Sparkes – Bali Blog
By David Sparkes | 06 July 2012
Rob Machado, Outside Corner, Uluwatu. All Pics: sparkesphoto.com
Been there done that, I know, but really, there is nowhere even similar to Bali. It's not Bali's fault that yobbos by the score, rank footy teams on drunken end of season trips, and other demented, culture blind knuckleheads visit the "Island of the Gods". I wish they didn't, but that doesn't mean the essential Bali is finished; it's actually the same as it ever was.
The same but different, "sama sama 'tapi lain". Because the intrinsic Balinese doctrine is entrenched in embracing change, flux, and basically flowing with whatever happens. A blend of Hindu, Buddhism and old style animist beliefs, it is the ultimate in anti-dogma, constantly evolving through exposure to other religions. That's why they have rolled with the punches, and why the touristy parts of Bali have gone from dusty fishing villages to full bore party/shopping scenes in record time.
Kelly Kelly Slater Slater at Padang Padang – so good they had to name it twice.
And incredibly - amidst the often garish behavior of tourists, the heathen performances of drugged and pissed party animals - the same way of life the Balinese have always cherished and chosen is still there. It is a surreal juxtaposition. There are sacred temples adjacent to nightclubs, ancient ceremonies within a yobbo’s spew of shopping malls, offerings to deities and demons so close to Maccas that the sweet aroma of burning incense competes with the reek of secret sauce.
Impossibles looking not just possible but perfect.
Move away from the tourist shock Kuta/Legian mess and the original Bali is right there. The trendy young local punks never fly in the face of tradition either, they simply embrace both old and new. The same 18 year old Balinese guy you partied with all night can be seen at his temple the next day, in traditional dress, deferring to the many deities in the Balinese Hindu pantheon. Guarded by spectacular carved paras stone (a soft, compressed volcanic ash that is a sculptor's dream) gates, there are thousands of temples around Bali. Gamelan orchestras chime the sounds of the exotic east, and within the temple walls it may as well be the year 1400. In reality, for a Balinese the temple is never far away - every traditional Balinese home has its own temple as an integral part of the grounds.
The place just wouldn't be the same without its welcoming people and rich culture and mixed religions.
There are so many deities to appease, the Balinese are almost constantly holding processions, ceremonies, festivals or cremations. Villages regularly feature almost kaleidoscopic explosions of color, sound, smell and texture. The village streets are often lined with penjor, festively decorated poles of bamboo bursting with expressive weaving, floral offerings and other embellishments.
Mick Fanning in the equivalent of the corner office with a view.
In the Balinese universe, there are three realms: the sea, where the evil spirits reside, the middle ground where humans live, and the high mountains, dwelling place of the Gods. For this reason, the first surfers to come to Bali were looked on with horror. Since they played in the ocean, the Balinese were scared for them, as the sea was a place only to be visited by fishermen catching food. Venturing into this world was literally a necessary evil.
His surfing was built for Bali's long lefts, his sun sensitive skin was not. Mick Campbell.
Bali is unique in Indonesia, which has the highest Islamic population in the world. Bali has remained staunchly Hindu, well, at least staunchly their interpretation of Hinduism. Considering its proximity to Java, this is really remarkable. It is like a bubble in the middle of a huge Southeast-Asian Muslim pond. The bubble periodically bursts of course, through regular invasions over the centuries from the north (the most recent being in our own time, the hideous Bali bombings) but the bubble always seems to reform and the Balinese carry on in their special little microcosm.
The artistic bent of the Balinese is legendary. Whole villages are devoted to particular media, there are stone carving specialist villages such as Batubulan, woodcarving specialists like Mas, and painting villages like Bataan. Artists in Bali have been influenced by many ex-patriot artists from around the world, such as the German painter Walter Spies, around whom a whole artistic school exploded. Unlike most artists, the Balinese will often all follow a certain trend at once, and this is not considered to be uncool, or plagiarism.
Hawaiian Fred Patacchia keeps his hands inside the car at Padang Padang.
Then of course there are the waves. Wow. Bali has probably the highest concentration of world class surf spots on earth. The consistency of the surf during the winter is almost unbelievable; you can surf every day if you want to hunt for it. It is getting more crowded of course, but the surf is still there to be had for those willing to think laterally, and look carefully. The Balinese surfers themselves have come a long way from the traditional wariness of the ocean. They now rule at the best breaks, and surf with that flowing island style that indigenous surfers universally seem to acquire.
Really, Bali has something for everyone. It almost seems that if you are looking for it, you can find it there. Party? Art? Surf? Culture? Scenic beauty? Shopping? Pampering? Incredible people? Amazing cuisine? Gateway to Asia? Diving? Fishing? Love? Check all of those - and they're just the beginning.
This is an illusion – Bingan with not one soul out.