Bali Homes, Traditions and Culture

March 31, 2017 (Part 1) – Morning in Ubud

I loved waking up to this green paradise. Day two at the Sankara Ubud Resort and we just couldn’t get enough.

Before I talk about our day, I have to introduce a key part of our trip:

Bali Golden Tours: Wayan Paul

We almost booked a driver through the hotel again. Luckily, Bali Golden Tours was very accommodating and responded on WhatsApp immediately the night before at 9:30p letting us know they had a driver available. This was THE best decision I made on this trip. Our driver Wayan Paul was amazing!! He was fun, friendly, and gracious. Wayan spoke great English, he was very familiar with Bali and knew exactly how to arrange our itinerary. He’s also helpful in making sure you pay reasonable prices for things. Wayan definitely made our trip. Just search for his name on Bali Golden Tours TripAdvisor reviews and you’ll see all his 5 star reviews! I’ve never even written a review on TripAdvisor before but I liked him so much I had to!

Not only is the service FANTASTIC, the price is extremely reasonable. Usually hotel private drivers charge by the hour. The first three hours is 300-400 IDR (always in thousands) and then 100-200 IDR per hour after that. Both hotels I stayed at quoted me about 800 IDR (~$61) for 8 hours (after a discount). With Bali Golden, you get a full day (that’s 10-12 hours!) for a set price of 550 IDR (~$41). That’s almost a $20 difference, a lot of money in Bali. Anyway, if you plan on having a private driver, don’t book with your hotel! You might not get a good driver and it costs a lot more.

Bali Traditional Village

Today, we finally had a proper plan! Our ride was coming at noon so we had all morning to ourselves. We joined the 8am hotel walking tour of the surrounding area: the traditional village of Kumbuh, Mas – Ubud. We toured a traditional home and learned about how Bali homes were set up. Every home has multiple households. The one home we saw had four detached houses, a temple and kitchen. All families eat meals together. Every home has a temple with four shrines. More details about all this further below.

We tried some random fruits off their trees too: a little green fruit that tasted very sour called small sour starfruit belimbing wuluh and a red, fuzzy fruit that tasted like lychee called rambutan.

As we walked around, our guide pointed at all the homes occupied by foreigners: “This is a Japanese family….this is where an Australian family lives….” Etc. People clearly know everything happening in their village. The community is very tight.

We then walked through the lush green rice fields. Rice is an important Indonesian staple food and Bali’s rice production is very important to the country of Indonesia. They are the highest rice yielding country. The lush green colors we were looking at mean there was another month or two before the fields would turn yellow and be ready to harvest. It typically takes 3- 4 months before rice is ready to harvest.

After our tour, we had another delicious breakfast and then wandered around the hotel property. My mom’s mie goreng fried noodles and shrimp chips:DSC00550

We found the Radha spa on the hotel property and decided to get a massage with exactly 90 minutes before our pickup. Just look how amazing the space is!

I love Balinese Traditional massages. They’re so amazing! Feeling rejuvenated, we headed to the lobby and were ready for a long day ahead of us!

Bali Families

As we drove through Ubud, Wayan began to explain how the traditional homes were set up and what the various types of pura, temples were. Every village has three basic temples: pura puseh for the founders, pura desa for the spirits that protect and bless villagers everyday, and pura dale for the dead.

He explained that in Balinese Hinduism, there is a four caste social order. The highest is Brahman priests and teachers, then Satria warriors and kings, Wesya merchants, and lastly, Sudra peasants and craftsmen. The first three castes are considered aristocrats and the bottom caste makes up 95% of the population. This caste system isn’t really followed today. It’s only mostly observed in names given at birth. The Sudras (aka most of Bali).

Families call their children first, second, third, or fourth born – Wayan or Pulu, Made or Kadek, Katun, and Komang, respectively. After 4, it restarts. Traditionally, Balinese families are limited to four children. So if they happen to have more, 5, 6, 7, 8 are called the same as 1, 2, 3, 4. These names are only used at home by family. Outside of the home, they are referred to by their names. (e.g. Wayan’s friends call him Paul). It’s kind of like Chinese so this concept isn’t so bizarre to me. I remember trying to explain to Marc that I didn’t know any of my aunts and uncles names because I just call them 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc aunt. By their birth order, not their names.

A Little Bali Culture

The three main gods in Bali are Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the protector), and Shiva (the destroyer). This is a recurring theme everywhere. People worship many deities in Bali and all Hindu believers place offerings outside their homes three times a day. (The predominant religion in Bali even though Indonesian is mostly Muslim.) Their offerings are considered gifts and reciprocation, the gods protect them. The offerings typically include tree leaves (banana or coconut), rice, and flowers. The most important offering is banana. DSC00522 copyDuring a temple ceremony, offerings are made to different gods. You can find these daily offerings in front of everyone’s doorsteps all throughout Bali. My mom heard a story about a child who stepped on one of these offerings and since then, he was mentally disabled for the rest of his life. So be careful where you walk! I was very cautious after she told me that story. But you will see offering being run over by scooters and people all the time. I think it depends when the offering is placed. I accidentally stepped on one and the guide said it was okay because the offering had passed. I’m really not sure how it works. I guess it depends when the spirits come receive it.

We learned a lot in the first few hours of our day! Check out the next entry for the rest of our day.

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