Paradise is personal – Indonesia, Bali
We found the heart warming type of Bali Indonesia, in the North. Far from the boats of tanning tourist and free loading semester long expats – deep in the jungle villages of this Island, we found the very heart of it, or what was the heart to us anyway.
‘This is real Bali. Old Bali.’ a car driver told us as I screamed STOP at a village entry and ran out eagerly, with less care and attention for the wild-wild west roads of mopeds and guard dogs then I should have had, running into a street full of daily chores, temple preparations, school kids hiding from the rain and old men playing chess.
This part of Indonesia felt like I was finally home. Like the West I am so grateful to was finally stripped away. Without a measure of judgement I was free to make facial expressions that would undoubtably yield lines in my face and give me wrinkles that my part of the world is so scared to embrace.
Here we became deeply effected by the daily customs and rituals – the daily prayer, the offerings, the wedding ceremonies, the way a family shared a motor bike or weaved a basket and said goodbye to a loved one.
The customs of the day took over every sight and smell- even when rafting our rafting teacher made an offering to the Gods before our journey down the river began. And everyday I smelled incense not for romance but for prayer.
All this built up an even greater infatuation with the Far East – a romance I have been flirting with for over fifteen years.
Bali is ninety percent Hindu and ten percent Muslim. It’s view of the world can be seen from the sky and from every corner of the land, as temple after temple peaks out at you – more temples then I have every seen anywhere in the world.
If you haven’t known already, Asia, it is a place that makes its intentions clear from the very start.
‘Every family has one.’ A man tells me as I stealthily make my way towards a highly ornate door and peak over the gate into a courtyard full of small and large pagodas and statues.
‘A temple?’ I ask confused a bit, thinking that South East Asia was clear to me in its rituals. And yet somehow, every home? A temple so large in scale belonging to a single home?
This felt new.
‘Yes madem, a temple. This one belongs to this family. It is attached to their home.’
I peak over in wonder as a beautiful compound the size of a healthy New York City apartment reflects back at me.
‘Every family?’ I try to re-affirm this whimsical fact that has been presented to me, hiding the so called travel expert in myself -I am blown away.
That is the heart of Bali I think. Not the sight of the black sand or the monkies robbing tourists of their dignity and sunglasses in exchange for Facebook worthy pictures, but this spiritual part of it.
The taxi driver, the rice farmers, the basket weavers, the mason stone workers on the corner and the women in the neighborhood laundromats (washed and dried by hand) all have temples. Their own temples.
And they are the focal part of this world and this life and this place. A reflection of this side of the world beyond the tourist trapping swings and man made excursions. There is a deeper part to this land, seen in the daily morning rituals and the offerings dressing every corner shop and local or domestic stop along the way.
Ornate little baskets of fresh banana leaf holding fruits and candies and flowers offered to the day ahead.
For a good journey.
For a safe return.
For good stamina.
For the animals in the fields.
An offering for the day.
How East is that? How life is that. How Bali.