Buda Cemeng Klawu – Honouring the Goddess of Prosperity

Tags

, ,

DSCF1347_resizeCelebrated every 210 days Buda Wage Klawu or better known as Buda Cemeng Klawu is a tradition of Hinduism in Bali. In this tradition “Bhatara Rambut Sedana” honours the “Goddess of Prosperity”, who brings wealth and fortune to humans. It is often referred to as “Piodalan Ida Batara Sri Sedana”.

Ceremonies take place in domestic environments, business premises as well as Temples across Bali. It is mostly celebrated by businesses, such as market traders, shop owners, restaurants and financial institutions . Special offerings are given to honor Ida Batara Sedana or “Goddess of Prosperity” as a form of gratitude for this gift.

DSCF1322_resizeOn this day the people of Bali are not allowed to use money for things that are not returned to them in the form of goods, such as too pay debt because they believe that this money will be lost forever.

In Hindu literature it is understood that money is essentially a means not the purpose of life, depending on how we choose to use it. If we use appropriately based on the concept of God it leads to a happy physical and spiritual life. If money is considered the most important thing in life, the belief is it will bring misery.  Therefore use the money as a means of realizing the Dharma / truth / goodness.

“Doing one’s dharma means not only remaining ethical but also assuming the duties that are proper to the class or society we are born into (due to one’s past karma), and to the stage of life we are presently in.”

DSCF1328_resizeOn Wednesday 15th April the company I work for in Bali held its own ceremony at our office. All the staff were dressed in traditional Balinese dress, including Batik Kamben (cloth), men with Udeng (headress).  The office was filled with offerings and incense sticks and the upstairs area was arranged for us to sit or kneel together in front of the Pelangkiran (shrine) where we had our own ceremony conducted by a local Pemangku (Priest), from the Pura Luhur Candi Narmada Temple.

DSCF1384_resizeWe started with prayer following the “Mantra Muspa”,  which translates to prayer by means of Sekar (flowers). There are 5 stages of worship, essentially pray with empty hands, pray with flower in hand 3 times and then pray empty hand. Women place the flowers in their hair after each prayer.

The ceremony then followed the usual Balinese traditions, incense sticks lit to cleanse and purify the body and spirits. Further purification by sprinkling and drinking of blessed water from the Beji (place of Holy spring water) at the Pura Luhur Candi Narmada Temple. We were then given what is referred to as a “holy shower” in which the water is poured onto our heads and over our bodies. Rice is then placed on our forehead, temples and chest for good fortune and prosperity, also three grains of the rice was consumed. The Pemangku then positioned a piece of white thread on our heads which signifies purity and strength. The ceremony finishes by eating small portions of the food in the offerings (fruit, crisps, cake) which is for a happy and prosperous future.

After the ceremony held at office, we then traveled to the Pura Luhur Candi Narmada Temple where we went through a further three stages of ceremony at different places, essentially following same process as before.

DSCF1320_resizeThe first was at the Beji, which represents cleansing and purification of the body, so again given “holy shower” followed by the Mantra Muspa prayer. The Pemangku then tied plaited thread to our right wrists. This thread is known as Tri Datu “The three colours”red, white and black, each color has its own owner from one of the manifestations of the godhead – Brahma (the creator), Visnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer). The Tri Datu is meant to calm the mind of negative thoughts and provide us with power, strength and longevity.

The next stage of the ceremony was prayer at the Ratu Gede Temple, this temple people go to prayer for protection for themselves and family. The last stage was at the main Pura Luhur Candi Narmada Temple which we prayer here for our wealth and prosperity.

A great experience to be part of a traditional Balinese ceremony.

Advertisements

Chinese New Year – Imlek Celebrations in Bali

Tags

, ,

DSCF1185 (3)

The Chinese New Year brings family and friends together and it’s the most important and celebrated of all the Chinese festivals. It’s about turning over a new leaf and saying goodbye to the past “out with the old” and “in with the new” (something I really must do more off) or as the Chinese say, Guonian for passing the old year and Bainian for congratulating the New Year.

With the New Moon on 19th February the celebrations begin and last 15 days. Each year the dates vary depending on the Chinese lunar calendar.

There are many stories about the history of this celebration and the Chinese believe that worshipping the gods will keep them safe from harm and stop bad things happening.

Imlek Celebrations

In Indonesia the celebrations are known locally as Imlek and it only became a public holiday here for Chinese Indonesians in 2002. There are many people living in Bali that follow the beliefs and practices that have been handed down from generations before them.

I wanted to see for myself how the local Chinese Indonesians start off the celebrations and I was told of a Chinese Temple in Kuta, called Vihara Dharmayana or Kongco Leeng Gwan, as it’s known locally.

DSCF1179 (3)

Set just of Jalan Blambangan in Kuta, about a 20 minute drive through the busy and smoggy kuta traffic. The Buddhist Chinese Temple dates back to 1876 and was once visited back in the 1980’s by the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.

On arriving I was firstly hit by the color red, the Temple exterior, the hanging lanterns and the people wearing red clothing. In Chinese red symbolizes good fortune and joy and although I knew this I hadn’t thought of wearing red for the occasion so felt even more out of place.

DSCF1159

Entering into the courtyard an abundance of people were gathered and an intense smell of burning incense filled the air. As with most Chinese architecture it was vibrant and somewhat majestic, the ambience was calming and spiritual with the lit lanterns and smoky sky.

DSCF1209 (2)

Although feeling slightly awkward I wanted to get involved, it was like I was somewhere I shouldn’t be, invading the space of others that were there to pray. However my friend Laura and I asked a friendly guy what we should do and we followed suit.

DSCF1195 (2)

We entered the Baktisala (main structure) which was full of burning candles and offerings. Each of us made a donation to the temple and signed our names in a register. Then we took some incense sticks which had to be of an odd number each (for luck), we lit these on the candles and entered inside to make a wish/pray. Eyes stinging from the smoke and finding it hard to maneuver through the mass of people, I then went on to be blessed. Water was poured into my crossed palms which I drank from and then it was splashed on my face and head. Rice was then centred on my on my forehead. I’m not generally a religious or spiritual person but caught up in a moment I admit to feeling something, what that is I’m not sure of quite yet.

DSCF1205 (3)

Next to the Baktisala is the Dharmasala which is for family prayers, this is much smaller with an attractive circular entrance and inside a beautiful wall mural of the Borobudur, which is the World’s largest Buddhist Temple in central Java Indonesia.

DSCF1176 (3)

DSCF1175

Under a Banyon (fig) tree and opposite the Baktisala is another place for prayer. Around this place of worship is a tiny moat which has turtles swimming and lazing. Prayers are made here to the four-faced Buddha, “which symbolizes the philosophy of kindness owned by the Buddha, those are patience, liberal, fair and meditated”.

DSCF1167 (3)

I really enjoyed visiting this Temple and experiencing being part of a tradition that although not mine, I find interesting, enlightening and soothing to the soul!

DSCF1210

Year of the Wood Sheep

Whilst researching Chinese New Year, I read more and more which started to fascinate me. 2015 brings us the year of the wood sheep “yang” or depending on what website you read, it’s the year of the goat or ram. In English the Chinese translation means the same so some confusion still remains.

So what does this Wood sheep have to do with anything I hear you say? Well, in short and from what I have read …. The year ahead will be about “healing, kindness and diplomacy…..we should value our friends and family and we need to get creative and be open to love and acceptance on all levels”. Nice huh?

I am a horse (I’ve been called worse)

I was born in the year of the horse (1978). I wanted to understand what this means and what the year ahead so say has in store for me.

A couple of things I read amused me and I know my friends will smile when reading this….

Single horses – should take part in more social activities, and they will meet their ideal partners (I’ll be happy with just the one ideal partner to be honest)

Health – Horse will have good health on the whole, however at the same time, those who are fond of wine should drink less.

Career – Horses are suggested to get along very well with their business partners and friends. Try to accept what others suggest and try to understand their points of view.

If you are also intrigued by the Chinese meanings, take a look at the below website and see what 2015 means for you.

http://www.chinahighlights.com

 

 

Charming Amed

Tags

, , , ,

20140913-220537-79537975.jpg

Listening to the Imagine Dragons’ “Night Visions” on my headphones, the line “I never want to leave this town” seemed rather fitting on my drive out of Amed. Looking out at the rice fields, the farmers working, the sun trying to break through the cloudy sky, leaving a misty air reflecting across the landscape, I had a sudden overwhelming feeling of sadness.

When I first arrived in Amed, though, I felt a little disappointed. A sleepy fishing village with a black sand stony beach. What was I going to do here for four whole days?!

I know that most visit for the diving and snorkelling which I can’t comment on as I don’t dive and don’t really enjoy snorkelling. Although from what I have heard, both are pretty amazing here. You can walk straight out from the beach to snorkel and the sea is lovely to swim in, just be careful of the rocks and coral. There are plenty of dive centres along the beach, so easy for those wanting to participate.

IMG_5401

Others visit for the trekking, maybe to climb Mt Agung, the biggest mountain in Bali, to view sunrise from the top. Something I will endeavour to do one day but wasn’t prepared for it on this occasion (questionable fitness level and lack of trekking shoes).

Amed is a place where you automatically feel relaxed though, the constant drum of the waves and the sea air puts you in a bit of a hypnotic state.

I was staying at Trandisi Beach Front Villas, probably half way along Amed beach. Nice enough room, the balcony was a sun trap with seaview. The mattress was like sleeping on a brick though and I couldn’t seem to get any hot water for a shower, oh and I did have two encounters with cockroaches. Apart from that, the pool was lovely, the staff nice when you could find them and breakfast was good.

IMG_5486

My first morning I woke up early to watch sunrise, about 5.30am. I pulled on some clothes and walked the 30 second route down to the beachfront. My eyes like piss-holes in the snow, I waited with eagerness for night to become day. As the sun started to rise, I was kicked into action and off I went with the camera clicking away like David Bailey. I was in my element. A totally stunning sunrise.

On the second evening I wanted to go to “the hill” to watch sunset with views of Mt Agung in the background. This is definitely a great spot, the distasteful reggae style singing from a few local guys and Bintangs at the ready, sold from an ice box there was a good natural vibe. The sunset didn’t disappoint.

I met a local guy named Nyoman outside a Warung while trying to find a taxi to take me to the hill for sunset. He was offering to take me there for a stupid price and I said he was too expensive and walked off. He then called after me and said he would take me for free as he had nothing to do anyway. Skeptical as I was about this, I thought OK, why not. Granted, he took me up the hill, waited for me and then bought me back down to his brother’s Warung. I guess there was a bit of tactical thinking on his part as I felt obliged then to have a beer and dinner in the Warung. It was good food and lovely talking to Nyoman and his brother and family.

I ended up using Nyoman as a driver the following day to take me to Jemeluk bay and around the Seraya mountain range to stop at some of the coastal viewpoints. The scenery was impressive, the road a bit iffy at times, there was no way I would have got far on a moped, I would have turned back after 200 metres. Part of the way, we got caught behind lots of people walking to a cremation, we were stuck for about 30 minutes whilst all these people came out of nowhere and kept adding to the crowd. It was a great thing to witness and I couldn’t believe how many people passed us waving and saying hello, such friendly smiley people. Eventually, we managed to pass them and carry on with the drive.

We drove through the city of Amlapura where we stopped and had lunch at a cheap and cheerful place above, let’s say, a “tacky” clothes store. Nyoman bought me lunch, the worst Nasi Goreng I’ve had but, hey, it was kind of him.

Afterwords, he wanted me to help him shop for some shoes in the store. I’m not sure this was usual behaviour for a driver you have hired but it was all very amusing. I think Nyoman may have liked me a little, although I did tell him I had a boyfriend back in Seminyak (was a fib) the evening before just so it was clear I was not a western women here looking for anything of that nature because I was traveling alone. Still, he was harmless enough.

After lunch and the shoe shopping which was unsuccessful for him but successful for me with my Rp99,000 bargain pair of new trekking sandals (which I’ll probably never wear as, on reflection, they are pretty hideous, not sure what I was thinking really), we stopped on the road at a viewpoint of the Tirta Gangga rice fields. These are quite a sight as spread so vast, I’m not sure they wowed me as much as the rice fields at Tegallalang outside of Ubud but they were still pretty impressive. Also managed to get a glimpse at the salt farmers working as we came back into Amed beach.

You definitely don’t come to Amed if your looking to “while away” the day, drinking cappuccinos or flat whites in cafés or wanting to shop for souvenirs.

From what I could tell, most of the Warungs are still family-owned and ran. I stuck with eating Indonesian dishes and fresh seafood caught that day, such as Barramundi, Mahi Mahi and Squid. Generally, most meals I had were pretty delicious and cheap. I doubt there are specific websites for any of the Warungs, but below are those I would recommend eating in:

Padai Warung
Bali Warung
Sama Sama
Amed Sea View Warung

They are all along the beachfront so easy to find.

Overall, I think Amed is a charming little place. The drive along the east coast to get to Amed has some lovely scenery. There is quite a contrast between the east coast and the south coast of Bali, where I currently live. It feels a lot more untouched and less tainted by westerners than the south; it’s not built up with fancy hotels and restaurants to cater for the mass of tourists. Everyday life feels more relaxed and simple and I hope it stays that way.

Granted I’ve only seen a snippet, really, but I’m sure I will be back one day to explore some more. Oh, and to climb Mt Agung obviously.

Enchanting Ubud

Tags

, , , , ,

20140906-190714-68834931.jpg

The most useful piece of advice I can give anyone traveling to Ubud is to take ear plugs. Being at one with nature is somewhat inconvenient at times, especially when trying to sleep. It’s not just the sounds from the wildlife though, depending on where you stay accommodation is quite close together in amongst streets where locals live and where there are restaurants or bars. Therefore you can often hear family life, children crying, dogs barking and the music playing in the bars which goes on until the early hours.

However, the noise aside Ubud is a very enchanting place. This was my third visit and again I am slightly mesmerised by what I’ve seen. Every trip is different to the last and each time I find new hidden little gems. I can see why this place captures your heart.

For the first three days I stayed on Bisma street, which I had never discovered previously and so glad that I have now. I had a basic room at Rico Amerta,http://www.ricoamerta.com surrounded by beautiful views of the rice fields. It was at the lower end of Bisma st which you can take a short cut through to Monkey forest st/road. Two minutes walk was a fantastic spa called Puri spa, a Balinese 80 minute massage cost 100,000 rp (roughly £5). You were given a glass of water, cold towel and a foot bath on arrival. After massage you could shower and use all the products, then you were given ginger tea and biscuits. Needless to say I went there on each of the three days. Bisma st does seem to have quite an array of spas so lots of choice. There are also some nice looking eateries but I only managed to try cafe des artistes http://www.cafedesartistesbali.com which had a great menu selection, more on the pricer side of the rupiah but packed with customers and really attentive staff.

As I tend to do most of my exploring on foot, my first afternoon I took a left out of Bisma st onto Jalan Raya Ubud and ended up at the old Dutch bridge crossing the Campuhan river, which has a nice view spot. I then proceeded on up hill where I saw a sign for a cafe called Alchemy which a friend had recommended, so I thought I would try and find it. After a walk up some daunting steps, through little pathways, some forest, across a small river and into some rice fields, then out onto a road I found it.

20140906-185326-68006363.jpg

Alchemy, screamed healthiness. Completely organic and vegan cafe which had a great salad bar which you could design your own. Healthy juice bar, plus lots of other organic sweet and savoury delights. I opted for the freshly squeezed apple and lime juice and a Greek salad with almond feta. It was very tasty and the salad bowl was huge. The clientele were those in yoga pants and then those like me (all 2 of us). Great place when you want to eat something other than rice or noodles and you left feeling like you just had a massive spoonful of goodness. http://alchemybali.com

During my stay I visited a few of the typical tourist places such as the monkey forest, Blanco Renaissance museum, Puri Lukisan museum which I won’t go into detail about as so much info online but all definitely worth a visit.

A few places I would recommend:

Nacivet photography gallery http://www.nacivet.com some stunning black and white shots.

Kismet – for coffee and downstairs a funky boutique selling clothes and jewellery (can’t find a website).

Laughing Buddha http://laughingbuddhabali.com live music, tasty selection of Spanish and Asian tapas and really yummy lychee and lemongrass martini.

Three Monkeys http://threemonkeyscafebali.com/ubud/ visited here twice now. Delicious ginger prawn salad and chicken and avocado salad. This seems to be a pretty popular place, nice chilled atmosphere.

Xl Shisha lounge http://www.xlshishalounge.com across football field from monkey forest st. Great band playing called Bali Bull. Apparently live music played every night, had a good vibe and loved the Moroccan style decor.

After my three nights in Ubud I then went on to stay at a wellbeing resort in the jungle just outside Ubud in Tegallalang called Bagus Jati
http://www.bagusjati.com. Set in the jungle, tranquil and beautiful surroundings. No detail has been forgotten in the landscaping of this place, there was flora and fauna in abundance. A place you can actually see the stars shine bright, hear the birds singing loudly, along with other various sounds coming from the jungle. I had a four night “new start” package which was focused on healthy eating, relaxation with options to do yoga, mediation and four spa treatments included. No Bintang!!!

This was quite an indulgent thing for me to do but something I had always fancied trying and Bali seemed the perfect place to indulge. After taking in how beautiful the setting was, I was taken to my room which was up on a hill looking out to the jungle. The room was rather luxurious, the bathroom itself was bigger than my apartment I had in Seminyak and I felt like I should probably be on my honeymoon as it was that kind of place. Still the only romantic encounter I had was a mosquito biting my boob.

As most of my friends and previous work colleagues know, I am not a morning person and the thought of getting up for Yoga at 7am remained a thought and I never made it on any of the days. However I did have a private session one afternoon with a nice Balinese man called Nyoman. I’m quite skeptical about the whole yoga thing and I admire people that do it and love it, just not convinced it’s for me. Firstly I don’t look good in yoga pants and secondly I find it really hard to concentrate. We did Ashtanga yoga for an hour and a half. When we were doing the warm down I found this particularly amusing. Nyoman told me to lie on my back then he covered me in a blanket. He then proceeded to take on the voice of The Count from sesame street and talked about releasing the energy from various parts of my body including my “sexual place” and “becoming at one with the universe”. At this point I lost it and was biting my lip hard so I wouldn’t laugh out loud as really didn’t want to offend the guy. Needless to say, I don’t think yoga is my thing.

Included in my package was a cooking class. I so miss having a large kitchen of my own and all the necessary utensils to create culinary wonders. Still I have gotten used to the one gas ring style of cooking I do here now. The class was really enjoyable, I was taken around the grounds to pick some of the vegetables and herbs I would be using in the dishes and then went on to make a starter, main and dessert. Dishes included a Balinese green salad with garlic dressing, vegetable and tofu coconut curry and a banana and coconut crepe. All vegetarian, deliciously tasty dishes that I can’t wait to try and replicate again.

One morning I did a three hour trek through the jungle, which was quite an eye opener. I must have sounded like an excited child when I spotted bananas and mangoes growing in there natural environment. I also saw vanilla pods, coffee plants, avocados, wild raspberries, cloves and chillies amongst many other things. Buddha my guide pointed out plants from the ground you could pick and eat, those you should avoid and those that were good if you were sick. Therefore I now feel pretty confident I can give Bear Grylls a run for his money on how to survive in the jungle. Although I don’t recommend wearing shorts or trekking sandels when exploring as I was covered in scrapes and bites by the end of it.

The spa was something else, the ladies working there were lovely, the treatments fantastic. My particular favourite was a Balinese massage followed by a clove, ginger, brown rice and coconut milk scrub which I was then wrapped in banana leaves and left to heat up for 15 minutes. My skin afterwards felt like silk.

All the food that was included in the package was delicious and healthy, a mix of vegetarian, soups, chicken and seafood. The breakfasts were great with various options of fruit, eggs, fresh juices. I think I had consumed more ginger though in the four days there than I have in my entire life. It seemed to sneak into everything, fruit cleansers, ginger tea, iced tea, salads, seafood with ginger. Still I’m sure it did me some good.

I probably spent a whole months budget staying at this place but can honestly say I felt awesome when I left and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had and would highly recommend. The only thing that I can fault it for is constantly playing Celine Deon in the restaurant each evening, my heart will go on and on and on and on and on……

On my way back to Ubud I wanted to do a slight detour and stop at one of the Elephant Safari parks http://www.elephantsafariparklodge.com. I had heard really good things and although I’m still unsure how I feel about elephants being kept in Safari parks for tourists to snap away at all day and sit on them for treks through the jungle, I wanted to see them for myself. At 700,000 rp entrance fee with elephant ride (£30) someone was making a great deal of money from this set up. The story goes that 18 elephants were rescued from Sumatra and bought to this park away from danger. In fairness I don’t know the full story and I’m going on what people have told me but I’m sure if you googled it something would come up. The elephants appeared to be healthy, as for happy how would you know?! Seeing those with a chain around one ankle was quite upsetting but I was assured by the staff that they were comfortable and they had to be there for the safety of the people. Obviously as they are wild animals after all and you can’t predict what a 4 tonnes bull would do if free to roam the grounds on its own accord. All that said they truly are gorgeous creatures, feeding the baby elephant who was 18 months was really lovely and the real highlight of the visit for me.

Love, love, love Ubud and can’t wait to go back again as still so much to see and do.