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Blog In Travel Addicts

New Year in Bali - the sound of silence

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By Johnny Summerton
Posted Mar 16, 2010 in Travel
Happy New Year!
Yes you've read correctly.
Even though Tuesday is just another working day for most of us, for the people of Bali it's Nyepi Day or the "Day of Silence" which this year falls on March 16.
While most countries around the world welcome in the beginning of a new year with celebrations (and all too often those regrettable hangovers) the folk on this Indonesian island take the whole affair much more sedately and, as the name suggests, mark it in silence.
It's proceeded by an evening which provides a stark contrast of the day that is to follow with Nyepi ushered in by a carnival-like atmosphere as the local people proudly parade giant effigies or Ogoh-ogoh figures made especially for the occasion.
An Ogoh-ogoh effigy ready for the procession
An Ogoh-ogoh effigy ready for the procession
They represent "evil spirits" and their purpose is to purify the "natural environment of any spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of living beings" - including man.
Putting the final touches to an Ogoh-ogoh effigy
Putting the final touches to an Ogoh-ogoh effigy
And after being paraded around towns and villages they're burnt as a symbol of self purification
But on the following day this normally bustling island of just over three-and-a-half million takes on a totally different character.
There are none of those haphazardly driven scooters or cars on the streets. There's no entertainment of any sort even though the Balinese are known for their love of gamelan music and processions.
Shops, markets, bars and restaurants are closed as is the airport in the capital Denpasar.
There ll be nobody working in the rice paddies on Nyepi Day
There'll be nobody working in the rice paddies on Nyepi Day
The traditional terraced rice paddies remain untended, televisions and radios are turned off and the only sound you're likely to hear is ...well...silence - and perhaps the barking of the island's large dog population.
In short, Bali closes down for the day as the mainly Hindu population remains at home for a period of self reflection and fasting.
All of which might all be a little disconcerting for unsuspecting holidaymakers expecting to be able to top up their tans but to no avail. The beaches are closed and tourists are more or less confined to their hotels for the day.
But in taking time out to reflect not only on themselves but also their place in the "wider scheme of things" for a whole day, the Balinese are surely setting an example from which we could perhaps all learn a little something.
So from the island of Bali, "Happy Nyepi".

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