Lesser Sunda Islands: Bali, Indonesia

In a village temple in Gyaniar, Bali.

The cultural landscape of Bali in Indonesia is largely shaped by the traditional belief systems of its locals. Tri Hita Karana — roughly translated into English as “the three causes of prosperity” – is a philosophy that governs and guides the daily lives and attitudes of Balinese. This unique concept puts premium to the universal respect of and observance to the three domains of the world: the divine (Gods), the universe (nature), and the domain of the people (human beings). This doctrine is said to be best illustrated during many special ceremonies, the most common of which would be the various acts of worshiping.

In this article, I am sharing what I believe is the easiest demonstration and most obvious material cultural manifestation of the practice of the rather difficult to understand concept of Tri Hita Karana:

The realm of the divine. Worships and offerings made inside public temples (major temples such as the sea temples, water temples, the directional temples, and village temples) are dedicated to the gods who created life, and nature and all of its gifts.

Balinese Hindu attending a ceremony in the monastery of Gunung Kawi in the subak landscape of the Pakerisan watershed.
Balinese Hindu villagers attending a ceremony in the monastery of Candi Gunung Kawi in the subak landscape of the Pakerisan watershed.
Locals and some converts  are making their pilgrimage in Tirta Empul, the source of holy water that flows out to the waterways and irrigation systems in Tampak Siring area.
Locals and some converts are making their pilgrimage in the sacred Pura Tirta Empul, the source of holy water that flows out to the waterways and irrigation systems in Tampaksiring.

 

The realm of universe. Offerings made outdoors (streets, parks, rice fields and the like) are exponents of worships to nature, the domain that sustains and supports the needs and activities of humans.

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Bantens, the traditional offerings in Bali, scattered on the walkways in Ubud. This one was seen on the way to Sari Organik, a restaurant in the middle of the rice paddies in Central Bali.
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These offerings were made in an irrigation canal of one of the subak systems in Gianyar, a regency northeast of Ubud.

 

The realm of human beings. Worships and offerings made inside clan temples, home temples and shrines, or even inside cars and houses are dedicated to the people who have the moral duties to establish traditional communities,  erect temples in which to worship and hold ceremonies such as daily offerings, and preserve nature and all its contents.

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A Balinese Hindu casually making an evening offering before a family temple inside his home compound in Kuta.

 

Tri Hita Karana is also the single most important backbone of Bali’s inclusion to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Several keys sites in the island were collectively inscribed  in 2012 as the “Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philososphy”. 

Lisa and George in July 2012 leaving Los Angeles to begin an adventure in Asia
Lisa and George in July 2012 leaving Los Angeles to begin an adventure in Asia

One year ago on July 1, 2012, George and I stepped on a plane to Bali to continue a journey from before we were married. In 2008-2009, we took a sabbatical in Asia. While we were away, I lost nearly sixty pounds; we got engaged underwater in Koh Lipe, Thailand and visited twelve countries in eleven months. It was truly life changing.

After our wedding at Casa Del Mar, where we had our first date after meeting online, we began to plan our next long adventure. In June 2010, we started our first blog and thought about a return to Asia. On July 1, 2012, we left! What a year it has been.

Thank you to everyone who has followed our travels through Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Nepal and back to Thailand. Our YouTube channel is now nearly 100,000 views with over one hundred videos and more to come. You have followed us on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, SlideShare, Twitter, and  YouTube.

We are planning for a wonderful next phase of travels and look forward to sharing them all with you. My parents took a cruise to Iceland in June to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary; my sister and her husband are on a cruise in July to the Baltic for their twentieth wedding anniversary. Maybe we will go sailing to Antarctica or the Galapagos for our next anniversary.

Wherever we go, we look forward to sharing our stories with you. Our summer 2013 Independence Travel Writing Contest is still open! Participate by writing about where you find freedom! Vagabonds from all over our planet have entered with wild tales from nearly every continent.

News from us one year ago:

Our Year Adventure Begins: Three Flights to Bali, Indonesia from Los Angeles, California

What a trip! Three flights from Los Angeles to Bali; with the help of modern chemistry we slept through most of the first 12-hour flight from LAX to PEK. I think I slept nearly 10 hours. I even fell asleep before we took off. Our flight was at 1:40am July 2nd. My cousins, Eric and Krystie, who just moved to Los Angeles on the day before we left, took us to dinner and from there to the airport. We passed Air China in Terminal 2 at Los Angeles Airport because we were so sure we would leave from Terminal 4 the Tom Bradley International Terminal — but we were wrong. Luckily together our two big packs aren’t so heavy– so schlepping back to the other terminal was not too painful. One of the TSA men commented on how most people pay extra so that each of their bags can be over the fifty-pound weight limit yet together we have less than one person might have.  All in all, the Los Angeles airport is an embarrassment compared to other countries’ international hubs.

We marveled at how modern, big and spacious the Beijing airport felt. Not like LAX.  We went through immigration and on the tram to pick up our next two boarding passes. Honestly it was a bit confusing but we survived and we got help from a few officials. The tram and all the other signs were in English and Chinese; we really did not think we had to go through immigration as we were in transit and had no visa. We found a Starbucks had a snack and wandered about until our next flight. We could not log in to the “free Wifi” but we did not have much to say yet to anyone back home anyway.

 

 

 

Thank you to Andrea from Inspiring Travellers for posting my article about TOP SNORKEL SITES in Northern Bali!

 

The article begins: Snorkeling and scuba diving are two of my favorite adventures to experience while traveling. Having been to over 100 countries, I have had ample opportunity to see amazing sites underwater. When I say that the snorkeling in Northern Bali has been incredible, I am saying it with some knowledge of various sites around the planet.

When we arrived in Bali on July 3, 2012, I imagined we would stay a few days in the Kuta area and be off to snorkel the Toggian Islands of Sulawesi, a spot I really wanted to see. For a variety of reasons including health, religion and technological dramas, we have been here the entire time. And when I heard it was Ramadan, I knew it would be better to stay in Bali (98% Hindu), rather than any other part of Indonesia (98% Moslem). I traveled in Oman once during Ramadan and did that trip from a cruise ship where we could easily eat breakfast and dinner without upsetting anyone’s religious observances.

Staying on the island of Bali has been a wonderful choice. So far we have spent seven nights in Tulamben and ten nights in Amed at several very different hotels. What has been consistent is the great snorkeling.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE: CLICK HERE

Thank you to National Geographic for posting my article on the Royal Cremation in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia!

The article begins:

By Lisa Niver Rajna

To kick off our year-long trek through Southeast Asia, my husband and I spent two months exploring the Indonesian island of Bali with no set itinerary. While in the town of Ubud, home of the Balinese royal family, we saw that the Puri Agung Ubud were building a bade (cremation tower) and an enormous twenty-foot papier-mâché bull for a cremation ceremony for Prince Tjokorda Putra Dharma Yudha, so we decided to attend.

Johnny, a dive master and member of the local band, T-WRECK, told us we were lucky (b-ungtung in Balinese) to see such a large ceremony — or to see one at all. The last royal cremation occurred two years ago. Many of the locals we befriended in the diving meccas of Amed and Tulamben explained that they could not afford to attend but would have loved to join us on the big day.

Click here to read the full article.

Video: Bali to Thailand on Air Asia
Our two months in Indonesia went almost as quickly as this video of the flight from Bali to Phuket, Thailand on Air Asia! The islands of both countries are so beautiful. We spent July-August 2012 in Bali and Lombok, Indonesia and September 2012 in Thailand. Our stories, photos and videos of both countries, the beginning of our year trip in South East Asia are available at http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/ In October 2012, we were off to Myanmar. Where will we go next? We are not sure yet but likely we will fly on Air Asia. They have great flights at fantastic prices!

This movie is from our two-month stay in Bali and Lombok, Indonesia (July & August 2012) and our year TRIP in South East Asia, see all the videos from our trip.

August 31, 2012

 

 


I really loved the ocean temple of Tanalot. We were there on August 30, 2012 with many locals who were enjoying the spirit and sea air. At times, you cannot walk up to the temple due to the sea conditions. It is the first temple I have even been to that had a lifebuoy nearby!

We were there during the Balinese festival of Galungan which celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma. There were penjor- bamboo poles or towers with ceremonial offerings at the ends. During this time, the spirits of the ancestors visit Earth and return to their former homes, descendants are meant to be hospitable by making offerings. This holiday happens twice a year on a 210 day Balinese calendar.

This movie is from our two-month stay in Bali and Lombok, Indonesia (July & August 2012) and our year TRIP in South East Asia, see all the videos from our trip.

 

We left Southern Bali and returned to Kuta for the Balinese festival of Galungan which celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma on August 29, 2012. There were penjor- bamboo poles or towers with ceremonial offerings at the ends and people worshiping on the streets and in the traffic circles. During this time, the spirits of the ancestors visit Earth and return to their former homes, descendants are meant to be hospitable by making offerings. This holiday happens twice a year on a 210 day Balinese calendar.

This movie is from our two-month stay in Bali and Lombok, Indonesia (July & August 2012) and our year TRIP in South East Asia, see all the videos from our trip. August 30, 2012

During our stay in Southern Bali at Bingin Beach, we rented motorbikes to visit the famous cliff temple of Uluwatu. Some of the hills are steep but the road is basically good. The views are incredible and we were there the day before the start of the festival, Galungan. The surfers at Uluwatu Beach were impressive and the water was crystal clear. While I enjoyed our five days in Southern Bali, I am not sure I can recommend this area over Amed unless you are a surfer. For me, I would rather be in Amed for great snorkeling but maybe a day trip to Uluwatu from Kuta would have been enough for us.

August 28, 2012

Video: Uluwatu Temple Bali

This movie is from our two-month stay in Bali and Lombok, Indonesia (July & August 2012) and our year TRIP in South East Asia, see all the videos from our trip.

Sitting at We Be Cafe for lunch in Gili Meno
Sitting at We Be Cafe for lunch in Gili Meno

Fifteen Hours of Transport: Better than a day at work? This day I really wondered!

Some days on the road are post card perfect and some are full of transportation!

I was so sad to leave Gili Garden Bungalows on Gili Meno. After staying there for a week, I felt all moved in, if only there was a shelf or cabinet or anywhere to put my things. The snorkeling was so wonderful and the location and price so great ($20usd with breakfast), I did not care about all my things being on the floor. It was a turtle  party nearly every time we entered the ocean seeing five, six, eight turtles on each turn in the water.

We got up on our last morning before seven am to walk the half an hour to the other side of the island and catch the eight am once a day public boat to Bangsal. It was 10,000Rp ($1usd) per person to take this boat. A private charter was much more expensive and we decided starting the day early was smart. In the harbor, we ignored the touts and walked to the area after the cidomo horse carts, searching for group transport to Lembar for the ferry to Bali. We were skipping the speedy and expensive Gili Cat which runs about $45 per person in favor of the slow local transport.

For 60,000Rp each (about $6usd), we could take the public bus which was really just a van at nine-fifteen am. At nine-thirty am, they loaded about twelve of us into a van and dropped off a few in Senggigi, Mataram and then transferred us to another van to get to Lembar. We arrived at eleven-thirty am for the noon ferry, quickly grabbing nasi goring for 10,000rp each as part of the change for our two 36,000Rp ($4usd) tickets to travel for five hours from Lombok to Bali.

The locals basically shooed all the foreigners to the top deck of the ferry boat. While we were happy to be away from the incessant smoking, we were roasting in the sun with no likehood of respite for five more hours. With a sarong tied to the railing and our trusty umbrella we created a bit of our own shade to rest under. When we were within sight of the port and just about twenty minutes away from shore, the ferry stopped for nearly forty minutes. By then, it had been nearly ten hours since we left Gili Garden, and I was ready for dry land.

We could have stopped the madness and stayed in Padangbai for the night. I knew we wanted to be in Kuta before we went south to Bukit Pennisula as we had some errands to take care of in the big city. We walked to Perama and a bus was leaving that second for Kuta and Ubud. I said, “We are here. It is cooler to take the bus at night and less traffic.” So after George raced to the bathroom and they found us two seats, we were off. For another 60,000Rp each, we traveled nearly the length of Bali to arrive in severe traffic in Kuta. It was so bad, they just stopped the bus and said, “Go that way. If we drive it will take another hour or more.”

Since we had no idea we would travel all the way to Kuta in one day, we had no plan for a hotel for the evening. After seeing many poor choices which had either dirty sheets, stuffy rooms, terrible value for money or other problems, we stumbled into the Amazing Hotel on Poppies II at nearly ten in the evening. After a quick refreshing shower, we went out for dinner.

I was glad when we awoke the next day in Kuta ready to take care of business. It had been a long travel day but it was either going to be expensive in time or money to get from the Gilis to Kuta and since we are away for so long, we chose TIME! More about our day solving problems in Kuta soon.

August 25, 20

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