Bali – The Island of Gods

Bali - 48Bali is one amongst the thousand islands that build Indonesia and, probably, the most visited, most famous and traditional in the country. It’s also the only one where the Hindu religion reigns (the rest of the country is mostly Muslim) and where we are able to live spirituality in its purest essence.

Obviously anyone who watched Eat, Pray, Love has the dream to visit Bali, but some say this Island, named Island of Gods, was much more interesting before the famous movie!

If it was or not, I don’t no, but it is divine, I can absolutely assure you that!

Bali - 83Ubud Palace

A bit of History

The origin of the word Bali, derives from Wali, and it has a connection with spirituality, the Island was baptized with that name in the IX century. Wali was the term the natives used for adoration, they venerated their Gods a lot. Wali means sacrifice offered to God (adoration, cult or offering).

Bali was populated before the Bronze Age, around 3000 a.C., but the stone registries dating from the IX century are the oldest human records found in the island.

The culture of Bali was always the rice cultivation and the rituals.

When the Indian traders got lost in the Indian Ocean and arrived to the Island they introduced Hinduism in Bali, Java and other islands of Indonesia.

Bali - 70 Rice fields in Tegalalang

Already in the XI century in the Island of Java, people fought to win their lost kingdom to King Airlanga. During the fight, the king’s mother ran to Bali, introducing the language from Java, called kavi. The kavi was used in Bali by the royalty. The proof of its usage are the carved rocks we can find in the majestic temple of Gunung Kawi in Ubud.

After the XIII century, several dynasties form Java ruled Bali.

Islam came to Java in 1478. But people resisted to change their beliefs and a great part took refuge in Bali.

However, the Portuguese (yes, us, who once ruled the world!) may have been the first to set there, when in 1585 a portuguese ship shipwrecked in the coast of Bukit and they started serving the local royalty of Bali, the Dewa Agung.

In the mean time, after 12 years, the reign moved from the Potuguese domain to the Dutch. By that time they established an important warehouse of the Dutch East India Company and the Balinese were forced to work in the plantations.

Nowadays Bali belongs to Indonesia, which is independent since World War II.

It has a geographical location of great value, being of great importance for trade from the early start, its history was influenced by other cultures, costumes and religions, but the Hindu prevailed and that’s noticeable in its spiritual and serene environment.

Being located on top of three tectonic plates, it’s an area subject to a series of natural disasters, like earthquakes, tsunamis and vulcanic activity, and is also subject of terrorist attacks, like the one in 2002 that ended 180 lifes.

Bali - 27What to pack for Bali 

Clothes: comfortable and fresh are the key words! Heat and humidity are strongly felt all year! In the rainy season (between October and March) take a rain coat – we went in February and although not having caught a lot of rain, it was pretty useful in one of the afternoons.

At the temples, the ideal is for the ladies to take long skirts, or pants, out of respect; you can always do like me and buy one of the beautiful Sarongs (traditional Balinese clothing). Even if you arrive at the temple without that type of clothes someone at the entrance will give you what you need to enter.

Pharmaceuticals: gastric protector, anti-diarrheal , anti-inflammatory, analgesic , anti-histamine , anti-spasmodic for stomach pain, and a broad-spectrum antibiotic, like Clavamox. Not forgetting, of course, our friend, Gurosan! This medication may be very important because the gastronomy is quite different from the European, more spices, different ingredients that while we may enjoy a lot, we can have a bad reaction to, mostly if it’s your first trip to Asia!

First-aid kit: Take band-aids, for the blisters on your feet caused by walking too much, saline, some gauze and adhesive, so any small wound you have you’re able to clean and apply a small bandage.

Essentials: repellent and sunscreen lotion.

Bali - 14

Important informations when travelling to Bali

Official language: Balinese (they understand English relatively well)

Currency: Indonesian Rupiah – 1€ = 14 810,42 IDR (I had several millions in my hands for the first time in my life, and probably for the last!)

Climate: quite warm throughout the year (25 to 35 ºC, the rainiest periods are from October to March – we went in late February and it went well, we had rain in one afternoon).

Vaccination: we took the Hepatitis A (For Portuguese)

Passport: As usual, the presentation of a passport with 6-month validity is mandatory.

Visa: We don’t need a visa (Portugal), unless you want to stay more than 90 days. At the arrivals in the airport there’s an help desk that’ll inform you if you need one.

How to get there: We flew, as usual, with Emirates. Porto-Lisbon (TAP); Lisbon-Dubai; Dubai-Singapore (Changi Airport) – in a total of 17 hours flight, not counting the scales. We spent 4 days in Singapore, and then flew with AirAsia to Ngurah Rai’s airport in Denpasar – Bali.

It’s easy to find travels from any major city, once all the big companies fly to Bali, or have scales that take us to Denpasar.

From Brazil it’s easy to get flights with Emirates,  United and Etihad.

Time zone: + 8h (in comparison with Portugal)

Bali - 25

Transportation: Taxis aren’t expensive and take you everywhere, but they rarely have taximeter! Negotiate the prices! Moreover, everything is negotiable in Bali! The roads are quite rudimentary, and the closest place easily becomes far far away. The best option we found was the services of a private driver, good prices, easily getting you everywhere.

Renting a motorcycle is one of the best options to go around the Island, although in our case we opted to always have a driver/guide once we didn’t have many time to explore the Island on our own.

Concerning drivers and guides, there are hundreds of companies and guides with pre-planned visiting plans, or one created to your taste, in order to visit what you want (it was our option). We paid 500k IDR for around 6 hours of visit. A full day (around 10 hours) is around 700k IDR, depeding on the company.

There’s the possibility of using Uber in several spots of the Island, namely SeminyakDenpasar and Ubud, but there’s a great hostility by taxi drivers so you must use it with some precaution.

Religion: majorly Hinduism.

Rules: the most important one is that in Bali, drug dealing os punished by death.

Bali - 1Curiosities

Getting to know Bali is living traditions and ancient customs, is observing a unique culture, unchangeable before the crazyness of tourists coming and going.

It’s the place wehere we feel spirituality taking over us and the contact with nature is taken to another level.

The Balinese people is nice and kind (unless you’re trying to negotiate something!) and cherises its customs above all.

There are some treditions worth of highlight:

– Religion: they’re extremely religious and believe in magic and the power of spirits. Hinduism here is practiced a bit differently from India. It seems to exist a fusion of Hiduism with Buddhism. The Balinese worship the Traditional Hindu Trinity – Brahma (creator of the universe, represents the cosmic mind), Shiva (the power of destruction or transformation), and Vishnu (power of the maintenance of the Universe). However, for the Balinese, the God of all Gods is Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa.

Meaning Brahma is its dimmension as creator, Vishnu as caretaker and Shiva as destroyer!

In the Balinese Hinduism the goal is to seek harmony and balance between the order and disorder of the cosmos.

Offerings: prepare yourselves for offerings to the Gods everywhere! For these people there are good and bad spirits, and both must have their attention. So, the Canang Saris are prepared on a daily basis, small baskets made of palm leaves, filled with flowers, rice, fruit, incense and coins. The offerings are placed in high spots for the good spirits and on the floor for the bad ones, to calm them (the smell of incense is magical and present in the entire Island).

This is the reason this people likes to live on the mountains, because it’s probably the purest place and the closest to the gods. The sea, on the other hand, is where all the bad spirits come from, reason why surfers are seen as very brave in Bali.

Celebrations: the Balinese celebrate everything, life, and death most of all. The celebrations start at birth, and go throughout the life of the human being. But what fascinated me the most was the clebration of death, because to the Balinese it’s one of the happiest days in life. When the dead are cremated and their souls are free and go to heaven. For them, death is just the start of a different world. Therefore, when someone dies they throw a big party, with a cremation tower, the people do dances and theater plays, everyone is present celebrating that life.

It would be so much simpler if it were like this everywhere, despite the religion! Don’t you agree?

Prepare yourselves for celebration in the entire Island, they always have something to thank for, even just another day in life!

Bali - 22Bali is full of customs, traditions and cultures that are strange to us, but to which we’re not able to dtay indifferent. Walking in the center of Bali, Ubud, is an adventure, so much is the bustle of locals with their gorgeous Sarongs and tourists almost colliding. It could be less touristical, but let us not be pretencious, everyone has the right to get to know the best in the world, and Bali is one of those places.

Nature and spirituality present themselves in a divine combination. The temples rival with rice fields, while volcanos show their grandness.

Everywhere you go, someone will try to sell you something! And they’ll be persistent, really persistent! You can make great deals in the Ubud’s market, if you can negotiate (which is not my case!).

BanyantreeU - 27

We had a 5 day experience in Bali, it was short, but very rich. We went to different zones, Ungasan (close to the famous region of Uluwatu), Ubud (the spiritual heart of the Island) and Seminyak (the classic beach are with lots of night life).

Where to Stay
Banyan Tree Ungasan
Peppers Seminyak
Bisma Eight

Versão Portuguesa

Text: Cíntia Oliveira | Photos: Flavors & Senses

Flavors & Senses in Singapura with the support of Samsonite.

This is the 1st of 2 articles for our Bali Guide 

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