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Bali is a beautiful island. It is also known as the Island of Paradise or the Island of the Gods. The latter probably in literal sense as well, as gods are everywhere. Their presence can be felt in statues, temples and offerings.
In Bali, contrary to other parts of Indonesia where the majority of the population is Muslim, about half of the people are Hindu. The Balinese honour there gods and spirits enthusiastically, and temples and statues can be found everywhere, even house-temples in the garden. Offerings to the gods are made on a frequent basis. On every street corner, you find “canang sari”: small boxes with flowers, foods, cigarettes and sometimes incense to please the gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. You have to b
Canang sarie careful not to step on them.
Before eating, some food is usually offered. People throw a few crumbs or drops on the ground, for the gods to be collected. In a taxi, the driver put a chocolate bar in the box, which was standing under his front window in the full sun. The contents must have been inedible, even for the gods!
Black-and-white checkered cloth is very popular in Bali. The numerous statues, which are standing alongside the roads, are without exception neatly dressed with skirts of that material. In Bangladesh we are used to the fact, that Muslims have demolished the stone breasts of Hindu goddesses, because they find that these parts of the body are not to be left uncovered. You can see one of the poor de-breasted ladies in Rajshahi. The dresses in Bali, however, are not meant to hide those parts from the eye. The colors black and white symbolize good and evil and the cloth is not there, to keep fellow Indonesian Muslims at bay, but to ward off evil spirits.

The first known history starts in 3,000 BC, when probably Chinese settlers inhabited the island. Thousands of years later, Indian traders passed by and left their Hindu influence, mainly in Java. Around 900, the contact between Bali and Java was intensified, and similarities between the two islands can be found.
For some time, Hinduism was the main religion in Indonesia, but after the spread of the Islam, the last Hindu empire from Java, the Majahapit, moved to Bali. Even though the worshipped Hindu gods are the same as in India and Bangladesh, the Hinduism in Bali is quite different. There are almost no statues of the main Hindu gods, and Balinese believe that gods are everywhere, in the see, the earth and the woods. They see a very clear distinction in good and bad, in gods, colors and places of the earth. They give offerings to the good gods as well as to the bad spirits. There is one upper god, Sanghyang Widi, unknown to Hindus in other places, who is actively worshipped.
Even in the rice fields, small temples can be found. The farmers pray after sowing and after harvesting, to keep the bad spirits from destroying the growth and to thank the good ones for the good harvest. All temples have an interesting "front gate" (candi bentar), which looks as if the hand of an unseen giant split the main gate in two with an axe and torn the two halves apart. It symbolizes the holy mountain, through which you must go to reach the inner courtyard; inside there is yet another split gate, to enter the iner courtyard, the most holy place where the ceremonies take place.

Temple in rice field

We made a trekking through the rice fields. Nobody had warned me beforehand, that I would have to walk on little grass paths of 15 centimeters' width with a muddy rice bath on one side and an abyss on the other! As I am usually even unable to cross a small bridge over a ditch, if it has no handrails, without swaying from left to right, this was an absolute nightmare. But my children told me that I should not be heard on this issue, as I was the one who insisted on this trekking, it was definitely not their idea! Sure, 15 minutes, but a whole morning in the rice fields was too much of a good thing. For once, I agreed with them. Still, it was worth the pain, as we enjoyed many beautiful views. Bali is a volcanic island and thus a combination of mountains and fertility, a guarantee for green lush beauty all around. Being used to the completely flat rice fields as far as the eye can see in Bangladesh, the rice terraces here were completely different. We saw the long rice, the variety which grew on Bali before the dwarf strain was introduced, which grows much faster, but has probably not such a good taste. Also we say pepper fields, and lots of banana and coconut trees between the rice, which gave us an idea what the food in Indonesia should look like.

The atmosphere in Bali is extremely relaxing. The air is filled with the sound of the gamelan and the faint smell of incense and beautiful flowers. Flowers in the most beautiful colors and shapes are everywhere; underneath you may find a small selection but HERE is the full beauty of the flowers we found. When we visited Bali, even the coffee plants were flowering, the white one is a coffee flower. Bali coffee is delicious, nice and strong, exactly what a working mother of four brats needs to start the morning with!

In many restaurants at dinnertime, Balinese dances are performed and even our own Elodie practiced some dancing in a beautiful dress and lots of make-up. Chicken fights are also very popular, especially around festivals, when the blood is apparently offered to the gods. The fights are very serious; all spectators are heavily betting their money and one of chickens is definitely dead after fighting. Anna was not as soft-hearted as we and attracted by the lifeless chicken bodies:
"Look, a rooster! It is not moving!"
It was not, only waiting to be moved towards
Balinese chicken satay, perhaps.

Funerals are also major festivals. There was one in the village where we stayed, and the road was completely blocked. A large crowd of people was standing around the large tower of bamboo, paper and flowers, in which the body must have been hidden, and packages from there were going from hand to hand. They looked like wrapped breads but we had no clue what was inside. There were a lot of food stalls quickly set up around the event. We did not make any pictures, as we feared that would be inappropriate, but later I found out that funerals are actually celebrations; after all death is not the end. We left in the middle of the ceremony, and thus missed the tower being carried around and shaken to ward off the evil spirits.
We visited three parts of Bali, Sanur in the south, which is supposed to be the "upmarket" place. It was very quiet and there was almost no night life, which was fine with us as small kids tend to decrease your disco dancing ability. We did not do much more there than swim in the sea and swimming pool, and enjoy the delicious food.

For delicious recipes of Indonesian food, please click HERE or on the pictures below.

Satay lilit (Balinese satay) Acar (sweet and sour vegetables)Kesuna goreng (garlic fries) Base be sampi (spice paste for beef)Base jukut (spice paste for vegetables)
Fried bananaBebek betutu (duck in banana leavesSoto ayam (chicken soup)Lotek (mixed vegetables with peanut dressing)

After that we moved to the more dry North of the island in the neighborhood of Singaraya, where Teb and the bigger kids did some diving. Close to the beach in Pemuteran was a reef restoration project, where the reef was growing with the help of electric currant on wire constructions. The beach was full of dead coral, but unfortunately we had to discourage the children to take it home.
The last days we spent in Pacung, in the middle of the island. The hotel was on top of a mountain, our balcony looking straight down the valley and the rice terraces. Every day around sunset, an enormous amount of birds were performing their evening concert, sounding most like somebody using a chain saw.
We visited the Batukau temple, which is high on the second highest mountain of Bali, the Gunung Batukau, over 2,000 meters high, with the temple sitting at 1,300 meters. The temple is surrounded by dense woods and it is in a quiet cool spot. On the afternoon we visited, there was a ceremony going on to ask the gods for rain, as it had not rained for over 5 months, and the ritual singing sound carried far through the mountains. The temple has a small lake of its own, where the goddess Shiva is immersed.
The hotel brochure promised us "to be only ten minutes away" from this famous temple. Upon request, they shared with us that it was at least 40 kilometers away and would take us an hour to get there. Even this prediction was too rosy, as it took us one and a half hour, as did the butterfly park, which was said to be at the same 10 minutes distance. In the butterfly park they were breeding native butterflies of Bali, and one of them is enormous, twice as big as your hand. The one on the picture was just born and so tame, that it would sit on your hand.

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