Bali is most famous for its tropical sandy beaches, exotic Hindu temples, traditional dances, artistic souvenirs, monkey forest, etc. However, the island has so much more to offer and if you want to see how Balinese live before modernization several hundred years ago, you should visit a village named Penglipuran! Located 45 km from Denpasar, the capital city of Bali, Penglipuran village boost quaint architectures in the countryside and still practise ancient traditions. To see the real Bali, don’t miss this village while you are in town.
Small unique village
This village has a population of around 1000 people, consisting of more than 150 families. The village comprises one long uphill street lined with houses on both sides and a Hindu temple named ‘pura’, which looks like stacked crafted stones with lots of flowery ornaments at the end of the street. You will find that any vehicles including bikes are not allowed to enter this area. Tourists will have to walk to explore the village. As Penglipuran is located 700 meters above sea level, unlike Bali in general, the weather here is cool, which makes walking comfortable.
Enter the village and visit a house
Before entering the village, you will need to pay 15,000 IDR (1.10 USD) for the entrance and house visits (they will tell you which houses to visit). On the street, you may see some cockerels (domesticated cocks raised for fun or cock fighting purpose) and dogs wandering on the street. Dogs? There is nothing to worry about, as the dogs are used to strangers and they are not going to bark to you.
Along the street, you will see many gates consisting of 2 stone pillars with a house number attached on one of the pillars and a thatched roof placed on the top of both pillars. A short stairs lead to entrance of individual houses. You will also see mini gardens and shrines in front of the houses where they plant various tropical flowers.
As you enter someone’s yard, you will be surprised to find that it is actually a large compound consisting of several buildings for different purposes (e.g. for kitchen, living room, storage etc.). In the northeast corner (near the gate), there is a shrine where they make daily offerings (flowers with incense) to the Gods. There is also a modern house for dwelling. It is like a regular concrete and painted house with doors, windows etc., which has bedrooms and bathrooms but most don’t have a kitchen as they cook in another building. You will also find a building completely made of bamboo used to store kitchen appliances such as pans and plates (they don’t cook there, but in another building next to it). Most of the buildings are kind of old as you can find moss growing here and there on the walls. The yards are adjacent to one another and some of them raise chickens and pigs in the yard.
Buy from the locals
Many villagers sell souvenirs and a beverage called ‘cem cem’ in front of their house. The souvenirs are common to find in Bali. They sell things like local products of wood craft and sarong (a long piece of fabric to be tied around someone’s waist). The price here is cheaper than what you can find in other places around Bali. A sarong is sold at 15,000 IDR (1.10 USD), cheaper than the same kind of sarong found in Kuta, which may cost 30,000 IDR (2.20 USD).
Cem cem is sold at 10,000 IDR (0.80 USD) per bottle. It is sweet and sour and made of leaves of several plants such as betel and tamarind with cinnamon, coconut water and brown sugar. It is believed to have ‘cooling effects’ on your body and it can refresh your body and help cure common cold.
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See and meet villagers
The people in the house compound are friendly and they are happy to show you every part of the house. You will find women doing their daily household chores like cooking, making bamboo handicrafts (to be sold to tourists) or taking care of their kids. You may also find children studying and doing homework. It seems like they are very welcoming to strangers. You may also chat with them (bring a local guide with you to overcome language barriers) and if you are lucky, they will share with you how to make handicrafts or cook Balinese dishes!
On Deepavali (one of the important Hindu festivals that take place around October or November), you will see happy people, young and old from Penglipuran and its surrounding villages in their best Balinese costumes on the street, heading to the temple for a morning ritual. You will also see some women carrying their food offerings (e.g. yellow rice, fried chicken etc.) on their head, some children laughing in joy while carrying a basket filled with sweets to be shared with other children. It’s such a lovely moment and a perfect time to visit.
Before entering the temple, you will need to rent a sarong. It is free to rent, although donations are expected. Inside, you can see girls performing Barong dance (Balinese dance which has graceful movements) accompanied by gamelan (traditional musical instrument played by hitting the tuned metals), while villagers pray and give offerings .
Bali before tourism era
Although the village is pretty close to Bali’s major tourist destinations like Ubud and Denpasar (about 80 kilometers away), this village isn’t yet widely known among tourists. Hence, it is not crowded and you can find solitude and peace in here. If you want to see Bali before tourism era, this is definitely a place to go.
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