June 25, 2007

Mystical island

Ubud is the heart of Bali where Balinese culture and tradition beats strongest; and Jl Raya Ubud (Ubud main rd.) is its main artery. Our bungalows were conveniently located on this road, just a hop, skip and a jump away from everything. After we checked in, we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring our little neighborhood. And what interesting neighbors we found!

art gallery

Jl Raya is dotted with bookshops, cafes and money changers but the sidewalks are dominated by art galleries on both sides. The entire village seems to generate creative energy. Paintings spill out onto sidewalks as vibrant testaments to local talent and men, women and children alike are seen everywhere honing their craft, drawing their inspiration from the beauty of their surroundings.

I was intrigued mostly by the intricacy of Balinese architecture, specifically temple architecture. The split gate or candi bentar became an increasingly familiar site. We had seen many of them during our ride from the airport and then now again on this main road. The gates, such as those of the Pura Desa temple below, seemed to beckon to us to pass through and discover what lies beyond. The split gates represent the two halves of a mountain, a symbol of holiness, and symbolising the splitting of the universe.

Pura Desa temple

Pura Desa temple on Jl Raya with it's split gate

Gusti, our driver/guide/bodyguard (against naughty monkeys) explained to us that every village has at least three temples- one each for Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer, and that every family, clan or organization has one as well. It is no wonder then that Bali is called the land of a thousand temples.

We found the Balinese to be an extremely spiritual people; Hindu practices and spirit worship combine and make for a life that is wrapped up in the performance of rituals, sacred dances and festivals as well as meditation and prayer. With their unique version of Hinduism comes a strong belief in karma and to this I attribute the kindness and generosity they showered on us from the onset and all throughout our time on the island. Their awesome attitude was just astounding!


Even more ubiquitous than the split gates are the offerings. They come in many forms, simple ones made with colorful flowers or rice to appease the demons or bigger and more elaborate ones with fruit and other food reserved only for the gods. We found them outside our bungalow each morning, on the sidewalk by the restaurant next door, on the dashboard of Gusti's car and in the middle of the rice fields.


typical simple offering to appease the demons


more elaborate offerings for the gods

We considered ourselves very fortunate to witness two colorful processions in which the remains of a deceased on a decorated cremation tower are carried by pallbearers to the cremation grounds. To the Balinese, death is a joyous occasion as it frees the mortal soul until it is reincarnated in another form.



Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

What a great post. As always it is a pleasure to share your travels!

ScroochChronicles said...

Hi Christine..Ubud looks like a very interesting place to visit. Its nice to go see places that are steeped in culture. Lots of things to see and learn. Great!!

Jen Tan said...

Christine!!!!!!!! I'm goin to BAli on Sept to attend a friend's wedding----your post got me more excited!!!! =)

christine said...

Thanks Lydia. :)

Hi Scrooch, Ubud is super interesting. Unfortunately most people who go to Bali hardly even visit Ubud and prefer to stay along the coast. They don't realize how much they're missing. I want to go back and immerse myself even more in the culture someday. :)

Jen how great for you! Where is the wedding? Please make sure Ubud is in your itinerary. I'll be posting more in the next few days to get you more excited. :)

Happy said...

Really good read! Here you can read more about other mysterious places:)

christine said...

Thank you, Happy! And thanks for the link, I'll check it out now. :)