First days in Bali:Ogoh Ogoh and Nyepi

Wednesday, March 09, 2016
Sanur, Bali, Indonesia
After a long days commute from Bangkok we finally arrived in Bali. A good 10 minutes of haggling and we had our ride sorted up to Sanur to Di Kubu Homestay where we would be for the next 4 nights. I like Homestays in Bali. They are a cheap way to stay in decent accommodation as well as getting to know some of the locals a little better. £11 a night gets the two of us a good clean room with a shower and toilet, our breakfast and our own little stove and cooking area within a family compound set back in the small lanes away from the busier main tourist road through Sanur. The family we are with are lovely and their two sons absolutely adorable. We arrived fairly late but still managed to find a Warung (Balinese for somewhere to eat) not too far away and enjoyed a well earned meal and a couple of bottles of Bintang to wash it all down. I've struggled to settle into the time difference and this night was no different tossing and turning until the early hours, I'm sure I'll settle down soon enough.

The next day was a fairly lazy affair . An hour on the beach with a dip in the sea, and what a sea it is. Refreshing compared to the 32 degree heat here but a million miles away from the North sea. More like a nice warm hot tub with a few fish taking an interest in my feet. Tea was fantastic along at the local night night market, which is a great cheap place to eat cheaply with the locals (always remember to ask how much things are first though before you eat or if you don't they will gladly take the bigger note out of your hand and say thank you without a hint of any change that you are due!) Nice to back on the Island of the Gods I thought to myself.

Now we had read up before we left Bangkok on what was happening in Bali this time of year and somehow got our dates and days mixed up. The Balinese New Year is called Nyepi and we had read that it was on the 8th but the info was wrong and when we checked with the family it was the 9th so we still had an extra day to go. What we didn't read anywhere is that there is a celebration the day before Nyepi called Ogoh Ogoh! What a name indeed, like something out of Joe versus the Volcano . The Balinese never cease to amaze me with their culture and festivals. Ogoh Ogoh has been around since the early 1900's in some form and it is a way to scare off all of the bad spirits at the end of the year to give the people a fresh start for the New Year ahead They do this by creating as much noise and commotion as possible to scare them away and in the 80's this ritual changed a lot driven by the youngsters of Bali. It is now a very flamboyant affair. Groups of kids get together in each town and village and create elaborate statues and images of Demons to ward off the evil spirits. Each statue is accompanied by a dance and a story and these days it is very competitive as to which group can create the biggest and most flamboyant spectacle with a small prize for the winners. I spoke with the family we are staying with and these kids spend around 2 months prior to Ogoh Ogoh designing and building their statue and pulling their performance and story together. Another great thing this new style of festival is aimed at doing is to retain the culture and tradition of Balinese Hinduism and to encourage the younger generation to be creative, artistic and to work as a team . Great stuff in my eyes and it certainly didn't let us down. It started around 7pm and the road was packed. The whole town was out for this with all the shops and warungs closed early around 2pm so that everyone gets to join in and enjoy it.

The statues and dances are impressive to see. Big scary beasts, some 20 feet tall which are built on bamboo frames and carried and maneuvered by each group. Some smaller than others with kids as young as 4 or 5 all doing their part to join in. As always the tourists in Bali are encouraged to come along and join in with the locals to support the kids and it's such a fantastic spectacle I can't see why you wouldn't want to it. It's something I've never experienced before but I'm glad I have now. If your ever here around this time you can't avoid it and I recommend joining in as much as possible to make the most of the experience. Talk with the locals and the kids about what they are doing and they reward you with their openness and encouragement . The whole thing lasts several hours and after a quick Bintang on the Circle K doorstep with the family we are staying with we headed back to nurse our sunburn from the day before and get some well earned rest.

Well earned rest is exactly what we got. The following day as I said is called Nyepi and is the Balinese New Year. It's a strange one as well as it is a day of silence. Nobody is allowed out on the streets at all. Everywhere is closed for the day, all streets lights remain off and the airport even closes for 24 hours with no flights in or out at all. Local village leaders (Pecalang) are the only ones allowed to out to patrol the streets and ensure that nobody is breaking the silence and running about. It's a strange yet interesting day and the idea behind it is to give a day back to nature. A day of self reflection and inner peace. The only exceptions are for emergencies and women in labour!

Tomorrow, the day after Nyepi is the equivalent of New Years day here and is also known as Omed-Omedan or the "The kissing Ritual" and is practiced by the youths to celebrate the New Year. It's been a really interesting couple of days so far experiencing these new things. Tomorrow we will be hiring a scooter for 10 days or so and heading off round the island to new places we haven't sampled before. I can't wait, I love the freedom of being off on a bike and it makes all the small places off the beaten track so much more accessible. It's cheap as well. we have haggled a price of around £1.70 a day for the bike and we are leaving our big back packs with the family here at the homestay so we can travel light and easy.

Well off to cook some food now and to keep quiet! Until next time...

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