Living the Galungan way

Galungan and Kuningan are among the most important Balinese ceremonies and I am so grateful to be able to witness these two ceremonies and the Balinese New Year, also called Nyepi, in the same trip!

Preparing for Galungan

For Galungan we were invited by my new Balinese friend Styawan, with whom I had already spent Nyepi celebrations, to visit his family and spend some time in his village. The day before Galungan, we went to Peliatan, the place in Ubud to buy ceremonial clothing. It certainly wasn’t cheap but we got some really nice sarongs and traditional costumes. I can even picture myself wearing my white corset and lace shirt back in Brussels to go to work!

The day before we also witnessed how our neighbours built and set up their ‘penjor’, a large decorated bamboo pole which is then tucked into earth in front of their houses during the 10 days that separate Galungan from Kuningan. The last thing which is also part of the preparations for Galungan and which we wanted to do but didn’t get a chance to is to eat ‘babi guling’, roast suckling pig. I hear it’s really good at the night market in Gyanar, around 30 minutes from Ubud, but we’ll go there another time, as hubby does not yet feel fully comfortable driving at night in Bali.

Galungan is about family time

For Galungan most Balinese people get at least one day off. So Styawan’s house was full of family members, as 4 generations of his family live together in the same compound. Although we didn’t speak the same language, we had a lot of fun.

We got to learn about and taste all the different foods that are made for Galungan, we had a really nice lunch made by Styawan’s mom which we ate with our hands, as the locals do, including a delicious jackfruit soup and lots and lots of chicken satay. We also learned more about Balinese culture: the children were taught how to dance, Calliopee the moves of ‘legong’ and Ulysse those of ‘baris’. He even got to wear a beautiful costume!

Calli was jealous but she couldn’t wear it as it was only for men 🙂 We also witnessed a panchak silat – Indonesia’s very own martial art – demo, and we then showed them moves from the martial arts our entire family practices – qwankido, a Vietnamese form of kungfu. While Ivan had it easy with his sarong, it was clearly a different ball game for us girls, as our sarongs fit very tightly! The locals were definitely having fun at us trying our best.

The victory of Good over Evil

We then went on to pray and make offerings at their family temple. Styawan explained to us every step of the process and we all followed suit. On Galungan, you ask for all good things to happen and for all evil things to go away, as the day celebrates the victory of Good over Evil. As with everything in Bali, the praying and offering also involves rice. Whenever you cook rice, you always have to offer some to the Gods, to show gratitude for the food you receive from them.

The children were interested in the ceremony but felt a bit awkward about the praying, as we do not believe in any god(s). Our son also felt odd when Bayu, Styawan’s younger brother, took him by the arm and by the hand to walk him around his home and village. I explained to him that in Asia, and especially in Bali, people hold each other by the hand or the arm when they are friends or kin. It meant that Bayu liked my son, so he shouldn’t feel bad about it. Talk about a cultural clash! 

Before we left, Styawan took us to a new organic coffee plantation, where they also grow vanilla, cacao, ginger, turmeric and other yummy plants. It was an interesting visit for all of us, and the kids were fascinated by all the different sorts of coffee that they could taste. They liked the vanilla-scented coffee, although none of us drink coffee. The view from the coffee plantation was amazing, overlooking a deep gorge filled with jungle, and on the other side a luxury resort. 

Which turned out to be where Styawan, our host, works! So he took us there on our way back home, and showed us around with a little electric car, like the ones used on golf courses. As the resort was very hilly, the kids had the impression of being on a roller coaster. It’s a nice place to work in, and we promised we’d be back to have lunch at the restaurant he works in.

Another great day, learning more about local traditions, cultures, crops and people.

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