Welcome to InBali’s fortnightly account of life on the Island of the Gods – from the mouths, the keyboards and the lenses of those who love it the most. A glance at the Bali calendar for the December/January turnover predicted a time of celebration & remembrance, with both the Balinese Galungan & Kuningan holidays and the Christian celebration of Christmas. And the predictions rang true until the 28th of December, when the world was struck by news of the disappearance of AirAsia flight QZ8501 shortly after its departure from Surabaya; a tragic and unforeseen accident that rocked Indonesia. This edition of the Island Recap reflects upon the ups and downs of life in Bali, with its bloopers and blunders and the island’s ability to bounce back from devastation. United in prayer, grateful once more for all that we are fortunate for on the island of the gods. A New Year brings with it new hope and new opportunity for abundance. Selamat Ulang Tahun from InBali.org! And blessings for a magical 2015.
Selamat Hari Raya Galungan & Kuningan
December 2014 in Bali was a marathon month of ceremony and celebration, with the occurrence of Galungan being on December 17, only days apart from the Western celebration of Christmas. Galungan is a Balinese holiday celebrating the victory of virtue (dharma) upon evil (adharma) and the beginning of the most important recurring religious ceremonies. The spirits of deceased relatives who have died and been cremated are believed to return to visit their former homes, and the current inhabitants have a responsibility to be hospitable through prayers and offerings. A number of days around the special Galungan day have special names and are marked by the organisation of particular activities:
- 3 days prior to Galungan is Penyekeban, the day saved for cooking banana offerings.
- 2 days prior is Penyajaan, a day of jaja (fried rice cake) making.
- 1 day before Galungan is Penampahan, the day of slaughtering pigs for feasts.
- The actual day of Hari Raya Galungan is marked by fitting ‘penjor’ (a tall bamboo pole splendidly decorated with woven young coconut leaves, fruit, cakes and flowers) on the right side of every house entrance. Balinese people are dressed in their finest clothes and jewels on this day, and attend special ceremonies throughout the day for cleansing and welcoming abundance.
- 1 day after is Manis Galungan, a day for visiting family.
- 10 days after Galungan is Kuningan, a day of prayers and offerings, and the day the spirits return to heaven.
- 11 days after Galungan is Manis Kuningan, a day of fun!
The streets of Bali are decorated in bright beautiful colours during this time. The fanfare of ceremonial dress is a sight to see, Gamelan music echoes through the villages, and children line the streets to watch young boys Barong dance to the beat of the drums. A truly magical time in Bali. Galungan begins on the Wednesday (Buda) of Dunggulan, the 11th week of the 210-day Balinese calendar, so it’s not uncommon for it to occur twice within a solar year. During this most recent Galungan, festivities were an interesting fusion of East meets West, spanning from December 17 – 28 with the Christian Hari Raya Natal (Christmas) plonked right into the middle. The bright yellows and pinks of Galungan set the perfect backdrop for Santa’s reds and whites as he popped into paradise on the 24th.
Christmas In Bali
December 25 in Bali is an interesting one. Every aspect of Balinese life is steeped in religious belief. 90% of the Balinese community practise a unique variation of Hinduism, while around 5% are Muslim and the remaining 5% are a mix of Buddhism and Christianity. So although it’s not common, the Christmas holiday is still recognised locally. What is common in Bali is tourism. Many of the Balinese people’s livelihoods depend on it, and for this reason, Christmas traditions are incorporated into the holiday high season in Bali. Particularly around the tourist-heavy areas of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak, shops stock Christmas supplies and restaurants offer their own take on a Bali Christmas Dinner. It has become rather commonplace for popular night spots to host Christmas-themed events, giving visitors and Bali expats alike somewhere to immerse themselves in Christmas cheer (& spirits!). This month, the InBali team shared with you what Christmas in Bali means to them (along with hot tips on the Christmas What/Where/When! Hopefully they proved useful for those of you who spent Christmas on the island).
Visa On Arrival waiver delayed indefinitely
As we reported in our November 17 Island Recap, the Indonesian government recently announced the big news that they plan to waive the Visa on Arrival fee of US$35 applied to visitors from Russia, Australia, Japan, China and South Korea. Reports stated this would be rolled out from the 1st of January 2015, but as the New Year ticks on, it becomes evident that the Indonesian government is running on “Bali Time”. Families of four arrived to the disappointing news that they would not be saving $140USD as they expected, and singles still had to fork out the $35USD visa fee – chaos! Almost immediately, social media groups exploded with threads discussing the delay. The Indonesian Government has not yet made a formal statement on the matter. Initially, there were rumours that the fee waiver would kick in by the end of January, and now we hear it could be more like March. At this stage, nothing seems clear, so we leave this one, “to be continued”…
Prayers for flight QZ8501 passengers
It was news no one could bear to hear; the bodies of passengers aboard the ill-fated AirAsia flight QZ8501 were tragically uncovered from the Java Sea. As reported by BBC news on January 2nd, The Airbus A320 disappeared with 162 people on board while flying from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore. Operations to recover victims continue, but no survivors have been found. The true cause of the crash remains unknown, though media speculation reports that weather was believed to be a triggering factor. In another development, it has emerged that AirAsia did not have official permission to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route on Sunday December 28 – the day of the crash – but was licensed on four other days of the week. The Indonesian authorities are suspending the company’s flights on this route with immediate effect pending an investigation, a transport ministry statement said. Whatever the conclusion of the investigation, this tragedy can only be viewed as just that – an incredibly dismal incident. InBali wishes to extend their deepest condolences to the families of the victims and all those impacted by the events.
AirAsia blunder as heavily advertised “direct” Melbourne to Bali flight route cancelled on Boxing Day
It’s as if bad press was on their Christmas wish list. AirAsia made news once more over the festive season, and once more for all the wrong reasons. As reported by The Age on December 27 (only one day before the ill-fated AirAsia flight QZ8501), holidaymakers had travel plans thrown into disarray after the budget airline cancelled direct flights from Melbourne to Bali with only one day’s notice. “The Malaysian airline was forced to cancel the flights after it failed to gain approval for the new route, which was due to start on December 26, from Australian and Indonesian aviation authorities. This is despite the airline advertising and taking bookings for the direct flight as recently as this month.” It was also reported by the Sydney Morning Herald that on December 30 “passengers on an AirAsia flight landing in the Philippines [had] been forced to use emergency exit slides after the aircraft overshot the runway amid bad weather.” They say bad things come in threes, and that was certainly the case for the defamed airline this month.
Jetstar announces new Cairns to Bali route with tickets selling at $99
Despite AirAisa’s recently documented attempt to gain headway in the Australia-to-Bali price wars, they continue to be outdone, with Jetstar being the latest to make an attack. As reported by News.com.au on December 17, “Low cost carrier Jetstar is breaking new ground with an express Cairns to Bali route starting from March 29”. They launched the new three-times-a-week service with a sale price of $99. Feels like déjà vu to us – let’s hope there are no false starts for this one.
Keep Bali clean: images from the air
December and January mark both High Season and Wet Season in Bali, each bringing with them an increase in litter on the precious island – as extra visitors increase waste levels, and high seas carry waste from neighbouring landmasses.
The spotlight continues to shine on the ever-increasing battle to “Keep Bali Clean” – with education being at the forefront of restoration efforts. An aptly-named organisation, Keep Bali Clean, has made waves this past month on social media by sharing images on their page of an alarming mass of rubbish floating in the ocean off Bali’s shores.
The images were taken from the airspace roughly 3 kilometres off Tanah Lot Temple on Sunday December 21st, 2014. The trash is approximately 5 metres deep and runs for as far as the eye can see, like a river of waste. These images demonstrate only a small part of the ocean, the full scale of the issue is unmeasurable. This group of eco-warriors have grand plans for 2015, hoping to raise funds in aid of anti-littering commercials, with aspirations to air 4 adverts daily during prime time. They firmly believe that prevention of the ever-growing problem is better than cure. As well as organising events to raise awareness, Keep Bali Clean are looking for support. To pledge your interest, please contact via the Keep Bali Clean facebook page.
Perth brothers lose their way in search of bathroom in Canggu
As we have documented in recent editions of our fortnightly Island Recap, Canggu is swiftly becoming the newest tourist mecca to find itself on the Bali map. With its lure of great surf and chilled vibes, swift development is aiming to provide accommodation and entertainment options to support the influx of new arrivals. This month, however, Canggu was put on the international map for the most cringe-worthy of reasons. On December 20, News.com.au reported two Perth brothers being arrested for glassing local restaurateur Wayan Mudipa, after he sprung the men urinating upon the temple located on his block of land. International news reports ran wild during the days following, stating that the boys were staring down the barrel of years imprisonment in Bali. What the LIVE reports wouldn’t have you know, is that the brothers reconciled with Wayan the very next night, Saturday December 21st. Perhaps the story lost its buzz with forgiveness.
Wayan Mudipa told InBali that he “didn’t believe the boys deserved jail time over the incident. They were intoxicated after partying. They made a mistake”. Held in custody for 2 days after the Friday night incident, the brothers were apologetic for any disrespect they had shown in their drunken antics, and were released with a handshake send-off by their victim, Mr Mudipa. This event occurred only days before the grand opening of Mudipa’s Apa-Kabar bar/restaurant on the block of land in question. The premier party on Christmas Eve ended up being a roaring success after the unfortunate publicity of this embarrassing Canggu toilet stop. Silver lining of an otherwise.. err.. sticky situation? Mr Mudipa saw to it that the venues bathrooms were clean and fully stocked for patrons enjoying a Bintang or two on the big night. Only in Bali…
The Bachelor’s Laurina Fleure cops a monkey nipple cripple in Bali – and a lot of flack!
Reality star Laurina Fleure, of The Bachelor AU 2014 fame, met herself a new admirer during her December holiday to Bali – this time of the unwanted, primate kind. The monkey, who belongs to her best friend Emma Jade’s father and is named “Jacky”, appears to have taken a liking to Laurina, as documented in a video she posted to Instagram.
As pointed out by the UK’s Daily Mail on December 22, Laurina, 30, posted the clip to her Instagram account, writing: ‘Best friend @emmajadebeautydetoxer dad’s dirty monkey! WTF, he pinched my nipple.’ Sadly, many of her followers didn’t appreciate the joke, rather taking to her account with outrage over the monkey being restrained by a chain around its stomach. Whilst the star remained silent about the incident, her gal-pal Emma Jade stood up to the roaring crowds on Instagram in defense of her father’s monkey, claiming it had been born into captivity and was “very much domesticated”. Sadly, stories like this one aren’t uncommon in Bali, with many wild animals sold into captivity at domestic markets. Easy as it is to point fingers, the truth remains that once these animals are domesticated, it can be near impossible to safely reintroduce them back into the wild. Thankfully, there are organisations operating in Bali such as BAWA (Bali Animal Welfare Association), which regulate the living conditions of those animals rescued from cage life living domestically, to ensure that standards are upheld and the animals’ welfare is protected.
Watch the clip HERE.
Bali bites back at former Miss Universe Australia
Holidays in Bali are meant to be all about relaxation, sunshine, culture, cocktails and eating some amazing food, but for former Miss Universe Australia Renae Ayris, something was eating her instead. Visiting Bali in December with her parents and sister Rachel, Renae was struck down with dengue fever after being bitten by a mosquito during her Christmas stay. As reported by the Daily Mail on January 2nd, the 24 year old dancer had a fever, a really bad headache behind the eyes, a metallic-like taste in her mouth and kept feeling like she was going to pass out. She was tested and diagnosed as having contracted the virus, and hospitalised for treatment upon her return back to Perth. Dengue Fever, a mosquito born disease, is endemic to Indonesia and cases have been on the rise on the holiday island of Bali. The peak time for reported cases is typically in the rainy season, which runs from roughly October to April. Despite this being prime time for the disease, it can be contracted in any region of Indonesia at any time of the year. The disease is typically not fatal, but it can cause a number of highly distressing symptoms. More information for visitors to Bali can be found via the Travelling Overseas guide.
Tomcats on the prowl in Bali
Reports are running rampant among Bali expats & recent visitors about rove beetles that are irritating everyone who crosses their path – quite literally! The rove beetles are a family (Staphylinidae) of beetles primarily distinguished by their short elytra that leave more than half of their abdomens exposed. Known in Bali as “tomcats”, these pesky little critters carry a potent vesicant in their haemolymph which can produce a severe irritation, appearing to burn and blister the human skin with its toxicity. They look tiny and unassuming, but the irritant pederin is so highly toxic, it is known to be more potent than cobra venom. Cases seem to be on the rise, potentially due to the irksome wet season, with the tiny bugs looking for food indoors. They don’t tend to “bite” their victims, rather they disrupt you during sleep with their crawling, and once the bug is smashed, the toxin is released onto the skin. Bothersome as they may be to us, tomcats are good for farmers as they eat other insects that can be harmful to crops. Just like the poisonous snakes that kill other rodents and vermin, every creature has its place in the world. Best practice is to just be wary of these little critters, and don’t be tempted to squash one if it crosses your path – you will be sorry!!
Another ones bites the (ricefield) dust
It seems with each passing day, there is a fresh mishap to be recorded along the Echo Beach shortcut. This time, we happened to be passing as this dizzy driver accidentally lost his car’s footing on the edge of the super-fine stone path – dubbed “The Yellow Brick Road” – and being the good humoured chap that he was, he happily posed for a photo whilst waiting for help to arrive. The poorly planned lane is now bordered by patches of squashed ricefield, and crumbled road.. Another day – another victim! In the coming months, development will be complete on a lot of villas that use the shortcut as their access way, and a new burger joint named Cloud 9 is due to open any minute at the end of the thoroughfare, just before Voyager. We cringe to imagine what kind of extra pressure this impending traffic increase will put on the already fragile road. Aduh!
PSSSST! You heard it here first.. La Plancha’s latest La plans..
The newest group to brave the journey across the Canggu shortcut is rumoured to be the La Plancha / La Favela family. With the eagerly awaited La Lagoon in Berawa Beach ready to launch any day now, we have it on good authority that the La family have acquired some prime beachfront land in Echo Beach for their next venture. We are putting our beanbags on reservation right away!
Party of the Week: New Years Eve at Ku De Ta
Ku de Ta in Seminyak is not known for doing things by halves – and New Year’s Eve was no exception. Stepping up to the NYE plate, Ku De Ta hosted the Masquerade Party, and in doing so proved to Bali that they’ve still got it! It was debaucherous dancers, it was masked mystery, it was Ku De Ta’s trademark decadence – it was everything party-goers in Bali dreamed it would be! They had The Freemasons (UK) on the decks, top shelf liquor flowing, and a no-mask no-entry policy to ensure everyone got into the spectacular vibe of the night. We’ve chosen our favourite images from the evening, more can be seen in the Ku De Ta album.
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What Happened this week on InBali
Every Russian with a board in Bali is destined to get the following question: “Wow, so Russians can surf?!” That’s true. The snowy land of bears and babushkas is far away from Bondi or Venice beach, but the Russian people are famous for being true adventurers. The third annual Russian SurfJam Festival that happened at Balian in the beginning of December is living proof of that.
What every man needs to know about renting a scooter in Bali without sacrificing his manhood. The do’s and don’ts of how a man should behave when scooting.
Journey to Sarinbuana Eco Lodge, which sits in an untapped valley that tumbles of Mount Batukaru, Bali’s second highest mountain.
Robi Navicula, Celia Gregory & Made Muliana discuss their varying approaches to advocating environmental change in Bali through art, music & education.
Boredom is the number one killer. It’s about to get wet in Bali. Enjoy a humorous look at how to survive boredom this wet season on the Island of the Gods.
Feature image photo credit: Sophie Kennedy