The Indonesian island of Bali is beautiful, that is a given, and also a well publicised fact! but what I found was that it is also a hotbed of creativity and traditional arts. Over the next three posts I’ll take you through some of my favourite finds! I’ve already posted about my time creating Indonesian Batik, which you can read about here.
Pink duck art installation and puppets in Ubud, Bali
First up are the intricate puppets used in Indonesian Puppet Theatre. There are a variety of different characters used to portray traditional legends, either in a live puppet performance where you really see the intricate artwork and costume that makes up each piece, or in the more 2D format used in shadow puppetry, which are common throughout Indonesia. Both kinds are unique to Indonesia in their design style.
I was lucky enough to see a Traditional Wayang Shadow Show one evening during my stay in Ubud. You will almost certainly come across a whole variety of puppets in the various shops and markets surrounding the main strip, aimed at the tourists who may want to take a piece of local Balinese culture home – Like I did!
Shadow Puppets in Ubud, Bali
I didn’t get to really explore the countryside as I had hoped (next time!) however, even inside the larger towns the lush green rainforest was everywhere! Huge leaves framed the streets and entranceways, and were dotted with exotic, brightly coloured flowers. It really was a paradise location. I loved the architecture based on ancient, traditional Balinese design. So different to anything i’ve experienced elsewhere in SE Asia. The use of traditional statues en mass, standing at building gates, fountains and shrines was dramatic and a constant visual reminder of the deep rooted Hindu belief system.
Shrines, Hindu statues and flowers
Bali has a great selection of hotels and guesthouses. I stayed in a few during my stay and wasn’t disappointed! As I had managed to contract Typhoid (despite being vaccinated), I spent a LOT of time in my room, recuperating, enjoying the view, and the various infinity pools… when I had the energy! Below is a selection of the type of accommodation available for $30 or less per night. Something I really liked about Bali was that you had these really great places to stay, all fairly central, definitely walking distance to the main strip but that felt really secluded and private, away from the hustle and bustle that was literally a stone throw away. Handy when you aren’t feeling particularly mobile!
Fab places to stay in Bali!
Unfortunately Bali evokes conflicted memories for me. I loved it, I could see that it was a paradise, just as everyone said it would be. There was so much culture and traditional art that saturated the tourist populated streets, however, it was also a REALLY dirty place. Plagued by poor irrigation systems and a severe lack of local consciousness in regards to waste and littering; the beaches in Kuta were particularly bad. Plastic/broken glass and other rubbish was littered everywhere and that was just the beach. I didn’t dare go into the water for fear of how unhygienic it looked. Plastic bags and used nappies were washed up in the surf. I have never felt so sad and so angry at the same time (getting Typhoid probably didn’t help!). It IS a paradise (in places) but its also a dumping ground. The nearby Gili islands that I hear are host to great snorkeling spots (I missed out on them due to illness), will surely be lost if this continues. I certainly don’t have the answers but it did make me want to take a greener approach when back home and for the remainder of my travels.
BeOrganic glass straws
There ARE however, some local incentives trying to make a change. While there I visited a restaurant that only uses reusable glass straws as part of the beorganic program, targeted at removing plastic straws and bags from the island. This may be just a small initiative but with time, they and others will hopefully bring about tides of change in Bali and other SE Asian countries.
Hand carved/painted shadow puppet from Ubud, Bali
During my time in Ubud I found a great traditional shadow puppet shop tucked up one of the further flung side streets. Not a usual tourist spot, I rifled through the dusty puppets and chose one for my collection – I would have bought more but space was getting limited! Shadow puppets come in all different shapes and sizes. Many are carved from wood, like the one I chose, however other materials are often used, with leather being a common choice.
I look forward to returning and rewriting my experience to one that is more positive one! Keep a look out for future posts in this series, where I’ll look at traditional wood carved masks and skulls, dance, markets, food and more!