Friday, June 3, 2011

(Travelogue) Oriental Outings Day 5: Silence in Bali

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Comparing Singapore and Bali
Though it was our second day in Bali but we can feel the contrast between the modern Singapore and the primitive Bali. A dream combination from a traveler’s perspective; one is as structured as arithmetic while the other is as abstract as an art piece.

Life in Singapore goes with the clock while in Bali people are laid back and easy; the city state is about apartment complexes, skyscrapers, and vivid shopping malls while the isle province consists of traditional houses, peaceful neighborhoods, and green paddy fields; MRT connects the posh atoll while motorbike joins the east coast quickly to the west of the bucolic island; Singaporeans are open minded while Balinese are open hearted; salons are in vogue there and aged old massage is in fashion here; and most importantly, for our pockets, one Singapore dollar worth 67 Pakistani rupees as compared to 100 Indonesian bucks in on one Pakistani rupiah!

The Nyepi Day
Today we decided to stay at home because of the local New Year, i.e. Nyepi. Not that we wanted to keep away from celebrations but, to be frank, we did not have a choice. Balinese New Year is a different ballgame! Nyepi means no sound, no light, and no going out. As per local myths, Balinese would go into hiding on Nyepi to decieve evil spirits, which they had invited themselves through crazy Ogoh Ogoh last evening, so that the island would be spared for the year to come.

This is not just another custom but the law of the land. Break it and you will be in jail! Even the airport closes down for 24 hours!! Balinese are humble unless it comes to keeping their permittivity alive!
 Nyepi Spirit
The "Day of Silence" provides dwellers with an opportunity for the spritual rehabilitation through keeping away from worldly desires for 24 hours. Those who observe strict adherence to the ritual do not even talk during this period in addition to fasting for a day. TV stations and radio channels remain closed while lights are either kept low or turned off. Non-Hindu residents also respect these pacifying mores to show solidarity with their fellow citizens. 

Empty streets amid Nyepi

Raining as usual
No lights, please!

The Guesthouse
It was a total shutdown, more silent than what it would have been in an MQM strike in Karachi! For us, it was a welcome break after four crazy days. So we availed the chance to relax and to have some chat with other travelers. “You were fluky to recover your forgotten luggage so easily”, suggested the frank British Airways airhostess who was sharing the same guesthouse with us. She was referring to our other night gaffe when we came out of the airport without picking our stuff from the luggage belt.

The stewardess further revealed that she had been to Karachi but surprisingly she did not know the country metropolitan belongs to! Smelling our doubt, she clarified that this malfunction is common among in-flight staff as they keep hopping among cities too fast to map them with the corresponding countries! On the other couch, her husband, a big time fan of Ian Botham, was finding it hard to defend England’s recent World Cup defeat against Ireland in front of an Irish guest!

To make up for the Nyepi, Ron – the Australian owner of Dana Guesthouse – not only arranged for a bunch of movies but also offered a complimentary lunch, which he had to cook himself as the staff was off due to Nyepi. The guesthouse is run by a bunch of friendly guys and gals, living in the surrounding neighborhood, including Putu and Krisna. The place is located in a peaceful vicinity with paddy fields around to add to the serenity.  
Ron playing Chef!

Lunch is ready!!
Inviting the Agony of Gods!
In the evening, it turned out to be a full blackout as people were not allowed to make any lighting. We took exception, due to Misha, and energized the tube-light of our room. That was like inviting the agony of Gods! A sin! And within a couple of minutes we could see evil forces knocking at guesthouse’s main gate! It was actually a squad of Pecalang, the community police, who caught us red-handed defying the law! Second time in 2 days when were in a situation.
This picture won "The best photograph of Nyepi" Award :P
Luckily, they were only interested in reprimanding us with a promise not to repeat that. For the rest of the night, we had to take recourse on the dwindling beam of the battery torch!

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