there were literally one or two hundred offerings
of this type and it was quite a sight watching a long line of women with
these baskets on their heads streaming to and from the temple.
By far the largest ceremony we observed was the cremation ceremony
for Ida Tjokorde Mengwi, one of the last kings in Bali. True kingdoms
in Bali ended when Indonesia gained its independence from the Dutch in
1949. However, Ida Tjokorde did rule his kingdom prior to that, and was
greatly renowned and respected. It was estimated that there were tens of
thousands of visitors paying their respects the day of the ceremony, which
was no doubt true. We couldn't get closer than half a block. We dressed
in traditional clothing and joined the procession. The actual body is located
in the tower, pictured at the left, just in front of where the two men are
standing. Dozens of men carried this tower on their backs, spinning the
tower in different directions to confuse and bewilder the evil spirits who
might interfere with the departure of the King's spirit from this earth.
The king's body was carried to the cemetery in the tower, then transferred
to the white bull, pictured below on the left. The bull and king were then
cremated, along with the naga banda, (mythical dragon), pictured on the
right.The cremation itself cuts the earthly ties and sends the spirit on
it's way to heaven.The next day the ashes from the corpse were taken to the
sea to be united back with the elements. When the actual cremation was about
to begin, everyone of lower caste, which was essentially the entire crowd,
was expected to leave. We retreated with the crowd, grateful to have been
able to see just a part of this magnificent ceremony.
Mothers and daughters!
The monkey forest temple in Ubud was the location for these two
pictures. We dressed in traditional clothes and were allowed to remain inside
the compound during the 'blessing of the animals' ceremony. Other visitors,
dressed more casually were escorted out. We were quite honored to be there
and once again glad we made the effort to look our best at a ceremony. This
is a gesture the Balinese really appreciate.
Besakih, the mother temple, is the most venerated in all of Bali.
It is located on the slopes of Gunung Agung, the tallest active volcano
on the island. The volcano's last eruption in 1963 killed 2000 people and
destroyed the homes of 100,000. Some in Bali believe this eruption was the
result of anger by the gods, perhaps because of the improper scheduling
of the Eka Dasa Rudra ceremony. This is the greatest ritual in Balinese
Hinduism, held once every 100 years for the spiritual purification of the
During our long stay in Bali, the majority of our time was spent
in Ubud at this guest house on Monkey Forest Rd, called Sagittarius Inn.
Every morning and evening offerings were meticulously made by a family member
and placed at the family temple as well as at other locations inside the
family compound. Behind this structure are the bungalows where we and other
guests stayed. We would frequently wake early in the morning to the sounds
of doves gently cooing and the smell of incense burning. This daily ritual
had a soothing and spiritual quality that was to us a part of the essence
of Bali. Beyond the chaos of Kuta beach and the hustle on the streets is a
common union of souls steeped in ancient tradition with a loyalty to family
and village. The Balinese are a gentle, serene people with a unique Hindu
culture and rich heritage. It is amazing that being part of Indonesia, the
largest Muslim country in the world, Bali is not only surviving but thriving.
Bali was one of our favorite destinations.