Moment

Here is a shot of a lovely little boy coming home from his bath in the river where he also washed his family’s clothes. His face is so expressive, I could just imagine how heavy those wet clothes were. Just a small reminder that not everyone has a washing machine, or even an indoor bathroom. Many people are still living in very basic conditions

Natural lines

Bali is well known for its terraced rice fields, they are absolutely fascinating, in that they are so well constructed, to ensure that every single patch is able to access water. At times, the city water system is redirected to these fields in order to make sure the rice will grow undeterred. Unfortunately, more and more rice fields are being sold off to make way for new buildings. It is so short sighted as there is now not enough rice being grown in Bali to feed the people here, and rice is having to be imported in.

Thankfully there is one particular area near our village that has been protected against any building, and the rice fields are preserved for now. It is the most beautiful view on the island, and inspires hope that at least some of the natural elements will remain, and not all disappear under a sea of hotels and restaurants

These are my favorite natural lines and they can be found in Jatih Luwih:

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Mystery

Bali is shrouded in mystery, there are so many things that go on here which are inexplicable. Black and white magic are used on a daily basis, to attack and protect. People seem to be able to go in to a trance at the drop of a hat. Dancers can stab themselves with a knife and be unharmed, and dance over hot coals without feeling a thing, all with the encouragement of frenzied chanting, as can be seen in this photo below:bali superstitions

Next is the belief that if you feel sick, it is because there is too much wind in your body, which can be expelled through the use of cups, or horns, as can be seen here:agus masuk angin

or the burning of incense to keep away bad spirits:

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and the biggest mystery of all, is how these structures that are paraded around the streets every year and then ceremoniously burned before we all hide away and meditate for 24 hours can bring peace to the island

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However, it is this mystery that brings people back to Bali again and again, it holds so much mystique and intrigue, and for those like me, who call this island home, it has an inexplicable draw. So much so that going back to England just is not an option.

Balinese Architecture

One of the many things I fell in love with in Bali is the amazing architecture here. Sitting on the bus driving from Java to Bali, I was struck by the attention to detail in every aspect. The roofs of simple houses all had little details on the edges, the doors are intricately carved, and the temples are works of art. Here are just a few images, although I could add so many more.

 

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Full Moon in Bali

Last night it was a full moon. This is one of the most sacred days in the Balinese Hindu calendar, as the moon is believed to be extremely powerful and magical. The Balinese celebrate this day every month by holding temple ceremonies and various other rituals. My family all went to our village to offer our prayers at our family temple.

It was a very dark night, despite the full moon, and it was raining hard. It seemed everyone was on the roads, traveling to their various temples, dressed in the traditional white clothing. Parents and children piled on one motorbike, huddled together, trying to shield each other from the cold rain. It was a slow journey, which became even slower once we hit the village path. We were slipping from left to right as we tried to keep on the tiny concrete path. All I could think was thank goodness I am not driving! My husband managed to keep the car straight and we finally arrived at our destination.

We bundled in to our house, trying to keep dry under an umbrella, but meanwhile our feet were squelching in the mud under foot. The flowers and fruit offerings had already been prepared by the villagers earlier in the day, and were all laid out ready for us as we stepped through the door. The priest arrived not long after, in his flowing white robes, and turban like structure on his head. He smiled his warm smile, and swiftly got down to business, blessing the house and temple area, ringing his little bell, and muttering mantras under his breath.

As if by magic, the rain cleared, and we were able to stand out by the temple to receive our blessings from the priest. There are various rituals involved in this, none of which I completely understand, I just do as I am told. It starts with holding our hands palms up, while mantras are whispered and various sticks are passed over, we are then instructed to place our hands palm down, while more rituals are performed. A young coconut is produced and we are given three sips each. We offer up our prayers, holding various colored flowers, and finally, we are blessed with the holy water, and rice is placed on our heads, and flowers in our hair.

All through the ritual, I am saying my own silent prayers to my own idea of God. This is what I appreciate about Balinese Hinduism. There are mantras, but there is also quiet time for us to create our own connection with the higher being. No preaching, just being. This works perfectly for me.I do not claim to be an expert, I only know what I have experienced, and observed. By the end of the whole procedure, a feeling of calm had settled on us, and we stayed a while, enjoying the calm of the village, before venturing back to the craziness of the city.

 

A pop of color

Bali is such a colorful place, it is almost impossible to isolate just one color. I did my best, but it seems a shame to leave the other colors out!!

My favorite flower is the frangipani, and here are a few floating on the water:20160309_073623-1

Yesterday was full moon, and we had a temple ceremony in our village, here is one of the offerings that was used:

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I was in Gili Trawangan a few months ago, and took pictures of the colorful umbrellas there:

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finally, a shot taken at my favorite time of day…sunset

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Streets

I have two lifestyles here in Bali, one that is in Denpasar, with the hustle and bustle of street hawkers and the honking of motorbikes and cars. The other is in a village an hour North which is as rural as it gets, where the only sounds that can be heard are the birdsong and the chirping of crickets. I live straddled between the two, and enjoy the diversity of i20160706_15243020160713_17211920160713_172122

Things I love about Bali

I arrived in Bali over 20 years ago, which seems like such a long time, but it has gone by in a flash. I fell in love within days, both with the place and with a special man that I met. Twenty years later, and the love affair still continues. Sometimes I get bogged down in the day to day grind, but when I lift my head up and look around, I am still bowled over by the beauty all around me. So here is a list of what I love about Bali:

1.The weather: It is sunny every single day of the year, and I love it! I can wear sun dresses and flip flops all the time, and never feel cold. Coming from England, this is a very big deal!

2.The beaches: The beaches here are some of the most beautiful beaches I have seen. I love the ocean, and can lose myself for hours just gazing out to sea.20160225_174531

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. The sunsets: We also have some of the best sunsets, just check this out20160223_184438

4. The rice fields: I never tire of looking at these works of art, designed hundreds of years ago, to make sure the water flowed to every single padicropped-rice-fields6.jpg

 

 

 

 

5. The temples: Bali is known as the island of the gods, and there certainly are shrines everywhere. I love taking time each day to pray at our own little temple, and to join in the big village ceremonies when everyone comes out in thier finest clothes610160_1680_948

6. The people: the Balinese are wonderfully patient, kind and generally very happy. You will always be greeted with a smile wherever you goman and cock 2

7. The mystique: Spirtualism and magic play a very important role in every part of Balinese life. The people are very superstitious, and everyone has their own tale of ghosts, spirits black magic and even fireballs fighting in the skybali superstitions

8. The food: the Balinese food is so full of flavor, and so nose streamingly spicy!!ayam-betutu (1)

9.The adventure:There is so much to do, from white water rafting, riding on elephants, climbing mountains, running with the hashers and dancing salsa on the beachtrekking

10. My family: This is the most important reason why I love Bali they mean everything to me, and make my life wholefamily 2

 

 

Inside Kerobokan Jail

Kerobokan jail is notorious world wide, and has been the focus of a great deal of attention over the years. It sits on prime real estate just outside the tourist areas, and is home to over 1000 inmates, even though it was originally built to house only 300. The conditions are cramped and squalid, at least they were when I went to visit a couple of years ago. Since then, there has been some revamping, so perhaps things are better now.

This jail has housed some big household names, such as Schapelle Corby and the Bali nine, and tourists have been known to come on “tours” of the facility. Of course, the jail does not actually put on tours, but somehow these “fans” are able to get in. Why they would want to is beyond me.

I did find myself visiting the jail a couple of years ago. My husband and I were informed that one of our friends had been arrested and was currently being held in Kerobokan jail. His crime? Gambling. The Balinese culture includes several forms of gambling, such as cockfighting and card playing. It is all pretty harmless, and acceptable in the culture. However, Indonesian law comes down hard on gambling, and so this friend had to do his time.

We felt as we lived so close, we should go and visit. We were also intrigued about this infamous jail, and interested to see what it was like inside. There is a long and drawn out process involved in going to visit, and we had a long wait outside before we were allowed in.

We went through protocol after protocol, I have forgotten how many doors and searches there were, but it was a lot. I chatted to other visitors, and mostly they were relatives of inmates, and the crimes committed ranged from gambling to drugs. Once through the final door, it was surprisingly free for all. Our inmate friend met us, and led us through a room that was full to capacity. There were people everywhere. Every piece of floor space was covered, people were sitting on top of each other, kissing, making out, chatting etc. There was food strewn everywhere. It was a mess. We had to pick our way through the bodies to the other side of the room.

I was already feeling uncomfortable. It was impossible to tell who were the visitors and who were the inmates. Our inmate friend had obviously worked out how to play the system, and had arranged for a private room for our visit. It was a relief to get inside the room, away from all the crowds. He had a fellow inmate guarding the door while we sat and talked, and another brought us food and drinks. As with any institution there is a system of hierarchies, and our friend was pretty near the top.

I got a little bored with the conversation, and decided to wander back in to the crowded room, and out to the fence outside, that separated the visiting room with the rest of the jail. Here, I could get a glimpse of the rest of the facility. I could see the tennis courts and garden area. It looked quite pleasant. Inmates were wandering around outside the fence, and I chatted to a couple of guys. One was a westerner who seemed (or pretended) to not understand why he was there, another an old Indonesian guy that was in for receiving stolen goods. All pretty petty crimes considering the place they were being held.

I also got a look in to the Maximum security building, where there was a big western guy, sitting, looking out at me. He had a real mean look in his eyes, and I felt very uneasy. I made my way back to our private room, and was relieved when my husband announced we were leaving.

We had to wait by the locked doors, for the guards to come and let us out. While we were waiting, a fight broke out between one of the inmates and the guards, and came scarily close to where we were standing. I grabbed my husband, and prayed that we would be let out quickly. As soon as the guard came, I rushed at the door, dragging my husband with me. As we piled out of the jail, I was sweating profusely, and my heart was beating so fast, I felt I was going to collapse. I have never been so scared in my life, and I never ever want to experience that again.

Its a terrifying place, and I am not surprised certain inmates suffer psychologically in there. I was there for about an hour, and it has left a lasting impression on me. Every day since, I thank my lucky stars that I am a free citizen  that does not have to live that kind of nightmare day after day.