Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

 

I consider myself more of a traveller than a visitor in search of beautiful beaches or food, so I had to have a second look at Bali in order to become convinced it was worth spending time on the island. After the initial fight through the hordes of tourists and taxi touts, I was lucky to be introduced to the Balinese people and that forced me into a rethink.


To my surprise the islanders are still hanging on rigid Hindi social structure of caste system and land is a binding point between them. The social obligations attached to the island’s many rituals takes much of their free time and out of seven days, perhaps four will be dedicated to important gatherings, which all are requested to attend.


The rites of funerals and weddings are two of the more obvious rituals, but the dedication of people to the veneration of the divine and their particular gods were interlinked in their daily lives, starting from the offerings in early mornings and the superstitious beliefs that rule the dos and don'ts in daily life.


The old traditional caste values apparently did get shaken and coincided with the eruption of the Mount Agung volcano in 1960s. An upsurgent Indonesian Communist Party demanded land reform,  but the upper caste Indonesian Nationalist Party landlords led the extermination of almost 80,000 Balinese communist supporters.


Still, even the hardened heart of a seasoned traveller in the end couldn't resist the green rice fields harvested several times a year, the elegance of the architecture, the tenacity of women making their daily offerings, and the beauty of the gardens, wildlife and gamelan music.


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