Bali, the island of gods: what to see
Bali is perhaps the most popular of the over 17,000 islands in Indonesia, home to about 4 million people. The climate is warm all year round, although in general the best time to visit Bali is from mid-May to mid October, as in the rest of the year rain and humidity are more frequent. In Bali English is spoken everywhere, even if the official languages are Indonesian and Balinese, with various local dialects spoken all around the island.
Bali, also known as the "island of the gods", is associated with the idea of tropical paradise and reality does not differ much from imagination. The island in fact offers lush tropical nature, postcard beaches and a culture characterized by a deep spirituality. In addition, its transparent waters and variously populated sea bottoms are excellent for those who love snorkeling and diving. The 80% of tourism in Indonesia is poured on Bali.
Culture, music and dance in Bali
Unlike other Indonesian islands, which are Muslim, the Balinese are devoted to the Hindu religion, which permeates every aspect of culture and daily life of the people. During a holiday in Bali, you will find that offerings to the gods are very common (called canang sari or sesajen) both in homes and in public places. These are trays containing rice leaves, salt, biscuits, cigarettes and coffee to donate to the gods. If you find them on the ground, be careful not to step on them, because according to the local culture it brings bad luck.
Hinduism in Bali is different from that of India: the most important deity is Sanghyang Widi Wasa (Acintya), the "god-of-all-in-one", of which deities such as Vishnu and Shiva are manifestations. Sanghyang Widi Wasa is represented as an empty throne wrapped in a white and black poleng with a tedung, the ceremonial umbrella.
The Balinese are very skilled in sculpture and in fact you will notice that finely crafted statues adorn temples and gardens, often depicting gods or protecting demons. Dance and music are also fundamental in the Balinese culture and are also an interesting attraction for visitors. The most famous dances include the Barong or "lion dance", staging the fight between good and evil with dancers wearing lion masks, the Calonarang, which depicts a story with different variations focused on the fight against evil spirits, the Kecak or "monkey dance", with dancers dancing in a circle singing "Kecak, Kecak" and the Legong Keraton, performed by young girls in traditional dress.
The day of silence and other celebrations
The island is dotted with temples, called pura, more than 20,000. Each of them hosts festivals and celebrations (odalan) at least twice a year, according to local calendars, the Wuku or Pawukon of 210 days, totally asynchronous to the Western calendar, and the Saka, the lunar calendar, which is similar to the Western one.
Another occasion for celebrating is the funeral ceremony (pitra yadnya), where dead people are cremated with colorful rituals. The Galungan is instead a festival that lasts 10 days, celebrated every 210 days, to commemorate the death of the tyrant Mayadenawa. On this occasion, it is believed that ancestors and gods visit the earth, and therefore are greeted with gifts scattered along the streets. The recurrence of the Nyepi is also curious, the Hindu celebration of the New Year, also called "day of silence", which is held in March or April. If you are on holiday in Bali in conjunction with this feast, so dear to the Balinese, you will see the streets crowded with colorful giant called ogoh ogoh, parading through the streets on the eve of Nyepi. During this festival, all services are closed from 6 am until 6 am of the next morning. Tourists are asked to be quiet and you cannot go to the beach nor in the streets. Even the airport is closed for the whole day.
The reason for this lies in the meaning of this feast: on this day the Balinese make fun of evil spirits, pretending that there is no one on the island. The gods, deceived by the silence, will go in search of victims to hit elsewhere, at least for another year. But the Nyepi also serves to remind the Balinese of the importance of tolerance, understanding and respect for others.
On holiday in Bali: what to do
During a holiday in Bali the Hindu culture and traditions will leave you speechless and certainly constitute an added value to your trip. In addition to the fabulous beaches, where you can leave the cares and worries of the gray city life behind, you will find lively and interesting festivals and shopping opportunities. Temples are another great attraction of Bali island, giving you the opportunity to attend local ceremonies.
Bali is also a paradise for lovers of spas and hot springs. One of the most famous is Air Banjar, in the north coast near Lovina: here thermal water gushing from cracks in the rocks form hot pools sorrounded by fabulous gardens. On the shores of Lake Batur, set in the eastern mountains, there is also Toya Bungkah.
In Bali's spas you can also enjoy all kinds of massages. There is body massage, lulur, practiced with herbs and spices, usually before a wedding, one of the best known. Unlike elsewhere, the true Balinese massage has a very low cost and you should take advantage of its convenience and benefits. Another very pleasant popular massage is the creambath for head and shoulders, carried out using the soothing balm. The tourists then appreciate the so-called fish spa, where small fish eat the dead skin of the feet and hands.
But in addition to massages, Bali also features many yoga centers, with lessons for beginners and beyond. The best ones are in the area of Ubud and Seminyak. Finally, if during your tour in Bali you run into a local wedding, do not miss the opportunity to witness, because it is a unique spectacle.