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A Bit of the Real Bali

Galungan Banner CS_2716

We last visited Bali during the major Festive of Galungan and Kuningan (23 October to 2 November 2013) which is one of the biggest in the Balinese calendar – well one of the calendars anyway – they have three: the Gregorian (the regular one); the Pawukon (210 day calender with ten different weeks running simultaneously) and the Saka calendar which has 12 months each of 30 days – yeah, confusing huh?

Anyway, we were lucky enough to be invited to go back to our friend’s villages to celebrate with them.

That’s how we found ourselves at Kusamba Village for Galungan.

One of our young companions, ready to go.

One of our young companions, ready to go.

Our friends taught us how to pray the Balinese way

Our friends taught us how to pray the Balinese way

We first had to learn how to tie on our sarongs, a long one covered by a shorter one. Etiquette demands that the men wear white shirts, preferably long sleeved. On the head must be the traditional Balinese hat – which takes a little time and care to tie just right.

This day is very family orientated – like most things in Bali. There’s a fair bit of praying as well.

It starts at home, at the home shrine. It seems most Balinese houses have a shrine, some small and some large and elaborate. Then, its off to the family shrine where all the uncles and aunts, siblings and cousins meet up. Then, if you’re up to it, it’s off to one of the major public temples for a blessing and a bit more praying.

Once all of that is over, its time to sit with friends, drink a little arak or beer (or both at the same time which tastes a little like scotch) and relax.

Kusamba Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Kusamba Beach

On Galungan, we trooped down to Kusamba Beach, a black beach with headlands at both ends and a view out to sea.

It seemed that people came from all over Bali to this beach and it was crowded.

Kids love having their picture taken

Kids love having their picture taken

Still, it was relaxed and easy going. There were many stalls selling food or toys or trinkets. Hawkers walked the beach selling balloons, coffee, saté, drinks and much more.

Kids (and adults) flew kites and model aircraft and paddled on the shoreline.

The mood was gentle and respectful. No alcohol, no musclemen, no bikinis just a gentle onshore breeze and the laughter of the kids as the played in the water.

Our little group were the only white faces in the whole throng, and we felt at peace as we sat in the black sand, turned our faces to the breeze and took in the view.

As the sun began to dip behind the mountains at our backs we walked back up into the village where I got to achieve one of my long held ambitions.

We get to hang with the boys

We get to hang with the boys

As you enter a Balinese village you will always pass a group of men sitting cross legged in a small covered pavilion at a strategic street corner.

Galungan, it's a family thing

Galungan, it’s a family thing

They sit and smoke cigarettes, play cards, gossip and generally watch out for the village. I have always wanted to be one of those guys and back in Kusamba Village, I got to be one.

We sat, chewing the fat, drinking beer and arak – I watched them smoke cigarettes – and watched the village troop by.