Colton's Asia Experience

Uluwatu, Bali: Dancing with Fire

By Colton Powell

The next leg of our trip took us to one of Indonesia's most popular beach destinations. Bali is a surfer's touristy paradise, full of crazy nightlife, budget hostels and endless hawkers.

We opted to start our stay in Kuta, the main beach area of the city. Pretty quickly we realized that Bali is basically an Australian colony. You can't walk two feet without hearing a booming Australian accent calling off to one of their mates. Even the locals just assume you are from the land down under calling out in a chorus of "G'day Mate", "Transport Mate", "Surfboard Mate", in their own version of an Aussie accent.

We had five days to explore the island that we renamed Australian Hawaii and after some research decided to head down to southern tip.

There sits a temple called Uluwatu perched high above the water on the edge of steep cliffs. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, which has a predominantly Muslim population, in Bali around 90% of people practice Hinduism.

Uluwatu, Bali
The incredbile coastal view
Scattered everywhere around the island are beautiful statues and temples adorned with daily offerings and the sweet smell of incense.
We had heard about the beauty of Balinese temples and had yet to see a perfect sunset, so we set off in search of a ride.

Bali being a small island has one of two choices when it comes to transportation: risk life and limb by renting a motorbike or hire a driver so at least you have a little more protection around you. Finding a driver is as easy as approaching anyone on the main streets of Kuta, and before we knew we were on our way.

We made it to Uluwatu just as the sun was setting and donned our respectable temple attire that we purchased at the local market earlier that day. The area was incredible; the whole complex sat hundreds of feet on top of massive white cliffs that dropped off into the crashing waves below. The constant pounding of the powerful surf is the only thing that could be heard, other than the sound of a few local monkeys.

Uluwatu, Bali
Enjoying Indonesia's famous Bintang beer on Kuta Beach
Our driver acted as our guide and took as around the temple area showing us the best view points to snap a good picture. On one edge of the cliffs there is large open amphitheater that has nightly, traditional Balinese fire dance shows. We got our tickets and made our way into the stands taking in the incredible sights around us.

As the sun began to set, the show began.

Uluwatu, Bali

Thirty or so bare chested Balinese men swayed and chanted in rhythm as performers in elaborate costumes unfolded the story around us. The show consisted of a traditional Kecak dance that is a Balinese ritual based on the famous Hindu story of the Ramayana.

As the dance went on the sun dipped well below the horizon casting a soft red glow across the arena.

In the third act, small bundles of grass were placed on stage and lit on fire. Then one of the main characters dressed as the white monkey proceeded to kick the flaming balls around the amphitheater. They flew near the edge of the cliff igniting some of the shrubs and tall grass; another flew into the group of dancers and lit one of their robes on fire. No one seemed very concerned with the small fire that has started to burn so we just assumed this was all part of the fire code and a normal occurrence. The fire eventually burned out calming our nerves and the show ended with a beautiful dance and song.

We met our driver among the masses headed back to Kuta for a well-deserved rest. If you ever find yourself in Bali make sure explore beyond the main cities limits; you never know you may even get to see a bonfire!

Click next to continue to Part 12 of Colton's Asia Experience

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