Bali - an Island of Welcome and Hospitality - Meet the Ogoh Ogoh and experience Nyepi, the Traditional Day of Silence
BALI - A Day of Silence
One place I love to visit as often as possible is Bali, an island and province of Indonesia.
Bali never disappoints me and has much to offer for all ages.
On a recent trip I was there for Nyepi Day – Bali’s Day of Silence.
Once the plane has landed at Bali Ngurah Rai Airport in Denpasar, customs and visa process cleared, you walk into the arrival lounge and immediately feel it...
That ceaseless rhythm of life.
The general commotion never ceases to amaze me.
Outside, as you locate your transport and head towards your accommodation it’s full on.
The roads teem with motorbikes, taxis, hire cars, bimos, buses. From my perspective all the vehicles appear to have the right of way.
Talk about organised chaos, I don’t really understand it but it works beautifully.
Day or night, pedestrians weave through traffic and streets - shops and restaurants open all hours.
I thought nothing could ever stop this all night, all day constant exhilaration.
And then I heard about Nyepi.
Hari Raya Nyepi – Bali’s Day of Silence
Nyepi is not a tourist attraction although they are welcome to observe the ritual. It is a most serious and important day, in the Hindu calendar and for the Balinese people.
It’s the celebration of the Hindu New Year and also heralds the end of the wet season.
A meaningful and dedicated day of silence for the island.
And here I am about to be a part of it, or, as a visitor to the island I’m more of an observer.
This year, 2015, Nyepi was celebrated on Saturday March 21st.
Before the Silence
I’ll begin in the evening before Nyepi day when each community hold a purification ceremony calming down and driving away any evil.
All communities and villages erect a huge monster – the Ogoh Ogoh – this impressive creature is carried with the help of a bamboo grid through the streets at nightfall.
The statues are large, many around 25 ft tall and difficult to manoeuvre .
The parades start around sunset, the centre of the parade being the main crossroad in the village or town.
Young people accompany the Ogoh Ogoh forming a procession. Gamelan musicians follow the creature and much banging of drums, firecrackers, shouting - as much noise as possible to frighten and chase away any malevolent forces.
I’m staying in Sanur and below is our Ogoh Ogoh – made of papier mache and guaranteed to impress..
Later the demon will be burned taking with him an evil spirits.
Ogoh Ogoh - Sanur Bali
Shhhhh– Silent Day
After the noise and celebrations of the evening Nyepi day is here.
From 6am until 6am the following day silence ensues.
The airport is closed now for 24 hours. I’m confident this is unlikely to happen in many places.
All shops are closed. No motorbikes, no cars, no traffic on the roads.
No people are allowed on the road or indeed on the streets.
No lights in the homes.
The Nyepi Rituals for the Balinese
- Amati Geni - No/fire/light including electricity
- Amati Karya - No working
- Amati Lelungaan - No travelling
- Amati Lelanguan - Fasting and no revelry/self-entertainment.
All the noise, hustle and bustle and non-stop traffic has now ceased.
Nyepi has done the impossible. The whole island is steeped in silence.
An empty beach on Nyepi Day
Hotel Protocol Nyepi
Most hotels function for guests but there are limitations.
At the Santrian Beach Hotel, Sanur, where I am staying, the restaurant/bar is open and pool facilities operate during the day.
However, the following are expected to be adhered to.
- No Check-In or Check Out of the hotel.
- No Swimming in Sea
- No Walking on the Beach
- No activities on the beach deck.
- No leaving the hotel grounds.
- No television.
- Only switch on lamp when required.
The guests at the hotel are primarily from Australia and Europe.
As the hotel grounds sweep down to the beach I did wonder if anyone would be tempted to leave and face the consequences.
Without exception, everyone stayed within the hotel grounds and supported Nyepi and the Balinese people in their important cultural day.
Traditional security men, the Pecalangs make sure the streets and beaches are empty and remain empty.
After dinner, and nightfall the hotel grounds are lit by candles, the gardens look eerie in the candlelight.
A pleasant young man with a torch helpfully escorts us back to our room and silence endures until 6am the following day.
If you were staying in Bali during Nyepi day how would you feel about the restrictions?
Relax in Bali
At exactly six am the following morning, along with bird song, I hear the first motor bike spring into action. It’s not long before the buzz of traffic is back to normal.
On the beach the Balinese residents are out in force, walking, picnicking, bathing in the sea, and generally rejoicing. It’s a most happy atmosphere.
Staying in Bali
There are many places to stay in Bali.
Despite my initial introduction to traffic and noise Bali has another side, the most calm and comforting demeanour.
While my preference is Sanur, laid back and daydreamy, others choose resorts and hotels at Nusa Dua, Seminyak, Legian, Jimbaran and so many more
Massages on the beach, relaxing spa amenities in hotels, picture perfect beaches to stroll along. Sunshine and sea, fishing and swimming, bicycle riding, mess around in boats or sit at your favourite restaurant, eat, sip wine, and watch the waves wash onto the shore
Catering for a younger age group, Kuta is well known and always on a roll.
Inland, Ubud is recognised as the art and craft centre. The wood carvings here are magnificent.
Ubud also hosts the well established annual Writers' Festival. This year, 2015, the dates are October 28th - November 1. The theme is 17,000 islands of Imagination.
The Bali Bird Park is always worth a visit. The variety and beauty of the Indonesian parrots and over 200 species of birds is captivating.
All this in a setting of tropical gardens.
The Kecak Dance - Monkey Dance.
Chak-achak-achak – chak-achak-achak - no music accompaniment, just this hypnotic chant from 150 male voices, over and over, it is mesmerising. Fire, dancing and story telling all add to the experience.
All over the coast and highland of Bali you’ll find temples to visit. Every temple is unique. When you visit it is essential to abide by the rules of dress and conduct. Mostly a sarong and sash are required and are available for rent at the temple site.
Plenty to see in Bali
Bali teems with interesting places to see – the Monkey Forest, Kintamani volcano, Tanah Lot Temple, (one of many, all worth visiting) Agung Rai Museum of Art.
Rice terraces, coffee plantations, markets, cookery classes, take a tour of the island.
Want to get away from it all?– Treat yourself to a Bali retreat be it spiritual, health or cosmetic,
And shop till you drop.
It’s easy to sit back and simply relax.
It’s more fascinating to explore this island, meet the people and learn more of the culture.