Ubud & Bali Culture
Ubud is a highland town on the Indonesian island of Bali, located amongst rice paddies and steep ravines in the central foothills of the Gianyar regency. One of Bali's major arts and culture centres, Ubud, has developed a vibrant tourism industry with its copious shops, artisans and galleries.
Ubud has a population of approximately 8,000 people, though these days the burgeoning town is becoming difficult to distinguish from the growing patchwork of villages that surround it.
The main street is Jalan Raya Ubud (Jalan Raya means main road), which runs east-west through the center of town. Two long roads, Jalan Monkey Forest and Jalan Hanoman, extend south from Jalan Raya Ubud. Puri Saren Agung is a large palace located at the intersection of Monkey Forest and Jalan Raya Ubud roads. The home of Tjokorda Gede Agung Sukawati (1910-1978), the last "king" of Ubud, is now occupied by his descendants and dance performances held in its courtyard. The home was also one of Ubud's first hotels, dating back to the 1930s.
The Ubud Monkey Forest is a sacred nature reserve located near the southern end of Jalan Monkey Forest. The habitat houses a temple and approximately 340 crab-eating Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) monkeys.
Ubud tourism focuses on art, culture, yoga and nature. In contrast to the main tourist area in southern Bali, the Ubud area boasts forests, rivers, cooler temperatures and less congestion although traffic has increased dramatically in the past decade.
The Moon of Pejeng, in nearby Pejeng, is the largest single-cast bronze kettledrum in the world, dating from circa 300BC. It is a popular destination for tourists interested in local culture, as is the 11th century Goa Gajah, or 'Elephant Cave', temple complex.
Tourism on the island developed after the arrival of Walter Spies, an ethnic German born in Russia who taught painting and music, and dabbled in dance. Spies and foreign painters Willem Hofker and Rudolf Bonnet entertained celebrities including Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward, Barbara Hutton, H.G. Wells and Vicki Baum. They brought in some of the greatest artists from all over Bali to teach and train the Balinese in arts, helping Ubud become the cultural centre of Bali.
The Bali tourist boom since the late 1960s has seen much development in the town; however, it remains a centre of artistic pursuit.
Bali is renowned for its diverse and sophisticated art forms, such as painting, sculpture, woodcarving, handcrafts, and performing arts. Balinese percussion orchestra music, known as gamelan, is highly developed and varied. Balinese performing arts often portray stories from Hindu epics such as the Ramayana but with heavy Balinese influence. Famous Balinese dances include pendet, legong, baris, topeng, barong, gong keybar, and kecak (the monkey dance). Bali prides itself with one of the most diverse and innovative performing arts cultures in the world, with paid performances at thousands of temple festivals, private ceremonies, or public shows.
The Hindu New Year, Nyepi, is celebrated in the spring by a day of silence. On this day everyone stays at home and tourists must remain in their hotels. But the day before the large, colourful sculptures of ogoh-ogoh monsters are paraded and finally burned in the evening to drive away evil spirits. Other festivals throughout the year are specified by the Balinese pawukon calendrical system.
Celebrations are held for many occasions such as a tooth-filing (coming-of-age ritual), cremation or odalan (temple festival). One of the most important concepts that Balinese ceremonies have in common is that of désa kala patra, which refers to how ritual performances must be appropriate in both the specific and general social context. Many of the ceremonial art forms such as wayang kulit and topeng are highly improvisatory, providing flexibility for the performer to adapt the performance to the current situation. Many celebrations call for a loud, boisterous atmosphere with lots of activity and the resulting aesthetic, ramé, is distinctively Balinese. Oftentimes two or more gamelan ensembles will be performing well within earshot, and sometimes compete with each other in order to be heard. Likewise, the audience members talk amongst themselves, get up and walk around, or even cheer on the performance, which adds to the many layers of activity and the liveliness typical of ramé.
Kaja and kelod are the Balinese equivalents of North and South, which refer to ones orientation between the island's largest mountain Gunung Agung (kaja), and the sea (kelod). In addition to spatial orientation, kaja and kelod have the connotation of good and evil; gods and ancestors are believed to live on the mountain whereas demons live in the sea. Buildings such as temples and residential homes are spatially oriented by having the most sacred spaces closest to the mountain and the unclean places nearest to the sea.
Most temples have an inner courtyard and an outer courtyard which are arranged with the inner courtyard furthest kaja. These spaces serve as performance venues since most Balinese rituals are accompanied by any combination of music, dance and drama. The performances that take place in the inner courtyard are classified as wali, the most sacred rituals which are offerings exclusively for the gods, while the outer courtyard is where bebali ceremonies are held, which are intended for gods and people. Lastly, performances meant solely for the entertainment of humans take place outside the walls of the temple and are called bali-balihan. This three-tiered system of classification was standardized in 1971 by a committee of Balinese officials and artists in order to better protect the sanctity of the oldest and most sacred Balinese rituals from being performed for a paying audience.
Tourism, Bali's chief industry, has provided the island with a foreign audience that is eager to pay for entertainment, thus creating new performance opportunities and more demand for performers. The impact of tourism is controversial since before it became integrated into the economy, the Balinese performing arts did not exist as a capitalist venture, and were not performed for entertainment outside of their respective ritual context. Since the 1930s sacred rituals such as the barong dance have been performed both in their original context, as well as exclusively for paying tourists. This has led to new versions of many of these performances which have developed according to the preferences of foreign audiences; some villages have a barong mask specifically for non-ritual performances as well as an older mask which is only used for sacred performances.
The Balinese eat with their right hand, as the left is impure, a common belief throughout Indonesia. The Balinese do not hand or receive things with their left hand and would not wave at anyone with their left hand.
The Republic of Indonesia is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia comprises 17,508 islands. With a population of around 230 million people, it is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an elected legislature and president. The nation's capital city is Jakarta. The country shares land borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Malaysia. Other neighbouring countries include Singapore, Philippines, Australia, and the Indian territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The Indonesian archipelago has been an important trade region since at least the seventh century, when the Srivijaya Kingdom traded with China and India. Local rulers gradually adopted Indian cultural, religious and political models from the early centuries CE, and Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms flourished. Indonesian history has been influenced by foreign powers drawn to its natural resources. Muslim traders brought Islam, and European powers fought one another to monopolize trade in the Spice Islands of Maluku during the Age of Discovery. Following three and a half centuries of Dutch colonialism, Indonesia secured its independence after World War II. Indonesia's history has since been turbulent, with challenges posed by natural disasters, corruption, separatism, a democratization process, and periods of rapid economic change.
- Passport and Visa
Please read carefully as there have been changes to Indonesia's visa policy (updated January 26th 2010)
1. Free Visa
Visas are not required for nationals of:
- Brunei Darussalam
- Hong Kong
Citizens of the above countries will be issued on arrival a stay permit for 30 days free of charge upon presentation of a passport which is valid six months from date of entry. This stay permit cannot be extended or converted into another type of visa.
2. Visa On Arrival (VOA) at US$ 25 per person
Visa on Arrival are required for nationals of:
- New Zealand
- People's Republic of China
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- South Korea
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
Citizens of these countries will be able to apply for a VOA valid for 30 days upon arrival by air in Bali, Jakarta and a few other international airports or by ship at a limited number of Indonesian seaports. A 30-day visa costs US$25 and is extendable for another 30 days. Be aware that Immigration officials calculate the 30-day period as follows: your arrival day is counted as your first day, and you must leave the country on the 30th (or 60th) day!
How to Obtain Your "VISA-On-ARRIVAL" (VOA)
Travellers from the above countries must be in possession of a passport, which is valid for at least six months from the date of arrival together with the completed embarkation/disembarkation card they received from their airline. They must also be able to prove they have sufficient funds for their stay in Indonesia.
Arriving travellers with Visa-On-Arrival status go to one of the "VOA" counters to pay the appropriate fee and have their passports stamped with before proceeding to the Immigration Clearance Desk. An official bank is part of the VOA service counters. Payment of visa fees can be made in US dollars or Indonesia rupiah.
Indonesian Customs allows on entry a maximum of two liters of alcoholic beverages, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 100 grams (0.22 lb) of tobacco and a reasonable amount of perfume per adult.
Cars, photographic equipment, typewriters and tape recorders must be declared to Customs upon entry and must be re-exported.
Prohibited from entry are TV sets, radios, narcotics, arms and ammunition, printed matter in Chinese characters and Chinese medicines.
Advance approval has to be acquired for carrying transceivers and all movie films and video cassettes must be censored by the Film Censor Board.
Fresh fruit, plants and animals must have quarantine permits. There is no restriction on import or export of foreign currencies. However, the export or import of Indonesian currency exceeding Rp.5,000,000 is prohibited.
Airport tax levied on passengers for international travel: Rp.150,000 (US$18). For travel within Indonesia regional variations occur. Expect to pay: Rp.30,000 (US$3.5).
International health certificates for smallpox and cholera are not required, except from travellers arriving from infected areas.
The Indonesian archipelago is spread over three time zones. Western Indonesia Standard Time, which covers the islands of Sumatra, Java, Madura, West and Central Kalimantan, is seven hours ahead of GMT; Central Indonesia Standard Time covers East and South Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Bali and Nusa Tenggara, and is eight hours ahead of GMT; Eastern Indonesia Standard Time, which covers Maluku, and Irian Jaya is nine hours ahead of GMT.
The official wet season runs from October to March and is marked by heavy, short rainstorms after which the air is fresher and cooler. Temperatures range from 21 to 33°C (69,8 to 91,4°F) in the lowlands. Higher altitudes enjoy cooler conditions.
Power supply is usually 220 volts/250 cycles in large cities, but 110 volts is still used in some areas. Normal outlets are plugs with two rounded pins. It is advisable to check electricity supplies before using any appliances.