Scary monsters in Bali: prepare for Ogoh Ogoh....

by Maarten Rol

April 6, 2015
As Komang and I traveled from seaside Cucukan to the highlands of Tabanan, we enjoyed the spectacle along the streets of many new locally crafted statues on a skilfully made bamboo foundation. We didn't count the statues, but my guess is that we have seen between fifty and hundred of them. These statues are made for the local so called Ogoh Ogoh parades, which have become part of the Balinese New Year Nyepi festivities since around 1980.

Made by the enthusiastic people of Bali, these statues have also become a competition: who can make the most beautiful, scary and fearsome one? They are by no means small, from 3 meters high till around more than 5 meters. In the village Ketewel we saw a lying dragon that must even have been around 20 meters long.
Some time ago I have had the pleasure to help carrying one on a special Ogoh-Ogoh parade in Brussels in Belgium. Well, when you are in need of a workout, I can really recommend participating.

Ogoh Ogoh statue with a dragon High Ogoh Ogoh statue High Ogoh Ogoh statue detail

These statues are veritable pieces of art, but they make traveling around Bali on the day before Nyepi a little bit difficult, as they are placed in the streets. Bali is at times a pretty crowded place, so that everyone has to suffer the 'machèts', the traffic jams, but traveling around the island the day before Nyepi is every now and then really a bit of challenge. As we passed a particular beautiful one, we honked the horn of our car. The people around the statue looked up to see who was the impatient one, but when they saw it was done for giving a thumbs-up for their statue, we received a broad and warm smile.

In the evening when it has become dark the statues are picked up by the local young men and around them the young women will be carrying the 'Obor', lit torches. With a lot of shouting, running forward and backward and rotating the statues two or three times at every crossroads or junction, the statues are carried around the village in order to make the bad spirits so scared that they will stay away for the rest of the year. And if you see the statues in the flickering lights of torches, you can imagine they are a scary sight to see in the dark!

Afterwards a few of them will be kept for some time after Nyepi, but most of the statues are burned straight after the parade. That may seem a pity, but they are difficult to be kept nice and beautiful and well.... there will be a new year with a new competition in the beginning of 2016 of course!
For those who would like to see this wonderful spectacle and experience the truly amazing Nyepi: a lot of our villas come with a discount for the weeks around Nyepi, like this year Villa Samaki in Ubud. So keep that in mind if you are thinking of going to Bali!

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Nyepi, the Day of Silence, when the island Bali has come to a complete shutdown. A day of reflection and quiet.

by Maarten Rol

March 30, 2015
Last week we were in Bali, and witnessed Nyepi, the "Day of silence". A day for which a lot of tourists leave the island, as they are not free to go where the would like to.
From 6 AM in the morning till 6AM the next day all the Balinese people stay inside. The airport Ngurah Rai is completely closed during that period, not a single airplane goes in or out, as are all the ports. The streets are empty and the only sounds you will hear are the sounds of nature. Or maybe only an ambulance for those who really need to go to the hospital.

In my opinion the people who leave the island miss a lot. It is a day to completely wind down and if you are in a villa like us, you are being well taken care of. Also it is possible to move around, as long as you do not leave the villa grounds.
When it has become dark it is even more special: because of the lack of light from the island, you can witness the sky in a way that is normally only possible in very remote and uninhabited places in the world. An unbelievable carpet of stars was shown. Truly a feast for the eyes!

It is also a day of self-reflection. And, as Komang says, something really keen of the Balinese people. The majority do not have a holiday, but on a day like this they will be able to relax. It would be a good thing to have this in our western world, but I realize very well it is totally impossible. It reminds me a little bit of the days of fuel shortage in the seventies, when no cars were allowed to drive on Sundays in The Netherlands.
The peace and quiet on Bali during Nyepi is guarded by the village police in their traditional clothing, the 'pecalang'. If a tourist tries to sneak out into the streets, he will be friendly but decisively escorted back inside.

And the day before Nyepi, as we traveled from the coast (villa l'Orange in Cucukan) to the highlands of Tabanan to Komang's birth village Desa Apuan in Tinungan, we witnessed the many sculptures that had been specially made for the Ogoh-Ogoh parades. But more about that in a next post, together with some pictures we took.

This weekend have we put some discount prizes on our website for Villa Damai Manis and Villa Puri Temple. Two nice villas we checked out last October and that we can really recommend, each with its own qualities!

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