Skyscanner – I love that I can choose “to” destination “flexible”. It helps me to find the cheapest destination from Europe to Asia (no matter Thailand, Malaysia or other, from there to go to Indonesia simpler).
Momondo – If my travel dates are flexible it’s great to see all the prices in the chart by dates and choose the cheapest date to fly.
Nusatrip– here I find sometimes the cheapest flights inside Asia.
Tiket – one of the websites that you can find well cheapest flight tickets inside Asia. As well you can buy train tickets, rent a car, book a hotel in Indonesia.
Traveloka – here you can find flights, hotels, train tickets, and much more.
Thorn Tree – many travel advice from local travelers and not only. I like that people most of the time give exhaustive answers to questions.
Couchsurfing – people not only host you but share their experiences, advice. Often organize meetings with travelers and local people.
FB groups – you can find many travel groups by different regions, traveling types and etc.
Darmasiswa scholarship – possibility to study Indonesian culture, live here for 6-12 months. I was selected for this program.
Internship in Indonesia– another possibility to stay in Indonesia and share your academic and cultural knowledge with Indonesian students.
Work away – voluntary program around the world and many possibilities for Asia as well. I already have several projects in my mind that would like to attend.
GoAbroad– providing the most comprehensive international education and alternative travel resource. You can find a study, internship, volunteering programs, and more.
Easy book – largest booking website in SE Asia: bus, train, car, ferry, and local tours in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and more. Often suggest discounts for online tickets.
Klook – car with a driver’s rental, pick up/drop off from the airport, and much more. All around Southeast Asia and other countries. The prices are really good.
12goAsia – boat and other transportations tickets around Southeast Asia.
Tiket – train tickets, car rentals in Indonesia. Easier to buy Indonesian train tickets here.
Go-jek – works like Uber in Indonesia. You can book not only a ride but as well as food delivery and much more.
Grab– similar to Go-jek but works not only in Indonesia but as well in other Southeast countries.
Blue Bird taxi– official taxi in Indonesia that you can order in Jakarta, Bali, Bandung, Banten, Batam, Lombok, Manado, Medan, Padang, Pekanbaru, Palembang, Semarang, Solo, Surabaya, and Yogyakarta. Very easy to use their app “MyBlueBird”.
Travel insurance – I use Heymondo or WorldNomads. I love Heymondo because it covers as well COVID and WorldNomads because of the wide coverage of activities. If you are interested in Heymondo insurance you even can get a 5% discount on your travel insurance.
No matter you like to travel with a small bag or big luggage, most probably you still buy some “touchable memories” (souvenirs) from visited places? Some of us have a collection of fridge magnets, others bring whatever they like or something specific only from that country. Personally, I like to bring something small and practical, which can be used in daily life. For example, carved tray for a cup from a specific village, candlestick from specific that place materials and etc. (depends on what I’m missing at that moment at home).
Here are the lists of MUST and MAYBE (as well specific ones) souvenirs from Vietnam that you can consider to bring back home. It’s based on my personal suggestions from what I saw in the streets and what recommended my Vietnamese friends.
MUST souvenirs from Vietnam
Even if you can buy it in Thailand, Malaysia as well (like those countries “unique” souvenirs) but if you are in Vietnam you should think to buy a scarf, silk painting (which is quite unique, an iconic art form in Vietnam) or even suit the clothes from silk (tailor can suite it during ~15 hours).
Silk in Vietnam is made on traditional handlooms. You can find beautiful patterns, different colors, and sizes. Even if you can buy silk anywhere in Vietnam but one of the best places is Hoi An city, silk village Van Phuc (near Hanoi). The price will be better, more options, and quicker service (sewing). Prices begin at about $ 3.00/per meter for 90 cm wide material.
Is special in its style of using resin from the son tree. It’s said that high-quality lacquer products go through 20 stages of development and can be used to craft dishes, bowls, vases, and more in beautiful colors and intricate designs. Very special is lacquer paintings – sơn mài. Prices begin at $ 1.00 for a small dish, $ 3.00 for a large dish and etc.
An art passed down from ages, embroiders in Vietnam make use of Chinese techniques mostly. Become a master in this art can take 8-10 years. If you are visiting Sa Pa – you can buy really exclusive embroidered clothes, scarfs, small bags and etc. from different villages. You can see how it’s made straight in your eyes in the evening market in the main square. A good pair of pillowcases or a set of bed linen, both on a white cotton base, should cost around $ 6.00.
DO PAPER postcards, notebooks
“Do” paper is made from the bark of the Do tree, a wild plant commonly found around local riverbanks. It was popular for many years before the modern paper came. Now Do paper is only used to make Hanoi’s ethnic greetings cards, watercolor, folk paintings, and bamboo-bound notebooks. Do paper cards with embroidered squares, hemp covered notebooks cost more or less $ 2.00, bamboo bound notebooks are from $ 1.50. Better to search in book stores.
GUOC MOC (wooden clogs)
Are traditional footwear for males and females in Vietnam. Before females were wearing these with the traditional Ao Dai dress. Now it’s not so traditional wear, but you can still buy these in stores. I saw some such clogs in Bangkok as well but it looked like brought from Vietnam.
AO DAI dress
Recognized as national wear for females in Vietnam. It’s a tight-fitted long dress worn over long pants. The Ao Dai costs about $32.00 for a plain finished product. If you want a more detailed or custom made Ao Dai, you can buy some fabric and have a tailor make it for about $70.00.
There’s not too much “wine” – the snake is infused in grain alcohol – but you get an exotic view. The bottle cost ~ $20.00.
BOOK “Que Huong my homeland Vietnam” by Nguyen Manh Dan
It’s a book of photographs of Vietnam by Vietnamese photographers and you will find their Vietnamese songs, poetry written in English, Vietnamese. Unfortunately how hard I was trying to find it in Hanoi book street (even with a local person) – didn’t manage. If you will be lucky to find it, I think you will be very happy to have it.
MAYBE souvenirs from Vietnam
If you like to travel to Asia or plan a new trip there, I suggest considering maybe not to buy in Vietnam souvenirs which I’m mentioning below. You can find them in other Asian countries as well (in some countries even cheaper).
You can easily find ceramic vases, lacquer vases, and more such variety in a plethora of sizes, shapes, and colors. A good quality plate costs ~ $2.00. Can be an idea to buy a small teacup set. But ceramic you can bring from any other country as well: Indonesia (for example in Yogyakarta there is area Kasongan, where most crafts are from ceramic), Thailand and etc.
BAMBOO AND WOODEN PRODUCTS
You can buy beautifully carved bamboo hats or salad bowls, trays, baskets, and more such items made out of bamboo and wood. Apart from being cheaper alternatives, they are also eco-friendly. It’s a costs from $13.00 to $45.00. But the same you can buy in any other Asian country where bamboo is growing, for example in Thailand it will be cheaper.
Referred to as leaf hat or non la, these are a symbol of Vietnam and can be seen on drums as old as 3000 years. The same can be used as an umbrella during rains and sun protector during summers. Such hats but with different names you can buy anywhere where are rice paddies: Indonesia, Thailand and etc.
How not to buy a small package of rice from rice country? Brown, white, different shape, mixed and etc. The price will be ridiculous and straight from the rice paddies. But the same you can buy in any other “rice” country.
Good quality tea can be bought in specialist shops in large cities. Kilo of top-quality tea can cost ~ $8.00, if lightly flavored ~$5.00, without flavoring ~$2.00. But in each other country, you can buy tea as well: Japan, Indonesia, China and etc.
Even if Vietnamese coffee quite famous for its preparation and taste (strong, instead of sugar they put condensing milk) but you can enjoy it in the coffee shops in Vietnam. To buy it like a souvenir you can but then need to buy special tools to prepare it in the right way. Good quality “Trung Nguyen” coffee 1-kilo Robusta beans costs ~ $4.00, Arabica will be more expensive.
But as well in Indonesia, you can buy coffee, even more, a popular one, the most expensive in the world “Kopi Luwak”.
HANDMADE WOVEN PRODUCTS
For example in Vietnam scarf costs ~$2.00. A garment, such as a woven, embroidered, or appliqued jacket can cost ~ $15.00. But handmade woven products you can buy in any other Asian country (for example Indonesia, Lombok island).
Other popular souvenirs from Vietnam. Most jewelers are made of local gemstones. But the same things you can buy in Indonesia as well, where gemstones really popular and one of the places for pearls can be in Lombok island near the port to Gili Meno, Air or Trawangan islands.
If you want to buy Asian style pans or other clothes, before buying them check if it’s really made in Vietnam. I had an experience when bought pans in Vietnam and in Indonesia met a girl with the same pattern dress what she bought in Thailand. The conclusion that all things made in China. By the way in Thailand clothes are much cheaper than in Vietnam.
Specific souvenirs from Vietnam for specific interests
WAR SOUVENIRS – you can buy coins, zippers, and other old things that remain war time in Vietnam.
MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS – here you can buy a bamboo flute and miniature bamboo xylophone.
INSTANT NOODLES – like I live in Indonesia where instant noodles are eaten everywhere. I wanted to bring my friends in Indonesia to try Vietnamese instant noodles. It’s really different from Indonesian ones or those that you can buy in Europe.
FAKE THINGS – some people like to buy famous brands fake copies. Here you can find whatever you want.
CARVED WOODEN STAMPS – you can optionally require craftsmen to carve the characters that you liked or a meaningful icon. If you are not too picky, just select the template and change some details or even purchase the stamps which have been carved already here. It can be a great souvenir for friends with their name letter. It’s not so practical but fun.
VIETNAMESE JACKET – nowhere else I saw such jacket – mostly it used driving on a motorbike but can be used in daily life as well. Can be quite unique gift (you can choose different colors, materials).
With special Vietnamese jacket (mask was included) and helmet
My mom likes to make handicrafts, this stamp was very useful for her
Of course, you can buy as well other souvenirs from Vietnam: magnets, stamps, postcards, traditional music CD. But buy them not in touristic places, go to bookshops and smaller shops out of touristic areas.
Here some tips on how to buy souvenirs from Vietnam and the 10 best shopping places in Hanoi:
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.
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.
During my 1st year of living in Bali I have participated in the 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 to Bali?
Bali ceremonies, festivals, rituals – my bucketlist
Kissing ceremony that helps to find beloved – “Omed-Omedan”
I don’t know whether believe the legend, but around 100 years ago king Puri Oka was sick. Outside his place, the youngsters were playing the game Omed Omed (boys pulled the random boy to the side, girls pulled the random girl to the side too). When pulled boy and girl were close to each other, by accident – they kissed. And this event caused a lot of noise from youngsters. King was angry and get outside to stop this noisy game. But after he gets 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.
Place: Banjar Kaja Sesetan in Denpasar, Bali
The best place to stay near Denpasar would be the Sanur area (I doubt you would really enjoy staying in the capital of Bali, during your holidays). I have stayed in Sanur in these places:
Sudamala Suites & Villas – I love this place. It’s like a small oasis near the main Sanur area. So many unique details inside. Inspiring, peaceful, spacious surroundings, delicious food, and very friendly staff.
Puri Santrian – quite a big hotel but has straight access to the beach. You can choose from many different types of rooms. I enjoy their buffet type breakfast with a big assortment, live Gamelan music, green surrounding, and helpful staff.
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 to Airbnb you can get FREE credits for first your booking.
Full moon ceremony to ask God’s grace
“Purnama” the day of the full moon is a special day for Balinese people. Every month on the full moon extra offerings “sesajen” are made in family temples. As well such offerings are taken to the village temple. Depending on the full moon time usually, many temples will have special events 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, the 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.
Place: island-wide in major temples.
Note: during such ceremonies, the temples are crowded with prayers.
The best place to stay in Bali during this ceremony is the Ubud area. Because you can easily reach main temples like Besakih, Tirta Empul, Pura Goa Lawah, and others. You can check an 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 – a place surrounded by rice paddies but further from the Ubud center (they have a shuttle bus). It’s not a big place, quiet, 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 the interior of Bali in 80’s (some rooms only with fan, some rooms needs improvement). Very simple served breakfast.
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 on 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 a 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 take all day long. Find out more about this Balinese ritual or take a look at this video.
Place: Petilan Pengerebongan temple, Kesiman, Denpasar, Bali
Time: Every 210 days (on the eight-day after Kuningan)
The best place to stay near Denpasar would be the Sanur area (to stay in the capital of the island, not the best choice). I have stayed in a couple of 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 villages in Bali) during the 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’s 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 built 7 giant pillars (which symbolize welfare and protection) and with all villagers help transported to a certain place. This unique main ritual held only every 12-14 years! The last time it was in August 2016. You can read more about this ceremony here and watch a short video from the event in 2016.
Place: Bungaya village in Karangasem, Bali
Time: Every 12-14 years, every full and dark moon from 10 am you can see special performances.
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 – the 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 staff very helpful.
Sacred ceremony to neutralize 288 evil spirits – “Ngerebeg”
Locals believe 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 in conjunction with Duur Bingin temple anniversary. It requires villagers to dress up like a demon. This traditional ceremony, sacred Grebeg ritual, in Tegalalang village known from the 13th century.
There is no gender restriction but mainly in such a parade participate hundreds of 3-15 years old boys (as well as teenagers). As well they prepare 288 meal offerings at any major religious festival to appease these spirits. This ritual purifies the village through the noisy parade of scary-looking kids (reminds a bit Ogoh Ogoh before Nyepy day). People believe that supernatural beings will be pacified so they won’t disturb temple ceremonies. In the morning kids deliver offerings and in the evening – they participate in a parade. I think it’s quite fun to watch this parade, see kids’ creativity. More about this Bali ceremony here.
Place: Duur Bingin temple, Tegalalang village, Gyanair, Bali
Best Bali hotels to stay in around Tegalalang. Or you can stay in Ubud. My experiences staying in Ubud you can check above.
Blood offering ritual to the Gods to appease the spirits – “Mekare-kare”
In ancient Balinese village Tenganan (where people still follow prie-Hindu culture and traditions) once a year, men participate in a 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 a 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 in 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 to the most beautiful village. More about this ritual you can read here and watch the video.
Place: Tenganan Pegringsingan and Tenganan Dauh Tukad villages in Karangasem, Bali
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 – the 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 staff very helpful.
Harvest celebration – “Makepung” water buffalo’s races
Agrarian scenes are part of Balinese daily life. And to uphold agriculture traditions each year in some parts of the island is an organized unique festival – buffaloes race. It‘s a colorful agriculture spectacle-race (known from ~1930) which symbolizes the mutual help of farmers carrying their harvest using a carriage that pulls by two buffaloes. Balinese participate in such a race for honor, pride, and trophy. Race tradition originally came from Madura island in Indonesia. Such an event was so inspiring that in 1984 was created special traditional dance “Makepung”. This dance is performed by 7 to 9 males, females 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.
Place: Kaliakah village, Perancak (close to Negara) in Jembrana, Bali
Best hotels in Bali Jembrana area you can see here or Negara here. But maybe you can find something suitable on Airbnb?
ALL YEAR LONG
Temple ceremonies – temple “birthday”
Every temple and shrine in Bali (there are more than ~4539 temples) has an 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 commence 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 maybe an annual ceremony, if villagers follow the lunar calendar. Bali ceremonies for temples are very colorful, people are making special decorations, 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.
Notice that during temple ceremony, not allow:
Enter such festival if you have an open wound, bring food inside, if you are 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.
As well maybe you can be interested to see cockfights? Legal fights you can see usually during temple ceremonies almost all around the island but many people organize it illegally too. I have seen such fights in the Karangasem area, it’s quite common there but it’s hard to know from before when it will be held.
Furthermore, I participated in a 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 believe you don’t want to become an 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 the temple).
Don’t wear a bikini, too transparent clothes.
Never sit higher than 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 a ceremony, praying. Would be nice if you ask their permission to take photos of them.
Moreover, you should know that during the main religious, national celebrations can be a bit difficult to travel in Bali or another Indonesian island like people will have holidays. You can check the Indonesian holiday calendar of yearly events to plan your trip at 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 own celebrations. So you can imagine that in Indonesia you can feel like in never-ending celebration place.
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?