Without a doubt, Bali is one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited anywhere in the world. Along with this natural beauty, the emphasis on traditional Hindu culture makes festivals and celebrations an almost daily occurance.
The heritage and culture of Bali makes it one of the more colorful destinations in the world. While the beautiful beaches, world class resorts and nightlife in the south near Denpasar attract a bit of a rowdy crowd from all over the world (with a decided majority from Down Under) the cultural center of Ubud and the beautiful mountains of the north near Munduk are significantly more peaceful and equally beautiful.
While not always a practical option, one of the things we always take a look at when planning a trip is the opportunity to participate in local festivals and holidays. In the case of our 2002 trip to Bali, we specifically chose our travel dates around the Balinese New Year celebrations and we’re so glad we did. The celebrations around New Year in Bali is actually a week-long affair that begins with Melasti or temple cleaning ceremonies all over the country. In the days before the actual holiday, there are Ogah-Ogah parades with giant paper mache monster floats that serve to scare evil spirits away. The 24-hours of Nyepi Day are spent in the home compound (or on the hotel grounds for tourists) in meditation. There is no traffic other than for emergency services. The streets are even deserted of foot traffic, although we did notice some people walking from place to place via the rice paddies that were off the street. Even the international airport is closed.
And while that did limit what we could do on that one day, the opportunity to view the spectacle of the pageantry and other activities of the week leading up to Nyepi far outweighed any inconvenience. I know the term is overused these days but getting the opportunity to celebrate a Balinese New Year should be on everyone’s bucket list.
I should also mention how Wayan Merta, a very special guide & driver enhanced our experience in Bali. He not only was very professional in all his duties, he is a genuinely kind person and we are better off having met him. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org