Checking Into Our Balinese Oasis
Getting to Denpasar was very easy.
A cheap cab ride to the airport, easy check in (thanks to Raffles Class on Singapore Airlines), some quick duty-free shopping for Absolut and Clinique and we’re away. I haven’t even mentioned the great lunch and drinks they provide in the Raffles lounge.
Our flight is a mere 2.5 hours from Singapore to Denpasar and other than having to face the unexpected $25.00 US each for visas (only required as of Feb. 1) coming into Denpasar, we are home free. We even have the luxury of having a driver meet us at the airport (as part of our hotel package) to drive us to the hotel. We clear customs and walk out into the arrivals hall to a sea of signs welcoming Mr. This or Ms. That and Family So and So until, scanning the crowd, I see “Welcome, Mr. Mountain” emblazoned on a sign. We are whisked away by our escort “Made” and his trusty driver and told that we have a 30-minute drive to the hotel, “depending on traffic”. Our Balinese adventure has begun!
It’s Nyepi Eve
We have landed on the eve of a major Balinese holiday weekend called Nyepi, the Balinese Hindu New Year. This occurs on the darkest night of the new moon and is a time of balancing good and evil. From dawn on Sunday to sunrise the following morning, the entire island will “play dead” in observance of the holiday. All harbours will close, as will the airport, vehicular traffic will cease, and everyone will remain in the confines of their homes/hotels.
The festival actually goes for 3 days – the day of silence is only 1 of those days – and many ritual purifications take place even before it starts. As we drive from the airport we see sarung-clad “percalang”, Bali’s religious police, redirecting traffic away from temples where celebrations are taking place.
We arrive fairly on time, after detours around celebrants of Melasti, who have been performing ritual purification of religious paraphernalia such as Balinese cloth umbrellas, statues (and there are a lot!), spears and other sacred objects kept in homes or temples. We are a little overwhelmed and unsure which direction we are heading, watching and hearing the cacophony around us. We check-in to our Balinese oasis, the Bali Agung Village, strangely cut into the back alleys and roads of Seminyak and settle into our simple room. The grounds appear to be beautiful and a shimmering pool beckons us to have a swim. We grab a beer and I dangle my feet while John jumps in. The staff is quietly gracious and always there, beaming smiles and all. We appear to be the only ones here this evening. It is gloriously quiet except for tree frogs and some other undecipherable small animal noise.