Unique Bali ceremonies, festivals, rituals – my bucketlist for 2017

I believe you have seen how picturesque Bali island is? But only through Bali beaches, landscapes, nature spots you won’t see all the beauty of this island. A little knowledge and participation in Bali ceremonies, festivals (cultural or religious) can give more ineffable memories for your holidays in Bali. Like Indian writer Siddharth Katragadda said “The greatness of a culture can be found in its festivals”.

The best if you could attend any of Balinese family celebrations like Gedong-gedongan (ceremony in the 8th month of pregnancy), Menek kelih (puberty), teenagers transition to the adult’s world (tooth filling), wedding and etc. But if you will be in Bali island only for short period – I believe it’s not so easy to become close friends with local people and be invited to such sacred family ceremonies.

Cultural Bali festival

But in Bali there are many public celebrations that you can attend. Almost every month you can enter different Bali ceremonies, festivals. For example, well-known monsters parade Ogoh-Ogoh, Nyepi (silent day – Bali’s Lunar New Year), Galungan (Balinese Hindus commemorate the legendary battle of good versus evil), art or villages festivals, temples anniversaries and etc. (check 2017 calendar for most famous Bali ceremonies and celebrations).

During my 1st year of living in Bali I have participated in above-mentioned (and others) Bali ceremonies, rituals, so this year I’m more interested to attend unique, unusual, less known among travelers Bali ceremonies. Maybe you will be interested to take a part in any of these Bali ceremonies, during your trip in Bali?

Bali ceremonies, festivals, rituals – my bucketlist for 2017

MARCH

Kissing ceremony that helps to find beloved – “Omed-Omedan”

I don’t know whether believe the legend, but around 100 year ago king Puri Oka was sick. Outside his place the youngsters were playing game Omed Omed (boys pulled random boy to the side, girls pulled random girl to the side too). When pulled boy and girl were close to each other, by accident – they kissed. And this event caused many noise from youngsters. King was angry and get outside to stop this noisy game. But after he get out he didn’t feel ill anymore. After such “magic” the King announced that this Omed Omed (that literally means “pull-pull”) should be held each year after Nyepi celebration (Balinese New Year).

Nowadays in this ceremony can participate only unmarried Sesetan village youth (17-30 years old). People say, that through this ceremony many couples met and build families. As well such ritual brings good luck and prosperity to those who are taking part in it. Not enough that participants may not know each other and will kiss strangers, village priests throw water over participants to douse the flames of passion. Maybe this ceremony not so special but for sure can give good vibes. More about this Bali festival.

Bali kissing ceremony
Photo boombastis.com
  • Place: Banjar Kaja Sesetan in Denpasar, Bali
  • Time: 29th of March, 2017. Festival starts in the morning.
  • Best place to stay near Denpasar would be Sanur area (I doubt you would really enjoy staying in capital of Bali, during your holidays). I have stayed in Sanur in these places:
  • Sudamala Suites & Villas – I love this place. It’s like small oasis near main Sanur area. So many unique details inside. Inspiring, peaceful, spacious surrounding, delicious food and very friendly stuff.
  • Puri Santrian – quite big hotel but has straight access to the beach. You can choose from many different types of rooms. I enjoy there buffet type breakfast with big assortment, live Gamelan music, green surrounding and helpful stuff. 

As well can be an option to stay in Kuta (from ceremony place the distance almost the same to go to Sanur or Kuta). You can check options in Airbnb too: Kuta or Sanur. And if you are new in Airbnb you can get FREE credits for first your booking.

APRIL

Full moon ceremony to ask God’s grace

“Purnama” the day of full moon is a special day for Balinese people. Every month on full moon extra offerings “sesajen” are made in family temples. As well such offerings taken to village temple. Depending on the full moon time usually many temples will have special event for villagers, like dancing, shadow puppet theater wayang, other performances. Such full moon ceremony takes all day long activities from preparation offering, cooking, going to the temples and etc. Every 10th full moon (called “Purnama Kadas”) even more special. Unique rituals you can see not only in the main island temples but as well in smaller ones. For example on this special day, mother temple, Besakih, holds a special ceremony known as “Betara Turun Kabeh”, inviting the gods and deified ancestors for their blessings. More about this ceremony from fellow travel blogger you can find here.

Bali ceremonies - full moon
Photo fivelements.org
  • Time: 11th of April, 2017. All day long.
  • Place: island-wide in major temples.
  • Note: during such ceremonies the temples are crowded of prayers.
  • Best place to stay in Bali during this ceremony is Ubud area. Because you can easily reach main temples like Besakih, Tirta Empul, Pura Goa Lawah and others. You can check and Airbnb listing. I have stayed in Ubud in these places:
  • Tjampuhan Ubud & Spa – cozy, beautiful place with a view to a temple and just a couple minute walk from Campuhan Ridge Walk, not far from the center. Breakfast was very delicious.
  • Manyi Village Ubud – place surrounded by rice paddies but further from the Ubud center (they have shuttle bus). It’s not big place, quite, intimate. From the balcony you can see the sunrise, from bathroom window paddies. Breakfast buffet type with several options.
  • Ubud Wana Resort – city type hotel, not too big, with spacious rooms, couple swimming pools, not far from Ubud Monkey forest. Stuff very flexible and helpful. Breakfast buffet type with several options.
  • Sanggingan Villa and Permana Cottages – Ubud – both places are not too far from Ubud center. Rooms are spacious but interior of Bali in 80’s (some rooms only with fan, some rooms needs improvement). Very simple served breakfast.

Planing trip to Bali

Self-stabbing ritual that brings people closer to God – “Ngerebong”

This ritual, more than 100 years old, for sure not for everyone. I have seen some trance rituals in Java island, so I’m a bit curious to see it in Bali too. Balinese believe that stabbing themselves in the neck and chest with dagger called “keris” without drawing a drop of blood (can you imagine that it’s possible?) helps to achieve harmony between humans, nature and God. The ritual not only brings villagers closer to God, it also helps give them a sense of community. All preparation, ceremonies and ritual itself takes all day long. Find out more about this Balinese ritual or take a look to this video.

Bali ceremonies - ritual Ngerebong
Photo tripcanvas.com
  • Place: Petilan Pengerebongan temple, Kesiman, Denpasar, Bali
  • Time: Every 210 days (on the eight day after Kuningan), in April and November, 2017.
  • Best place to stay near Denpasar would be Sanur area (to stay in capital of island not the best choice). I have stayed in couple hotels in Sanur – you can check above my experience there.

Kid’s transition to the adult’s world sacred ceremony – “Usaba Dangsil”

When I saw girl’s pictures from Bungaya village (one of the oldest village in Bali) during Usaba Dangsil ceremony – I understood that it is something that I haven’t seen yet in Bali. It’s not only about different local people ritual clothing but as well about activities they do for this ceremony. Boys and girls (hundreds of them) have to follow many rituals, which shows that they became grownups. Beside all rituals are build 7 giant pillars (which symbolize welfare and protection) and with all villagers help transported to the certain place. This unique main ritual held only every 12-14 years! Last time it was in August, 2016. But until the end of April, 2017 you can still see special performances. You can read more about this ceremony here and watch a short video from event in 2016.

Bali ceremonies - Usaba Dangsil
Photo lifeinbigtent.com
  • Place: Bungaya village in Karangasem, Bali
  • Time: Every 12-14 years. Until the end of April, 2017, every full and dark moon from 10 am you can see special performances.
  • Note: if you want to visit this event, you should follow some rules.
  • Best hotels in Bali, Karangasem area you can find here or check Airbnb places. I have stayed in Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa. Honestly, it is one of my favorite places to stay in Bali – hotel is in front of the sea (even if it’s not possible to swim there), interior nicely mixed between Balinese and modern style, spacious and green surrounding, breakfast is buffet type with big assortment and stuff very helpful.
MAY

Sacred ceremony to neutralize 288 evil spirits – “Ngerebeg”

Locals believes that at least 288 different kind of demons lives along Tegelalang’s river. To neutralize these spirits Balinese from Tegalalang village every 6 months organize a parade that is conjunction with Duur Bingin temple anniversary. It’s requires villagers dress up like a demons. This traditional ceremony, sacred Grebeg ritual, in Tegalalang village known from 13th century.

There are no gender restriction but mainly in such parade participate hundreds of 3-15 years old boys (as well teenagers). As well they prepare 288 meal offerings at any major religion festival to appease these spirits. This ritual purify the village through noisy parade of scary-looking kids (reminds a bit Ogoh Ogoh before Nyepy day). People believe that supernatural being will be pacified so they won’t disturb temple ceremony. In the morning kids deliver offerings and in the evening – they participate in parade. I think it’s quite fun to watch this parade, see kids reativity. More about this Bali ceremony here.

  • Place: Duur Bingin temple, Tegalalang village, Gyanair, Bali
  • Time: 10th of May, 2017. From ~11 am and lasts ~3 hours.
  • Best Bali hotels to stay around Tegalalang. Or you can stay in Ubud. My experiences staying in Ubud you can check above.
JUNE – JULY

Blood offering ritual to the Gods to appease the spirits – “Mekare-kare”

In ancient Balinese village Tenganan (where people still follows prie-Hindu culture and traditions) once a year, men participate in theatrical fight “Mekare kare” (as well known as “Perang Pandan”, “Pandan war” or “Megeret Pandan”). The aim of such battle is to draw blood, to spill a few drops on the bare earth to appease the spirits and keep them at peace. Other people say that this ceremony nowadays is about to impress the village’s unmarried women. In any case, this ritual quite interesting because man’s fights with sharp pandanus leaves, bamboo shield and accompanied by native gamelan music “Selonding” (playing only in this village). Each fight lasts only couple of minutes. Even if you won’t see a battle, during this event you will enjoy this Balinese ceremony because women will be dressed with traditional, only for this village common clothes, you will see traditional performances and hear Selonding music. It’s a time when you can be a witness of the most beautiful village. More about this ritual you can read here and watch video.

Balinese ceremony - Mekare kare
Photo baliplius.com
  • Place: Tenganan Pegringsingan and Tenganan Dauh Tukad villages in Karangasem, Bali
  • Time: 2-4 times during June – July. Starts ~2 pm.
  • Best Bali accommodation in Karangasem area you can find here. I have stayed in Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa. Honestly, it is one of my favorite places to stay in Bali – hotel is in front of the sea (even if it’s not possible to swim there), interior nicely mixed between Balinese and modern style, spacious and green surrounding, breakfast is buffet type with big assortment and stuff very helpful.
JULY – NOVEMBER

Harvest celebration – “Makepung” water buffalo’s races

Agrarian scenes is part of Balinese daily life. And to uphold agriculture traditions each year in some parts of island is organized unique festival – buffaloes race. It‘s colorful agriculture spectacle-race (known from ~1930) which symbolize mutual help of farmers carrying their harvest using carriage that pull by two buffaloes. Balinese participate in such race for honor, pride and trophy. Race tradition original came from Madura island in Indonesia. Such event was so inspiring that in 1984 was created special traditional dance “Makepung”. This dance is performed by 7 to 9 male, female and depicts riders, the buffaloes themselves. One of the unique features of the dance is that it is accompanied by the Jegog bamboo orchestra, which is also typical of the regency. Find out more about this race and you can check this video.

Bali festival - harvest celebration
Photo duniart.com
  • Place: Kaliakah village, Perancak (close to Negara) in Jembrana, Bali
  • Time: July – November. Every Sunday from 7-8 till ~9-10 am.
  • Best hotels in Bali Jembrana area you can see here or Negara here. But maybe you can find something suitable in Airbnb?
ALL YEAR LONG

Temple ceremonies – temple “birthday”

Every temple and shrine in Bali (there are more than ~4539 temples) has annual ceremony called “Odalan”. The word “Odalan” is believed to have come from the root word “Wedal” which means “birth”. This is usually the day when the temple buildings are blessed for the first time, or the day where Balinese Hindus commences to bring offerings and pray in the temple. Temple festival may come once in 210 days following the “Wuku” Balinese calendar (twice in a Gregorian calendar), thus a semi-annual celebration, or may be an annual ceremony, if villagers follow the lunar calendar. Bali ceremonies for temples are very colorful, people are making special decoration, offerings as well you can see exclusive performances.

Since every village has at least three major temples (and often many more than that), there is always some kind of community religious activity going on. So I believe you could join any such event during your holidays in Bali. Check calendar of Bali ceremonies in temples.

Bali festivals - temple ceremony
Photo duniart.com

Notice that during temple ceremony, not allow:
Enter such festival if you have open wound, bring food inside, if you mentally or physically ill, being in a state of mourning (for the Balinese this lasts 42 days or one month + 7 days of Balinese calendar), and having given birth within the past 42 days.

  • Time: every 210 days. Temple ceremony usually lasts for 1-3 days, but larger ones (which occur every 5, 10, 30 or 100 years) can last for 7-11 days or longer.
  • Place: all around island
  • Best place to stay in Bali. I suggest to check and Airbnb too. If you never registered before, you can get FREE credits for your first stay.

As well maybe you can be interested to see cock fights? Legal fights you can see usually during temple ceremonies almost all around island but many people organize it illegally too. I have seen such fights in Karangasem area, it’s quite common there but it’s hard to know from before when it will be held.

Furthermore I participated in Balinese sacred purification ritual which aimed to purify a human body and soul in order to prevent havoc, bad luck and sickness (also achieve self-purification). If you would be interested to experience it too, before going to any water temple talk with local people who will explain the meaning, sequence and etc. The main thing – do it not for entertainment but with understanding why you do it and how to do it right.

I belive you don’t want to become annoying tourist. Some tips for visiting Bali ceremonies, festivals, rituals (especially religious):

  • Always wear sarong and sash (you can bring your own or rent in temple).
  • Don’t wear bikini, too transparent clothes.
  • Never sit higher that the priest, on the offerings.
  • Don’t walk in front of people when they are praying or further than the prayers are.
  • Women are not allowed to enter temples during menstruations.
  • Don’t use flash or point camera at the priest’s face.
  • Be polite if making pictures of people – don’t disturb them if they are preparing for ceremony, praying. Would be nice if you ask their permission to take photos of them.

Moreover you should know that during main religious, national celebrations can be a bit difficult to travel in Bali or other Indonesian island like people will have holidays. You can check Indonesian holidays calendar of yearly events to plan your trip in the right time.

It’s only Bali celebrations that I want to visit this year (those that I didn’t mention here I already visited or will leave for next year too). Indonesia has more than 17 000 islands, each of them has different their own celebrations. So you can imagine that in Indonesia you can feel like in never ending celebration place.

 

Bali events - Pinterest
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SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

  • Which Bali ceremonies, festivals or rituals you would like to attend?
  • In which of these or other Bali ceremonies you already participated?
  • Do you have any similar to Bali ceremonies celebrations in your country?

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First time in Indonesia

I think Indonesia is a country of adventures and opportunities. Just you need to open eyes and heart, have a will to see, taste, discover, try new things, get out from your comfort zone and be curious.

I found out that during my stay in Indonesia some of the things I did or some of them happened first time in my life. No matter what, but all of them gave me new colors in my daily life. So, here is my list of things “first time in life – in Indonesia”:

First of all – Indonesia is the first Asian country which I visited in my life

And being in Indonesia gives me more opportunities to travel in Asia. Other Asian countries now are much closer than if I would travel from Europe.

I met eye to eye orangutans in Borneo island (Kalimantan)

Couple days in a jungle, living in a boat, meeting wild monkeys, birds, other animals and of course orangutans – was experience that I will never forget.

I took selfie (never before I did that)

It was on motorbike, when I was bringing mattress on my back to first home in Yogyakarta, Java island.

First time in Indonesia - selfie
Friend Otong helped me to take mattress to a new home

I learned how to drive automatic scooter

Driving scooter in Indonesia it means – I can drive now scooter anywhere in the world.

I tried trekking to a volcanoes

Even if mount Merapi defeated me  but at least I tried. But the second time was more successful. I went to Mt. Batur in Bali for sunrise. And even if in the trek beginning I was thinking why I do it, in the end I was happy that reached the top.

Batur sunrise trek in Bali

 

I was a “model” for the Yogyakarta sketchers community members

They wanted to practice and not every time it’s easy to find people who would like to spend their time doing nothing, just pose for a while.

First time in Indonesia - "model"

took a bathe” under the waterfall and was walking in volcano crater

It was in Dieng Plateau, Java island. Never before I saw waterfall and volcano crater in real. What to say about bathing under waterfall? It was powerful feeling.

First time in Indonesia

I tried sandboarding in “grey” sand beach Parangtritis

Never before I try snowboarding, so experience with sandborading was amazing. Just sand in the mouth when you felt down doesn’t “taste” so nice as snow. I got this opportunity while I was shooting in a video.

I celebrated New Year in October with Javanese Royal family members

New year in the middle of autumn? Something new, especially when you are invited to do that with Javanese Royal family members and have an honor to walk in a parade through the city with traditional Javanese clothes.

Javanese New Year

I eat fruits which I never tried before

Even I didn’t know that such fruits exist: “salak”(“snake fuit”), “jambu” (“guava”), “buah naga” (“dragon fruit”), soursop (“sirsak”) and many others.

First time in Indonesia - fruits

I try scuba diving first time ever

I really scare to be in deep water places so this experience was one of the biggest challenges for me but I faced my fairs in Bali.

I was a witness of Ramadhan and Lebaran celebrations

I heard before a bit about Muslim main celebrations Ramadhan, Lebaran but never knew how it looks like in real. But only staying in Indonesia I had this opportunity.

I eat cobra meat and I liked it

I tried “Burger cobra”, “Sate cobra bakar”, ”Steak cobra saus cina” and drink “Ramuan empedu cobra” (traditional medicine from cobra gall and marrow). I was celebrating 6 months living in Indonesia anniversary.

First time in Indonesia - cobra meat

I was bitten by bee

Never in my life before nowhere I was bitten. Probably it was Indonesian style of “farewell” before my trip to Vietnam.

First time in Indonesia - bitten by bees

I drink the most expensive coffee in the world – Kopi Luwak

First time in Indonesia - kopi luwak

I got a first job offer – to be a guide in Vietnam

I never been a tour guide before, but probably my organizational skills can be used in any area. I liked it, that’s why till now I accompany people during their trips in Indonesia as well.

I was walking in the black sand beach

First I saw grey sand beach in Yogyakarta, Parangtritis beach but soft black sand I enjoyed in Bali, Tulamben beach. When all my life I saw only yellow beaches, see black – something unreal.

I try rafting

I’m quite scared of all water activities but I wanted to try rafting. I did it in Bali when the rainy season started. And it wasn’t so dangerous, even more easier than I thought.

Rafting in Bali

I had unique experience

I participate in Balinese sacred purification ritual which aimed to purify a human body and soul in order to prevent havoc, bad luck and sickness (also achieve self-purification).

Hindu purification

One of my dreams come true

I always wanted to see dolphins in their natural surrounding and I did it, in Lovina, Bali.

I started to write articles and blogging

I would never believe that one day I will start to write and blogging. But it happen exactly in Indonesia.

I’m willing to add more things in a future to this “first time in life – in Indonesia” list.

First time in Indonesia
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  • Have you tried something for the first time in Indonesia?
  • Maybe you tried something for the first time in other Asian countries?
  • What you would like to try in Indonesia?

 

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What to expect from Indonesian concert?

Sometimes, when we are traveling, we can’t feel that close connection with local people or be a part of their daily life. But if you will ever have possibility, try to visit any local show (I’m not talking about those which is organized for tourists but those – which knows only local people :)) – do it!

If I have chance, I always try to attend local events, especially in Yogyakarta, where I live. I have been in many Indonesian concerts, exhibitions, events, festivals and other celebrations which were organized by local people or participants were only Indonesians. So I have a small “image” about Indonesian events.

Earthernity Fest poster

This time I want to share the discoveries of Indonesian concert, which I see really different from European ones. Even if past some time after visiting one of Indonesian concert in Yogyakarta – “Earthernity fest” (annual concert dedicated to celebrate earth day), the impression still lives in my mind. Probably this concert can be that one, which had all Indonesian events “attributes” :D.

Why this Indonesian concert was so special that I decided to go there?

First of all, I came here just because of Indonesian band “Payung Teduh”, I felt in love with their music already before coming to Indonesia :). Second, because of singer “frau”. Both of these artists in one place? I just needed to go! And for a big surprise – I discovered here new Indonesian group – TIK! TOK!.

So what you can expect from Indonesian concert?

Organizers performance

It will be late

and you can’t take inside your food or drinks (the security will take it from you) – but where it’s not happen? So this not counted like “unique” :D.

Sitting on the floor

Indonesians have sitting on the floor culture (when they are visiting people, eating, doing other things). So nothing surprising, just come to the concert and sit on the floor. People takes off their shoes, like at home :). For me – it’s not usual. If there are no chairs – you stand, in open area or very cozy place where is not enough seats – yeah you sit on the ground, but it’s not must. In this case, to sit 5 hours on the floor – some of the lower body parts really hurts :D. Nobody warn me that I need to take sitting pillow to the concert :D.

Long talks of “masters of the ceremony” (MC)

Almost none of the event (concert as well) won’t be real without MC’s. 1 – 3 people who tries to interact audience before the concert, during it. The funniest thing that MC’s speaking sometimes longer than performers stays on the stage (for example the band plays 10 min. – MC’s talks 20 min.):). Usually they just make some jokes (sometimes not funny at all), interactions with the prizes and a lot of self talks with the partner on the stage. Some of the event hires better MC’s, others takes amateurs. Because of MC’s interruption, this concert lasted 5 hours :D. How to be patient and wait for the last band the most important performer ?:)

Audience singing louder than the band on the stage

If Indonesians really like some songs, they will scream (imitating the singing) louder than the band on the stage. Even when you will ask them a bit make lower voice, because of their scream not possible to hear real singers – they won’t stop. In such way they express themselves.

Young couples dating

You can imagine how hard for teenagers and not marriage couples in the Muslim country to express their relationship? :). If they have a chance to be a little bit in private with the partner, they will try to go where is dark and a lot of people, because no one will be in attention of them. In this concert was the same – darkest corners was busy with couples: holding hands, touching shoulders. More braver was sitting in the crowed and hugging each other from the back.

Instant noodles

Most local people habit – eat instant noodles everywhere, even in the concert. Sellers even have more instant noodles types than other snacks. First I didn’t understood from where the smell of noodles is coming, just turn around and saw one guy eating them, then another girt in front, other guy in left. It’s looked that nothing can satisfy Indonesians stomach like “sambal” and instant noodles. Noodles “must” to be in every event.

Funny facts:

  • even if organizers didn’t deal properly with sound and lighten, but they didn’t forget to take out the brands labels from the water bottles which singers where drinking on the stage.
  • guess who was the “security” leading famous band out of the backstage? Girls with hijab :). Wondering why? In Muslim country none of the men can touch women with hijab (if it’s not your family member). So, even if somebody would like attack or do something, by the religion it’s not allowed :). Clever, yeah?
  • as well, I was the only one foreigner in the concert – so you can imagine how “popular” I was there :). Guessing who got more attention, people on the stage or me :D.

 

About all unsuccessful things during the concert I won’t write. Organizers, guests and bands probably already saw it. I hope for the next year concert, organizers will fix it or at least won’t do the same mistakes.

Some moments from Indonesian concert:

 

Have you been in any local performance during your trips? What was the most impressive thing or differences from what you used to?


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