Every home and business has at least one spirit house for offerings, and most have two different varieties:
|Mailbox of the gods|
Ganesha statues are commonly associated with entryways (this one at my hotel in Nusa Lembongan):
The statues are usually girded with a black-and-white checkered cloth, called poleng; the black represents evil, the white is goodness, the gods, and health; the idea is that you cannot have one without the other, that together the world is balanced. Where red is included, it represents blood or life.
During my visit, an important cremation ceremony was in preparation, so things were particularly festive, and the Royal Palace at Ubud was filled with artisans hard at work making ready:
|Bamboo is not native to Bali; it must imported at great expense from Java|
Another distinguishing feature of Balinese culture is the architecture. Houses are compounds, with spiritual protection as mentioned, made of thick black concrete and stone, with ornate friezes and decorations.
|This bas-relief was actually on the wall of my terrace in Ubud|
Better hotels are built in the traditional style, or at least to mimic it. I put together a video tour of my hotels in Seminyak and Ubud to show the general feel and features of the style.
The Balinese people are friendly and helpful--unemployment is low, though a great many are self-employed; in tourist centers, they are tour guides and taxi drivers, perstering foreign passersby for their trade: "Taxi, Mister?" Education is required through high school, and most everyone speaks Indonesian, Balinese, English and usually some other language like Japanese, helpful in dealing with the many tourists from there.
This seems weird, but there are basically only four names on Bali! Everyone you meet--male and female--is either named Wayan, Nyoman, Made or Ketut. They are named by birth order, ending with Ketut as a fourth child. If there is a fifth, they start over again. Here is a photo of Made, one of the friendly staff at Puri Nusa (Island Palace) on Lembongan. His nickname is Jambu, which is Balinese for guava, the tropical fruit.
In his hands, he is holding bottles of Bintang, the most popular local beer. Its alcohol content is 5.0% by volume. The other local brands are Bali Hai (4.9%) and Anker (4.72%).
|Enjoying a Bintang and a book on the beach at Nusa Lembongan--you can see the mountains of Bali's main island behind me|