Monday, November 2, 2009

All Souls Day in Timor-Leste

Except for Christmas, All Souls Day is probably one of the holiest of days in Timor-Leste. It's the day that the dead are honored -- families go to the cemetery -- light candles and place flowers on the graves of their loved ones. If the family is unable to travel home then they go to the nearest cemetery -- where there is always a large communal cross -- families can pray for their loved ones and place candles and flower pedals around the cross.

The photo above was snapped in Dili's Santa Cruz cemetery -- where thousands of people came today -- some have relatives buried there, but many others don't -- hence the large bonfire around the cross.

Below, a young woman places candles at the gravesite of a relative.It's a beautiful idea and one that I was unfamiliar with, first hand, although I had read about All Souls Day and Day of the Dead. It is nice to experience these ceremonies, celebrated so intensely, after a number of years living in Muslim and Buddhist countries.

The bonfire at the cemetery reminded me of the Novruz (New Year's) ceremony in Azerbaijan each spring -- around the middle of March. Bonfires are built in the streets and people jump over the flames as a way of cleansing the soul.

All Souls Day comes from the ancient Pagan Festival of the Dead, which celebrated the Pagan belief that the souls of the dead would return for a meal with the family. It's always celebrated on November 2.

Low Tide at Tanah Lot

The Tanah Lot Temple in South Bali is the most popular in all of Bali -- according to the guide books. It was certainly packed the day I was there -- only Balinese are allowed inside the temple -- which sits on a rock -- most of which is artificial. Much of the original has crumbled after being pounded by the surf for thousands of years.

Getting down to the sea temple involves walking a gauntlet of vendors -- selling cheap t-shirts and other souvenirs -- always ready to give visitors "the best price."

During high tide, you need to roll up your pants and wade to the temple steps -- as the entire rock on which the temple sits is surrounded by water. The tide was just beginning to come in during my visit -- occasionally catching photographers who got too close to the water -- off guard and all wet.

Below is a smaller temple that sits on a cliff to the right of Tanah Lot.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Up Close

It's rare to be able to get really close to a bird, but this little guy had apparently banged into the wall at the little hotel where I was staying -- called Abangan Bungalows in Ubud. One of the staff helped the bird, which he called a "honeybird" onto a tree limb. It sat there passively for a while, no doubt collecting its thoughts, after seeing stars. I was able to get really close and snap this shot.

The bird eventually flew off.

The Day of the Iguana

The first iguana I ever saw was on TV, in the Richard Burton movie, The Night of the Iguana. On a trip to Bali last week, I finally got to hold one. This one is a real beauty.

Turtles at Nusa Dua

I spotted these guys in a preserve at Nusa Dua. The attendant said the bigger one is about 40 years old.
I arrived on "turtle island" aboard a glass-bottom boat and waded ashore in bath-water warm water. The "preserve" includes a variety of critters -- including this guy.

Sunset at Ulu Watu in South Bali

Made, the taxi driver, is racing the sun as it drops toward the horizon. Our destination is Ulu Watu Temple -- which sits on a cliff overlooking the sea. We have left in plenty of time, but a traffic jam had put us behind schedule. We arrived with a few minutes to spare.

The temple, built in the 11th century, literally sits on the edge of the rocky cliff -- below the surf pounds against the rocks.

One thing one must be mindful of while visiting this temple are the monkeys. They can be quite aggressive. They will grab anything -- so visitors are reminded not to wear glasses, carry bags, to keep a tight grip on cameras and other items.

At one point, a large male monkey grabbed a man's prescription glasses -- and started to place them on his own face and then dashed into the bushes. After a lot of coaxing, the man got his glasses back -- but he had to climb near the edge of the cliff to do so.

Durian, Anyone?

Durian is in season in Bali -- it's a fruit that is native to southeast Asia -- and it's not for everyone. It has a creamy-like filling and the taste is a bit strong -- however, the most difficult part is the smell. Durian smells like rotten onions or sweaty socks.

Most airlines will not allow Durian on their planes because of the smell.

Hold your breath and take a bite!

The photo above was taken in the Ubud Market.

Observations in Bali

  • Many Australians wear Bintang Beer T-shirts in Bali.
  • An elderly woman walks beside the road near Ubud on a hot day with her shirt unbuttoned -- her tanned skin glistens in the sunlight.
  • Hawkers in Bali call everyone "boss" -- "hey boss, need transport?"
  • A monkey at the Ulu Watu Temple grabs a man's glasses and tries to put them on. (the man eventually gets them back)
  • When I see the Balinese dish Nasi Goreng (fried rice) on the menu, I think "Nazi Goring."
  • The best pizza in Bali is at the Kumala Pantai Hotel Restaurant.
  • There's almost no public seating at Gate 9 at the airport in Bali, but there are lots of places to get foot massages at this gate.
  • One way streets are almost always two-way -- look both ways!
  • Women carry bricks on their heads (among other things!)
  • Driving seems chaotic, but Balinese are courteous drivers.
  • A man with a machine gun guards the ATM at the Matahari Department Store.
  • You can get a fish massage at the Matahari Department Store. (People pay to put their feet in a big bowl of water and the fish kiss their feet. It tickles.)
  • Service in Bali is excellent -- usually.
  • Fewer mosquitoes than in Timor-Leste.
  • It's nice not having to sleep under a mosquito net.
  • McDonalds has a billboard that says "Missing home?"
  • There are Circle K's on every corner in Bali.
  • You can return a pirated DVD within seven days for a replacement -- no refunds, usually.
  • The water temperature in the ocean feels like bath water.
  • There are a growing number of billboards in Russian -- as more Russians discover Bali.
  • A Gamalon orchestra performs in a shopping mall -- complete with characters from the Ramayana.