I have been here once before in 2007, and i felt that it was a very spiritual place – I couldn’t really put my finger on why….. I hope that my second visit leaves the same impression.
Its night time when I arrive, and one thing I hadn’t noticed before was the shape of the moon. When we have part moons in the UK , we get a crescent shape, but the moon here is lit from the underside making it look like a large Cheshire cat smile in the sky.
As you can imagine its very warm here even at 9pm but guess what, they even have hoodies here in Bali! They are all hanging around the airport asking if you need any help with your bags. I arrive at my hotel and am given a beautiful free garland of flowers and a glass of fruit nectar! The flowers smell divine – a combination of fragrant Jasmine blossoms and small red rose buds, and the aroma hangs around for 3 days (much longer than the delicious drink!)
The following day I am collected from my hotel by our local agent for Bali, Mr Benny and our Indonesian agent Andy for today’s visits. I notice that a lot of the trees and the roadside statues have checked cloths around them. I ask the reason for this and am told that they denote cosmic duality – the concept of good versus evil. The Balinese see the world in terms of opposites, night and day, good and bad, mountain and sea. One cannot exist without the other. The cloth is known as Poleng and is the perfect representation of this view – the squares are of equal size, perfect black and perfect white. Grey squares contain both black and white strands to show that you cannot have one without the other.
Most of the statues are also shaded by ornate parasols which are seen as symbols of protection for obvious reasons.
There seems to be an awful lot of activity around the temples and this is because there are many public cremations to be held today. In Denpasar alone there are a total of 40 bodies waiting to be cremated. It is a day of great ceremony – all the villagers help to build the funeral pyres, even the children help to thread the flower garlands that will decorate the cemeteries and the bodies. Cremations are an important and elaborate event in Bali, but because of the monetary cost, most people can’t afford to have their departed cremated straight away. Families therefore, often wait months for the public cremation so that the villagers can pool resources and have a ceremonious send off. I think the fact that everyone is involved whether you have anyone to cremate or not brings the village together as a whole and also de-mystifies the process of death….here it is always a celebration of life rather than a sad occasion. I like the idea of death being so much a normal part of life.
Our main business here in Bali is fragrance for Incense. The whole island has a fragrant aroma, with incense being burned on every street corner, in every home and every temple. It is burnt as an offering to the Gods. No-one knows exactly where the Gods might be at any given time, but the Balinese believe that smoke from the incense will find its way to the Gods, assuring that the relevant prayers and offerings will be delivered.
As I leave Bali on my way up to Jakarta, I spy a wooden lizard in one of the craft stalls at the airport. The lizard now adorns my lounge wall and is known to everyone as Mr Benny!
Next stop Surabaya and Jakarta…..