What a day! I am absolutely exhausted after yet another wonderful day exploring this fantastic country with a great bunch of friends. Together with the Turley/Mowling family we all enjoyed a fantastic afternoon seeing and experiencing small Balinese villages way off the beaten track thanks to Ubud Cycling Tours.
Our tour began here in Sayan, where we were collected by Tommy and transported by mini bus to Bangli via their office where we collected another family. Thankfully the other family went off by themselves, because our group was big enough as it was! Keeping 9 bikes together as a pack was definitely harder than it sounds!
Flynn sitting in the bus
I was delighted to hear that we were going to start our ride in Bangli, thinking I might be able to say a mental hello to Pak Agung (my visa sponosr) who while works in Legian, lives in Bangli, however instead of being dropped off in the town of Bangli, we were dropped off in a small village situated in the Bangli regency. The bikes arrived in a truck which became our ‘support vehicle’! We were given our bikes and helmets
was at a place where the village were preparing for a mass cremation. As cremation ceremonies are very expensive, poorer villagers are keen to ensure the ceremony is affordable. Some combine with other families so they can share the expense whereas others sell tickets to tourists who are only too happy to pay so they can witness this amazing event and then take photos without feeling as though they are intruding. The cost of the tickets go a long way towards offsetting the huge costs of holding this ceremony. One of the expenses that the families have to budget for is the building of an ornate tower which will carry the deceased to the cremation grounds. Can you see the platform that the body will be transported upon?
Aren’t they beautiful!
Near the tower were some life sized bull figures. During the cremation ceremony, the deceased is transferred to one of these bulls. once it has reached the cremation grounds. If the person is from a high caste, they are put in one of the black bulls and if they were low caste, they are put into one of the red bulls. As many as 4 or 5 bodies can be put into one of the bulls during a mass cremation.
We next headed off down the road a little further where the families were preparing to exhume the bodies of their departed family members, ready for the cremation ceremony to begin in a few days time. Many women were carrying open containers of white and yellow material which would be used to wrap up the body before putting them onto the tower platform.
There were many many families here, all wearing black or dark colours. Here is Mrs Turley’s Dad, John, talking to one of the men involved in todays ceremony. We didn’t stay here long, just long enough to buy 2 helium balloons for Ava & Zac and watch briefly the many family members arriving and then sitting together in groups around the graves. It was a very solemn affair and it wasn’t appropriate for us to intrude.
So we hopped back on our bikes and rode a short way to the house of a local family who were happy for us to be shown through their house and garden so we could learn about a traditional Balinese family compound. We were told that firstly the family temple is built in the corner of the house block closest to Gunung Agung, the tallest and most sacred mountain (volcano) in Bali. Then the bedrooms are built next, with the bathroom & toilet built the furthest from the family temple because they are the dirtiest buildings! In between these 3 buildings/structures is usually the family bale, which is a building like the family sitting room. Bale is pronounced bal (rhymes with cull) and e (aye). It is usually high off the ground and is where guests are received and served their obligatory cup of coffee! It is usually open with maybe one wall closed in and because it is largely open, it catches all the breezes and is the coolest ‘room’ in a family compound. Here in this compound, we were also shown the garden where many coconut trees, banana palms as well as other fruit trees including coffee were growing. In the garden was a byre housing a beautiful cow which happily ate the clumps of grass stalks offered to it by the children!
Our next stop gave us a chance to take a stroll into a rice field, something I just love doing. Walking along the muddy edges of the rice fields, feeling the heat and humidity coming from the water in the rice fields is one of my favourite outings. Working in the field was a farmer ploughing with a tractor.
Ploughing is traditionally done with cows but more and more farmers are using tractors today.
After taking many photos of the farmer walking knee deep in mud guiding his tractor, we again hit the road. Our next stretch of road took us through some villagers
It was very challenging riding along while giving high 5’s to the school children as they passed! If they didn’t ask for a high 5, they would call out, “Halo” in a very friendly way, It was so lovely.
We then passed back into the countryside
where we suddenly came across a small hut in which 3 men were carving out designs onto wooden window and door frames. To ensure each frame was identical, the young carvers were using a paper pattern which had been pasted onto the timber.
Also there was a young man carving an amazing scene from a slab of cempaka which according to google is a variety of magnolia. The highly scented flower is used in offerings and is so fragrant that you can smell the flower often before you see the offering!
A little further down the road was the shop front for all the carvings and there we saw this young girl gently sand papering the cempaka carvings.
This was our last stop before surrendering our bikes gladly a little further along. It had been a fantastic experience but several of us were slightly saddle sore and thankful we hadn’t been tempted to do the whole day option! Because Bangli is higher than Ubud, almost our entire bike ride had been downhill with only a couple of small steep sections which was a blessing!
Being on a bike was such a perfect way to get a taste of Balinese life and culture. A bike’s pace is fast enough to keep cool in the afternoon sun yet slow enough that you can see so many things along the side of the road that are a blur when seen from a car. It gives you the feeling of immersion rather than just being a spectator.
It was a wonderful experience, even though it was my final day with the Turley & Mowling family’s before they head back to Australia. It was wonderful catching up with friends and I am already looking forward to my next visitors who will arrive in September (Trees), October (Marg) and hopefully my parents in October too before my daughter joins me in November.