Travelogue: West Meets East at ‘Balinese Barbecue’ (a.k.a ‘Cremation’)

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Balinese Adventure Part 7

Michael Taylor follows a colourful procession as it passes his hotel. It takes him to a temple on a nearby beach, where a triple cremation takes place. For inexplicable reasons, he feels a strange affinity with the attendees.

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Hindu procession in Cangcu, Bali, Indonesia. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Most people think the Balinese are exotic. I think the Balinese are cool.

Where else in the world would people jokingly refer to an outdoor cremation as a barbecue? Who else would show up for a cremation wearing black jackets or T-shirts emblazoned with the words 'Jack Daniels' or 'Harley Davidson'?

An Italian tourist I run into makes the following comment as we observe the demeanor of a group of young men attending a triple cremation on the beach. “It's amazing!” he says. “They look and act just like Americans!”

From the look on his face, it's obvious that he means it as a compliment. And as an American, I can't help but agree.

Despite the sarongs and the exquisite hats that Balinese men wear to religious ceremonies, they have a certain swagger, an undeniable James Dean quality that goes far beyond the biker jackets that some of them are wearing.

Having said that, they also have far less attitude. They seem to have picked up the trappings of a foreign culture, while maintaining the essence of their own.

Change of Clothes

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An attendee at a Hindu cremation in Cangcu,Bali, Indonesia. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

I return to the hotel to apply more suntan lotion, re-charge my battery, and check my emails.

Deciding that the shirt I wore earlier was too drab for the occasion, I change into a black Oakland Raiders T-shirt, and it doesn't go unnoticed when I return to the beachfront gathering. Several people look at it approvingly.

A teenage boy studies the logo for a moment, nudges his buddy, and points to it. They both look up, smile, and give me the thumb's up.

Moments later, a middle-aged man wearing a Harley Davidson jacket brushes past me and says, “Hey, bro!” I feel right at home.

Mournful Chant

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A Hindu priest makes final preparations for a cremation. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Any concerns about picture taking being disrespectful are quickly put to rest. Moments before the 1st cremation begins, some women start a mournful chant. I feel emotional and decide to stop taking pictures.

An older woman standing next to me taps me gently on the arm, points first to my camera, then to the casket. She seems to be saying, "Go ahead! Take a picture! We really don't mind!"

Lots of complicated procedures that seem laden with meaning take place in the run up to the cremation, but when the actual cremation takes place, everyone seems to lose interest and just wanders off.

A man I have chatted with several times already comes up to me and says, “You take many pictures. Are you a writer?”

When I reply in the affirmative, he says, “Good! Please write about this ceremony. It is very important for us to preserve Balinese culture.”

West Meets East

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Cool dudes  show that East can meet West in perfect harmony. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

That night I walk to a little shop to get some aloe verde to apply to the painful sunburn I acquired spending 4 hours in the mid-day Balinese sun.

As I emerge from the shop, a woman sitting at a table in front of a nearby shop waves at me enthusiastically and shouts, “Hey baput! You remember me? I see you on beach today!”

“Oh course, I remember you,” I yell back. “I took your picture!”

The woman is sitting with her daughter and a friend. It is obvious from her demeanor that she is hoping I will join them. I sit down, take off my camera, and show them the pictures that I took at the cremation.

There are lots of comments.

“Oh, that Wayam! He have shop over there. Oh, that Ketuk. That his grandson.  Oh, that Made. He have small restaurant.”

When we reach the picture of the woman with her two friends, there are gales of laughter.

When I say that I will post it on Facebook, there is even more laughter.

I say good night and return to my hotel. I'm exhausted but happy. Day 2 in the Island of the Gods.

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Where

Ametis Villa Bali, Jalan Pantai Batu Bolong, Canggu – Kuta, Bali, Indonesia. Telephone: +62 361 844 5567.

 
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