I’ve found it rather difficult to begin describing why Bali has such a special place in my heart.
Starting with the art: The sculptures and details present in the art and temples definitely appeal to my aesthetic. Very clean, repetitive, balanced and expressive.
Unlike the rest of predominantly Muslim Indonesia, Bali is mostly Hindu and practices the Agama Hindu Dharma belief system, which gives the island a unique flavor.
What I found most fascinating is the infrastructure around building, maintaining and use of the tens of thousand temples on this island. You can see them being built, maintained and destroyed, there are even numbers of shops that specialize in making just one specialized component for temples. I found myself especially curious about the social hierarchy within the temples but wasn’t in Bali long enough to really get the downlow on that.
The way I understand it, every place has it’s own temple for the spirit of that place. Every house, market and even beaches have their shrine to make offerings. On a larger scale the Banjars or tribal neighborhoods have temples too. Larger still, districts and towns also have their own. I was told all the temples are interconnected and all point towards Besakih, the mother temple, which is literally the highest temple as it’s as far up the southern slope of volcanic Mount Agung as one would dare to build. The idea of the interconnection of all levels of temples reminds me of the buddhist/hindu metaphor of Indras’ Net, which completely transformed the way I see Bali as I sped through it on motorbike. I don’t know if this is accurate from the Balinese point of view but I found it enjoyable to entertain the idea.
I think what I found most beautiful was how inseparable the Hindu belief system was from the social fabric of peoples everyday lives. People placing offerings in their house temples and in the middle of the street is a common sight, less often but still frequently there are many different types of ceremonies.
Funnily enough, I’ll admit to reading Elizabeth Gilberts Eat Pray Love, and the picture I had of Bali was nothing like I imagined from her writing. Where was the mention of lack of basic infrastructure, burning trash piles, the confusion of the roads? Oh well. I still love her, if only for her impeccable TED talk on creativity.
A week and a half wasn’t nearly long enough and I’m already planning a longer trip to explore more.
I purchased a new camera (Canon 7D, yall!) just for this trip and settled on a kit consisting of a ultra-wide 10-22mm, a fixed focus 50mm and a macro lens. This is my first proper usage of the wide-angle at 10mm. Be sure to check some of these photos out at a higher resolution – the detail is astounding!
One of the things I’d heard about Balinese beliefs was that the reason there are so many demons is that it’s better to have your demons on the outside and to face them daily rather than hiding them inside. I agree! This also takes them out of the realm of something to be avoided at all costs and makes it another aspect of life.
Of course the swimming and surfing is supreme, doubly so when it’s just one epic sunset after another. In the distance of this photo above you can see my host/ friend Philip and sons playing in the surf with Gocha the dog.
Above: A fishing village on the coast near Changgu. I was hoping to make it out one sunrise to catch the fishermen leaving for the day, but the main discouraging factor was that I would have to sludge my way through a couple muddy creeks to get there and if theres one thing im squeemish about… its water and mud in the morning.
Above: this is an inlet on the island of Nusa Penida, the coast of which has excellent snorkeling and diving. This was after our trip to swim with Manta rays with a 10′ wingspan. In the photo you can a women raking all the seaweed shes harvested and drying in the sun. tasty!
Goa Gajah or The elephant cave: This is an old ruin. Inside is a very simple T shaped cave carved out of the rock where monks and masters would go to meditate.
View the rest of my Bali Photos on Flickr