Serene Chaos – Travel Tip Pengerupukan parade of Ogoh-ogoh

Good day folks! It is Tuesday again, and Nigel Skelchy from Malaysia shares his Tuesday Travel Tip on Bali.

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As the aircraft door thunks open, the breath of serenity washes over you like a cool towel served at the beginning of a luxurious Japanese meal. No matter how hot the weather gets, or how damp, or how hectic, this serenity seems to stamp itself on everything Balinese.

IMG_5706From the smile of…well, just about everyone who you might chance to meet to the morning devotionals at each little shrine situated at the cardinal points of every hotel/villa/home you may choose to visit, to the orderly rough and tumble of the chaotic driving on roads the width of my right thigh, the Balinese seem to realise that everyone is there for a reason and therefore worthy of respect and, at the very least, civility.  There is a fateful inevitability to Balinese life which seems to point serenely(there’s that word again) to the afterlife with this mortal coil as a way station meant to be enjoyed, happily, along the way.

All unbeknownst to us, while we made preparations to travel to Putu Bali Villa’s in Seminyak for a friend’s 50th Birthday party, we had booked to travel during a period of the Balinese Calendar which put us smack dab in some of the Island’s biggest religious and spiritual celebrations; namely “Nyepi” and “Melasti” with the big surprise of the Pengerupukan parade of Ogoh-ogoh in between. Furthermore, all the festivities seemed to be concentrated around Kerobokan/Seminyak where we were staying.

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Bags of paper and lashings of books (with apologies to Enid Blyton) have been written about Balinese spirituality but as a Cliff’s Notes version, this is it; it’s Hinduism. But a unique version which is perhaps more akin to Buddhism and Shamanism than it is to traditional Hinduism as practiced elsewhere. There is a huge aesthetic display of ritualistic fervour which seems to be reflected by internal feeling.  Also, Balinese Hinduism doesn’t seem to place much stock on reincarnation but on community endeavour instead.


Little did I realise that our first planned trip with the group was really a portent of things to come. It would seem that while each trip to Bali brought a calmness about in me, this particular jaunt would feature spirituality as a defining moment of happiness felt on the return journey. I write this missing Bali tremendously and look forward to going back. There is a vague disappointment wafting at my edges but a glow of satisfaction warming the cockles of my heart.

IMG_5758Tanah Lot to the west of the island really didn’t seem as impressive in the bright, warm, evening sunshine as the last time. But I wanted to share the making of this gorgeous memory with Allan. And it eventually did not disappoint. As the Sun Set (the capitals are deliberate because that’s how the Sun Sets in Bali. It just doesn’t set. It Sets) and each moment brought about a different grandeur and rush, the moment crystallized, and it was Shared in spades. Mercurial Golds morphed into fires of orange and washed into bruised purples and reds, all the while throwing the sillouhette of Pura Tanah Lot’s thatched roofs into stark, embossed relief against the flaming sky. If building a temple on the western tip of the island, deliberately framed against the power and majesty of the setting sun doesn’t demonstrate a love of one’s Gods I don’t know what does.IMG_5790 On the way back from Tanah Lot we head to Chandi in Seminyak for dinner for their Braised Beef Ribs (dark, meaty, rich, sweet, tangy, unctuous, melting like butter) and Charcoal Grilled Honey Soy Cardamom Yellow Fin Tuna.

Each Banjar seems to be in charge of it’s own affairs but come together during Melasti to bring their various Village Gods down to central Temples for their ritual fluff and fold. Staying at Putu Bali Villa we were fortunate to be just a spit and a throw away from Pura (Temple) Petitenget.

As we putt-putted out of the driveway on our scooters/mopeds (which are certainly a great help and probably the cheapest mode of transport in the town) we ran smack dab into a whole passel of hunky dudes (even a “Prince Harry”), bewitching dudettes, and wizened, enchanting  greybeards ever ready to offer a twinkle and a smile even WITHOUT the asking. Gamelan Gongs bonging, drums percussing, traffic stops, without complaint,  to wait the 15 to 20 minutes the procession of at least a hundred souls takes to pass, knowing that in 100m you may just have to stop and wait again.

IMG_5814In orderly anarchy, the procession of the Gods of the hundred or so Banjar are carried upon the shoulders of their village braves and in rows and rows, they gather on the beach. There is a sussuration of conversation which never rises above a polite murmur and in the background you hear the louder declamations of the “master of ceremonies” over the loud hailer. But even as the multitudes throng, it’s never in frustration or bad temper. Equanimity rules.  The lucky find shade and spoon their packed lunches into their eager mouths with deft thumbs and those who can’t,  sit in the sun in cheerful forbearance doing the same. Everyone, even the casual fine dining La Lucciola restaurant, which is more used to serving expatriates, takes the invasion of it’s space in it’s stride. The toilet cleaner, who is obviously not usually on duty, just sweeps up the usually dry toilet and greets me with a grin.  Surprisingly, they don’t smell more rank, which you’d expect after hundreds of feet have tramped through their doors. The staff of “La Looch”  (who serves the best Bircher Muesli with Roasted Tamarillos) treat their fellow countrymen with respect and cheer unlike other restaurants in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur who would probably be sniffing down their noses in disdain.

The supervisor tells us that until all the Banjars’ put in an appearance they can’t start the ritual cleansing. But as morning ages into the afternoon, signs of the sedan chairs for the Gods begin to go into the sea and turn around for the return walk to their various homes.  We follow them back and on the way we spot Biku, a must stopover in any trip to Seminyak. They serve, unequivocally,  the BEST Afternoon English Teas at some very decent prices.

End of Part 1 .. stay tuned for Part 2 ..

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Useful links:

Putu Bali Villas, Seminyak
Pura Petitenget
Pura Tanah Lot
La Lucciola
Pengerupukan Day and Parade and Ogoh-Ogoh
Chandi – Haute Cuisine,  Indonesian Restaurant, Seminyak
Café Marzano, Legian
Ruth’s Cakes
Biku Bali

Zanzibar Bali

Pak Putu for Car rental and Scooter rental Tel: +628123904268

Books on Bali:



About this week’s guest writer:nigel

Nigel’s a dark, haunted soul (NOT!) who wakes up in the middle of the night to soften his butter to research cake making techniques and concoct alchemic flavours to put into their take away counters, A Slice of Heaven, found in Bukit Damansara, Jaya One, and Bangsar Shopping Centre at O Gourmet. Yes, he is one half of the dynamic duo baker boys.. Just Heavenly.

Follow Nigel on twitter.

Country: Malaysia

Twitter: @heavenlycake

Website: Just Heavenly

*all photos above are credited to the guest writer, Nigel

21 Comments

  • Woah! This is brilliant! Can’t wait for part 2. Good job Nigel. Now I want a holiday.

  • Sean says:

    love the pics of the SunSets! now i’m wondering how the SunRise looks! 😀
    i’ve only ever been in bali once, but that was for work, so all i saw was the airport, the resort, and the road between the airport and the resort! after reading “eat pray love” a year or two back, i’ve been meaning to return someday. your post is a lovely reminder of what i’m missing out on =)

  • Nigel says:

    Thanks so much. Hope people enjoy it. And find it useful. All the outlets here are things we’ve enjoyed.

  • Nigel says:

    Sean(with nod to cumi and ciki), sunrises are amazing too. But from seminyak they’re not as visible. We went diving in Tulamben and the sunrises over Gg Agung behind the dive resort were just as stunning. Wreathed in clouds with the sun peaking out it was an amazing sight before diving.

  • Great post… but WOTS THIS? Nigel > You announced a hiatus on your own blog and then you guest write here? 😛

  • Thanks, Nigel — for sharing those lovely pics of Bali and the stories and most of all… *dramatic, near-Wagnerian sound effects — for introducing me to Tamarillos! I so frog-below-the-coconut-shell till you explained to me what they were. 😛

  • superwilson says:

    I had my experience last year there unaware. Forget Earth Hour, Nyepi really saves more electricity.

  • Apple says:

    Just want to say that my family & I love Nigel’s cakes. Tell him the sunset photo is beautiful… good photography!

    Apple

  • Brother B says:

    I have been to Bali like 5 times and all i remembered was the bars, bars and bars (and perhaps a bit of shopping). Now I realised (after reading your blog) that i am truly certified “uncultured”

    I have a book ‘Bali Moon: A Spiritual Odyssey’ by Odyle Knight (given to me as a gift – probably a hint for me to be more spiritual) -you may like to read.

    Now now, where are the exotic/eroctic bits?
    ( I hear Ciki saying -“Please B, this is a wholesome clean site”)

  • Ming says:

    Beautiful writing and I have been to Bali so many times but have only been to La Lucciola on the list, so ta for the tips!

  • eiling says:

    Nice one! I think I need to go back to Bali and experience all that. Your trip there put mine to shame!

  • taufulou says:

    wow! waat a great write up!

  • I haven’t been to Bali yet, and I’m glad I haven’t, because I want my first time to be as magical as Nigel’s.

  • BaliYummyBlog says:

    I enjoyed reading Nigel’s guest post as much as I’d love to taste the dark, meaty, rich, sweet, tangy, unctuous, melting like butter Braised Beef Ribs (am trying no to eat red meat though). What Nigel’ve experienced is what most visitors did & tasted & visited too, and it is not actually what everyday balinese or non-balinese locals such as me would do and spend (unfortunately) 🙂
    It is good to know that La Lucciola staffs would treat fellow countrymen with same respect they give to foreigners as that’s one of the main issues why locals prefer just to eat in a simple “warung” for yummy scrumptious food.
    @Sean @Nigel Best Sunrise venue is definitely PANTAI MATAHARI TERBIT which literally means SunRise Beach, located in Sanur.
    Nigel, Cumi, Ciki, please do come again to Bali xoxo

  • Nigel says:

    With due respect to Cumi & Ciki, I’ll reply to everyone

    J the chocoholic, I can’t refuse The Ciki 😉

    LFB, no worries 🙂

    Superwilson, ummm I think saving electricity wasn’t the point here 😉

    Apple, thank you so much 🙂 Re cakes and sunset pic 🙂

    Bro B, lots to see and experience. Been diving, watching people, watching performances, eating,

    Ming, honestly, its still quite touristy, what we did. But fun 🙂

    Eiling, everyone goes to Bali and takes their own experiences from it. Trick is to go looking I think and with an open heart 😉

    Taufoulou, thank you

    LL, jom, we go.

    Baliyummyblog,Gaby, Thank you dear. Am sorry I didn’t get to meet you but thanks for the pic of Allan, Keith, and Maks. 🙂 Hope to see Maks soon actually. You’re right. We did very touristy things. Would love to do what locals do next time. This time round we went with a bunch of peeps who I think wanted a little more luxo than local. I’m not a morning person so getting up is always tough. Though must admit that forced early rising when I’m diving does open me up to some tremendous sunrises, sometimes on the water.

    Hey LL, Cumi, Ciki, how about a Floggers trip to Bali? 😉

  • J2Kfm says:

    Love those shots. Previews in advance eh? 🙂
    Eh, can guest post also ah? Hehehe ….
    Tempted lah.

    • Nic says:

      Tanah Lot, to me, is one of the most magical sights I’ve ever witnessed even sans sunset, which I learnt, is breathtaking. We were at Uluwatu for sunset instead. Still fantastic, of course. One day, hopefully I’ll have a chance to return to Tanah Lot for the sunset.

      Excellent post, Nigel.

  • One knows when the prolific Nigel speaks or write, one should listen or read.
    Great travel story, now tell me more abt the English Tea!!

  • Nigel says:

    Hey becks. Hardly prolific. Biku was amazing. Might do blog on it in justheavenly. Hmmm. But Bali is easy to write about. So much to experience. Truck is not closing yourself to ANY experience, good or not so good. 😉

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