Yesterday was the Royal Cremation Ceremony in Ubud. As best as I can tell, the cremation ceremony is the funnest celebration of all the Balinese parties (and there are a LOT of them), for two reasons: 1) it’s the great celebration when the soul finally goes up to heaven so it’s a time of great joy and 2) it doesn’t happen right at death, but sometimes 5 years later (based on some kind of alternate calendar), so the sadness is often over by then. We heard a great celebration in our village a few days ago with tons of people partying and parading in the streets, gamelan music and singing, which was, indeed a cremation ceremony. But yesterday’s was a BIG one. It was the cremation ceremony for the former King of Bali, another royal family member and 70 more deceased from surrounding villages who decided to jump on the bandwagon and be part of the king’s big party. The last royal cremation was in 1999, so almost a decade since Bali has seen a party like this one. Over 300,000 people from all over the world were coming to Ubud to see the elaborate procession, so we had to at least check it out!
The whole island was in their ceremony clothes – headwrap, sarong, and sash for the men, and lacy, long-sleeve shirts, sarongs and sashes for the women. (the head is heaven and the feet are evil spirits, so the sash literally “cuts off” the lower, base emotions and tendencies). All the children on the island got out of school early. Scooters topped with families of 4 poured into Ubud. We drove to Laka Leke restaurant (more on that later), parked the car, and walked through The Monkey Forest (think Indiana Jones lost temple with hundreds of monkeys trying to steal your cameras and hats) to the packed streets of Ubud. The spectacle starts at the Royal Palace on the main street of Ubud, and involves about 70 elaborate floats that are carried, not rolled, with two main “bades” or giant temple-looking structures, each being 11 tons and 7 meters tall, with the coffins atop. There are also 2 giant, equally heavy sarcophagus bulls and dragons. The bades are carried by 250 men each, with a fresh 250 men swapping in every 100 meters. We were at the palace, so really only got to see everything leave the station, so to speak. After leaving us, the parade wound 2km to the royal crematorium where the whole thing was set ablaze. More info here: http://us.my-indonesia.info/page.php?ic=7&id=3947 . It was hard to see it all, but good to see a bit of it and even better to just be part of such a monumental event in Bali history!
After the parade, we walked back to Laka Leke restaurant, a serene oasis between the Monkey Forest and rice fields, only a block off main street of Ubud. Then a quick stop at Goa Gaja or “Elevant Cave” – a temple inside a giant elephant mouth cave and beautiful bathing / purification pools that were built in 1100AD, but only discovered deep inside the jungle in 1930 and excavated in 1950. Then home to our house, a plunge in the heavenly cold pool, and anther Made dinner to die for. Spicy, flavorful chicken curry, with rice, fried tempeh and a green bean and shredded chicken side salad. We just might steal Made away