Take Your Children on a Cultural Journey Through Peaceful Bali and Expose Them to What This Beautiful Place Truly has to Offer.
Bali has long been a very popular destination for families from all around the world. It is well equipped with their fair share of attractions, activities and culinary dining experiences for every discerning traveller. However Bali has so much more to offer than possessing one of Asia’s best water parks, great shopping and being lazy poolside in a luxurious villa. The island of Bali is home to most of Indonesia’s Hindu minority and thus has a significant and complex cultural background that spans the life of all Balinese people. Should you wish to immerse yourself into what truly shapes Bali, here are some kid friendly cultural activities to engage in:
CULTURAL BALI TIP #1
The Ubud Royal Palace. The Ubud Royal Palace was built in the early 19th century by the lordship of the late Ida Tjokorda Putu Kandel and it is considered to be the main landmark in Ubud both for its prominence and its central location. Known locally as Puri Saren, the palace is well known for its architecture, charming garden settings as well as its local traditional art market. The front section of the palace is open to the public. Day time walkthroughs for viewings and photos is complimentary. The palace is also famous for its nightly dance performance with gamelan orchestras and the perfect way to introduce the kids to Balinese dance.
CULTURAL BALI TIP #2
Balinese dance. Traditional Balinese dancing is an important part of Balinese culture as they are unique and closely connected to religious rituals. The dances are often performed at ceremonies or are part of a theatrical show as they mainly depict the Hindu Ramayana epic. Training for these traditional dances is typically instilled at a very young age and requires discipline as they are often strict and arduous. Perhaps the popular Kecak dance, Barong dance or the Sanghyang Jaran dance may be less suitable for very young children as they tend to portray stories involving demons, mythical creatures or they go into a trance and perform amazing feats such as walking on hot coals! Although I’m sure the teenage kids may get a kick out of it! Try catching the Legong dance where they are performed by young ladies in fluid, beautifully choreographed movements and colourful dress.
CULTURAL BALI TIP #3
Pura. A Balinese temple is known as a Pura whilst Bali is also known as the island of Gods. You would be surprised to know that there are over 6000 temples on this Indonesian island, testament to the importance of religion in everyday life. Here are our top 4 temples worth visiting with your children:
- Tanah Lot: Tanah Lot is a rock formation made famous by the ancient Hindu shrine, Pura Tanah Lot, making it a picturesque sight and perhaps the most popular temple to visit in Bali. Erected in the 16th century this sea temple was at risk of being washed away due to the persistent large waves crashing into the sides of the rock formation. In 1980, restoration efforts began to preserve the temple from the constant threat of erosion.
- Besakih Temple: Located in the Karangasem District, about 2 hours from Seminyak is Bali’s largest and holiest Hindu temple of almost over 1,000 years. It is built on the slopes of Mount Agung and the entire complex comprises of 86 temples that is surrounded by scenic rice paddy fields, mountains and streams. The whole compound is huge and filled with holy shrines and statues of which most of them are only accessible via steep stairs. If you don’t have a lot of time, just visit the largest temple on the site, Pura Penataran Agung which is built over 6 levels, terraced up the slopes 1,000m off the ground. Do be aware that many tourists have complained about scammers in the area which certainly takes away the serenity of this functional temple.
- Gunung Kawi: Gunung Kawi is an 11th-century temple and funerary complex in Tampaksiring and perhaps our favourite temple to visit. It comprises 10 rock-cut candi (shrines) that are carved into some 7-metre-high sheltered niches off the sheer cliff face. To get to the shrines, it does require a steep decline down stone stairs built alongside rice terraces but in our group children as young as 3 managed to make it all the way down without too much trouble. As you turn into the rock face, you are greeted by these shrines which literally took our breath away. There is also a lovely walk around the other side of the creek through beautiful greenery.
- Tirta Empul: A holy water spring temple also located in Tampaksiring, worshippers come here to be cleansed and to purify the soul from negative energy. The children were fascinated as they watched the devout immerse themselves in the water, each facing a fountain head, providing their offerings followed by meditation. Around the other side of the temple is a large school of beautiful koi in one of the bodies of water of which the kids were permitted to feed.
CULTURAL BALI TIP #4
Balinese Cuisine. Food in Bali is an eclectic mix of traditional and indigenous Balinese heritage mixed with Indonesian influences to include Chinese and Indian cuisines. Their food uses a substantial amount of spices and lots of local vegetables, meat and fish. Bali has an abundance of cooking classes you could venture on with your family that also include a trip to the wet markets to learn about key ingredients such as galangal or tempeh. Check out Paon Bali Cooking Class, Bumbu Bali or Anika Cooking Class.
CULTURAL BALI TIP #5
Batik. This is by far our most favourite cultural activity to do in Bali. Batik is a method (originally used in Java) of producing coloured designs on textiles by dyeing them, having first tracing an image you have selected followed by applying wax to the parts to be left undyed. Batik workshops and classes are available whereby they supply all the necessary materials to design a classic piece. This is an interactive and fun way to learn about this traditional art form. Check out Widya Batik who operates out of Ubud in his rustic surrounds. The class goes for 5 hours of which you are actively making your batik throughout that whole time. This was right up my daughter’s alley and although she is only 8 years old, she does have a better concentration level then most so she was able to complete the class with no problems. Widya does have several staff on hand to help with the whole process so it is very suitable for children. We thoroughly enjoyed doing something quintessentially Balinese.
Do try and venture out to at least one of the above mentioned cultural activities or sights so that we may instil some respect to Balinese culture. This naturally charming island is a popular tourist destination only because the religious and peaceful Balinese people have infused it with their beliefs and way of life. Enjoy Bali for all it has to offer and we’re looking forward to our 5th trip in July!
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