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Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey

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See Bali Island in the 1970s’

Travel back in time and catch a glimpse of daily life on the island of Bali in the 1970s. Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey is a must-see material for anyone who loves Bali and Indonesia. I for one got hooked from the very first minute I started watching this series of five documentaries. It was back in 1972 when the English brothers Lorne and Lawrence Blair set off from Great Britain to the Indonesian Archipelago to explore mystical lands and indigenous tribes, not knowing if they would ever return. Their journey led them from the deep jungle of Kalimantan to pirate territory in Sulawesi, to primitive tribes in New Guinea and Sumba, to giant lizards on Komodo Island and finally to the sacred island of Bali with all of its temples, shrines, Gods, demons and mysticism. I found it inspiring and intriguing to watch these two brothers going off-the-grid like true explorers without any modern-day luxuries such as Google Maps, Google Translate or whatsoever. They went on a crazy insane adventure and they were lucky to survive…

How it all began

Following in the footsteps of naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, Lorne and Lawrence Blair initially traveled to the Spice Islands of Indonesia to capture footage of the legendary Greater Bird of Paradise. The things they discovered on the way were more compelling than they ever could’ve imagined. Before they knew it, a decade had passed, exploring places, islands and indigenous tribes off the map.
When they started out, Lorne was an ethnographic filmmaker who had been working for BBC and Lawrence had just earned his Ph.D. writing a doctoral thesis on psycho-anthropology. The brothers left their familiar civilization behind on a Phinisi boat with Bugis Pirates on the island of Sulawesi and they jumped into a world unknown to them.

A decade of exploring lands unknown

The brothers Blair made nine expeditions between 1972 and 1985. In total, Lorne shot over 80 hours of video footage on a 16mm film. The footage is authentic, raw, intimate, wild, utterly cool and interesting. You get a real glimpse into the cultures, traditions and rituals of indigenous Indonesian tribes. Lorne and Lawrence may have been the last true ‘explorers’ like we had them in the old days, long before the digital age kicked in.

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Learning and Leisure with Leap & Hop Kids Guides

in Families by

We reckon most parents will agree that keeping the kids happy on holiday is the Golden Ticket to making sure everyone has a good time. So here’s a great suggestion to keep your kids happily occupied while teaching them about Balinese history, geography and culture at the same time. The interactive kids’ guide Leap & Hop Bali is a winner.

About Leap & Hop guides

Part-French, part-American Isabelle is mum to three boys and the author of the Leap & Hop guides. Her first Leap & Hop guide started as a little surprise for her kids on their Christmas trip to Cambodia. Her plan was to prepare a journal for them to record their impressions of the Khmer temples which later became a 100-page book with games, treasure hunts, scavenger hunts and fun snippets of information about the country’s history, geography and religion. Isabelle also encourages drawing and scrapbooking through her books.

“For me,” says Isabelle, “a good kids’ guide is a book that covers adult topics in a way that kids can understand without ‘dumbing it down’. The idea is also for the kids to ‘own’ the trip; they can pick and choose to learn about the places that interest them and the activities they enjoy. The illustrations are essential. I’m very fortunate to work with an amazing illustrator, Emilie Sarnel. Kids really relate to her unique style, which is whimsical and colourful without being childish.”

Leap and hop Bali Cover web96

leap and hop Bali SPREAD kites WEB96

Isabelle’s top 5 things to do in Bali with kids

  1. Go on a nature walk to explore Bali’s picturesque rice paddies in Ubud or Canggu.
  2. Visit marvellous village temples. You might get lucky and see a traditional ceremony while you’re there.
  3. Make and fly your own kite on the beach. Sanur is famous for its kite festivals, but many other beaches in Bali are excellent for kite flying.
  4. Eat fresh seafood at a restaurant on the sand in Jimbaran. The tanks of live seafood will fascinate the kids, and the beach provides an excellent place to play.
  5. Explore Bali’s fascinating underwater world. Blue Lagoon and Padang Bay are great for snorkelling. If you are looking for something more adventurous head to Tulumben and explore the WWII wreck of the US Liberty.

We’ve got plenty more fun things to do with kids in Bali up our sleeve.

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Ubud Royal Cremation attracts thousands

in News by
Royal Cremation Ubud Bali photo by Sonny Tumbelaka AFP

Attending a cremation is unlikely to be top of the ‘must do’ list for the average vacationer. But then Bali is far from an average holiday destination.  As anyone who venture a few kilometres from the main tourist beaches will discover, this really is the ‘Island of 1,000 temples’ – an understatement if ever there was one. The fabled sea temples of Uluwatu and Tanah Lot, the mother temple of Besakih on the slopes of the sacred Gunung Agung, and the oft-photographed Ulun Danu Bratan temple feature on many a day-trip itinerary. And driving through traditional villages and across swathes of rice terraces can bring many unexpected sights as you come across small temple festival and colourful processions. 

Visitors to Bali’s cultural heart in early March found themselves in the right place at the right time to witness something spectacular: the cremation of Anak Agung Niang Agung, the wife of Tjokorda Gde Agung Sukawati (1910-1978), widely known as ‘the King of Ubud.’

ANAK AGUNG NIANG AGUNG

 “Strange as it seems, it is in their cremation ceremonies that the Balinese have their greatest fun. A cremation is an occasion for gaiety and not for mourning, since it represents the accomplishment of their most sacred duty: the ceremonial burning of the corpses of the dead to liberate their souls so that they may thus attain the higher worlds and be free for reincarnation into better beings”. The words of Mexican artist Miguel Covarrubias ring as true today as when he wrote his Island of Bali book in the 1930s.

A ngaben – literally translated as ‘turn to ash’ – is perhaps the most unique ritual in the unique form of animism-influenced Hinduism followed by the deeply spiritual Balinese, who believe that life, and death, are transitions. Even more elaborate is the pelebon –  the cremation ceremony reserved for members of the royal family.

For the preceding three weeks, visitors would have seen intense activity outside Ubud Palace as the community gathered to construct the two enormous structures that are the core of the ceremony: the Bade, an intricately decorated, gravity-defying multi-level tower in which the body is placed and carried from the Palace to the Pura Dalem Puri, and the Lembu, a magnificent black velvet bull sarcophagus, to which the body will be placed for cremation.

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Balinese art of monster-making

in News by
nyepi ogoh ogoh bali art

Nyepi is the first day of the Saka lunar calendar, a sacred occasion in Bali when people stay indoors for quiet reflection. For many visitors in Bali during this time of year, the message is strong and simple, for respecting ‘Silent Day’ is mandatory: stay in, turn off the lights and be quiet. From dawn until dawn, the island completely shuts down, including the airport. Only pecalang (neighbourhood security) go out in public, whilst everyone else takes time for personal reflection at home.

What more is there to know about the annual Nyepi holy day in Bali, and what do the papier-mâché monsters in the streets have to do with it?

Arts are integral to Balinese culture, and the Balinese have a long history as accomplished woodworkers, stone sculptors, gold- and silversmiths, and textile- and basket-weavers, as well as being ingenious horticulturalists. Balinese artisan crafts, ceremonial customs, daily offerings, performance arts, masks, costumes, adornments and agricultural traditions are all ways of life which honour the values of Balinese Hindu ideology; at the crux a divine balance between people, God and nature.

Balinese customs preceding Nyepi are all about maintaining this trinity, known as the Tri Hita Karana, by cleansing, warding off all evil forces and giving selfless offerings before the start of the new year.

The great task of ridding the island of a year’s worth of evils is taken care of by giant ogoh-ogoh statues of mythological witches, grotesque demons or modern anti-heroes.

Just one of the many essential rituals surrounding Nyepi, the ogoh-ogoh are paraded around by their creators in raucous processions late into the night on the eve of Nyepi. They scare away or encapsulate bad entities, then get set on fire at the cemetery to burn to complete non-existence.

Despite their short lifespans, ogoh-ogoh can be elaborate monstrosities with impressive construction and attention to detail. A popular and visually stunning trend is to create artworks which appear to hover in thin air or connect multiple figures in a dynamic pose. In each of Bali’s thousands of banjars (community organizations), young adults begin making an ogoh-ogoh weeks or even months in advance of Nyepi.

Many adults can’t resist joining in this artistic tradition. Local Bali tattoo artist and graphic designer Putu Marmar Herayukti is one of them. For the ogoh-ogoh parade preceding Hari Raya Nyepi 1940 (17 March 2018),

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5 brilliant things to do in Koh Samui

in Recreation by
Boating and diving in Koh Samui

The range of things to do and see in Koh Samui, Thailand is extremely varied and interesting. The island offers a host of activities for those looking for adventure, sport, nature or just relaxing and enjoying a holiday at one of our Koh Samui beachfront villas. Discover Koh Samui’s natural splendour, modern man-made attractions and religious and cultural sights. Of course let’s not forget the perfect beaches, night markets and lively nightlife, either.

There is so much to see and do on this island, it can be hard to fit it all into one trip or, for that matter, one blog. With our guests’ invaluable feedback, our own local insight and some ingenuity as longtime villa holiday experts, we’ve narrowed it down quite a bit to five essential experiences in Koh Samui.

1. MAGIC BUDDHA GARDEN

Magic Buddha Garden Koh SamuiCopyright image from Magic Buddha Garden

This lovely and quiet place was created by a Thai farmer Nim Thongsuk. The whole area looks like a sculpture garden; it is located along a small mountain river flowing across the Magic Buddha Garden. Khun Nim wanted to build a place where people could enjoy peace and nature.

Statues here depict creatures and deities from Buddhist mythology. There are several viewpoints along the way to Magic Buddha Garden offering a stunning panorama view over the southern part of Koh Samui. There is also an artificially created waterfall named after the creator. The waterfall is located right at the entrance and greets the visitors of the Magical Buddha Garden. It’s a unique treasure best enjoyed in the morning.

2. BOAT TRIPS

Koh Samui boat tripsImage by Sailing in Samui

The Gulf of Thailand is an exciting sailing destination. There are five islands nestled closely together; Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Koh Matsum and Koh Tan. Close by, and the famous Angthong National Marine Park. Each island has its own distinct beauty and offerings of unique terrain, beaches, and attractions.

Boutique Yachting based in Koh Samui offers luxury day trips and private charters to Angthong Marine Park and around Koh Samui. Boutique Yachting has two boats, Naga, which is a classic Turkish Gullet and Baidee, a traditional Indonesian Ketch, and if you chose the private charter or day tour you will be able to view all the stunning islands around Koh Samui from different angles and take in the breathtaking scenery from the sea.

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