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Bali August Moon 2020

awaiting to dance again…

With first light after a peaceful night under the moon, a soft gamelan recording plays from the temple across the river. It feels like waking from a dream that these past months have been just that. Will the dancers be able to dance again? I wonder if all the dance groups will need to rehearse once more, but then Ovi, who prepares the offerings at Alam Indah looks like she will simply flow into the movements naturally when called to do so.

Ovi is the lead dancer at Laka Leke-
the family restaurant across from Alam Indah

Bali officially opened for domestic tourism on 31 July. Not expecting big numbers of visitors though. Some restaurants and hotels are beginning to open to the few guests that are around. The new term “staycation” is about retreat, relax and restore.

The Balinese, watching news of some of the outside world opening up, have been feeling restless to get out to find more income. Many have been very creative finding ways to sell things online. Many of the returning cruise ship crews have once again become farmers.  There has been a big increase in non-tourist related domestic traffic though and since the end of ramadan with more people gathering and moving throughout Indonesia, thousands of people have also been crossing over from Java by ferry.

What the virus is doing though remains a mystery. If more people in this world can just be more socially responsible, maybe we can carry on in a new normal alongside this virus which seems to not yet be done with humans.   Congested areas and cities like Jakarta and Surabaya on Java where epicenters are, remain a big concern. But locking down a country like Indonesia is not very realistic when so much of the population survives on a day to day wage.

With the increased movement now, we shall see if infections will rise in Bali.  It looks like international tourism may not open up until end of the year though as other countries are also working out travel regulations and restrictions.

In meantime, life in Bali carries on— although missing the colorful vibrancy of cultural activities, the devotion to spirit continues within family homes and social circles.

The other day some of us drove up to Batukaru Temple in the central highlands.  Dating back to 11th century, Pura Luhur Batukaru is one of nine kayangan jagat (directional temples) meant to protect Bali from evil spirits. Surrounded by cool forests, this sacred space was dedicated to Mahadewa, the god of Mount Batukaru- Bali’s second highest mountain ( 2276 meters).   Balinese make pilgrimages here and bring back holy water from the springs.

Even in busier times, the road up here is rather quiet, not being on the main tourist trail. There are lots of beautiful remote areas to explore on Bali.

Recent weeks have been full of blessings including celebrating Bali birthdays…

and blessings for the cars….

Tumpek Landep is a day on the Bali calendar when the ancestral dagger kris is blessed. With the kris being a protective metal, in modern days all other functioning metal items are also given a blessing including the cars, motorbikes, computers, utensils etc etc…

Bicycles too… you may guess which one is mine.

17 August is Indonesia Independence Day with flags and lots of kites are flying in the sky.

And tomorrow New Moon, the family will be conducting the continued ceremony for Bapak Mangku Ketut.

This is normally done one month after the cremation but with covid, such ceremonies were put on hold.  Preparations are now being done for his soul to be called back from the sea with a ritual at Goa Lawah along the East Coast.  This is also known as the Bat Cave which connects the sea to Mount Agung- Bali’s holiest mountain. It is believed the soul is purified and can return to the ancestral shrine at home.  May this bring peaceful closure to Ibu and the family.

I think back to the wonderful memories of earlier days… also when there was only one phone in all of Ubud with little traffic.  Much of the younger generation today with their hand phones cannot imagine.
Seeing the dance performances and shadow puppets by gas light at the temples was such a magical time.
A friend had shared a NY Times article a few weeks ago which featured Ni Gusti Ayu Raka Rasmi, a famous dancer from neighboring Peliatan village who had traveled with the first Balinese dance troupe to the US in 1952:

For those that remember the Ed Sullivan show, here is a clip of  Ni Gusti Raka Rasmi and the Balinese making their TV appearance in the US:

The male dance partner with Gusti Ayu Raka Rasmi was Wayan Sampih.

Below is a silent clip of Wayan Sampi who was an extraordinary dancer as a young boy-  watch his movements:

The story of Wayan Sampi is in a wonderful book called  A House in Bali by Canadian-born composer Colin McPhee
who came to live in Bali in the 1930s:

Agung Istri Wirati, daughter of Ni Gusti Ayu Raka Rasmi continues to teach Balinese dance.
Above photo courtesy of Usada Bali.  Learn more about their cultural programs in Ubud:

The staff that Ibu Wayan has been able to keep on at Alam Indah are working hard maintaining the gardens, cleaning the rooms and setting up new normal protocols. And while the girls wait for their time to dance again, we are finding time to watch some You Tubes of western classical ballet performances which they had never seen before!

Putu, Ayu and Ovi
Pak Wayan and Komang in back

On a higher flying note, this virus has of course hit the aviation industry very hard.

For me who loves to fly it has felt sad to see so many planes grounded along with several B747s entering earlier retirement.

I am so grateful for the travel career I have had which brought me to Indonesia. I cannot begin to imagine how the cruise industry will recover- hoping though a comeback of small ship cruises to special remoter places can start up again.

For aviation enthusiasts who may also carry nostalgia for the 747 Queen of the Skies, you may enjoy watching this Blog by Sam Chui of the last 747 flight for Qantas… it is very well done.  Sam Chui is a great aviation blogger and also very entertaining flying to some remote areas as well as reviewing favorite airlines like Singapore Airlines, Thai and the new Garuda Indonesia experience.  Garuda has come such a long way with new aircraft and service.  They are actually talking about perhaps starting up service to the US again…  can one imagine?  Well, we shall miss the old stopover in Biak off the coast of Papua!

Last 747 flight of Qantas and wish she need not have to be retired to a US desert:

Looking forward to more people being able to fly in the skies again.

In the meantime our hearts  go out to all those struggling now on so many levels during this challenging time.

May the situation improve soon-  please stay well and safe.

More clips of Balinese dance can be found on this link:

For more information on Alam Indah, click:

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