Dance is a major part of the cultural attraction of Ubud. The most famous are the Barong, Kecak, Fire, and Legong. Performances for each of them are held regularly throughout Ubud and no visit would be complete without an introduction to stories behind these traditional dances.
The Barong dance is a reenactment of good versus evil and depending on where it is performed the degree of violence is adjusted. Basically it is the story of Rangda, the mother of the King of Bali in the tenth century. She was condemned by her husband because of her practice of black magic.
She longed for her son and went about summoning all the evil spirits to bring him to her.
Barong is required to protect the son and so begins the battle of good versus evil.
Rangda casts a spell that makes Barong’s soldiers want to kill themselves by pointing their poisoned keris (knives) into their own stomachs and chests. Barong, in turn, casts a spell that makes their bodies resistant to the dagger.
The battle rages on in perpetuity however the dance ends with good restoring balance; this, as we all know, is temporary. Continue reading Ubud’s Story of Dance
I decided yesterday that today was going to be a day where I put work and stress (OK you can chuckle if you want) to one side and take part in some of the non-cultural aspects that make the town of Ubud famous.
It’s difficult being here and not getting caught up in the spirituality of Ubud. Despite the fact that “Eat, Pray, Love” can be watched, read, or toured doesn’t dilute the fact that Ubud is the cultural, spiritual, and artistic center of Bali. It is also the seat of the royal family and as such, Ubud seems to exude a certain sophisticated charisma not found elsewhere.
If you can imagine a jungle setting (coconut trees, banana trees, orchids, lilies etc) and then place a river through it…not an Amazonian river but more of a wide meandering creek.
Then add some thatched roofed huts, stone walkways with bright white shells embedded in the shapes of flowers and fish, birds chirping, koi splashing, natural peace and quiet, and then a thunderstorm with raindrops as big as grapes. You now have the perfect setting for a day at the spa with massage, some royal treatment, and complete relaxation.
You may think I’m over-selling it but believe me it’s all true. I have photos!
The Ubud Sari has been around since 1996 and is one of the original Balinese Health Resorts in Ubud. It sits at the end of a very famous road called Jalan Kajeng. The road is famous Continue reading Treated Like Royalty in Ubud
A decade ago I was privileged to come across a village on the coast of eastern Bali that was preparing to enter into a period of ceremony and celebration. I decided to stay. What unfolded was a ceremony, attended overwhelmingly by locals, that would stick with me forever. The images of those days I can recall with clarity and remain vivid in my mind.
This was not a ceremony dictated by the whim of tourists but rather by the lunar calendar to which many Balinese ceremonies and festivals adhere. The fight scenes depicted in the dances of good and evil were tense and produced blood. All the local women removed themselves from the final scenes so as to prevent any adverse affects by the upcoming release of evil. Men became consumed by trance while others forced them to the ground. Ceremonial chickens were slaughtered and holy water was used to douse the bad energy. The ceremony was interesting, unique, and shocking.
I have never seen another one quite as intense.
As the evening a decade ago, began, I was still unaware of the events about to unfold. Usually this sleepy village has little to no activity in the evening bar the occasional cluster of children taking advantage of the sea’s cooling waters at the village doorstep.
Tonight was different.
All around locals were dressed in their finest batik sarongs, cotton kebaya’s or shirts, and matching headdress. There was an excitement in the air. Continue reading Privileged Witness of Balinese Trance
I have been coming to a trifecta of beaches in a little town called Padang Bai for quite a few years now. It has always been my place of refuge when absolute relaxation, peace of mind, and beauty were all I was after. Unlike other places in Bali, Padang Bai has remained in an almost static state for as long as I can remember. It is not a destination town but more a thorough-fare for those transiting to other islands. Fortunately the secrets of Padang Bai had remained just that. On this return visit I was hoping for the same but had my doubts that reality would not live up to my expectations.
Continue reading Bali’s Three Little Secrets
Crossing over the channel from Java and onto the island of Bali, the crown jewel in the Indonesia archipelago, is an odd experience. I left the town of Malang six hours earlier on a bus that spluttered to life. With a recoil of black smoke we were on our way; it was the middle of the night.
I don’t remember arriving at the docks and I don’t remember the bus being loaded onto the ferry. I was sound asleep. What I do remember is waking to the jolt of it re-establishing its foothold on terra firma.
It reminded me of the days of the Dover to Zeebrugge ferry crossing between England and Europe. Upon arrival you were in a different country. Exiting the bus was mandatory as you had to go through customs and immigration.
Arriving in Bali was similar in the fact that everyone had to disembark, lineup, and go through a passport control of sorts. Continue reading Bali, Island of the Gods