Art performance at Goa Gajah – tomorrow

Here are some photos from the previousSharing Creating Offering Art’ event at Goa Gajah:

This one was held about 6 months ago on Tumpek Krulut – which means ‘Compassion Day’:

The 3rd ‘Sharing Creating Offering Art’ event is being held tomorrow Sat 29 Aug 2015 which is also Tumpek Krulut in the Balinese calendar.

Can you afford to miss it?

Each of these events have showcased art in different forms and I’ve been lucky to read a poem too.  And tomorrow I’ve got 10 mins to share some of my poems about Bali – at approx 4.15pm.

It starts from 11am at Goa Gajah temple and the opening will also include a new gamelan piece – the performances will go through until late afternoon (I think I will be reading at approx 4.15pm).

Whatsmore, 2 of Yaniq’s drawings will be on display, here is one of them:

'Meditating' by Yaniq

‘Meditating’ by Yaniq

Hope to see you there.

The Enchanting Monkey Forest

How lucky am I to have the enchanting Monkey Forest a mere 10 mins walk from Rumah Jepun.

Monkey see, monkey do

Monkey see, monkey do

There are over 600 monkeys in the sacred forest and they all belong to one of four troops, that can often be seen chasing each other as they weave their way past camera laden tourists

Its’ feeding time for this baby long-tailed macaque

Want a snack little fella

Want a snack little fella

Let’s take a tour through the leafy forest

Walk through tree lined pathways

Walk through tree lined pathways – its rare not to see any monkeys here

According to Ubud’s Sacred Forest’s website there are 115 separate species of tree in the forest, some of them are holy trees and many of them have medicinal properties.

Walking through the many tree lined pathways you get to see the different parts of the forest

A large tree in the middle of the walkways

A large tree in the middle of the walkways

There are many impressive trees.

The one in the cemetery has a hole right the way through it

A tree you can see through!

A tree you can see through!

This stump has lots of interestingly shaped mushrooms growing on it

Mushrooms growing on the tree

Mushrooms growing on the tree

I like this tree

Old twisted tree

Old twisted tree

But by far my favourite tree is the one that you walk through…

Massive tree straddling the path

Massive tree straddling the path

The downward growing limbs of this Banyan are seriously huge

Downward growing limbs blocking the sky

Downward growing limbs blocking the sky

Here it is from another viewpoint.  The base of the steps are guarded by two naga (snakes)

Tree covered steps

Tree covered steps

You can almost swing, Tarzan like, from the strong hanging branches

A dripping tree

A dripping tree

Wander down some more steps to where the Komodo dragon statues lurk

Komodo dragon statues

Komodo dragon statues

Meander alongside a stream that trickles over ancient mossy boulders

Walk along the boulder filled stream

Walk along the boulder filled stream

Come back up to the cemetery where dappled sunlight dances over the gravestones

How many monkeys can you spot among the gravestones?

How many monkeys can you spot among the gravestones?

then go up a different set of steps towards the main temple

Beautiful shaded pathways

Beautiful shaded pathways

I challenge you to walk carrying offerings on your head.  Balinese women do this all the time, often not even using a single hand to steady the baskets

Marvel at how Balinese women balance the offerings on their heads

Marvel at how Balinese women balance the offerings on their heads

They have just come from the main temple within the forest

Stunningly beautiful temple entrance

Stunningly beautiful temple entrance inside the forest

Once again there are two naga (snakes) entwined at the base on the steps, they are woven around the giant turtle.

Elsewhere yet another monkey looks like he’s either yawning or shouting out to friends, “hey come and look at this tourist taking a picture of my tail”.

A monkey yawning or calling out to friends?

A monkey yawning or calling out to friends?

my, what a long tail you have!

Siat Sampian – symbolic war

A few days before the ‘symbolic’ war, hundreds of women, carrying tall offerings (banten) on their heads, walk four kilometers to the temple.

Balinese women walking to the temple

Balinese women walking to the temple

The women are all dressed in the same coloured traditional clothing as they walk along roads closed to traffic.

Colourful traditional Balinese costumes

Colourful traditional Balinese costumes

They elegantly enter the temple gates at Samuan Tiga and walk down the steps, still balancing the heavy banten on their heads.

Entering the temple

Entering the temple

As the offerings get lined up inside the temple, you can clearly see the different fruit and pink and white cakes – the cakes also come in other bright colours too and the banten are laced with young coconut leaves and flowers for decoration.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese photos were taken over two days that I attended – of the eleven day festival!

The people kneel on the floor for the ceremony. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe temple is beautifully decorated with yellow and white material and umbrellas as well as black, white, yellow and red umul umuls (like tall flags).

Beautifully decorated temple

Beautifully decorated temple

Here a young boy is carrying the red umul umul.

Carrying the umul umuls

Carrying the umul umuls

Dressed in white, the women perform a sacred dance

Sacred dance

Sacred dance

And then, for Siat Sampian, they use arrangements of young coconut leaves.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASiat Sampian is hard to translate but effectively means symbolic fighting with coconut leaves and this only happens in this particular temple (although the Pandan Wars will happen later this month in the Bali Aga village of Tenganan – but that is different).Then the men, at least 300 of them, also dressed in white, start their performances/rituals…

300 men run around the temple

300 men run around the temple

After linking hands and running around the temple the 300+ men pick up the young coconut leaves and start the ‘symbolic war’.

Siat Sampian

Siat Sampian

Here they are using long poles in a warrior style dance format (similar to Baris Gede). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASamuan Tiga is where groups from different faiths gathered together a 1000 years ago and came up with the idea of the 3 village temples (Pura Puseh, Pura Desa and Pura Dalem) – that satisfied each group and are still in every village (Desa) of Bali today.

There was more… but you have to ask me about it if you’re interested.

Once again, I felt very privileged and grateful to be able to attend such a special event.

Our journey through Lombok

We waved goodbye to the Gili islands

Bye bye Gili T

Bye bye Gili T

…so did the monkey

The look-out monkey

The look-out monkey

Driving back through Lombok, we stopped along the coastal road for petrol.

Fill her up for 10,000rp (70p)

Fill her up for 10,000rp (70p)

We decided to spend a night in Sengiggi and visit its famous temple, Pura Batu Bolong.

Pura means temple.  Whereas Batu Bolong translates as ‘hole in the rock’ – as you can clearly see…

Pura Batu Bolong (temple with a hole in the rock)

Pura Batu Bolong (temple with a hole in the rock)

Even the temple gateway entrance is impressive…

Steps to the temple perched on the cliff

Steps to the temple perched on the cliff

And the stairs look as if they will lead you straight up to the sky

Stairs to the sky

Stairs to the sky

Batu Bolong is perched right on the edge of a cliff next to the ocean.

Great views from the temple

It was far too warm for a jacket, but I wore it to cover my arms in the temple

It’s a Balinese Hindu temple, on the Muslim island of Lombok.

Facing the sacred volcano, Mount Agung, across the sea in Bali, it has the same overall views as from Gili T.

View across the ocean to Mount Agung, Bali

Sunset view across the ocean from Sengiggi, Lombok to Mount Agung, Bali

All Balinese temples are strikingly beautiful, and this one is no exception

Pura Batu Bolong

Pura Batu Bolong

It was all wrapped in sacred yellow and white cloth fluttering in the breeze.

Just look at the carvings depicting the turtle at the base and the two naga (snakes) above.

Look at the detail carved into the temple

Look at the detail carved into the rock hewn temple

This imagery also shows on Balinese cremation towers called Bade.  After all, the whole world sits on a turtles back, doesn’t it!?!

Yaniq sipping holy water

Yaniq sipping holy water after praying

Yaniq and I both prayed (this is something I never did before in England, but often do here!) and we stayed a while looking over the tranquil sea.

Temple by the sea

Temple by the sea

Visit my next blog post which will be about the south of Lombok with its Sasak culture and stunning views, see you then.

Sunset views from Gili Trawangan

The sunsets are worth a whole post on their own.

I mean just look at these views… and colours… (can you feel the stillness?)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What you are seeing here is the sunset view from the small, idyllic island of Gili Trawangan across to the enchanting island of Bali.

The majestic volcano, Mount Agung, looms large across the ocean and its pyramid shape is reflected in the warm seas…

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Mount Agung is a very important volcano for the Balinese and, high up on its slopes, is the ‘Mother Temple’, called Besakih.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mount Agung last erupted in 1963 with lava flowing a distance of 7 kilometers down its slopes devasting many villages and killing some 1500 people.

The lava narrowly missed the Mother Temple, Besakih, sometimes by mere yards!

Ok, that was the orangey, golden glow sunset views… now check out Gili Trawangan’s pinky coloured sunsets…

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A seriously pink sky reflects upon the water, making the sea also look pink.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The above photo is looking from Gili Trawangan across to its neighbouring small island called Gili Meno (Gili Air, the 3rd of the 3 small tropical islands, is just beyond Gili Meno and closer to the mainland of Lombok).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beyond the cloud Lombok’s Mount Rinjani shows itself.

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Fancy a sunset swim in a pink sea anyone?

The Adventures of Vincent

Vince came to stay with us for a month at Rumah Jepun.

I’d known him for years, back in London, but it was nice to have some quality time with him here in Bali.

Waiting for our beer to arrive

Waiting for our beer to arrive

We went out into the rice fields where Yaniq played some songs on the guitar under a roofless sky (apparently the roof had blown off of Cafe Pomegranate  in the high winds just a day or so beforehand).

Nice place to chill out

Nice place to chill out – under a roofless sky

This whole area used to be just rice fields stretching into the distance.

In the last few years a lot of westerners have built houses in the rice paddies, reducing the expanse of beautiful views.  Plenty still remain, but for how long?

Yaniq singing to us in the rice fields

Yaniq singing to us in the rice fields

We took a few trips out together with Vince… to the beach, up to the mountains, to temples, a waterfall and a traditional village, not to mention fitting in a couple of parties, one of which included a ceremony – complete with traditional Balinese dancers.

Vince with traditional Balinese dancers

Vince with traditional Balinese dancers

While at another party we were entertained by Agung, the fire juggling barman.

Juggling fire

Juggling fire

Vince bought, not one, but four paintings while he was here – supporting local artists, now that’s what I like to hear.

He even took part in a ‘Manifesting your Vision’ day at White Lotus Yoga and Meditation studio (I did that the previous year – you can read all about it by clicking here).

He stayed at my house, Rumah Jepun, in the Lotus View Room and met my other guests who stayed in the River View Room.

Bianca and I surrounding the boss

Bianca and me surrounding ‘the Boss’ at a traditional village

We went to this traditional village with Bianca from Australia and to Goa Gajah temple with Christine, also from Australia, and Vince danced salsa with Marne from Canada and came to watch Yaniq play in Kuta too.

Vince, Christine and me at Goa Gajah

Vince, Christine and me at Goa Gajah

At the coffee plantation I found him sitting on a particularly interesting chair.  It had been intricately carved and had a rather nice backdrop of the jungle smothered valley.

Sitting on an intricately carved chair

Sitting on an intricately carved chair

He came to Bali from Thailand and is then heading out to Australia, America, Panama and Antiga – nice trip Vince… but before you leave Bali, try some smoked duck in banana leaf – yum.

Smoked duck in banana leaves

Smoked duck in banana leaves

Oh and don’t forget to show us your skill with a pool cue…

Left a bit, right a bit....

Left a bit, right a bit….

Vince – we hope to see you next time you swing by Bali (no, that wasn’t meant to be a reference to the monkeys in the local forest!) – for The Further Adventures of Vincent!

If you want to follow his footsteps and come and stay at Rumah Jepun just contact me for availability and rates at: rumahjepun@outlook.com

‘Life’s Journeys’ – a new book by the Ubud Writers’ Group (incl me!)

Life is a journey that we all take, regardless of the directions we choose and the choices we make.

This new book features short stories and poems about journeys – whether they reflect travel to actual places or journeys on the colourful and winding roads of life.

‘Life’s Journeys’ also contains photographs highlighting some of the exotic destinations – predominantly Bali where the writers are based.

Life's Journeys

Life’s Journeys

The symbolic imagery on the front cover shows that a rich diversity of writing is contained within these pages – ranging from Balinese temples to cicaks (the small lizards found everywhere in Bali and beyond).

In fact, by clicking here you can see my own pictures of cicaks and read one of my poems featured in the book called ‘Cicak’.

Jackie Leitch, author of The Zul Enigma, reviewed our book, saying, ”This delightful collection of prose, verse and photographs is often interspersed with humour, yet always insightful.

By interweaving fictitious and factual stories with contributors’ in and out of Bali experiences, the finished work resembles a rich, Ikat fabric, the textile for which the island is so famous.

Congratulations Ubud Writers’ Group… you have produced another winner”.

The Ubud Writers’ Group consists of Carol Frei, Lesley Dormer, Jean Handwerk Lee, Shane Mc Rae, Leslie Hanslow, Wahyu (Bayu) Budianto, Julie Silvester, Ellen Schafer, Alexa Bauer, Steve Castley and Jen Richardson.

Let the group share some of their life’s journeys with you.

‘Life’s Journeys’ is available through me as well as selected retailers in Bali.

A book launch will be held on Sun, 4 Nov 2012 at Bayu’s Kitchen, Penestanan, Ubud, Bali at 6pm – we would be delighted to see you there.

Photographs of dancers

Just sitting on a motorbike waiting for the show to begin

Sitting on a motorbike waiting for the show to begin

Here are some pictures of Balinese dancers…

This one was taken on Independence Day, 17 August, and she was sitting, so lady like, on the motor bike for hours – patiently waiting for her turn to perform.

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Below features many boys performing Baris Gede, complete with their spears, headdresses and colourful costumes.

It was taken at a ceremony just outside the temple gates in a nearby village called Kutuh.

Baris Gede performance for a ceremony

Baris Gede performance for a ceremony

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The next shot shows a performer dressed as the Indonesian national symbol… the Garuda bird.

When performing in the Ramayana Ballet, this immortal King of the Birds flaps his wings vigorously while gracefully dancing around the other performers who he protects from the evil Ravanna in the storyline.

In Balinese Hinduism the Garuda bird is the vehicle of the God, Vishnu (the maintainer/preserver).

Garuda Bird

Garuda Bird

The next picture shows a Topeng dance (special Balinese masked performance).

The people performing with full Topeng masks do not speak and therefore have to convey their message through use of body language alone.

This explains why their body, hand and leg movements are so expressive.

Men have to reach a certain age (40+) before they are considered to have the maturity to perform these particular characters.

Once again this was held just outside the temple, which is why there are cars in the background.

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Topeng performer

Topeng performer

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And below is another sophisticated young woman masquerading as a little girl.

At this ceremony, inside the ancient temple at Semuan Tiga, pretty much everyone wore white with yellow – including me.

Like gold dust  - in a sea of white and yellow...

Like gold dust – in a sea of white and yellow…

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For more pictures of performers click here.

Holy people sleep inside a temple for a week

It was actually cold that morning as we drove high up into the mountains.  I wrapped my scarf around my neck and tucked it into my jean jacket, thinking about how both items only ever get used when I go up to one of Bali’s volcanoes.

Mount Batur and Lake Batur

Mount Batur and Lake Batur

My motorbike driver, Ketut, successfully dodged the big pot holes and, after stopping briefly to take a breathtaking photo, we reached the small village of Abang Songan in good time for the ceremony – which meant that I had time to eat some of Ketut’s mother’s wonderfully tasty and spicy food.

Once we were off of the motorbike the air was just fresh, rather than cold, so it was comfortable to get changed into my traditional clothing and walk up to the temple with Ketut’s wife, Komang.

This particular ceremony was to inaugurate no less than 16 men and women as Mangku (holy men/women), plus many others as… well, like, Temple administration staff.

The High Priest (Pedanda)

The High Priest (Pedanda)

The rituals were many and, yet again, different from anything I’d seen before.

An event like this will only happen maybe every 10 years or so in any given village.  But apparently this particular ceremony only occurs in three small mountain villages.

It includes, among other things, the new Mangku, and their assistants, having to leave the temple, get changed into new, clean, white clothing from which hangs kepeng (old traditional coins). Then, newly clothed, they all returned to the temple for a blessing from the Pedanda (high priest).

Symbols drawn in honey

Symbols drawn in honey

Now this blessing was really interesting… using honey on the end of a very small stick of betel, the bejewelled Pedanda drew ancient, sacred, Sanskit symbols on each Mangku.. starting with the third eye on the forehead, then the collar bone, the front of each shoulder and then twice on the back and then on both sides of the hands and finally on the tongue – both sides.

Long lengths of white threads, loosely woven together to a diameter of at least 5cm, were wrapped around each Mangku’s upper body and head and then four specially designed coconut leaves were placed just inside the threads on the top of their heads, making a crown of coconut leaves.

Carried, barefoot. around the temple three times

Carried, barefoot, around the temple three times

They all had to go around the temple three times with rituals which included a pig, duck and chicken.  A ‘holy’ cow had already been slaughtered as part of the ceremonial ritual offerings.

I say ‘go around’ the temple as opposed to ‘walk around’ because the new Mangku were not allowed to touch the ground – they were physically carried around three times.

These new Mangku, and their staff, have to sleep inside the temple for seven nights.  Double beds are made up for them, and their new Mangku wifes, inside makeshift bamboo huts within the temple grounds.

The only time they will leave is to go to the new temporary toilet/shower area that has been built just outside the temple gates for this special occasion.

These are the beds the new Mangku will sleep on for a week inside the temple

These are the beds the new Mangku will sleep on for a week inside the temple

They will be catered for and looked after while they spend the week communing with spirit inside the temple – as well as with each other.

You might spot what you consider to be a German swastika on the bed… look again… it has a different orientation.  This original image has been used for thousands of years in the East.

It has been symbolising good fortune and balance since well before Hitler’s regime sullied it’s reputation.  I’ve met some people who have the name ‘Swastika’ and I’ve eaten in a restaurant with the same name.  How sad that a western country took that ancient eastern name and symbol, with it’s beautiful, harmonious meaning and caused it to be associated with the opposite emotions.

Many New Mangku

Many New Mangku

The first section of a long list of new Mangku and their Temple assistants

The first section of a long list of new Mangku and their Temple assistants

Each of these white clad villagers are given a role such as Jero Mangku Tukang Banten (we have no English equivalent but I suppose it is the holy one who manages the offerings) or Jero Mangku Tukang Subak (the holy one who manages the decisions about the subak which is the water irrigation system).

Plenty of food and drink was provided free for everyone during the ceremony itself which lasts for hours.

And then, towards the end of the ceremony, as the gamelan music built up to fever pitch, the whole village sat on the ground after praying and waited for a sprinkling of holy water.

The ceremony ended with a blessing for everyone and then, once again, I changed my clothes and wrapped my scarf tightly around my neck for the dark return journey home down the mountainside this time on the back of Pasek’s motorbike …

Thanks to Ketut and Pasek and the whole village for another wonderful experience.

Traditional Balinese dance

Balinese dancing, whether by men, women or children, is a mesmerizing joy to watch.

The skilful dexterity, which these beautifully costumed dancers display, shows their fingers and eyes dancing more than their bodies could ever sway.

Balinese dance

Just try and get your fingers at this angle!

Just try and get your fingers at this angle!

Fingers bending
backwards
impossible angles
and degrees

Eyes darting
this way and that
quicker than the
eye can see

Costumes of
reds and golds
yellows and whites
cover the stage

Set to ancient music
performed for
the temple
not for a wage

There are many kinds of traditional performances – this woman is dancing the Legong dance.

And, yes, it’s true that they do not get paid for performing in the temple, sometimes into the middle of the night, as that is for sacred purposes.

Topeng performance

Topeng performance

It always makes me smile to see dancers, in full costume, making their way to and from the performance venue – on their motorbikes.  I will get a picture of this one of these days.

Here is a man performing Topeng, a masked dance – again, check out those fingers and toes!

There are many different Topeng masks for the different characters portrayed.

These full face masks represent characters such as royalty, and they express themselves primarily through movement.

The characters who speak the most are those with 1/2 masks and they represent soldiers, servants or ‘yes men’ etc.

Here is another Topeng dancer putting the finishing touches on his costume…

When a Topeng dancer looks in the mirror... who is it that looks back?

When a Topeng dancer looks in the mirror… who is it that looks back?

Click here to see a different type of dance called Rejang Renteng.  This is performed by unmarried women who are related (i.e. children or sisters) to the village holy men (Mangku).

And then there are the children’s performances…

3 young dancers in full costume

3 young dancers in full costume

These particular girls danced inside a temple after a very unusual ceremony had taken place just outside of the temple gates.

This was in a small village in Klung Kung Regency on Kuningan Day (a special Balinese Hindu celebration).

The flower headdresses danced in harmony with the girl’s movements.

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