Tag Archive: cultural

Ubud – The Cultural Epicenter of Bali

Ubud has probably been the best part of Bali. Ubud might not be as famous as Kuta, but it is surely a place that is loved by many. While Ubud might have been a long-time favorite among tourists, it recently received a publicity stimulus from the movie Eat Pray Love. From Italy where she reacquainted her passion for food and life, Liz (starring Julia Roberts) headed to India in search for spiritual answer before landing herself in Bali. Ubud is an inextricable part of Liz’s journey in Bali where she eventually found the love of her live and regained her balance in life. In her book, Liz speaks affectionately about Ubud and how she met many friends such as Ketut Liyer (her spiritual guru), Wayan (her healer), Mario and Robin (from the Bumi Sehat Foundation).

Ubud really is a phenomenal place where unique traditions, pristine greenery, terrace rice fields and exquisite arts blend harmoniously.

Daytime activities are plenty. If you have booked yourself a room / villa in one of the splendid hotels such as Four Seasons, Alila Ubud, Ubud Hanging Garden, Kupu Kupu Barong, Samaya (and the list goes on), you would be pampered by the comfort and luxury that would probably make you think twice or thrice before stepping out of the hotel. While these hotels are perfect for honeymoons and perfect indulgence, they are not too friendly to your pockets and probably not a very clever plan if you intend to truly discover Ubud and spend most of your days out of your room. The next best accommodation alternatives such as Tepi Sawah, Bali Rich, The Mansion (and the list goes on) are not bad at all and this could easily slash your accommodation budget by half. If you have an exhaustive list of activities on your itinerary and few hours are all you have to stay in the room, even budget-friendlier alternatives are available that cost as little as 30-40USD a night.

Ubud is most famous for its duck delicacies – Bebek Bengil and Bebek Betutu. There are many places where you can try them, but since I am a vegetarian, I am not able to give any recommendation. One of the must-try experience while in Ubud is a lunch by the rice field. Many restaurants offer a dining experience by the rice field (and Tepi Sawah is popular among artists) with some of them offering peculiar view of the rice field. The feeling is exhilarating.

If you are an animal lover or a city guy who lives in brick jungle everyday, you may want to visit the Monkey Forest. Here, you can see the wildlife habitat of monkeys. Monkeys are generally notorious for their rascal behaviors and monkeys here is of no exception. While the monkeys here are known to be less atrocious than those in places such as Uluwatu, precaution is always better. If you decided to visit the forest, my best advice is to take off all valuables – chains, bangles, hairbands, sunglasses (they can tell if it is Oakley sunglasses), caps (they know if it is Nike) – and your risk of material loss is much reduced.

Ubud art market is another popular spot among tourists. A wet market at dawn and an art market during the day. At Ubud art market, you can find almost everything that Bali has to offer – from colorful handmade bangle to necklace, from rattan bag to decorative, from Balinese sarong (clothes) to natural aroma-therapeutic soap and from kitchen utensils to herbs essentials. Do be warned that ferocious bargaining is a must. If you felt that you’ve been cheated, do not worry. There is a tourist police station right next to the market. You can lodge a complain there and the unlike many other places in Indonesia, the police officers there would be happy to help you (at no cost of course).

If you are an outdoor guy or you want to get close to Mother Nature, cycling is something that you can add to your checklist. Bicycle rental is common in Ubud. For Rp. 50,000 (less than USD5), you can rent a bike for the whole day. Normal biking trail starts early in the morning when the weather is relatively cooler, the roads are less congested and of course the air is at its freshest and ends depending on how much time you have and how much you want to see. Imagine riding through the scenic mountain, passing by the green rice fields, watching ducks marching, passing by the Ayung river, listening to the gushing river current, watching children bath and play. A vitalizing experience indeed!

When the sun comes down and nighttime sets in, head your way down to catch one of the theatrical traditional dance performances. One long-time and still popular dance is the Legong dance. The origin of Legong dance dates back to early 19th century. Each Legong dance performance displays an intricate mix of finger, footwork, eyes and gestures movements. Another popular performance is the Barong dance. The main character in none other than the mythical Barong itself, which today is still regarded as a sacred character by the Balinese. In brief, the show tells a story about the fight between good and evil. To tourists spectators, Barong dance might just be a theatrical show. But to Balinese, Barong dance is part of their religious ceremonies. Nonetheless, immense rituals and preparations are performed before each Barong dance show. What makes it so mystical is the fact that real priests are involved and many of the casts are really possessed by spirits to make them immune against the knives that are used in later part of the show. It is said that to get rid of the evil possession, they have to gobble black chickens after the show.

Kecak fire dance is another spectacular traditional dance. Each performing troupe consists of at least 100 performing crews. Kecak dance shows a mix of sights and sounds – from the subtle movement of Balinese lady dancer to the mass movement, from the spellbinding chant to the sound of gamelan. Despite being shown almost every night, Kecak fire dance still continue to fascinate its audience even until today.

Whether you are looking to recharge your romance, or looking for an avenue to distress yourself, or an exotic lunch picnic by the rice field, Ubud is probably one of few fascinating places in the world with something for everyone. Truly, Ubud has managed to retain its Balinese root while transforming itself to become one of the tourist magnet of the world.

Raja Laut – Indonesia Cultural Destinations

Bali (Indonesia)

When one talks about Bali Island, often the word “paradise” comes to mind. Indeed, this island abounds with cliches: world-class surfing, paradise for food, golden magnificent beaches, wild and crazy nightlife… But if generally a cliche is an ensemble of false ideas, here the cliche turns out to be true, as all the elements quoted above can be found in Bali. But above all, Bali has a unique culture, made of ancient legends and myths, and beyond that, made of a great open mindedness. With its internationally renowned many forms of art such as dance, music, painting, sculpting, Bali is not done amazing you.A�

Kuta

Despite its infamous partying lifestyle, Kuta has many things to offer and is the ideal gateway for your adventure in Bali. Indeed, it is 10 minutes away from the Denpasar Airport and by bemo, motorbike or taxi, not far from towns like Seminiak, Ubud or Lovina. Apart from that, you will enjoy Kuta for its gorgeous sunsets and the golden sands. There are also a reasonable number of places to shop to buy handicrafts, batiks and local souvenirs.A�

Ubud

Ubud is a little town located about 45 minutes from Kuta. Famously and deservedly called the center of Bali’s art scene, Ubud guarantees a romantic and clever escapade. Ubud is located at 300m above sea level, and hence enjoys a cool climate. This latter fact makes it a perfect spot to flee from the heat and the crowd of the other Balinese towns.

Ubud city is a real concentration of culture, typical Balinese architecture, and eagerness for knowledge. It is the best place on the island to have a real glimpse at Bali’s Hindu. Heritage and will delight all the curious and inspired people who want to experience something more than the fun and sun. These last fews years though, Ubud has inevitably lost a tiny bit of its charm as the merciless machinery of mass tourism spares none city. Nevertheless, if the town center is a bit noisier and competitive than before, the lane and the corners that are located away from it are really worth the visit and constitute a true must to put first on your to-do list. There, the nightly traditional dances which render Ubud so special and popular are exceptional.

Many beautiful rice fields surround Ubud and they constitute a relaxing and interesting activity to do. Many people like to hire bikes and ride in the paddy fields. There are also a lot of temples, historical sites, museums and galleries that are worth the visit. The icing on the cake is that every landscape that will accompany you is breath taking, so bring your camera along. Be it the long lanes full of art galleries or the magnificent greeneries of the fields, you will be charmed by Ubud.A�

Borobudur (yogyakarta) (Indonesia)

Along with the Angkor Wat Temple, Borobudur is one of the finest wonders of South East Asia and doubtlessly the most prestigious monument in whole Indonesia. It is a Buddhist temple located about 40km northwest of Yogyakarta. Place of pilgrimage, Borobudur is now a Unesco World Heritage Site. It has a lot of dramatic history behind it. According to some sources, it was built around 800 AD, but it is unclear by whom exactly and 75 years were necessary to finish its construction. After heyday for Buddhist people, the monument sank into oblivion under volcanic ashes and jungle that grew over it. Its “second life” in 1814 when Stamford Raffles (the Singapore Discoverer ) made the Dutch engineer Cornelius’ discovery public. All the credit was given to Raffles although he did not participate to the unearthing itself.

After this discovery, the site was under archeological attention and in the same time, slightly became more and more appreciated. Being a World Heritage Site, it has been renovated between 1975 and 1982. Now, it draws tourists but especially pilgrims from all over the world and is the most sacred place of worship for all Indonesian Buddhists.

To have a wonderful and unique experience, you can go to Borobudur during the Waisak festival (During the full moon in May). This ceremony celebrates the birth, life and death of Buddha with a long procession that goes from Candi Mendut to Borobudur. It is the perfect occasion to see all the rituals that accompany this kind of Buddhist celebration. It a colorful, spiritual and unforgettable experience.

Borobudur is shaped like a mandala. A mandala is a circular diagram that has its roots in Tibetan traditions. The whole temple is a representation of body, speech and mind of the Lord Buddha. All its architecture and statues live in harmony, and all the elements that form Borobudur are part of a pattern that serves for meditation. It is a real and spiritual guidance for pilgrims for them to find and achieve their way to Nirvana.

Tana Toraja, Sulawesi (Indonesia) Tana Toraja, or ” The Land of Heavenly Kings” is a region located up in the hills of Sulawesi, Indonesia. The two important cities of this region are Makale, the capital, and Rantepao, the largest town. The inhabitants are the ethnic group the Torajans. They are predominantly Christians but obey to their cultural heritage and stick to it.

Tana Toraja is nothing compared to what you have seen or experienced before. You will be stunned by their culture. What makes Tana Toraja so special and unique is all their spectacular funeral rituals and their fascination with the dead.

Death Ceremony in Tana Toraja

An array of beliefs and rituals accompany the daily life of the Torajan people. When someone dies, it is believed that the deceased is not separated directly from the family as he continues to protect and save them by bringing them good luck. Also, as the funeral is considered the most important ceremony in the Torajan’s life, it takes time for the family to save money to buy a buffalo. Indeed, the burials are accompanied by buffalo and pig sacrifices. The more important the deceased, the more the buffalo. Some dances are executed; the dancers’ outfits are based on traditional warrior dress and weaponry. Therefore the funerals can happen a long time after the death.

The funeral season takes place during the months of July and August, so naturally it draws more tourists and curious than the usual. Do not hesitate to get a bit off the beaten track to have the best perception of this amazing Torajan life, or to come during the rest of the year. Makale is the capital of the Tana Toraja Regency. Rantepao is the cultural center of Tana Toraja and is a good gateway for your adventure in Tana Toraja. An absolute must-see in Rantepao is its market, Pasar Bolu.A�

Nias Island (Indonesia)

Nias Island is an Indonesian island located on the western side of Sumatra. It is a paradisaical place known for its turquoise waters and, above all, for being a great surf destination. As a matter of fact, one of the main source of income of the locals is seasoning surf. It is an internationally known surfing spot renowned for its world class waves, the most popular site being Lagundri Bay.

Apart from these surfing features, Nias Island is blessed with gorgeous scenery and a lot of other water activities to do: Fishing, diving… Indeed, the waters there are very rich.

The people of Nias, who calls itself “Ono Niha” (it means “People’s children”) will amazed you with their strong culture. They live simply and are very hospitable towards tourists. Earning their lives mainly by fishing or farming, they live in old traditional houses, built with heavy woods and following a special architecture to resist the wrath of the weather conditions.

Batubulan Village, A Fascinating Cultural Site

Especially intriguing is the neighborhood adjustment of Hinduism, which is rather various to the faith as it is exercised in India today. Especially it includes a solid idea in numerous spirits which are existing in several components of nature. Especially the neighborhood individuals are incredibly dedicated to their neighborhood divine being that is claimed to safeguard and also support them.

Specifically fascinating is the neighborhood adjustment of Hinduism, which is rather various to the religious beliefs as it is exercised in India today. Especially it includes a solid idea in different spirits which are existing in numerous aspects of nature. Especially the regional individuals are incredibly committed to their regional divine being that is stated to shield as well as support them.