Stranger In Paradise

Bali Loses a Great Leader and Cultural Conservationist

Stranger In Paradise | Jan 30, 2014

The father of Mangku Widia was also a great leader but unfortunately he passed away in the middle of the 1960’s when Mangku Widia, his only son, was still young. Due to this loss — a loss of transmission of the traditional knowledge — Mangku Widia has tried all his life to learn from other […]

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The Majapahit Empire Strikes Back

Stranger In Paradise | Jan 02, 2014

The 1,000 or so devotees are divided into two camps: the Javanese Hindus, who are very tense and serious and self-absorbed, and the Balinese ‘yatra-istas’ for whom this is just another day at the office party. 500 years ago, thousands of East Javanese Hindus — peasants, priests, princes and artists from the last great Hindu […]

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Bali’s Power Pedanda

Stranger In Paradise | Nov 29, 2013

Bali’s high priests have stepped it up a few notches of late — in jewelry, showmanship, and stamina. As more and more Balinese opt for the higher utama form of ceremony, which require high priests, pedanda are these days busier criss-crossing the island at all hours. Fourteen of them went off to East Java last month, to […]

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In the Shadow of the APEC Billboards

Stranger In Paradise | Oct 28, 2013

They should rename the Banjar Buni ‘Sang Hyang Jaran’ (which had been asleep for 20-odd years, until a mask threw itself off a wall at the last odalan) ‘Sun in the Stubble’. I mean, I have never seen so many extras from Gladiator with ectoplasm pouring out of their mouths. Yesterday, at the tooth-filing of a […]

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Coming Out in Paradise

Stranger In Paradise | Sep 28, 2013

Readers will just have to take my word for it that the Balinese place ancestor worship and filial piety above all else, even their own sexual identity. Last week, on Facebook, a popular young Balinese male model posted this: ‘Sorry, but I think it’s totally wrong if you are gay but then you marry a […]

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North Bali in the Spotlight

Stranger In Paradise | Aug 28, 2013

Any conference on North Bali’s culture always starts with a litany of complaints about its marginalization. The truth is: Buleleng may be poorer, in terms of income, but the culture of the North is still rich and the natural environment unspoiled. Buleleng regency runs along Bali’s North Coast and back up into the hills of Mt. […]

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Tenganan’s Great Day

Stranger In Paradise | Jul 25, 2013

As we are talking about the delights of Delhi, a gamelan procession led by two tripped-out trance masters waving daggers turns the corner; a line of bare-chested combatants  bearing colourful umbrellas takes up the  rear. The annual Perang Pandan (Battle of the Pandanus Sheaths) at Tenganan Village in East Bali is Bali’s premier sporting event…

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Lovely, Languid Lembongan

Stranger In Paradise | Jul 02, 2013

I arrived at the beach in front of the Le Mayeur Museum at North Sanur to find that it has been turned into a cabin-cruised terminal and beach bum bandit depot. There are shade structures for sun-worshippers and glistening white three-engine cabin cruisers

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Tale of two Puris

Stranger In Paradise | May 31, 2013

Last month I went to functions in the royal ‘chapels’ (temples, in fact) of two of the puri palaces — Pemecutan and Kesiman —  both of which involved the mighty god of Uluwatu and a battalion of followers from Pecatu village, the surfer’s paradise of Bali.

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On the Road to Sakenan

Stranger In Paradise | Apr 29, 2013

I sit next to a family from Amed in East Bali who have never been to Sakenan before (Home-based spiritual tourism has surged since the movie “Eat pay Leave”).  They leave the temple carrying two giant Spongebob balloons and talking about the big pink poo-bah who was chatting with the priests. I was at the Turtle […]

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