Have you ever seen the film Eat Pray Love?
I didn’t even know it was an autobiographical book by Elizabeth Gilbert, nor had I looked up the plot. I was drawn to her, the eternally beautiful Julia Roberts. I went to the cinema and left knowing one thing: I wanted to see Bali.
I went, and then went back again; I fell in love with it and will now tell you why.
Every day is a Sunday in Bali! This is the Balinese unwritten philosophy of life. Their life is simple, uncomplicated and free of overthinking. What do you learn? Not to take yourself seriously all the time. In the smiles of Balinese women you will find the essence and magic of the Far East. My local guide would always say: “Smile, you’re in Bali!”. And that’s what I did!
There’s just one rule in Bali: there are no rules! This is something you find out for yourself as soon as you hop onto one of their inseparable scooters; there’s no left or right, pavement or car lane.
Waiting in traffic for goodness knows how long? No, thanks! There’s always an alternative and more creative solution, such as riding along the pavement with your scooter. They have a unique system for deciding who has right of way and it works! You will see them scooting between shacks and along dead ends and only slowing down for processions.
What about you, the tourist? Follow their trails and enjoy your exotic holiday.
The Balinese make the impossible possible! Scooters are not just the fastest way to get around, scooters are everything! It’s “the family car”; mum, dad and three kids start their day together on their two-wheeler.
You can also run your business from a scooter; just add a trailer and you can start selling tea or coffee, or maybe you can become a restaurateur offering mie goreng and babi guling, or possibly even a balloon and gadget reseller.
In Bali distance is measured in “time”! Don’t ask a Balinese how many kilometres away a certain temple or place is. They will stare at you and answer, “it’s half an hour away”, or “it’s half a day away”.
In Balinese culture the Gods, the Ancestors and even the Demons are fed and respected.
The food consists of offerings taken to the temples, which is also then eaten by humans. After it has been taken to the temple to be blessed by the Gods and Ancestors the food is brought back home so it can be shared with family and friends.
Bali is an eternal battle between good and evil: daily prayers and temple offerings serve to placate the spirits, which permeate every corner of the island, also creating a special energy and harmony – Bali’s true essence.
The positive and negative auras are symbolically represented by the Saput Poleng, where saput stands for cloth and poleng for two-tone, and consists of that checked black and white material you will see everywhere: around statues to guard the temples, on trees and on bridges.
Black and white stand for the Rwa Bhineda, literally the two opposites. The world lives in a constant dual state: good and evil, joy and pain, life and death and despair is always followed by joy.
Bali is tolerance: Hinduism, Islam and Confucianism co-exist pacifically and their level of integration is so unlikely it is almost surreal.
At 6 o’clock in the afternoon, at Pura Tanah Lot, the famous lakeside Temple, I watched an evening Hindu procession, while hearing the voice of the Muezzin in the background.
At the public beach of Kuta you will see Muslim girls and women covered from head to toe, as dictated by their religion, next to women in bikinis.
Everyone takes part in the most important religious celebrations.
Bali is the smell of incense and spices, which fill your nostrils and lead you to a spiritual dimension, that of the soul, as well as to a more material dimension, that of your stomach.
What does Bali actually mean to me?
Bali is as warm as its people, as intense as its fragrances, as blinding as the green of its rice fields, as wild as its waves, as intimate as its sunsets and as joyous as its celebrations.