Life is an offering – the tempting coexistence of the hedonistic consumer culture and the traditions of Bali

Where are you from? For how long have you been living in Indonesia? Where in Indonesia have you been to, Bali? You haven’t been to Bali? You haven’t?! 

This is how every random conversation in Indonesia began. Until the nature, namely the erupting volcano, drove me to the island of gods.

Of course Bali is the most known piece of the huge archipelago called Indonesia. There’s no Australian who has never been to Bali, or at least dreamed about a vacation there. No doubt the island is known for a reason.

It is virtually impossible to forget a fact that the village or street I’m walking on at the moment, or the warung where I sit for a second to have a coffee is on Bali – it’s an architectural paradise and ritual enchantment. At every step there’s a woman throwing rice, there are chantry baskets everywhere, at every step there are sweet incenses smoking, at every step you could trip over over a pedestal built to honour a god, or when looking for a temple you could easily find yourself in somebody’s house because sometimes they are so similar to each other.
For a long time on Bali there was no term for art because it was considered as a part of everyday life. Life is art, on Bali. Life is aesthetics. Life is chantry.

Of course Bali women don’t think in detail about the ritual things they do every day, they don’t think why is it all necessary. It’s simply a part of their day – to put baskets on pedestals, on the pavement in front a café, on a table or on a motorbikes’ seats. For the gods.
What happens if a Bali woman doesn’t do all of it? Since Bali society is community centered the group pressure mends all these glitches. A careless woman is judged, her , or at least her husband’s reputation suffers, or she loses a possibility to marry successfully in the future.
The coexistence of the contemporary consumerist culture and Bali traditions in Saminyak. 

Even in front the designer shops, luxury car salongs and gas stations in a bit modern and touristy Southern Bali (for example Kuta, Seminyak, Denpasar and in a large part Ubud as well) there are proudly standing pedestals for the gods, in every shop where there’s a freezer next to lemonades and beers there’re little baskets filled with fresh flowers for the chantries for the next day. Life doesn’t stop when you follow the ancient traditions. So, on Bali modern hedonistic consumerism has wonderfully integrated with the traditions.

Still it’s quite difficult for me to tell the named towns are “the real Bali” – the restaurants offering European cuisine, the flashing night clubs and the resort-like atmosphere that is constantly commutes between the exaltation of the night and torpidity during the day. On streets like that there are hungover Australians and whiny couples, who seem to have come to an annoying vacation and who seem to almost hate their holiday, their wives or children, strolling.
Food that an Australian tourist cannot stand – nasi putih or regular rice, sayur or salad and tempe or a soya seed cake. 

As my travelling comrade Vincent is an Italian, we thought to try good Italian food, both of us were hungry as wolves and so excited to try the tasty raviolis we had ordered. But instead, they bring us a handful of thin pasta pillows – seven all together. In good will we cut them into two and got 14. Seems a bit more, doesn’t it?

We labelled the fancy dinner a starter and went from the tourist area to “the real Indonesia”. Where warungs roll on wheels, ladies with big boobies drop bananas in dough into sizzling oil and men smoke the tarriest cigarets one could find. It might sound strange, but here I find myself a lot more at home than with the grumpy Australians in the Italian restaurant, where there’re no Italians whatsoever and where they add 15% service fee to the bill.

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