Bali: A Truly Memorable Cultural Evening

One of the stunning opening acts accoompanied by Balinese gamelan music. Hauntingly, beautiful to behold.

This is my third post on my brief visit to Bali for the Asia-Pacific regional meeting on Global Ethics in tourism.

This temple made an awesome and beautiful backdrop to the stunningly colorful performances that followed.

We managed to  make it to the cultural evening. Upon arrival at the festival we were whisked through to our seats before the event begun. Apparantly, this was no ordinary cultural evening. It was a culmination of several cultural events which you can read about in this article in the Jakarta Post.

This was the Opening of the 33rd Bali Art Festival with the theme ‘Desa, Kala, Patra’. We were so fortunate to be invited to this grand opening.

This was one of the posters I saw on the way in…

This was the explanation of the ‘Desa, Kala, Patra given by Mr Putu Wijaya, the Balinese playright of international renown at the inception of the Bali Art Festival a few years back:

“For the Balinese ‘Desa’ (space) is essential to indicate origins, links and directions. By tracing their space the Balinese discover their linkage to their homes, origins, ‘braya-pisaga-semeton’ (society, neighbors and family) and even with their guests. The space is also linked to ‘kala’ (time). Night and day, morning and afternoon, today and tomorrow can change, take form and make those links to time perfect. Finally ‘Patra’ (identity) also means situation and condition, instigating that space and time can be harmonized with what is taking place.”

“‘Desa-kala-patra’ is a value and at the same time, a universal approach. That it grows in the soul of the Balinese people, does not make it the sole property and right of the Balinese. Bali is only one of its choices, because this island is a meeting place for different races and ideologies from all over the world. ‘Desa-kala-patra’ comes to life not because it is discussed, taught, and made a doctrine, but because it is practiced. ‘Desa-kala-patra’ is like a formless soul that freely resides within the bodies of the Balinese without them being aware.”

After the President’s speech the concert began.

H.E. Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia giving the keynote address.

I am so glad we took the trouble to at least look culturallly appropriate, especially with the VIPs there and the President. This was a bonus and although I was not sitting too close to the stage I managed to take a few shots with my Nikon D90 which went with me wherever I went. I didn’t want to miss any great opportunities for taking nice shots.

The formal attire that evening. I was fascinated with the colors and styles down to the elaborate hair. Balinese fashion on display.

What fascinated me was the attire. The men in long-sleeved batik shirts and the women in exquisite fabrics that adorned their beautiful figures – these were figure-hugging and very elegant. They had beautiful hair adornments and the men wore Balinese ‘turbans’ on their heads.

Some of the VIPs that evening with the organizers of the event. Note the batik attire.

My limited Bahasa Indonesia captured some of the official speech by the President and others but not entirely – guess am out of practice. Nonetheless, the presence of the President at this festival was very important to everyone and especially the organizers. His presence no doubt gave the opening event  a very high profile and to the planned cultural and artistic events for that festival period.

One of the Balinese epics…awesome.

I was sitting too far away from the centre of action but managed to capture some of the beauty of the concert as it unfolded.

…the epic unfolded…

The setting was so apt. We found ourselves facing a temple which was appropriately decorated. A fitting backdrop to the performances that followed. 

Group after group took to the stage and entertained the audience. I was in 7th heaven! This is the life, I thought to myself.

Colour, sound and action!

We were given more small boxes which contained fruit and traditional sweets as well as bottles of water so we did not go hungry during the concert which took several hours.

I really felt looked after.

This was my only shot of the Balinese gamelan orchestra. I had to use the zoom and from where I sat not a bad shot although I’d have liked to take it from another angle.

The performances began with the unmistakable haunting sounds of the Balinese gamelan orchestra. These are instruments that resemble zylophones and there were the gongs.

Another performance graced the stage. Just love their costumes…so beautiful and delicate.

I was fascinated with the dancing and the epic story that was related through dance. The colourful costumes, the dances and the atmosphere was sobering.

I couldn’t help wondering how we could showcase some of our stage plays written by PNG playrights such as Kasaipwalova, Tawali, Kaniku, et al and how we should stage these in the villages and communities througout PNG.

The grand finale when the cast assembled on stage. What an evening, what an eye-opener. Part of the Bali experience. Without a doubt!

One thing for sure during this visit, we were very well taken care of.  Balinese hospitality knows no bounds. What a gracious people. What a privilege indeed.

On our way back to our hotel, the Grand Bali Nusa Dua, I reflected on the cultural extravanganza just witnessed and I realised that the opening of the festival showcased the profound spirituality of the Balinese.

Bali: At The Melia

The north side of the Melia Hotel Bali. The grounds were so quiet and beautiful.

This is the second post on my visit to Bali last June – a year ago. My, how time flies.

On Friday evening (on the day we arrived in Bali), we were told that we have been invited as participants to the regional meeting to attend a cultural festival which will be opened by The President of the Republic of Indonesia.

This was news to us as we were not told earlier when we checked into our hotel – the Grand Bali Nusa Dua. We also had not received copies of our programme in Bali for that weekend apart from attending the inaugural Global Ethics on Tourism meeting at a neighbouring hotel.

We only found out when we sauntered into the Melia Hotel Bali about 4.00pm or thereabouts. This hotel was the location of our regional meeting the next day, Saturday. The announcement that we were going to a cultural festival that evening was really a surprise and a half!

Entrance to the Melia Bali – the gong seems to be a common feature in most Balinese and Indonesian establishments. They use it to announce the arrival of an important visitor.

Thank goodness we are from Papua New Guinea which has a blessed word-of-mouth culture and are not so hung up on a written programme so we had no problems as we switched on to our coconut wireless and asked around to find out what we were supposed to be doing. One thing we realised we had to do was wear something decent and dignified as we were going to be in the presence of so many VIPs and in a manner speaking we too were VIPs that evening at the cultural festival.

We scrambled to find suitable attire for the occasion. We looked around and at eachother and wondered whether we should attend or not. We could have laid on the excuse that we did not have the right kind of clothes for the event or we could have decided simply not to go. However, I reckon since we were the only ones from the Pacific Islands region and besides we were Papua New Guineans, such excuses are lame and embarrassing. So we bit the bullet and decided we were certainly on that bus to the festival. We might learn something valuable about Balinese culture – that made up our minds for us!

The grand foyer at the Melia Bali. Loved the high ceilings and open design.

We had to think on our feet – there was no time to return to our hotel so the best thing we could do was purchase batik clothes.  Batik is generally accepted as ‘formal’ wear so that was easy – but where to get batik-wear was the million dollar question. Thank goodness there was a souvenir shop at the Melia so we went in there pronto! After getting in and out of several outfits we settled on a blouse for me and a shirt for my colleague. At last we were set and felt confident that we can now join the other more formally attired fellow participants.

A very valuable lesson for the future – advise all participants of the programme apart from the programme of the meeting proper for which we had traveled over 8 hours (including the overnight stop in Singapore) from our country via Singapore to participate in.

One word to describe this place – grand!

We joined the others were were already assembled at the hotel entrance and waited for our bus to arrive.

A stone sculpture on the grounds of the Melia Bali.

By the way, we found out that we were not the only ones looking for something descent to wear to the festival and that made us feel better. Another delegate to the meeting was also looking for something descent and more Balinese or Indonesian to wear. We didn’t feel too bad then.

As we waited for the bus I spared a few minutes to take these shots.

This beautiful sort of parasol caught my eye. Very ornate set.

This hotel is bigger and grand than the Grand Bali Nusa Dua but I wasn’t disappointed at all – just glad that I could wonder around and take some shots of the Melia Hotel Bali.

I’m always fascinated by hotels especially the architecture and the materials used. The Melia was no exception. I guess hotels anywhere always try to find the edge that induces tourists and those like us attending conferences and so on to feel like the hotel is a ‘home away from home’ and in some instances that is the case. I find that hotels in Asia actually fit into the category of ‘home away from home’ come to think of it.

Another stone sculpture outside the hotel. Stone sculptures seemed to be a common feature at this hotel and my hotel. The black and white checkered fabric seems to be a feature at this hotel too.

Our bus eventually arrived and as we clambered onto the bus, I wondered what the rooms at the Melia were like and what the rate per night was.

En route to the festival we were served an early dinner in woven baskets on the bus.  This was a novelty for me and I marvelled at the simplest things which the Balinese do as they extended the hand of friendship and hospitality wherever we went during our brief stay in Bali.

This was also unexpected but I was pleasantly surprised as lunch was a fair few hours ago on the flight to Bali from Singapore. Oh yes, my colleague and I were upgraded to Business Class in Singapore so you can imagine what lunch was like especially on a Singapore Airlines flight – one word “sumptuous!”

I loved this sign – written with stones, on sand, and decorated with a flower. Lovely and elegant like everything about this hotel.

The journey to the festival went smoothly and once again I felt so privileged to have been there and to have enjoyed the cultural programme besides even though we were not made aware of it when we arrived. I guess it was clearly a case of being at the right place at the right time.

I’ve added the Melia Hotel Bali to my list of possible hotels to check out next time I plan to visit Bali.