Thursday, March 22, 2012

Days and Nights in Bali

We've been at Bali now for six days and as we settle in tonight, we look forward to a day of complete silence and relative inactivity tomorrow, as it is Nyepi Day. I'd never heard of it before, even during my 45 year long study of religious mythology, but it's a Hindu day of silence during which Hindus meditate and focus on their deities etc.

While everyone keeps quiet, it is hoped that the evil spirits will think nobody is home and therefore avoid doing bad things. It's obviously an important festival for Hindus who get dressed up in their traditional finest and arrange processions etc.

All over Bali are Hindu temples included temples built and used by groups of people in an area eg, family temples. An example is at left all done up for Nyepi Day.

Bali fortunately, is a non-muslim part of Indonesia, which is predominately muslim. The muslim warriors invaded hundreds of years ago and took over. Those who survived the murderous onslaught didn't want to live under the sword of Islam, so they moved to Bali and surrounding islands which have a population of about 3.7 million.

As seems to be the way with Islam, the violence continues and during the first couple of days we were here, the Indonesian Police had a shoot out with three orthodox muslims who had been planning to kill Western tourists. Thankfully, the police won this round, but as the evidence from all over the planet suggests, it's far from the end of civilisation's war against Islam.

Everything here is inexpensive by Australian standards, with the sole exception of wines and spirits. No doubt this is a key reason why so many Australians visit. That and the short, inexpensive air travel required to get here. We thought we were probably the only Australians who hadn't visited, so that was the main reason we are here now ... didn't want to be left behind.

The locals are nice, friendly people who are obviously accustomed to high numbers of tourists coming and going. The population seems very young which means that in 40-60 years the Indonesian Government will have a huge challenge providing old-age, medical and palliative facilities for the aged population. I wonder whether they are planning for that at present.

Those working in the up-market shops are immaculately dressed and I saw more than a few stunningly beautiful young ladies, a couple of whom sold us some goods eg, a bottle of men's after shave that I probably didn't really need. Those in the shops lining local streets are not as impressively dressed, but clean and tidy and there are so many little businesses, I don't know how everyone manages to make a living, but they obviously survive.

The traffic in Bali, as in many other countries is legendary. Need I say there are billions of scooters and motorbikes, some of which move up to five people and weave in and out of the traffic. I'm only guessing, but I imagine the traffic incident injury and death rate is probably pretty high.

It's rained a great deal since we arrived, but we managed to do a full day tour of a volcano, coffee plantation, silver shop, and batik industry business, all of which were hard-sell operations (of course!). Having lived in the Middle East, we know all about pressure selling, dodgy deals and have learnt the art of ignoring people despite our inate propensity to do otherwise.

We move to Candi Dasa on Saturday for our last week and I'll post another blog about that towards the end of the week.


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