Conventional wisdom is to stay away from Bali on Nyepi; but you would be missing something really unique. This silent holiday falls next on March 29th 2017. It is a national day of silence, the start of the Balinese Hindu new year and so a time to reflect on the year past and plan for the year ahead. Roughly 90 percent of Balinese are Hindu, and they take Nyepi seriously. No cars or residents are allowed on the street, and anyone found engaging in any activity of the sort can be arrested.
Hotel services are generally limited, as hotels have to make special arrangements for certain staff to sleep over so they can be present to work on Nyepi. While hotels can operate with electricity, the Balinese can not use it. Hotel guests are not allowed to leave their properties. There’s no escape: even the airports are closed. For some people this is very limiting and possible boring, but for others it is an opportunity to find a meditative peace and quiet. If you are staying in a hotel or villa, there is plenty of opportunity to enjoy your time. Lounge by the pool, or get a soothing Balinese massage. At most accommodations the kitchen is in full swing preparing culinary delights.
Ogoh-ogoh: giant, mythical Balinese monsters made from papier-mâché and Styrofoam paraded on the eve of Nyepi.
A newish tradition maintains that villagers throughout Bali spend the weeks leading up to Nyepi making huge creatures of papier-mâché and fabric called “Ogoh-ogoh – giant monsters paraded on the eve of Nyepi – aren’t exactly an ancient tradition. In fact they’ve only been around since the mid-Eighties.” Ogoh ogoh are made to look as terrifying as possible, their bodies deformed and the faces distorted “From six-breasted Rangda witches suckling their devil-babies to saber-toothed pigs and dangling boobs galore, these mythical monsters are carried through the streets on bamboo plinths.”
Ngerupuk: the drawing together and driving out of evil spirits on the eve of Nyepi.
On the day before Nyepi (ngerupuk) the Ogoh ogoh around Bali are paraded through their respective villages for the purpose of driving out the evil spirits. These embodiments of evil (Ogoh-ogoh) should technically be burnt at midnight as a symbolic purging of wickedness. Traditions practiced around Bali during Ngerupuk vary, for instance, young men from Nagi village, wearing only sarongs and udeng (a traditional headband worn by Balinese men), throw glowing embers of burning husks at each other. The onlooking crowd that includes hotel guests stand around and cheer, and try to stay out of harm’s way. This is conducted all in good fun, with the crowds of bystanders cheering in the spirit of camaraderie.
The Day After Nyepi: Pilgrimages, Smooching and Manis Nyepi.
The day after Nyepi is called Manis (meaning sweet) Nyepi, the ceremonies continue with mass pilgrimages to important temple around Bali. Another tradition only in Sesetan (Denpasar) sees village girls take it in turns to be carried down the street and kissed by a hopeful future husband. Experiencing Nyepi could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to participate in an age-old ritual that combines colorful spectacle and quiet contemplation. Bali is the only place in the world you will enjoy the real Nyepi. Although both neighboring islands Lombok and Java have Nyepi ceremonies, they both pale in comparison to what you will see in Bali. In todays high-tech society, a day of silence can be rare and wonderful. And that’s priceless.