Monday, March 9, 2009

Balinese Ceremony and Ritual

It is said there is never a day in Bali without a ceremony of some kind and if you include all the life cycle rites (baby ceremonies, puberty rites, weddings, cremations,Temple festivals), then this adage is probably true. There are definitely certain times that are “ceremony-heavy” such as the full moons in April and October and the high holy days of Galungan (see below for more info). Balinese religion (called Agama Hindu Dharma) consist of three primary elements: Hinduism based on what is practiced in India but differing substantially from those traditions, animism (where every living thing has a soul) and ancestor worship (the Balinese deify their ancestors after a proscribed process of cleansing has been done).

Temple festivals are held on the anniversary of when the temple in question was consecrated. This could be an annual event, held on a new or full moon or more likely every 210 days, based on the wuku system, a complex calculation of overlapping days of confluence, some being more “powerful” than others (think of Friday the 13th).
An Odalan or temple ceremony usually lasts for three days, but larger ones (which occur every 5, 10, 30 or 100 years) can last for 11 days or longer. The gist of what is happening here is that the Balinese are honoring the deities that rule over the temple by giving them a myriad of offerings, performances of vocal music, dance and gamelan music. They invite them down from their abode on Mount Agung to partake in the activities.
The temple is dressed up in colorful golden clothes, the images of the deities are taken to the local holy spring to be bathed and dressed in their best, shrines are cleaned, performances are rehearsed, committees are formed and then the big day arrives. Usually people take their offerings to the temple in the late afternoon, after the heat of the day has gone, and everyone's work and school obligations are over.
The offerings, consisting of fruits, rice cakes and flowers, are brought in on women's heads and placed at strategic points around the temple. These are blessed with holy water by the temple Pemangku or priest. The pilgrims then pray, are blessed with and drink holy water and then take the offerings home to share with their families. The gods have taken the sari or essence of the offerings, leaving the “leftovers” for the humans to consume. In the evenings, there could be spectacular performances of music and dance by local groups.
Since every village has at least three major temples (and often many more than that), there is always some kind of community religious activity going on. Aside from the village temple festivals, every household compound's family temple (mrajan/sanggah) also has its ceremony every 210 days.
Aside from the Odalan, there are a dozen or so life and death cycle rites that are performed throughout a child's life:
  1. Gedong-gedongan : this is done in the 8th month (Gregorian calendar/7th month Balinese calendar) of pregnancy to ask blessings for an easy birth. The pregnant woman and her husband wade into the river, where eels and small fish are placed face down on her protruding belly to show the baby the right way out!
  2. Birth: Only the husband and the midwife/doctor are allowed to hold the placenta or after birth. This is washed and then buried on the right (if the baby is a boy) side of the northern pavilion or left (if a girl). With it are buried a comb, a dance fan, a pen, a book—whatever the family wishes the child will grow up to enjoy.The parents are not allowed to go into the kitchen for three days.
  3. Three Days after birth: the parents undergo a simple cleansing ritual so they can go into the kitchen
  4. Rorasin: 12 days after the birth the umbilical cord has usually fallen off. This is placed in a special shrine dedicated to Kumara, the Guardian of Babies.
  5. 42-day ceremony: Once a baby has reached this age, a rather large ritual is performed for her/him. This is to ensure that her/his development will continue unhindered. One of the things done at this time is that a baby chick and baby duck are brought in to peck off/dust off cooked rice that is on the baby's third eye. This is to show the child how to use her hands and feet as well as her mouth to gather food, as the animals do. She is placed under a cockfighting basket where she grabs items that have previously been placed into a clay pot. It is said that whatever she grabs is her vocation.
  6. Three month ceremony: This is also quite a grand ceremony that all the relatives and neighbors are invited to. This marks the first time a child touches the ground for the first time (he is carried everywhere previously). In some villages, this is when the child is “replaced” by a dressed up eggplant or cucumber. The priest sings the praises of the the eggplant so that spirits of chaos that might be lurking around will follow the eggplant when it's thrown out the front door, while the real baby stays protected.
  7. Odalan or six months (210 days) ceremony. This is the baby's birthday and will be celebrated ritually every 6 months. But no birthday cakes here!
  8. Three odalans is traditionally when the child has her or his hair cut off and head shaved to represent purity.
  9. Menek kelih or puberty. Not all castes perform this ceremony. It happens when the girl gets her period and the boy's voice cracks. They are paraded around the village announcing to all that they are now adults (and in the olden days, ready to marry)
  10. Tooth filing: In their late teens, Balinese get the top middle teeth filed; this symbolizes the filing away of greed, anger, lust, drunkenness, envy and confusion.
  11. Wedding: the ultimate fusion of male and female
  12. Death: within death, there are a number of rites. The first is the ritual cleansing of the corpse by the family and the banjar (neighborhood), then comes the burial or the cremation (if the family can afford to cremate right away, they will choose that option) and then the post-crematory purification rites where the soul becomes a deity that shall be worshipped in the family temple. (WWW.BALISPIRIT.COM)

Choosing Restaurant In Bali

Locals are a great source of information so ask around. However, sometimes locals, such as hotel front desk staff and cab drivers, get referral fees for bringing in customers, so don't forget to ask some questions and do a little looking around before you go in. Asking locals can bring you some of the best information available about a restaurant.

Here are a few things to think when you choosing a restaurant :
  • In what types of food does your restaurant specialize?
  • What is your menu's price range?
  • Can you make a reservation?
  • When is it usually less crowded?
  • How about any special theme nights, such as Balinese or seafood?
  • Are there any special nights for live entertainment or happy hour?
  • Do you have any exceptions to the discounts you wish to use?
  • Can you honor your special requests?
You will find that although a restaurant may specialize in one type of cuisine, there will be a broad section of food for you to try. Please be aware of the following :
  • Asking locals can bring you some of the best information available about a restaurant.
  • Do not expect the same taste and style as you would in your own country when visiting restaurants specializing in specific cuisines. Like many Asian countries it has been adapted to the palate of the local and also dependent on the ingredients available.
  • Of course you will want to try the local Indonesian dishes and depending on the restaurant, the taste and price varies. Many restaurants adjust the cooking of Indonesian food to make it mild enough for the non-local guest to enjoy.
  • However if you are very game and would like to experience what most Balinese eat, try one of the many food stores 'warung' lining the streets of the downtown areas. The main part of the Indonesian meal is steamed rice (nasi). Accompanying the rice is usually dishes which may include one of a variety of meats and seafood, either boiled, steamed or fried.
  • Prices, style, food presentation, decoration and service vary and range from very basic to luxurious and from extremely cheap to quite expensive. Prices vary dramatically depending on the location and area rather than the quality of the meals.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bumbu Bali

The extravagant beauty of the Indonesian island of Bali is reflected in its unique food. Discover the destination through its traditional cooking, and treat yourself to a cuisine which features such delights as Roast Duck in Banana Leaf, Roast Suckling Pig, Sates, a large selection of vegetables, meat and fish salads, the famous black rice pudding and an ever changing selection of Balinese cakes. This and many more unusual creations, which are certain to please even the palates of Bali’s fabled Gods.

Bali’s first authentic Balinese restaurant was created following the principals used in designing a traditional Balinese home compound. On our menu you will not find Balinese food commonly served in hotels and tourist restaurants, as it is our aim to serve Balinese food the way you find it prepared in Balinese homes or during traditional ceremonies. We take you on a journey into the culinary delights our island paradise has to offer.
Countless trips into villages, homes and temples, together with an endless drive in researching deeper into the food culture of Bali have resulted in several highly acclaimed publications by Heinz von Holzen the Godfather of Bumbu Bali. In “The Food of Bali”, “Bali Unveiled: The Secrets of Balinese Cuisine” and “Feast of Flavours from the Balinese Kitchen”, one will discover many secret dishes and delights served on our menu.
Recognized by locals and visitors alike as the leading Balinese Restaurant in Bali, and the many awards received since opening the small door in 1997, together with the incorporation of every day Balinese life into a harmonious surrounding will ensure a most memorable and authentic dining experience.
To promote the food of Bali further we offer interested visitors to participate in our very popular cooking program. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we take participants to the local markets where we purchase many of the produces for the day’s class. After a hearty Balinese Breakfast we will spend a most informative morning in a specially designed kitchen preparing and grinding a minimum of 25 recipes. Classes are limited to 12 participants, this to give everyone a chance to receive personal attention in the step-by-step preparation of the dishes. For those who wish to experience a shorter version then we have SHORT CLASSES available where we prepare 9 recipes.
No effort has been spared in creating a place of discovery, friendliness and comfort. It is our aim not only to share with you the best dishes of Bali put to also let you into the many secrets of a true Balinese home.
We look forward to your visit, which we hope will be the first of many to follow.

Address :
Jalan Pratama, Tanjung Benoa,
P.O.Box 132 Nusa Dua 80363
Bali - Indonesia

Restaurants : 62 361 774502, 772299
Office : 62 361 771256
Fax : 62 361 771728
Web Sites: 

Lunch-Dinner 11.00 a.m- 11.00 p.m.

Every Wednesday and Friday – Cultural Performance
Time: 08.00pm to 09.00pm

CUISINE: Traditional Balinese Specialties

Monday, March 2, 2009

Nyepi….Happy New Year in Bali

The new year in Bali is celebrated with 24 hours of total silence. It is like a miracle on this hustling, bustling Island. But it actually happens. The Balinese day does not start at midnight as in the west. It starts at sunrise and ends 24 hours later, again at sunrise. So at 6 a.m. on Nyepi morning, wherever you are is where you stay for the next 24 hour period. The streets are totally empty, all businesses are closed, and a great silence envelops the island. Hotel guests must stay on their hotel grounds and may not venture out. The ‘pecalang‘, (I have always referred to them as the ‘temple police’ because one of their main jobs is to direct traffic during temple ceremonies, cremations and other busy religious activities) are the only people on the roads and their job during the day is to insure that no one else is out.
As impossible as it sounds, the airport is closed! Only medical evacuations are allowed or, heaven forbid, an emergency landing. Scheduled incoming or outgoing flights are 100% cancelled.

During this quiet day, the truly devout fast and meditate. Lighting fires is not allowed which means that traditional kitchens in compound that normally burn firewood to cook cannot be used. Expats with sensor lights at their homes place tape over the sensors in preparation for the night.
Because Bali wants to take good care of its visiting foreign guests staying with us in hotels, special dispensation is given to hotel staff. They must arrive at their place of work before 6:00 a.m. and also stay on the grounds for 24 hours, but staff is allowed to provide service to guests including making sure they are well fed! Guests may continue to use all of the hotel facilities….after all, just the lack of electricity that night will be enough of a cultural shock for visitors. But everyone is asked to chat quietly and to observe this quiet day with respect.
As evening falls, darkness takes on a whole new meaning! With no electricity ANYWHERE, many visitors are surprised at how deep a darkness can be experienced. Accompanied by total silence (except for the occasional barking of dogs…they never get the message) it is awesome. Hotel guests sip a last cup of coffee or tea and watch the oncoming night. In compounds, families lull their children to sleep and then soon join them for a night of much needed rest. The temple police patrol the streets, rebuking the occasional person who dares to have lights and making sure the villages and streets are dark, empty…and safe.
And then it is morning again! At 6:00 a.m. the island returns to its usual activity, the lights go on, the kitchen fires are lit, workers head for their jobs. But the calmness of the previous 24 hours still is felt. We speak more quietly, we are calm and we are happy to know that Nyepi will come again in a year.
In contrast, the day before Nyepi is one of extraordinary activity! And it is far noisier than any normal day. Villages have been preparing huge papier mache demons, ranging from scary to terrifying in appearance. Firecrackers are heard in the distance. And the Balinese are visiting their family and village temples for prayer. For me, I started the day with prayers at my house temple, then to the crossroads of Ubud for prayer with the entire village of Ubud, next to Pura Desa in Ubud, on to the family temple at Saraswati, then to Pura Desa at Peliatan. Hurrying back to my house to shower and change it was then prayer at my village Pura Desa Temple, a procession to Pura Dalem with all of the villages deities, including the mystical and powerful Barong and then on to the banjar for a last blessing. The entire village participated and at the close of this last ceremony we all returned to our homes for one last ritual. Making huge noises by banging on pots and pans, using a hollow switch to beat the ground, hitting the bamboo kul-kul, we circled the property yelling at the top of our lungs. A lighted torch led the way and finally everyone ended up at the driveway where the torch was allowed to burn out accompanied by the hollow switch and many offerings that had been placed there earlier. Our house was ready for Nyepi.
In Ubud, a huge parade of Ogoh Ogoh, those scary papeir mache demons, started about an hour before nightfall. Each village had done their best to make their Ogoh Ogoh the scariest of all. And each was a spectacular piece of hand made creativity, splendid in size, spectacular in color and totally demonic in appearance. Each of the Ogoh Ogoh needed many strong men to carry it into the village and then to the Ubud crossroads where the Ogoh Ogoh were made to dip and sway and go about in circles. Because one of the demons was so huge, the power lines had to be raised, resulting in a brief electrical outage for the entire area! It was a precursor to the darkness that would be experienced during the Nyepi 24 hour period. At the close of the parade, the Ogah Ogah were taken to a central and safe location and set afire. All those weeks of work, up in flames! And then everyone scurried home.
So why all the noise and activity preceding Nyepi? A central tenet of the Balinese Hindu religion is that of balance. Good is balanced with not-so-good. All cannot be good without some bad as counterbalance. After all, without some bad, everything would be perfect! Impossible! Consequently, just as there are good and helpful deities, there are also many not-so-good spirits lurking about and wanting to make mischief. So at our homes we make all that noise and burn torches to frighten the bad spirits away. The Ogoh Ogoh are intended to do the same…and they are indeed frightful! And finally, Nyepi is quiet and dark so that bad spirits passing through Bali at this time of year and looking for places to make trouble, will believe the Island is deserted and simply move on.
To maintain the balance, the Balinese revere the deities who protect them and the Island and respectfully acknowledge the existence of the bad spirits, albeit by trying to frighten them away…and then we all quietly settle down for 24 hours until they have moved on.
And Nyepi provides that special quiet time when each of us can introspectively examine ourselves, ask forgiveness for past bad behavior, think about how to be a better person in the coming year, and ask for guidance to find the ‘right way’.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bali Clubbing and Nightlife

The Bali-nightlife is mainly focused on Kuta and Seminyak. The first one with its main road the Jalan Legian, these days world famous because of the bombings, is meeting point for tourists and backpackers from all over the world and thus offers a music mix, which you can consider to be mainstream.

Lets begin with the “Bounty”, the outside similar to an old wooden ship, the atmosphere similar to the “Ballermann” and a Karaoke-stage in the front which is to be frequented not only by the Japanese. The music played is a mix of the top 100 charts of the last five years that makes the topless Australian surfer dance.....

A thing the “Bounty” has in common with the “Mbargo”, another Club to be found in Jalan Legian, is the entrance fee only locals have to pay. The music is more focused on “blackbeat”, but the later it gets, the worse gets the music. It happens quite often that you are thrown out with electro sounds in order to be in the right mood of going to another club owned by the same guy, the “double six club”, which I will tackle later.

Between “Mbargo” and “Bounty” you can find the “Apache”, that is the one Reggae Bar to be found on Bali. All the times I have been in there it was not crowded at all, but the drinks are very cheap and the music different and sometimes even good.

On the opposite site of the “Mbargo”, but still the Jalan Legian, you will find the “Fuel”, a thing that cannot decide itself what it wants to be. The subtitle is “Eat, drink and groove”, but the food was cancelled, due to too little customers and often the music is anything else but groovy as it is mainly frequented by locals that like to listen to harder sounds, before they go to other clubs.

On the way to Jalan 66 you may pass by at the “Wave Club”, that combines a space interior with rock music. Maybe due to that divergence I have never seen this club crowded, but you may listen to some good live music there.

Arrived in Jalan 66 you may have a look at “Dejavu”, “66” and the “Paparazzi”, all world class clubs. As I was there in the off season, the “Dejavu” was dressed in black light and prostitutes, looking to the beach with its open front. Famous may be the silver female robot statue, that devides the dance floor. The music is house in all sub genres. You will listen to minimal but also funky vocal house. The sound is quite good and the people dance, which may be a result of the drugs they take.

The “Paparazzi” is a new club aiming at the upper class Ex-Pats and Locals. Thus long trousers and a full wallet are necessary. The prevailing music is house, sometimes funky, sometimes deeper and again dependent on the audience. In my opinion the “Paparazzi” is one of the most beautiful clubs in Bali with a nice and friendly atmosphere, a pity that the drinks are quite expensive.

The “66” is maybe the most popular clubs in South East Asia, which is for sure not due to the interior, as it looks similar to a huuuuge bamboo hut with swimmingpool and Bungy-Tower, but to the excellent marketing, the very good reputation and the marvelous sound system. But do not come too early, because the “Double Six” is getting crowded at 3 o´clock, if you are lucky. But than 1000 people are to be found dancing to very progressive and trance sounds. Many of them might be on drugs or prostitutes. Be aware of the Ladyboys, that make up to 40% of them.

The three last mentioned clubs are frequented by international top acts in the main season and guarantee a lot of fun!

The next street, the Jalan Dyana Pura, is usually crowded with the gay community, that knows how to party. Drag queen contests, motto parties and a huge amount of nice bars and clubs (“Kudos” and “Q-bar”…) assure that the evening will not be boring at all. Women are let alone, while the men may be chat up, thus an unusual experience for both sexes. It is to say that “Kudos” hosts the most advanced sound system and DJ-equipment on the whole island and you can really hear the difference.

Going back by foot you will pass the “Bar Bahiana” that tempts with latino sounds, a nice warm atmosphere, a lot of Italian and Spanish people and maybe the best cocktails in town. Some days in a week, there are offered Salsa and Meringue lessons and live percussion, which will make you sweat and enjoy the evening!

Last but not least is to mention the “Hu´u Bar”, a very nice pre-clubbing facility dedicated to the upper class Ex-Pat community, as well. The interior is stylish and as clean as in Singapore, as the management is Singaporean. The music is normally dance classics and oldies accompanied with live percussion. The later the evening, the more house is to be played but you can be sure that Dj Johnny is choosing the tunes that make you dance. A disadvantage may be the first cover charge at weekends. All customers have to pay about 10€ to enter the “Hu´u Bar”. Overall a nice place to go and to meet a lot of exciting people, but think of a full wallet.

The Hardrock-Hotel offers next to the biggest Swimming-Area a respectable mix of live bands and top acts that are not only known in Indonesia. The music is Rock. The atmosphere is nice and friendly.

The “Kamasutra” may be the most expensive clubbing facility on Bali offering international known top acts and really good and loud live music. The interior is very nice, the atmosphere very good and it is always packed. “Kamasutra” is a place to start the clubbing and spend a lot of money for good drinks.

Dives like the “Skandals” and other strange Karaoke-Bars where drugs are consumed in the same amount as drinks better leave out and do not support this kind of business.

The “DJ-CafĂ©”, the post clubbing place if you want to go to some other place when even the double six is closed is a dark place with a brilliant sound and nice people and the latest music concerning electronica and deep house. If you are not tired, this is the place to go..

I recommend everyone who is coming to Bali to get the Beat magazine, the event and clubbing guide for Bali, which is for free. Club names and places change quite fast and I cannot guarantee the topicality of my report. You may find a lot of different smaller and nice places as well. I could not go everywhere! Check out “Kudeta” and “Gaydeta”, really nice places for sunset lovers. In the main season it may be very different as well, other clubs may be more crowded and thus more attractive to visit

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