Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Semester Break in Bali, Indonesia

Two Balinese women en route with offerings for a traditional ceremony in Ubud, Bali's cultural center.
For a week, Hersley and I traveled to Bali, Indonesia during Foundation University's semester break.  Finding time to relax and explore another part of Southeast Asia was enriching for both of us.  My interest in Bali perked after seeing Elora Hardy's (founder of Ibuku) inspiring TED talk, "Magical Houses, Made of Bamboo", highlighting their progressive structures and sustainable methods in sourcing, treating and building with bamboo.  Being so close to Bali in the Philippines, I made it a point to see Ibuku's facilities in person with the interest of bringing that knowledge back to FU's architecture program, and a chance to meet Ms. Hardy in person.  The latter never happened, but I was able to take a tour of the facilities, including; Ibuku's bamboo factory and two, Green Village homes.  Unfortunately, no photographs were permitted during the factory tour, nor one of the village homes.  However, you can view their professional photos online at: ibuku.com.  

Looking through the circular entry door at Ibuku's central office and visitor's center.
Looking up at a village home interior, features a curvaceous roof and spiral stair.
Looking up inside the spiral stair.
Looking up at a bamboo pendent light fixture.

Green Village inspired our trip, but after discovering Bali's vibrant culture and rituals, our short visit exceeded our expectations. We saw a lot in six days.  Highlights include: exploring Ubud, the cultural center of Bali; attending the Negara Makepung (water buffalo) races; witnessing the annual ceremony at Rambat Siwi Temple; and catching waves in the Indian Ocean.  After absorbing all these events and vibrant places, Bali lingers in my memory on all five senses.  The sights, tastes, smells, textures, and sounds are magical; they stimulate your mind and soul into a transcendent state. I never anticipated to experience a place quite like this, where 80% of the Balinese people authentically practice daily prayers of Hindu origin.  It is common among the Balinese to offer blessings in form of flowers and incense, for all human kind to stay healthy, protected, and prosperous.   These rituals set the tone and permeate throughout Bali and they manifest into a seemingly more peaceful and harmonious lifestyle.  It inspires me to incorporate more beauty and rituals into my life, and generate a positive mindset on a daily basis.

Ubud Traditional Market
Residential entry gateway.  Traditional Balinese homes are designed as an open-air complex; defined by a perimeter wall which clearly separates the public and private spaces to create sacred space.  Balinese people view their homes as temples.
The woman features traditional markings of crushed rice on her forehead and a flower tucked behind the ear.  They are symbols of blessings which are placed after a daily prayer.
Fresh flowers, like hibiscus, are common to see placed on statues and small temples at all corners of the city.  The flowers are a symbol of blessing for the place.
Ubud Palace, a historic place to catch nightly, traditional Balinese performances.
Ubud Palace traditional Balinese performer.

Negara Makepung (water buffalo) races.  The buffalo handler waiting to race.

Thousands from the Negara region assemble along the well-worn path, set in open rice fields, to view the Makepung races.

Charioteer and buffalo racing in action.

Buffalo racing towards a dusty finish.  The winner is determined after two rounds of racing for the shortest time.

Rambat Siwi Temple annual ceremony.  We were very lucky that our hired driver directed us to this ceremony.  There were no other tourists here at this three-day event celebrated only once in a Balinese calendar year, and at only six temples throughout Bali.  This temple was located on the Indian Ocean cliff shoreline.
A grandmother and her grandchildren, playfully posing for a picture.  The girl in yellow, second from the left, was ecstatic upon seeing me (a white American), as if she met a celebrity. Many who made a pilgrim to this temple, came from remote regions, which may have provoked a strong reaction from this young girl.
Xylophones and bells ring a delightful melody throughout the temple complex.  Traditionally, men play the instruments and women perform a dance.  It is uncommon to see a predominant-woman band, like in this image at Rambat Siwi Temple.

The sacred water at Holy Spring Temple in Ubud.

People line up to purify their physical and spiritual well being.

A wall of curling, white waves crashing behind me at Seminyak beach. My first time to dip my toes into the Indian Ocean.  Photo courtesy of Hersley Casero.

Surfing is popular on the West side of Bali and the open waters of the Indian Ocean.

A clean, sandy beach stretches on for miles in Seminyak.

The famous Tanah Lot Temple at dusk during low tide.  One of the top ten tourist destinations of Bali.

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