Smiles and ceremony

Bali is a place of smiles and welcomes. Balinese are gracious hosts, and while you may feel intrusive visiting a ceremony, as we found today, you will be warmly welcomed. Follow their prompts, such as if you should remove your shoes. You will not be allowed to enter a temple without a sarong. If uncertain, gesture toward your clothing and ask “ok?” and your shoes, to check if they wish you to remove them. Today we were told to remove our shoes however it was more of a practical instruction, as we had to walk across rice paddies through mud!

We began our day heading toward Tanah Lot, one of Bali’s most important temples as it guards the southern entrance to the island. We happened upon a ceremony that was in the rice fields and were told that this was a lead-up to the main ceremony Melaspas at the end of the month. The land was being blessed, perhaps prior to the commencement of building on the land, as this is when Melaspas is conducted.


The melaspas is a traditional Bali ceremony where the purpose is to clean negative elements from the new site of a building, Merajan (temple / shrine) or land. It carries the great spirit of the “goodness soul” which stays in the area (which in Balinese is medaging or pedagingan” – the purely soul goodness spirit).

There are great philosophies deep inside the melaspas traditional ceremony. Melaspas comes from the Balinese word “mala”, meaning bad or negative elements, and”pas” means to clean or make pure. So literally, melaspas means to clean something so that it becomes pure. Melaspas also brings the great spirit to the area to protect it from negative elements.

As you can see, we were warmly welcomed and the Babi Guling (roast pig) was shown with much pride, before its ‘topi’ (hat) was returned, much to our amusement, and theirs’, when I called it a hat!

As we chatted, they asked the usual questions about whether we were married, had children, where we came from and where we were staying. These are all normal questions and if you ask them back, you’ll be given full answers. If you are younger, or look young for your age, without doubt you will be called ‘cantik’ (beautiful) or ‘gantang’ (handsome), with perhaps amazement that you are so young for your age! Return the compliment!

In the video below, Trish was photographing a lady who was very willing to pose for the shot, much to the amusement of her friends! This cheeky man was telling her that she was smelly (listen for the word “masam” (Indonesian), or “masem” (Balinese) in the video). He also told her not to cross her arms, however she replied that she was cold (“dingin”).

From the ceremony, we headed toward a special temple that is for ceremonies for the dead, Desa Ada Sogsogan (the name of the village, Sogsogan Village). Not all villages cremate the dead, some bury them and we were told that this is one that follows that tradition. Some villages will bury the deceased and every few years have a large community ceremony for their passing.


The sign uses words from Hindusim: Prajapati (Sanskrit: प्रजापति (prajā-pati)) means “lord of creatures”, which is a group Hindu deity presiding over procreation, and the protector of life.

This very old temple faces toward the sea and you can hear the crashing of waves onto the beach behind the swamp. It’s a magical place that carries the mystery of life and death with it. I showed these images to one of my staff Nyoman, who told me that even when she visits such a temple, the hairs on her arm stand up.


Remember never to enter the gates of a temple unless you have express permission (which will also mean the correct clothing). At Sogsogan, admire the gates, the history and the connection with a very old part of Bali.

IMG_0896The offerings you see around Bali are called Canang. They vary from one like this which, Nyoman told us, is “Simple, very easy to make, with no food inside it.”


The drive is particularly beautiful and one that is often missed as travellers head toward Tanah Lot. Take the left turn past the last set of lights before the bridge…your driver should be able to get you there with the map at the end of this blog.


Tanah Lot and Nirwana Resort

We ended the day with lunch at the stunning Nirwana Resort, but not before we took in the breathtaking views of Tanah Lot temple and the world class golf course.

Nirwana_Tanah Lot

Many travellers enjoy the tour of the temple or to relax with a drink and watch the sunset at the famous seafood restaurant on the cliff tops near the temple.

Nirwana Resort (Pan Pacific) offers some of the best views but it is stunning for a cool ale or juice while watching the golfers try their luck on one of the world’s most magnificent golf courses.


This view is from the club house, where you are welcome to visit and eat at the restaurant there or just admire the view.


If you stay at Nirwana, we recommend hiring a bicycle and touring the course. Look out for buggies, respect the golfer’s space, and marvel at the most amazing sights you will see.


The cliffs of Tanah Lot are treachorous…no swimming in the swirling waters, but the sounds are magnificent. If you were planning a wedding, this would be perfect (wind permitting!)

As we headed home on just Day Two of our three week journey around Bali as we write Bali Soul Journals and capture the lives and moments in Balinese lives, we both agreed that it would be easy to spend several days in Tanah Lot and the surrounding villages. Life is slower, more simple than the hectic pace of Kuta. So head west, kick your shoes off, discover a ceremony and laugh with the Balinese. See you tomorrow! Who knows where we will head next time!


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