While Bali’s natural splendor is a great draw, the beauty of its landscapes is matched by the beauty of its culture. That is not a coincidence, since the heart of Balinese culture and tradition is the philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, the “three causes of well-being.” Through this philosophy, the Balinese people seek harmony with nature, other people, and the divine.
That means that in many ways, the Balinese people are one with their island. They are respectful participants in its ecosystem, preserving its landscapes and their traditions for hundreds of years.
During your Indonesia tour, you have the chance to immerse yourself in the island’s culture of harmony firsthand. As you experience Bali’s traditions, let the philosophy of Tri Hita Karana transform your own relationship with the world around you.
At sunset, start your tour of Bali by going to the Uluwatu Temple amphitheater. Against the dramatic backdrop of the cliffs and ocean, watch a marvelous performance unfold. Dancers and chanters performing the Kecak, or Ramayana monkey chant, portray the epic story of Sri Rama. The most iconic part of the performance is the fire-kicking dance, which involves contact with the flames. To perform this daring segment, dancers enter a trance state.
It might surprise you to learn that the Kecak fire dance dates back to 1930, and was developed in collaboration between a German artist named Walter Spies and a Balinese dancer named Wayan Limbak. After they toured the world with their performance, it became one of Bali’s cultural highlights and a major attraction to visitors to the island.
Are you seeking rest from your afflictions? Bali is a wonderful destination for wellness travel since traditional Balinese culture is infused with healing practices. To elevate your well-being, pay a visit to a healer who practices Bali Usada. These traditional healers are known as Balians, dukuns, or shamans.
Many tourists became familiar with Balinese healers by reading or watching Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. The techniques your practitioner will apply to heal you depend on what afflicts you and where their individual expertise lies. Deep tissue massage, herbs, oils and mudras are a few common elements in Balinese healing rituals.
The herbs and oils used in these traditions invoke harmony with nature to infuse the body with healing. As ritual gestures from Buddhist, Hindu and Jain faiths, mudras help bring the body and spirit into alignment.
As an intensely spiritual island, Bali is home to numerous ancient temples that invoke a sense of holiness and awe.
Watch the sunset over the water while visiting the famous seaside temple called Tanah Lot, or marvel at the serene floating temple Ulun Danu Beratan. Let the scale of the Besakih temple complex astonish you, or stop by the cave temple Goa Gajah to see its mysterious carvings.
Some other temples to add to your bucket list include Taman Ayun, Gunung Kawi, and the underwater temple at Pemuteran. Each of these temples was constructed with the surrounding splendor in mind, bridging nature with constructed forms to create a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. As you behold these architectural marvels and their serene settings, they will uplift your being, connecting you simultaneously with heaven and Earth.
A particularly special temple to visit in Bali is the water temple called Tirta Empul. This temple to Vishnu has a peaceful, idyllic atmosphere with its surrounding trees and gardens. The temple’s history dates back to 926 AD. Today, that ancient spirituality is still alive and well.
Tirta Empul is famous for its purification ritual. If you bring a suitable offering to the temple and follow the rules, you are allowed to get in the water and participate. As the water washes over you, you will feel the dross of your life falling away and a sense of wellbeing taking its place.
One of Bali’s most famous exports is batik fabric. To create batik, artisans use a combination of wax and dye to cover fabric with designs. The resulting batiks have a distinctive, recognizable look, yet feature a wide range of colors and patterns. Often, the patterns on batik fabrics feature flowers, leaves or animals, representing the natural world. They may also incorporate spiritual themes and designs, expressing the culture and values of the people of Bali. Both the batik techniques and those values have been passed down from parents to their children for centuries.
Bali’s cities and towns offer ample opportunities to shop for batik souvenirs. Visitors may find batik at markets as well as boutiques that specialize in these fabrics. Those who are really interested in batik can head to Yogyakarta, where there is a batik factory that is open for tours. Exploring the factory gives you a chance to see firsthand how these fabrics are decorated. You will notice that there is a price range for batiks. At the lower end, these fabrics and the garments made from them can be quite affordable. At the high end, you will find luxury batiks that are more expensive.
All of these batiks are authentic, including those at the lower end of the price range. The price difference simply reflects the quality and complexity of the designs. So, feel comfortable to shop within your price range. Even if you are on a budget, you can bring home genuine batiks.
Speaking of traditional Balinese handcrafts, any visitor looking to bring home lovely and meaningful souvenirs should spend some time shopping at the Ubud Traditional Art Market.
At the western end of the market, you will find merchandise aimed at tourists, while at the eastern end, you have the chance to check out what local customers are shopping for (usually produce). Buy some fresh fruit to snack on, then browse through wares like silk scarves, batik and ikat sarongs, woven goods, handbags, and silver jewelry.
Just as batik is a tradition weaving together the themes of nature, spirituality and culture, this is also true of other traditional handcrafts. And when you purchase those handcrafts at the market, you help to sustain the Balinese traditional arts and all they represent.
Exploring the Ubud art market on your own is a lot of fun. But if you are feeling overwhelmed by all the sights and sounds, there are tours that will take you around the Ubud art market and some other nearby destinations.
Every meal you eat while you are visiting Bali will delight your taste buds and stir your imagination. Not only that, but it will connect you with the culture of Bali in a deep and meaningful way.
Bali’s tropical climate and fertile volcanic soil make it ideal for sourcing local herbs and spices. Along with this connection to nature, the culinary arts in Bali also have a link to spirituality. Food is among the most common offerings that the Balinese people give to their gods.
There are dozens of different cooking classes available in Ubud and throughout Bali. You can either take a class at a restaurant, or you can learn to cook at the home of a local chef, who may also take you on a trip to the market to shop for fresh ingredients.
The majority of Balinese cooking classes take anywhere from 3-6 hours. Consider bringing along a notepad so you are able to jot down what you are learning. That will make it easier to replicate the recipes you are practicing later at home.
Each time you cook Balinese food at home, the delicious flavors and aromas will instantly pull you back in time to your trip, allowing you to revisit your memories. Cooking Balinese cuisine is also a wonderful way for you to share a bit of your experiences with friends and family.
After spending a day walking around Ubud or hiking through Bali’s lush landscapes, you may be feeling tired and sore. That is the perfect time to stop in at a spa so that you can indulge yourself in the deep relaxation of a traditional Balinese massage.
Balinese massage consists of more than just massage. It also incorporates elements of acupressure, aromatherapy, stretching, and reflexology.
This union of traditions shows the harmony between peoples that is so central to the Balinese philosophy. Aromatherapy brings in natural ingredients, while the discipline of acupressure has a spiritual component of activating key energy points throughout the body.
One important thing to know before you get a Balinese massage is that the massage therapists tend to go deep. It may not be the right fit if you are looking for something light and gentle. But if you want someone to work out the knots deep in your muscles, you should find it a very soothing and restorative experience.
With its philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, Bali is an island where you can experience harmony and spirituality during your Indonesian travels. Once you experience the peace of Bali, it can be hard to return to the ordinary world. But with your memories and souvenirs, you will always have a piece of Bali’s spirit to keep with you, bringing more harmony to your own life.