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The magic of Nyepi: Bali’s unique Day of Silence

in Culture by
Villa Zelie - Staff praying

While most cultures celebrate the new year with rowdy celebrations, revelry and fireworks, in Bali the dawning of a new year is ushered in with a unique day of silence, known as Nyepi.

This year Nyepi falls on 7 March and for 24 hours shops and restaurants will stay closed, the streets and markets will remain empty, the beaches will be deserted and the waves un-surfed. Even the airport is shut down as Bali falls under a magnificent cloak of silence.

Ocean Temple - Tanah Lot

In order to understand Nyepi, is it necessary to briefly dip into the dualistic world of Balinese Hinduism which is woven into the very fabric of life on the island. Imagine a cosmic dance in which the forces of good and evil are in constant play. Order is represented by the gods, known as dewa and dewi, while disorder is represented by the earth demons known as bhutas and kalas.

Balance must be maintained so that evil doesn’t get the upper hand. Through a myriad of religious offerings and rituals, the gods are thanked and asked for blessings, while the forces of darkness who seek to upset the equilibrium are appeased. Of all the ceremonial days on the island, Nyepi is one of the most important.

Des Indes I

Why the silence?

Theological explanations vary. Some say that by staying hidden the evil spirits will think the island has been abandoned and will pass by, thus bringing an auspicious start to the new year. But Hindu scholars say that the noise and revelry of the preceding evening, Nyepi Eve, wakes up the demons so that they will see the offerings, including blood sacrifice that have been laid out for them. In this view, the silence is a symbol of contentment and gratitude that the demons have been appeased for another year. Regardless of theological explanations, Nyepi is a day reserved for quiet contemplation and self-reflection and Balinese Hindus are prohibited from work, entertainment, travel and lighting fires. Priests and those with a higher spiritual calling will also fast, observe total silence and pass the day in prayer.

nyepi ogoh ogoh bali art

How does Nyepi effect visitors to the island?

Even tourists must respect Nyepi and stay within the grounds of their accommodation and keep noise and lights to a minimum.

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Bento, yakitori and sushi in Bali

in Destinations/Dining by

You have to love a cuisine that managed to invent another flavor. Umami refers to that extra layer of deliciousness that defies description.

Japanese food has infiltrated the far corners of the world, satiating our interest as well as our appetites. Read on to discover Japanese restaurants and places to order sushi in Bali, Indonesia.

Sake no Hana

contemporary Japanese

Sake no Hana may be new in Bali but they come with a serious reputation in other parts of the world, most notably in London’s fashionable Mayfair. Described as contemporary Japanese, Sake no Hana’s Executive Chef travelled from London to create this menu and it is filled with temptation and flavor. From their signature menus, which offer exotic imports like Kobe beef, Hamachi sashimi and Alaskan king crab, to bento boxes to a scale of signature menus, this is worth the splurge.

Overlooking the sparkling new daytime destination, Omnia, on the Uluwatu coast, Sake no Hana is filled with light by day. At night, as the club closes, it becomes a sophisticated destination restaurant. With a refreshingly different menu of bespoke cocktails alongside some wonderful wine and sake selections, Sake no Hana adds sophisticated new flavours to Uluwatu. 

Top tip: leave room for desserts, which are beautiful, creative and delicious.
Cover image credit: Sake no Hana. 

Ryoshi

sushi, yakitori and jazz

Ryoshi’s owner, Sagon Togasa, opened his first Ryoshi in Seminyak to house his two great loves; sushi and jazz. It still does that and more. With Ryoshi now in Sanur, Ubud and offering welcome respite to shoppers in Galleria, the menu has expanded alongside the empire.

At heart is the sushi window, with chefs slicing sushi and sashimi to order, fresh seafood is also part of the philosophy. There are grills, braises and rice bowls. A range of delicious kushiyaki, grilled food on sticks, and some delicious vegetarian options.

Agadashi tofu is a hit here as is the Japanese steak, the traditional fried chicken and steaming bowls of udon with your choice of toppings. Best of all it’s ultimately affordable.

Top tip: Monday night is the most popular night as the jazz is always world class, head upstairs and take a seat in the restaurant or hang out at the bar.

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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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Top 5: Bali Chinese food restaurants for Lunar New Year

in Dining by
chinese food restaurants in bali 2018

Lunar New Year, also called Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, is about starting fresh for a prosperous new year. It’s a time to clean your home, don new clothes, gather with family, give lucky gifts and eat lucky food.

Lucky Chinese foods for Lunar New Year

Eating fresh citrus signifies fullness and wealth. Dumplings, spring rolls and nian gao (sweet glutinous rice cakes) bring prosperity. Catfish, Crucian carp and other fish are symbolic of surplus, traditionally served on both Chinese New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Don’t skip the noodles – they represent longevity and happiness.

chinese fortune cookie art by jiha moon

Chinese restaurants in Jimbaran, Seminyak and Canggu, Bali

There are hundreds of Chinese restaurants in Bali, Indonesia. These top five are award-winning establishments robust enough to host your Chinese New Year gathering and tasty enough to surpass expectations of the most discerning foodies from around the world.

best chinese restaurant in bali is ah yatIMAGE BY AH YAT

Ah Yat Abalone & Seafood Restaurant

Named Best Chinese Restaurant in Bali by NOW! Bali Magazine in 2017 with 720 votes is Ah Yat (there are several restaurants by the same name in this chain, including renowned locations in Jakarta, Indonesia and Singapore). Executive Chef Cheung Kin Kau boasts over 20 years’ experience in fine dining. The menu is both adventurous and traditional – expect Japanese food, Hokkien food and Chinese food that demonstrates the chef’s Cantonese heritage.

The beautiful restaurant hosts massive saltwater tanks of live seafood, so fresh fish dishes and shellfish are centre stage. This large restaurant is the only place in Bali with a selection of Japanese special grade dried abalone and Greenlip abalone. A dim sum lover’s delight, there are 30 types of Hong Kong style steamed dumplings on the menu too.

HOURS 11AM-3PM, 530PM-10PM
PRICE $$$

Ah Yat Seafood Restaurant
Jl. Karang Mas Sejahtera,
Jimbaran, Bali
(+62) 0361 846 8468
ahyatrestaurant.com.sg

Kwee Zeen

Taking the top award for Best Pan Asian Restaurant in 2017, Kwee Zeen caught our attention. The dining concept here is upscale Asian street market “kwee zeen” – get it? Cui-sine.

Executive Chef Daine Gilbert has a buffet of delights from China,

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Ubud Yoga Classes

in Recreation by
Yoga class

Ubud is known as the cultural and spiritual heart of Bali, a place to seek tranquility amidst lush green rice terraces, traditional villages and sacred Balinese Hindu temples. A hot spot on the tourist trail and one of the healthiest cities in Southeast Asia, charming Ubud is a sanctuary of well-being and an oasis for yogis and spiritual seekers.

There are many yoga studios in Ubud to choose from, several of them doubling as holistic healing centres, spas or cafés, and supporting environmentalism and charity projects.

The choice of yoga classes for visitors is vast. From Yin to Ashtanga and Bikram, there is a yoga style for everyone, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced yogi. At many centres, you can book your class beforehand. You can also drop-in just before a class, but be sure to go at least 30 minutes early as they do fill up quickly. All the studios provide yoga mats and other equipment, so all you need to bring is comfortable clothing and positive mind.

5 yoga classes in Ubud, Bali

UBUD BEGINNNER YOGA CLASS
CALLING ALL NOVICE YOGIS

The Yoga Barn offers a beginners’ class daily at 2pm. Intro to Yoga is an ideal class for anyone new to yoga with discussion on how yoga can benefit our everyday lives, with simple breathing techniques and basic yoga poses.

Being the most popular yoga centre in Ubud, the class sizes are big – their studios cater up to 60 people. Intro to Yoga is great choice for beginners and those wanting to meet new people.

Yoga Barn’s gorgeous space offers over 15 yoga classes a day, plus dance class and guided meditation. They also have an on-site healing centre ‘Kush’ and Garden Kafe.

The Yoga Barn
Jl. Raya Pengosekan,
Ubud, Bali
(+62) 0361 971 236
http://www.theyogabarn.com/schedule.html

ACROYOGA CLASSES IN UBUD
TAKE YOUR STRETCHES TO NEW HEIGHTS

Looking for a fun and challenging yoga class in Bali? Elevate your routine with Acroyoga!

Acroyoga classIMAGE: ACROYOGA INTERNATIONAL.

This fun movement class incorporates yoga and partner acrobatics to build strength and balance, as well as some deep stretching poses influenced by traditional Thai massage techniques.

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