After 36 hours of travel, four airplanes, three layovers, three countries, many airplane movies, tv shows, games, and finally meeting my sister on the fourth leg of my trip, we left the states on March 6 and finally landed in Bali on Neypi Eve of March 8.
Seemingly not very exhausted at all, we were met by the humidity of the Indonesian Island along with a sea people and every grain of happiness and excitement one can possibly muster after traveling across the International Dateline.
Bali did not hesitate to begin to entertain us right away, as trying to find our designated taxi driver was a 20 minute hoot of a time. More than 100 people held hand-written signs at the exit of customs all crammed behind one small gate that lined the pathway to the parking garage of the airport.
As we happily introduced ourselves to our cab driver two other men came up and grabbed our bags from us. But instead of walking with us and talking pleasantries they ran up ahead and followed closely behind our fast-paced driver. It was an odd mix of feeling like we had been robbed and thinking as long as we kept them in our sites we could believe they worked with the driver. We learned the former was closer to the truth when we finally caught up to the three of them, retrieved our bags from the men, and then they started begging for a tip. Stumbling through their broken english and half attempted hand gestures by showing us money in the palm of their hands, we finally got the gist and decided to hand over two American dollars, one to each of them, partly because we knew the value of those dollar bills – unlike the stacks and stacks of balinese money we had just exchanged of which we had no idea what even the smallest bill of 100,000 IDR was equivalent to. To our surprise, our valuable $1 bills were highly rejected and the relentless bag delivery men insisted on no less than “a red one, give us a red bill”. That red bill was in fact the aforementioned 100,000 IDR which we later learned was equal to almost $8 USD – $8 they were not going to leave without.
This was not the first time we were tripped up by their many currency zeros.
Seated inside the van we left the scene of the $8 robbery at the airport as we drove through the masses of peoples walking through the streets and weaving in and out of traffic on their scooters. I’ve never felt more unsafe driving through a village, city, county, or state. There are no street signs, if there were any they wouldn’t be followed anyway. Not even staying in your lane will keep you safe because the lines on the road that in America that say “stay in your lane” are just decoration in Bali; two lane roads became three, and three lanes became four. No blinkers. A lot of horns – which didn’t indicate anger ironically, just an announcement that one was passing or trying to get over in front of another vehicle. Scooters fit in, between, and around anywhere they could fit. At one point we headed directly into oncoming traffic as we were passing three scooters and two cars on our left around a bend in the road no less. We evaded a collision by nearly making it back into our lane… we successfully passed all five of those vehicles, just in case you were wondering. This experience cannot be described in words. I really wish I could have mustered the strength to let go of my door handle and sister’s forearm to grab my phone to record our journey from the airport to The Chillhouse but between the muttered curses and the louder gasps of air (followed by giggles from the driver) there was barely time to remember to breathe let alone begin documenting anything via any means.
I borrowed a couple of videos from youtube.com to demonstrate the roadway chaos. Credit to the posters – and if you need to see more, just google “driving in bali” under the video category and there will be no end to the number of videos for your viewing pleasure.
But alas, we arrived safely to The Chillhouse and were immediately informed of Neypi practices. We arrived on Neypi Eve the day of celebration and parades. Each Village builds an Ogoh Ogoh to carry through the streets (pictured below). These scary monsters are finely detailed, painted beautifully, and are used to scare away any evil spirits that may be occupying the island. At the end of the night they burn the Ogoh Ogohs.
We didn’t get to see the parade or the burning, because no one knew where it would be happening. But we did get to see one Ogoh Ogoh being carried and a crowd following it to find the meeting place of all the village Ogoh Ogohs. Truth be told they were the prettiest scary monsters I’d ever seen. The detail was amazing and made it sad to think about all of the hard work being burned at the end of the night. But it just goes to prove the hard work isn’t tied to the material object but instead the meaning that drives motivation.
Even though we didn’t see the parade, we got to see a bit of the village we were staying in. The streets were lined with small shack stores, food, the occasional employee, and quite a few stray animals. The dogs were everywhere, everyone claimed they have homes – but many of them were sleeping on the streets like these two sweets. Made my heart break and want to take them all home with me.
Ironically they were sleeping under the Superman emblem. Which, if you know me, you know he’s not only the world’s hero – he is also mine.
At the end of our short walk, we let it all soak in next to the pool. A very pregnant, tired sister and myself sat in awe of where we were going to be spending the next week and a half and reveled in the possibilities.
The next day is a day of rest and silence, where every one is required to stay in doors, stay off the streets, keep all noise to a minimum, and all shades drawn so no light can escape their houses at night. These Neypi Day practices ensure that all of those evil spirits that were scared away the night before cannot find their way back by way of noise or light. There are even Neypi police that patrol the streets all day and night to ensure these practices are followed – I know first hand, because our group was spoken to by said police because we were being too loud and emitting too much light. Oops.
It was a welcomed day of rest, after so much travel and anticipation. Yoga, massage, swimming, eating, napping. It was definitely the most perfect day of Neypi Silence.
Don’t be gone too long, next entry: our first day off The Chillhouse premises and on the beach. I promise there will be more photos and less chatter.