We hired a private driver for the day—a random local hanging out by our hotel. With a great sense of humor and excellent English, we learned a lot about the real Bali. He agreed, Bali is building too many resorts and exploiting too much tourism, American politics is just, well, insane, and McDonald’s is gross. So, first stop: Nusa Duo beach. We managed to acquire a slight sunburn and partial tan but more importantly, the ocean was calm and off to the east, a beautiful temple on a cliff. After grabbing some lunch at a local beachfront seafood café (splitting our meal due to cost) we headed off to the Cultural Park to view Bali’s largest statue. Several, what seemed to be, high school students, who did not speak English, wanted their photo with us. We must look American? Moving on, after grabbing some bananas at a market, we headed to the one of Bali’s oldest temples. Resting on the coast of the Indian Ocean, the Pura Luhur (Uluwatu) Temple sits on a cliff, 250 feet above water. It is best viewed at sunset and that is exactly what we did. After being fitted with a sarong and managing to dodge the mean monkeys, we made our way to the top of the cliff to view the temple. The views were incredible and Michael has the photos to prove it. And by mean monkeys, I mean, mean. These monkeys have adapted over the years with tourists. They steal anything they can get their little hairy hands on, such as eyeglasses, hats and cameras. We were lucky enough to witness their intelligent scam. As a monkey stole a pair of eyeglasses right off a man’s face, a Balinese woman bribed the monkey with fruit. As the monkey gathered the fruit, he finally surrendered the eyeglasses to the woman. As she handed them to the man, she asked for money.
As the sun began to set we headed to a stage, where a traditional Kecak and Fire Dance was to be performed. The dance was beautiful. The story behind it and the chanting men are unexplainable and my best advice is that you must see at least one of Bali’s greatest dances in your lifetime. I apologize but my own explanation of the dance will not do it justice. Photos to come.
I almost forgot… on our way to Uluwatu, as traffic commenced congestion, we asked our driver what was going on in the street, “they are freeing someone,” he said. Michael and I looked at each other confused. After passing hundreds of people walking past our car in the street, we witnessed the elevated casket and realized we were a part of a traditional Balinese funeral. What our driver meant by freeing someone was just that. The Balinese believe that death itself is not the end of all matters but instead a new beginning. The soul must be freed for its journey into the next life, or existence. It is believed that failure to free the soul (roh) will result in the soul becoming a ghost causing havoc amongst the village. It is also believed that the soul cannot be freed as long as there is a body thus the destroying of the corpse by the elements of water, fire and earth is essential, i.e. cremation. Hours later, we made our way back to our hotel, driving past a traditional Muslim wedding.
Photo: Traditional Balinese Offerings | these are found everywhere you walk, every doorstep you encounter, new ones are put out each day by the local Balinese people – photo taken on the steps of the Bali Bombing Memorial of 2002