The Other Bali

It’s almost as if there are two Balis living side by side: sometimes they collide and intertwine, but most of the time, they exist in different time zones and spiritual planes. I’m always searching for the old Bali, or the other Bali, once the allure of warm swimming pools, unlimited breakfast banqueting and cheap trinkets begins to pale. The other Bali is always there: you can enter at any time just by going in the opposite direction, walking away from the tourist enclaves with their playgrounds full of bling and beer. Walk in the opposite direction, down concrete lanes and into local suburbs or onto the beach before the sun worshippers arrive, or into a hidden Pura ( Hindu temple)  or an unassuming warung,  a simple tin shed right on the sand for a coffee and a chat. Walking away might take you into the local Pasar (market) to buy a hand of bananas, or past a dozing grandmother, ancient, honey skinned and worn out, dressed in faded kabaya and brown ikat sarong, long silver hair wrapped turban style, curled up in sleep on the front porch, or past younger women, balancing enamel trays full of Canang Sari, flowers arranged in little palm leaf baskets, thoughtfully engrossed in prayer as they make their daily offerings to the gods and their ancestors. If you head to the beach at dawn in the hope of catching a glimpse of the holy mountain, Gunung Agung,  on the horizon, you’ll find the dawn brigade, a busy uniformed crew of sweepers and cleaners, slowly but methodically removing leaves and rubbish, all signs of yesterday bagged up and taken away, the sand raked then watered down.

Boats at dawn, Sanur, Bali. 2018

This year marks an anniversary for me. I first came to Bali in 1978. Over the last forty years, Bali has changed enormously, and like all change, the blessings are mixed but much of it has been beneficial to the Balinese. During the next fortnight, I hope to relate some stories in the words of the locals, mostly on the theme of tradition and change, a topic close to my heart. Chatting to the locals comes easily: I’ll need a bit more bravado to seek permission for some portraits to accompany the stories.

Morning offering, canang sari, by the sea. Soon to be washed away.

Dawn, Sanur, Bali 2018

27 thoughts on “The Other Bali”

  1. My first trip to Bali was in 1980 to Ubud. My next trip came in 2008, back to Ubud. I have been back 7 times since, it is in my blood. The changes have been massive, but as you say, walk in the opposite direction. This is exactly what we do, explore the old Bali. The traditions and customs are so much part of Balinese life, I hope and trust they will continue on forever. Island of the Gods.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bali has always fascinated me and if it was not so bloody far away I’d likely make a visit. But now I can experience your Bali via your, as always, fantastic post. I look so forward to the next installment.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a milestone! forty years! It does make one reflect on our own changes and of those around us. I was a very excited naive 19 yo country boy when I had my first Bali experience, also 40 years ago. I think I fell in love every 2 hours with some stunning vision, person, food-fare and experience – but mainly the culture and the happy smiley, peaceful people. What they make of us Francesca will be a very interesting project. One in which you will no doubt reach the bottom of and bless us with the outcomes.
    Trvela yang aman dan bahagia.


  4. I’ve never visited Bali either. I’ve made countless plans that have fizzled mainly be ause it’s the traditional Bali I’d seek too as I have zero interest in highly commercialized tourism

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is soo true. there are 2 faces of Bali, the spiritual and the party side. Btw, I love Bali 🙂 I always enjoy my time there and still looking forward to visit eventhough been there many times.

    Liked by 1 person

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