My guidebook warned that if one were to show up on Bali during their new year’s celebration, there would be a very strictly enforced silent day during which no one — not even tourists — would be allowed to be out of their homes/hotel rooms. Casey and I were informed upon buying our 30-day Indonesian visa at the Denpasar airport that we would be on Bali during Nyepi — the day of silence! After a hectic last few weeks of ending the school year and saying goodbye to many of our friends, we were actually pretty excited about a day of forced relaxation.
Nyepi fell on Monday, March 31 this year, and we arrived on Saturday the 29th. This gave us a day and a half to explore Ubud before we’d be cooped up for a full 30 hours. Ubud is dreamy. I cannot say that enough times. Excellent vegetarian food, Hindu culture blended with Balinese spiritual ritual, breathtaking temples, mischievous monkeys, yoga, beautiful clothes, and wonderful handicrafts…and on and on!
On the Sunday night, we witnessed the annual Ngrupuk parade, which was memorable to say the least. All day we saw groups of people building their own ogoh-ogohs, intricately designed wire and foam demons, used to represent evil spirits. The groups paraded their ogoh-ogohs down the main Monkey Forest Street of Ubud in the evening, the purpose being to display evil sprits to be driven out before the start of the new Hindu year. After the parade, the artistic wonders were burned or otherwise destroyed, symbolic of the destruction of the evil spirits.
Casey and I stood in a big crowd near the palace in Ubud to watch dancers, flame throwers, and the parade of the ogoh-ogohs. According to an Ubud resident, the parade was its safest one ever this year; MCs instructed crowds — in both Bahasa and English — to stand clear of the intersection as ogoh-ogohs came through. Apparently last year, there were no such instructions. As an American very used to barricades, even at my small hometown’s Christmas parade, I found the safety precautions to be lacking, especially after Casey and I were knocked down and nearly trampled after a huge ogoh-ogoh swung toward the crowd. Oh, and when the power lines were hit and a transformer blew up, leaving the whole town in the dark! We’re still not sure if it was a theatrical stunt or an actual accident, but either way, it took me even further out of my comfort zone! It’s all part of the travel experience!
The following morning, Casey and I woke slowly, enjoyed a breakfast made by our lovely host at the Gerhana Sari 2 Bungalows, and spent the whole day reading, doing laundry in our outdoor sink, and napping. Our host also provided a simple, but delicious Indonesian dinner, and then we went to bed quite early. What a great way to start a new year! It was very impressive the way that the entire island stayed indoors from about midnight on Sunday through 6AM Tuesday…and kept tourists inside too. The airport shuts down and everything. Incredible. We were so happy and refreshed the next day and were happy to have one more full day in our favorite place — Ubud.