Bali

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I think I caught the cold in Bali as the day before we left I said to Kath how stiff I was feeling – thinking it was from all the yoga. I self-medicated with gin and soda but that didn’t work! The plane trip back to Perth was fairly horrible but luckily not too many people and Perth airport was more or less deserted. Bali was quite cool most of the time. I think I must’ve been Balinese in a previous incarnation because I wore a jumper most of the time and the only other people who did were Balinese! There were heaps of Europeans wearing very little.

 

Some people are not keen on Bali but for me it is the best place. This last trip, a sneaky little five-day number, was lovely. I’m not a massage addict but managed to have two amazing sessions: one in Sanur at The Nest (highly recommended) and an extra long spa treatment in Ubud at Karsa Spa, also highly recommended.

The video clip, I’ve Been to Bali Too, came up on one of the Bali Facebook pages. It was filmed in 1984. For those who know Bali and have been there, will also see how much the island has changed in the intervening years. The amount of traffic must’ve increased by 100% in the thirty-three years since the clip was filmed. More and bigger bridges, hotels, tourists, shops – even massive tourist buses from Java trying to negotiate the narrow mountain roads.

 

I noticed many more dogs than last time I was there. Most Bali dogs are not really owned by anyone although I saw quite a few had collars on and looked well tended. There seems to be a considerable disconnect between dogs ‘owned’ by ex-pats in Bali and the local owners. We met an Australian tourist walking a large and beautiful black dog along the front in Sanur. I asked her about the dog. She told me it belonged to the homestay where she was living. She decided to walk it each day because it was cooped up most of the time. She said, “He pulls like crazy and smells like a polecat!” I had to agree, the dog really smelled to high heaven. I saw one dog covered in sarcoptic mange poor creature. Rabies is endemic in Bali, especially in the countryside.

The outbreak of measles in Bali concerns many people. Many Balinese suffer hearing loss because of measles. Not only deafness, but also blindness can result from measles. I can remember when I was a child, 20 years before measles vaccine was invented; we had to stay in a darkened room because of the threat measles posed to vision. I’m still amazed that some Australians do not vaccinate their children against this – and other ‘childhood’ diseases.

Everywhere you turn in Bali another hotel is under construction. Nearly 5million tourists visited Bali in 2016. And so the development in Bali continues with POTUS wanting to build a massive resort on the sacred ground of Tanalot. It saddens me.

 

Bali

Packing, Bali and Nyepi

I admit, I am not good at packing. I take too many of the wrong things and too few of the clothes I will wear. For some reason I can’t seem to balance; too many tees, not enough skirts. Too many jeans, not enough tees. The essentials I can manage – yoga mat, moleskine, toothbrush, hairbrush, bathers and the like. I often pack a whole heap of makeup and I seldom, if ever, wear anything other than lipstick. Shoes are another area that is fraught. I’ve packed a pair of thongs (slip slops to those of you who are not Aussies) and walking shoes. I’ll wear sandals on the plane and it is likely that I’ll wear those most of the time.

So, I’m off to Bali on another Yoga Retreat run by my good friend and teacher, Michele Hendarwin. We will be there for Balinese New Year (Nyepi) when all of Bali stops for 24 hours. No traffic, no noise, no wandering about, no shopping. Nyepi means no aircraft coming in or going out. It is a time for meditation and reflection. It is a sacred time for the Balinese.

Leading up to Nyepi there are amazing processions with Ogoh Ogoh parades. These huge effigies are mounted on platforms and are carried through the streets by teams of men. Last year, I nearly got hit by the scaffolding holding up one of the Ogoh Ogoh but my friend Corrinda pulled me back out of its path. Truly, once these massive Ogoh Ogoh’s are moving, there is no way they can suddenly stop or turn.

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Ogoh Ogoh in the Lovina Parade 2016. Kalibukbuk, Singaraja

According to Wiki, the purpose of the Ogoh Ogoh’s is the purification of the natural environment of any spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of living beings (especially humans). And, this is particularly relevant now, “The imperceptible potentials of nature cannot be thoroughly explored by anyone. Philosophically, civilized men are required to manage the natural resources without damaging the environment itself.”

Donald Trump’s unpopular bid to purchase huge tracts of sacred land in Bali (to build a golf course and resort) and the Ogoh Ogoh being considered a symbol of modes of nature that form the malicious characters of living beings,  I don’t doubt that there will be many Ogoh Ogoh depicting him in his worst colours. I’ll let you know!

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Saturday, 25th Mar – Melasti | Nyepi festivities start, Sacred temple objects are being carried to the sea for blessing and purification
Monday, 27th Mar – Nyepi Eve | Ogoh Ogoh Parades all over the island starting late afternoon, till late at night.
Tuesday, 28th Mar – Nyepi Day – Day of Silence – complete 24h shutdown of the island beginning 6 am, including airport!
Wednesday, 29th Mar – 6.am life goes back to (almost) normal, temple ceremonies and celebrations everywhere.

 

 

Packing, Bali and Nyepi

Nyepi, 9 March 2016

So, here we are in Bali on Nyepi day. From 6am there has been no traffic, no noise, no one walking about. People are home with their families. We (the Yoga group) stay in the grounds of Villa Jaya. We practice some Yoga, we swim, we meditate and make quiet conversation together. We spend time alone contemplating our lives and experiences. Tomorrow, back to the rushing around that so many of us are accustomed to. 
Last evening, the Ogah Ogah floats paraded through the streets of Lovina – and all the other towns and villages in Bali. Fearsome models of ogres are carried on bamboo platforms, shoulder high, by teams of men. There is much beating of drums, cymbals and gamelans. Much shouting and chanting to call out the demons. Excited children run around dressed in fancy costumes. Each village or community has their own Ogah Ogah float and compete for prizes as to which one is the scariest. 

The crowds are dense and, on our way to our vantage point, we were separated from two of our group. Fortunately, they found us once the bulk of the procession had passed. 

After the processions are finished the Ogah Ogah models are burned. Formally, they were made of papier mache but now many are built using polystyrene so there are environmental issues at stake.  

 

Nyepi, 9 March 2016

Staying on the mat?

Do you stay on your mat the whole way through your asana practice? I notice that I don’t do that! Whether at home or at class, I tend to move around. Is it lack of concentration? Not necessarily. It isn’t as though I go and do things other than asana, rather, I change position, look out the window and stretch in places other than on the mat. When the neighbour over the road reverses out of his driveway I scurry through to a space at the back of the house. The fumes that come out of his old car are thick and foul smelling.

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This photo was taken at the Nornalup Community Hall when I used to live in Walpole and teach Yoga at the Community Hall. Moving around during practice could be a hangover from when I used to teach Yoga and would pace around the room so as to see what the students were doing. My current teacher, Kim White (Body Connections), also does this. Possibly, it gives a feeling of confidence to the people in the room – that there is someone to turn to if in doubt. This is particularly valuable in a large class.

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This photo was taken at the Gedong Gandhi Ashram in Candidasa in Bali a couple of years ago. My good friend and colleague, Rakini (Michele Murphy), runs wonderful Retreats and cultural tours in Bali. I am looking forward to going again in March 2016. We will be there during Nyepi – Balinese New Year. We will be studying Pratyahara: The Forgotten Limb of Yoga. Bali Yoga Retreat

Staying on the mat?

Bali Yoga Retreat

Hurry up and wait.

Many journeys begin waiting at the airport and this one was no different. I have long been a subscriber to the philosophy “Hurry up and wait” which, my sister reminded me, was something that Mum used to abide by. So, on a cold morning at the beginning of June, I write in my notebook: Waiting at the airport, Saturday 12.55pm. Sod’s law says, “The earlier you arrive at the airport, the likelihood of the flight being delayed, increases”. However, I’ve discovered that all the years that I thought I was afraid of flying I was, in fact, stressing out about airports and getting there in time so as not to miss my flight; hence, hurry up and wait.

The Garuda flight was delayed because of dreadful weather in Perth. In fact, after takeoff, we were buffeted around to such an extent that we had to remain seated for some time (no toilet breaks or anything) and the meal was served much later than expected. The Garuda flight attendants were, as always courteous, friendly and efficient.

Perth went on to have some terrible storms on Sunday and much damage was done. Lucky me, then, to be swanning around in beautiful Bali, eating exotic and spicy food, having 1 or 2 Yoga classes every day and exploring some less visited parts of the island.

Morning on the second day started with our first Yoga class in (or should that be ‘on’) the roof garden of the hotel. Michele led us through some chanting, pranayama and asanas and finished up with an inspirational meditation.

On the roof garden

After breakfast we (Michele, Robbie and I) set about exploring Legian. Having no sense of direction whatsoever, Michele’s knowledge of the by-ways and back-ways soon had me totally confused. The moment we walked out of the Hotel Vilarisi into the gang (laneway) I was lost! First call was a money changer and then some shopping. I had forgotten the ins-and-outs of bargaining and a couple of stall holders made some money out of me! The way I look at it is this, sometimes the value being haggled over, when translated into Aussie currency, is about $2 or less. Anyway, I was happy and so were they.

After lunch Gede (pronounced G’day – like the West Aussie greeting) picked us up and took us through to Candidasa, further east along the coast. Lovely Candidasa and the Ashram Gandhi.

Bali Yoga Retreat

Bali

Bali – the good, the bad and the ugly; believe me, there is some of each in this amazing place.

This is me chilling out by the pool at the first hotel.

Our little group travelled first to Kuta/Legian where we stayed in one of noisiest hotels I’ve ever come across. The hotel is directly opposite a night club. The ‘music’ starts around 10pm and continues until the wee small hours. Earplugs are useless, the noise is earthshaking. The hotel is in a gang only a couple of hundred metres from the site of the Bali bombing.

Among the first Bahasa Indonesian words learned are, “jalaan, jalaan” which means ‘walking’; “tadik gula” – no sugar! Bali kopi is the best coffee I’ve ever tasted, short, black and potent. “Lihat lihat saja” is important, it means ‘just looking’. So many hawkers, some of whom could only have been 4 or 5 years old. I found this distressing but on the bright side, there are not many beggars – the people want to sell you something and bargaining is de rigueur. Toward the end of the stay I was looking for fixed price shops and stalls as haggling is not my favourite thing to do – especially when you realise you are haggling over 20c or something!

The giant head of Wishnu at GWK Cultural Park. I particularly liked his mo, very lounge lizard …

you can get some idea of the size of this sculpture by looking at the humans at the top of the cliff, well, you can hardly see them really! The completed sculpture
includes Garuda …

Garuda, who looks a lot like the baddies in The Dark Crystal, so I wonder who copied who?

This is the wicked ogre so I bravely stuck my hand in his mouth. He didn’t bite so that was a relief. This room contained any number of costumes and musical instruments used by the performers in festivals and plays. The dragon like Barongs are integral to the festivities. There is much banging of drums and cymbals as the carnival procession proceeds down the street.

Traffic stops for weddings, funerals and any religious procession. Traffic is another story in Bali …
Hati Hati means ‘caution’ and you better believe it. Hati translates as ‘heart’ and sometimes it can be heart stopping as you drive down the road! There must be road rules and the Balinese know them – for me the rules (such as they are) remain a mystery.

Herb Walk from Ubud.

We started out through a building site and within minutes were in the paddy fields.

Cleaning the rice paddy is part of the agricultural ritual. In Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, there is an interesting and informative essay on the rice growing culture. Our guide, Made Westi, on the Herb Walk, was erudite and we were given many insights into the farming community and the underlying cultural mores. I bought the book that Made Westi and his wife Lilian have written about the medicinal properties of the Balinese flora; however, the Australian Quarantine ripped the cover off because there were some pressed flowers. Oh well, c’est la vie.

Tanalot was another experience, many hawkers and many street dogs as we walked up toward the temples.

Yoga at Gandhi Ashram, Candidasa
On the water’s edge – this was truly wonderful.

Of course there was lots more and once I’ve sorted it out in my mind and written up my ‘proper’ journal, I’ll post some more on this blog. I’d like to talk about the dogs and cats and have an idea for an essay simmering away at the back of my mind.

Bali