Balinese New Year is a day of silence.
Known as NYEPI, it’s an island-wide ceremony that brings life to a pleasant halt. The lights go out. Even the dogs are quiet for 24 hours.
There are four basic restrictions:
- No fire … translates to no cooking.
- No working…. that includes housework.
- No travelling…. the roads are empty, ports and airport shut down.
- No leisure activity…. no running around, it’s a day for quiet meditative thought, naps.
It’s forbidden to use electricity. No lights. No phone charging. No devices. No TV.
The drop in energy usage is impressive. Think “Earth Hour” dialled up to the next level.
Last year there was talk of an internet shutdown. It didn’t happen, but the government, incensed by Nyepi day selfies showing up on Facebook, are not happy. So far, I’ve yet to hear of a shutdown for 2019.
The idea is that all villages look deserted so any bad spirits lurking around won’t bother dropping by.
The rules also apply to tourists. Sneaking out of your hotel for a quick surf/walk/swim or to find an ATM (pointless as they shut down too) is not on.
‘Traditional’ village guards known as Pecalang patrol the streets to ensure compliance. Clad in their black and white check sarongs, empowered by the Banjar, they’ll send you back to your hotel quick smart. They may not be friendly, and possibly will slap you with a fine. They’ll be offended by what they see as a lack of respect for their culture.
My advice is to respect the rules. Embrace the culture. Put aside your individuality, get over the ‘inconvenience’ and be at one with the world around you. It’s a sacred ritual, one that deserves to be treated with reverence.
Drop off the grid for a day of deep quietness.
Who knows, it may kick start a habit of taking a weekly 24 hour digital detox when you get home. How many times have we all made that promise to ourselves?
Nyepi is the ultimate cure for our current curse of ‘busyness’.
# Nyepi starts at 6am on Thursday 7 March and ends at 6am on Friday 8 March in 2019. Get food, drinks and your headspace sorted out in advance. Check with your hotel for services available on the day.
# By contrast, the eve of Nyepi is a noisy, festive evening. Head out into the streets for Ogoh Ogoh parades on Wednesday 6 March.
# Emergency services do operate on Nyepi day. (Should you need to dash to hospital you’ll get there in record time).
The days surrounding Nyepi are some of my most favourite Bali village days. I love the ceremonies leading up to the big day and the excitement that builds around the making of the Ogoh Ogoh monster. Most of all I love the drumming of the kulkul drums that permeate the night. The sounds are primal, the rhythms unscripted. I find myself wondering ‘how did life bring me here’… it’s quite surreal.
Travel deeper into a destination. Find the soul.