In The Details

Kuta, Bali, Indonesia

When we called Bali the Cancun of Australia, we had no idea how right we were.

Because, like Mexico, people do come to Bali to drink cheap beer on the beach, party and buy cheap souvenirs so Bali caters to that.  And they even have a good sense of humor about it:

20120228H - Bali at night (2)But that’s not all this island is.  Because Bali, like Mexico, is far more fascinating when you’re paying attention to the details.

Bali may put up a commercial face that caters to the western tourist.

20120307A (13)But when each side street we turn down reveals a new temple,

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A new garden,

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A group of people worshiping

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The house cat taking a nap in front of the “family temple” (because they have those…)

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Or people building floats for their annual parade to scare the demons away

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We quickly got the impression there is a lot more going on here than cheap beer and nasi goreng.

(not that those things are bad, Bali has amazing food and their beers, simply put, floored us with the quality for price but still…)


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Probably the best example of this is what appears to be at first glance road litter.  All over the roads in Kuta we came across these packets apparently discarded with no rhyme or reason.

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The packets often contained food, and so animals were attracted to them.  Overall it seemed a strange street litter that made very little sense.  Why would the Balinese people intentionally throw garbage in the streets?


Eventually we asked and found these were not garbage, they were offerings to the gods.  Every day the Balinese either created or bought these “offerings” and laid them out for their gods.  Especially in front of their temples.  At a basic level the idea is similar to tithing – to give some of the blessings one receives back.



Some of them get quite decorative and it was obvious a lot of effort had gone into their creation.  So why did they let them get run over by a car or destroyed by an animal or eaten by a sacred temple monkey or cleaned up by a street sweeper?

Well, if that’s what happened then that’s what the gods wanted done with their offering and who are the mortals to argue?  It’s not the preservation of the gift that matters, in fact most if not all of the offerings are quickly destroyed.  The importance is in the giving.  In the sacrifice.


Now we could have stopped there having learned a tidbit about the people of Indonesia but there is even more to learn from this because we were informed that it is very likely that we will not see this offering tradition practiced on the main Indonesian island of Java.  Because though the island of Java, along with the majority of the Indonesian islands were at one time Hindu, the country is now predominantly of the Muslim faith.

Except for the Island of Bali, which is, despite being a fairly significant part of the most populous Muslim nation on earth, overwhelmingly Hindu.


Like we said, lots of interesting details.


Where the Island of Bali retained their faith, the people of Tahiti took the faith of the European colonists and branded it with their own unique style.  As Christians ourselves, we’d say we’re better off for it because there’s quite a bit to be learned from Polynesian Christianity.


About the authors

Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures.  If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out!

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