Cremnants & Polls

Like any good house party, the morning after the day before tends to bring with it certain undesired responsibilities, including a major cleanup. Cremations are no different. Except that, instead of overturned champagne glasses and beer bottles strewn around, instead of streamers dangling from the ceiling and cushions stained with red wine, there are plenty of leftover Chinese coins, offerings, massive bamboo platforms that must be untied and chopped up, reams of burnt holy cloth and plenty of charred remains – of bull statues and funerary towers.

I passed by the site shortly after 6 a.m. yesterday, partly to survey the necessary and expected damage. Here’s what I found:  IMG_3057IMG_3077IMG_3074IMG_3094IMG_3058IMG_3061IMG_3068IMG_3072IMG_3083IMG_3097I noticed (because it’s hard to miss) that the watilan (covered gathering pavilion for meetings, musicians and tourist bus drivers who need a rest) was all abuzz. Posters, plastic chairs, tables, offerings, signs and more signs. Some particularly humorous ones, Balinese caricatures drawn to explain the process. It was, after all, Election Day across Bali! Offices were closed (as were some restaurants and shops) while people headed to the polls to elect a new Governor.IMG_3056IMG_3054IMG_3051IMG_3053IMG_3049IMG_3048

The rest of Ubud showed signs of election day as well; though for the run-of-the-mill tourist these signs would have largely passed unnoticed; a mere flint to the fireworks of the day before. But I noticed those signs too; in the pavilion across the palace the polling clerks were dressed in traditional garb, lined up, each holding lit incense sticks, gathered in prayer before taking up their official duties. Offerings sat alongside ballot boxes. All signs of the cremation had disappeared from sight. xIMG_3100IMG_3103IMG_3114IMG_3116The sacred and the profane. The spiritual and the political. One day weaves seamlessly into the next. Always with acknowledgment of a higher power. Of our connection to the divine, to the inexplicable, to the forces of nature. Bali just might have it right.



  1. Great photos! And speaking of the election, Ketut came by and showed me a colorful fingernail and tried to explain what he’d been up to. It was hysterical, the two of us in our pidgin Indoglish Englesian, laughing so hard at the other’s misinterpretations that we finally just collapsed and gave up. Later, a friend who is bilingually fluent stopped by and explained that they stain the fingernail of each voter so they can’t come back and pretend they haven’t cast their ballot and vote again! What a relief. I won’t even tell you what I THOUGHT he told me!

  2. In Chinese burial ceremony, the house must be thoroughly cleaned before the family returns from the graveyard. I wanted to blog about it but I am so not ready to do it. Even to talk about it is considered as a big taboo. I am taking a huge risk and chanting lots of mantras as I share the info on this comment. LoL

    1. Could be the same for the Balinese (cleaning house), but I’ve not been privy to that info yet. It would make sense. I’ll chant protective mantras for U2!

      1. It is super fun to see the “other side” of a fiesta. Most people would only cover the “fun” parts. Thank you for this post! 😀
        I stayed in Legian for almost two months in 2008. I have never seen this “dirty” side of Bali.LoL
        I do not mean to mock. I have always seen Bali as a very clean place and I wonder how much efforts must be made to keep it that way. It is great to know that, after all, Balinese folks are also like every other human being. They have fun partying and then they have to face the same problem we all usually do: the cleaning up part! 😉

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