Six Degrees from Silence

What a difference a day makes.DSC00138

It’s an exceedingly rare occurrence (and becoming ever more so) to experience quiet in this town. Ubud is forever abuzz, attracting tourists, yoga enthusiasts, healing-seekers and expats to its center at a lightning-fast pace.

Which, on most days, transforms this once sleepy village into a vibrant, overcrowded center of locals on the go (zipping along to work, school, market or temple); mixed in with swelling numbers of umbrella-toting Asian couples, so-called location-independent-digital-nomads-programmers-coders-marketers-startup -entrepreneurs, EatPrayLoveniks and assorted others.DSC00087

Humans trump nature, engines erase birdsong and the sheer density of sentient beings (Bali dogs included) fills up every breathable pocket of air.

Which is why Galungan is so precious, revealing itself to be one of a handful of days each Balinese calendar DSC00093year when a dome of quasi-silence descends on Ubud. The roads โ€“ quiet. The market โ€“ closed. The locals โ€“ praying, offering, eating, visiting, or back home in their remote villages.

From one day to the next, the center of town morphs into an eerily empty landscape.

Galungan, after all, is wDSC00094hen ancestral spirits are welcomed back to their compounds and family shrines, a visit which lasts throughout the 10-day period, ending on Kuningan.

The roads seem so spacious, the market area swept clean, locals dressed in traditional wear arrive with offerings they place inside or in front of their stalls, lighting incense, thanking deities for their good fortune, praying for continued prosperity.

DSC00142My early morning stroll down to town and along the (middle of!) Jalan Raya still, after nearly five years of calling Ubud home, instills a sense of wonder and curiosity: is this what it felt like to visit and stay here 10, 20, 30 years ago? Barely a motor vehicle in sight, no telephones, shops, little electricity (if any), a few bicycles? Did people actually walk everywhere back then? Could they always hear the caged birds sing?DSC00095

Sure I might be waxing nostalgic (for an era in Bali that is long past) or I might, on some particularly grey or hazy days, be mourning the depletion of nature and the steep rise of rumbling, screeching and tile-cutting; but this too is a fragment of life and without it, I might not bother to be grateful for all the gifts that Bali still does bestow.


  1. AHHHHHH so true! But not so in the village……… so alive with everyone arriving to the ancestral temple and Pura Desa. We were bushed after 3 visitations + praying starting at 8am ending by 3!
    Hope you ‘re well Phiphi

    1. Long temple day for you then, eh? I just waved at my neighbors as they went in and out of pura in Kutuh instead; I guess the honking doesn’t subside just ‘cuz it’s Galungan ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. This sort of change is happening all over the world, it seems. Sometimes it’s hard to take. But once we get to know a place very well, and to love it, we can usually identify the soul of that place that doesn’t change all that much.

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