Bali, isle of heavens

No other place in the world has been so highly praised for its beauty as Bali,  many temples, shrines and beautiful palaces.  Even the most remote  corners of the island, the visitor’s eye is engaged by magnificent views of these richly ornamented constructions.  Very much living shrines, they are the sites of both daily observance of the Balinese Hindu rites and more spectacularly religious festivals.

A mask dancer performing in Pura Sadia temple during the Galungan-Kuningan festival, the most important in the Hindu Balinese calendar, celebrating the victory of good over evil.  It is believed that during Galungan spirits descend to bless the earth and ascend back to the heavens on Kuningan day.  Music and dances performed in temples are considered as offerings to the deities.

Bowl of flower petals and holy water are left on temple altars after blessings or purifications rituals.  For the Balinese people, offerings of food , flowers and incense to the gods and the elements, promises a state of equilibrium where man, nature and the divine can co-exist in peace and harmony.

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IMG_0529                                Rows of fishing boats along the beach of Jimbaran.

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Carved decorative Balinese door.

Children learn to dance and play musical instrument at a very young age.

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31Women dressed up in their splendid attire in preparation for a temple festivity.

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Barong a character in Balinese mythology He is the king of leader spirit of the host of good.  Banas Pati raja the good spirit which animates the Barong.  The character of the Barong often accompanied by two monkeys (dancers dressed in monkey costume)

 

 

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The Old China Town

 

Surrounded by Dutch colonial architecture, a town where Chinese immigrant live since the discovery of Indonesia.  Many buildings still stand through time, grand, imposing and some left to the elements.   For anyone who want to venture out to Old China town is a must.  Plenty to discover such as Chinese temples,  walking is the best way to experience the hustle and bustle of this old city.   If you still have energy walk to the old Dutch train station in Kota with its 1930’s style façade and browsing through the many old VOC Dutch buildings.  Visit Fatahillah Park where a large building stand was the Dutch Governor residence, it is now a museum.  A large draw bridge build by the Dutch still stand proudly through time.  This bridge connect to sea port “pasar Ikan” fish market where you can find Dutch storage area where it is a museum.  There are plenty to see and experience in this wonderful corner of Jakarta.

Fatahillah Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Indonesia at a glance

Bali Island landscape

 

Arched gracefully between two continents of Asia and Australia is a vast archipelago of 17,000 islands with the musical name of “Nusantara” better known as Indonesia.  The islands were blessed with spectacular natural beauty, including majestic volcanoes falling steeply to crystal clear highlands, lakes forested gorges, rocky highlands and golden beaches.

Indonesia was discovered by Portuguese traders in the early 16th century.  Then the Dutch came, ousted Portuguese.  Because of Indonesia bountiful spices and other commodities, the Dutch established their presence on Java island and gradually to the rest of the islands.  The Dutch colonized Indonesia for 350 year.

Jakarta capital of Indonesia was named Batavia by the Dutch.  There are still many old Dutch buildings in downtown Jakarta close to  China town.   Also a functioning draw bridge similar in Holland heading to “Pasar Ikan” or fish market where there are several Dutch colonial storage buildings.  It is a tourist attraction now.

During the war in Asia, The Dutch surrender the islands to Imperial Japan.  They occupied  the islands for three years.  After their country destruction from the atomic bomb, they surrender to the Dutch.    The Dutch did not colonized the islands any longer.  Indonesia received independent on August 17, 1945,   with President   Soekarno and prime minister Hatta for Indonesian finally became a free country.

The islands having large variety of plants, animal life, both aquatic and terrestrial.  Among its rare species are the Orangutan primate, the Komodo dragon (giant lizard).  Another assets of Indonesia is its people, rich in colorful cultures and traditions inherited from the dawn of civilization.  Indonesians are divides into approximately 300 ethnic groups, speaking about 365 languages and dialects.   By decree from President Soekarno that all Indonesian have only one language to communicate with each other  that is “Bahasa Indonesia”.

Indonesians are well known for their friendliness , politeness and hospitality.

The country motto “Bhineka Tunggal Ika”  unity in Diversity.

 

 

 

 

Photography by Kalpana Kartik and Kamala Saraswathi  Copyright

 

Monkey Craze

Bare breasted men sit in a circle around the flickering light of torch, raising their hands while reciting rhythmically “cak, cak, cak”. This is an ancient Balinese Sang Hyang trance dance in the form of a religious chant, ritual prayers destined for the spirits ancestors. No visitors to Bali should miss this unique performance which has over the years fascinate choreographers and filmmakers. It was Walter Spies the Dutch painter who in the early 1930’s revolutionized this ancient ritual chant to become the most famous dance in Bali. Together with Limbak and his village troupe of Bedulu they would incorporate other dance movements for the lead dancer eventually adding the Ramayana story line with the army of monkeys as its central theme.

From ritual chorus to a dance drama re-imagined by Walter Spies and now the Javanese born choreographer Sardono will also revolutionize the traditional Kecak dance into another contemporary style  The new contemporary version of Kecak created in 1974 tells the story of the battle between Sugriwa king of the monkeys and his brother Subali over the Goddess Tara.

I Ketut Rina the Balinese dancer from Teges Kanginan, studied under the guidance of Sardono from a very early age, and after his world travel with the dance group he came back to Bali and founded the Cak Rina Dance.   Today his amazing Cak Rina dace can be seen twice a month during the new and full moon in Ubud.  Unlike the traditional Kecak dance when the dancers usually form a circle, the Cak Rina dancers are mostly free standing with quick wild movements.

 

Dancers holding torches are unique to this contemporary version of the Kecak

 

This is how the sound of Kecak……………  with images landscape and people of Bali.

 

Chinese New Year in China Town

In Chinatown, Jakarta
In Chinatown, Jakarta

Preparation is on its way to welcome the Chinese New Year. Red lanterns, auspicious symbols, temple offerings hang in stalls in China-towns around the globe. At the eve of the New Year families and friends would gather around a festive communal feast – with lion and dragon dances believed to attract good fortune. There is also a tradition of giving away lucky money in families usually placed in special red envelopes (ang pau). On the fifth day of the New Year, the gods of prosperity are believed to descend from the heavens and to ascent back after the fifteenth day at the Full Moon, a celebration also known as Cap Go Meh or the festival of Lanterns which marks the end of the New Year. In Jakarta Chinatown Indonesia, like each year, stalls along the streets are filled with these colourful items welcoming the year of the wooden horse. I have always enjoyed browsing through its many alleys during this festive time.

Chinese New Year Chinatown Jakarta
Chinese New Year Chinatown Jakarta

Here are some images taken in Jakarta Chinatown during the Chinese New Year …

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Yogyakarta Delights …

Gudeg local specialty from Yogyakarta Indonesia

Yogyakarta the cultural capital of Central Java is not only known for its Hindu Buddhist temples of Borobudur or Prambanan but each time when I visit this wonderful city still shrouded with its bygone charms I just cannot resist to its delightful delicacies.  I would devour the irresistible gudeg a local specialty made from young jack fruit cooked in spices (coriander, galangal, bay leaves, candle nuts …) and coconut milk. It is traditionally cooked in a clay pot (kendil) served with rice, hard boiled eggs, chicken, tofu, tempe and the typical sambal goreng krecek (spicy crispy beef skins) You can taste some of the city’s delicious gudeg in a warung ( Indonesian style coffee shop ) or lesehan (traditional food stalls with no chairs, that means sitting on rattan tikar mats around low wooden tables. You’ll probably have to get used to sitting Javanese style without getting pins and needles) either around Malioboro (usually open in the evenings) or there are several gudeg restaurants near the Kraton (Sultan’s palace) worth a try. And of course I would go and treat my self to the various local sweet snacks sold along the streets and markets specially around Beringhardjo traditional market.

“Jajan Pasar” local cakes and sweets

Among those of my favourites are bolang baling, klepon, apem, dadar gulung, wajik … made from rice flour, palm sugar, coconut and other local ingredients.
Putu is another local sweet snacks worth mentioning because I simply love these delicious steamed buns (cooked in bamboo tubes) made of sago and rice flour filled with palm sugar (gula Jawa) … my favourite sweets yummy !

Street vendor along Malioboro at night selling local delicacies Putu, onde onde and klepon …

Es Dawet or cendol is another of my favourite local drink made from fresh coconut milk and comes in all sort of variations.

Street food along Malioboro Jogyakarta

So, the next time you are in Jogjakarta immersed yourself in the local delicacies by trying these delicious street food …

Street food along Malioboro Yogyakarta

Geringsing: ritual cloth of Tenganan

Geringsing cloth worn during a ritual Rejang dance in Tenganan, Bali
Geringsing cloth worn during the ritual Rejang dance in Tenganan, Bali

Geringsing is the unique double ikat woven cloth made by the Bali Aga in the traditional village of Tenganan Karangasem on the island of Bali. The Bali Aga are the original inhabitants of Bali living on the island prior to the arrival of the Hindu Javanese. They are mostly found in the eastern part of Bali with the village of Tenganan more open to tourism and where the famous geringsing ikat cloth is still produced. The cloth plays an important role in their ceremonies and being open to outsiders, the village is the best place to glimpse into the life of the people where ceremonies and dances are regularly performed. Although similar to the Balinese, the Bali Aga have their own unique culture where the cloth plays an important role and used for ceremonies especially that of the rites of passages.

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While musicians play at the main Bale Agung of the village …

Bali Aga musicians from the village of Tenganan
Bali Aga musicians from the village of Tenganan

Geringsing cloth are still actively produced in the village

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