Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to Bali or Ubud. To most people Bali sounds like this magical Eat Pray Love kind of a place. To me I thought it meant lots of foreign tourists and not many authentic experiences in local places with local people.
Ubud turned out to be a place for authentic experiences despite the popularity with foreign tourists.
Our plan was to check out Tude’s Family Homestay when we arrived. It was the first place on WikiTravel, with a good review, and in our price range. We stepped out of the taxi, put on our backpacks, and were approached by a man. This was not a surprise since it happens EVERY TIME we have our backpacks on. He said he had a room for 150,000rupiah ($13) and for some reason we followed him. I guess it was his honest face (you don’t see many in Indonesia).
We walked in to the garden and saw that it was actually Tude’s Family Homestay – the very place we were looking for. So we rented one of his two rooms and felt it was meant to be. The owner, Putu, has only had these rooms for a few months and is still a waiter at a nearby restaurant (where he met his wife). We woke up to tea waiting for us on the porch. Then he cooked and served us breakfast on the porch. In the afternoon there was more tea waiting for us. His son and friends played in the garden. His mom put out the offerings for the Gods in the morning. It was such a nice experience with a Balinese family. We had privacy but still felt like we were staying with a family.
Putu told us the next day the cremation ceremony was starting at the Monkey Forest. We were very fortunate to be in Ubud because it only happens every 6 years. All women and men must wear a sarong. To show up without a sarong on would be considered disrespectful. I had one but my boyfriend didn’t. Putu generously offered to lend one to Michel. In the morning he helped him put it on and sent us on our way to the ceremony.
When the lower class Balinese die and the family doesn’t have enough money for a proper cremation ceremony the bodies are buried and the family waits for the next group cremation ceremony. Some families had been waiting for 6 years since their loved one died. The cremation ceremony sends the deceased into their next life.
The ceremony started with everyone in front of their loved one’s sarcophagus (coffin). In this ceremony the bodies weren’t actually in the sarcophagus.
Next the sarcophaguses were carried to the spot where they would be burned. They were really beautiful to look at.
Carrying the sarcophaguses was hard work. Sometimes when they turned a corner it looked like they were going to tip over.
Next gifts were brought by the family members. This was mostly done by women carrying the offerings on their heads.
The presentation of the gifts took hours. We watched the band for a while.
We left for a couple hours. We thought we missed the actual burning part but we got back just in time. I was surprised to see the fire department there. They made spectators move to the other side of the fence for the actual burning. I couldn’t help but think back to the fireworks I witnessed in China where no safety precautions were ever followed.
This was one of my favorite experiences in Indonesia. It wasn’t a show for the tourists like most everything is in Indonesia. It was real and they permitted us to watch. Though our funerals in the west are nothing like this I can’t imagine inviting foreigners to watch and photograph.