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Three Balinese hamlets

If anyone ask me how to see the real beauty of Bali, I would recommend them to stay away from Denpasar. Go deep, dig those villages. When I was filming a documentary for World Bank a couple of months ago, I got the opportunity to stay in the Balinese villages with the local residents. One of the place that we got to stay in for a few weeks is very unique. Located in Karangasem district, the village is divided into 3 main hamlets. In the morning we would be woken up by the sound of roosters, and at night the crickets singing in symphony.

The character of each hamlet itself is indifferent from one to another. One village called Saren Kauh - inhabited by Hindu disciple. And just around the corner of the village main street a few steps away from Saren Kauh, there's a simple wooden gate that signed the Saren Jawa area. According to the local folk, there was a pilgrim from Java island who came to the village hundreds of years ago. This man was a Moslem preacher, and he helped the ruler of the land defending his territory. The ruler then gave him a piece of land, that later became Saren Jawa. No wonder that this hamlet residents are Moslem.

When you stay in Saren Kauh you can hear the adzan (a call for Moslem to pray) from across the street. In reverse, when you stay in Saren Jawa, you can hear the Balinese prayer chiming from the Saren Kauh banjar (a community place). One thing that Balinese is famous for is that their devotion and obedience to their gods. Even though this two hamlets couldn't be more different than the religion the inhabitants devoted to, they live side by side in harmony. 

The third hamlet from this village called Saren Kangin. Like Saren Kauh, the inhabitants are Hindu. The characteristic that differ them is that the gambling custom in this place is so strong. It is common and usual to see men, and men bringing their children, come to the gambling arena. Everyday, the hamlet main street would be filled with 500 to 1000 motorbikes, of the people who come to the arena to fulfill their gambling thirst. 

The problem is more complex than just a simple gambling place in one village. The arenas in these village provide jobs for a lot of village residents. To enter the arena, attendance will be charged with a small amount contribution of Rp 5.000 (5 cent). People who sell foods, drinks, or any other items in the area of the arena are freed from toll. They just have to pay garbage fee, for the person who clean the whole area after the gambling rounds over. 

Aside from their demographic uniqueness, the view in this village is breath-taking. The main street of the village is a downhill where you can see a volcano in the background standing tall. The fields of flowers are seen everywhere, and when they're blooming the colors of red, purple, yellow, orange, white, green are popping everywhere. In the morning, the flowers farmers will come to the field - harvesting. By 9 o'clock buyers pick-up cars will stand by in front of the village cooperation, farmers in queue for their turn to weighing their crops of peanuts and flowers, and other greens. 

In Saren Kauh, we found a lot of polygamy family. A lot of men are married to 2 or 3 woman. The house of each wife from one to another is just in a walking distance. There are even some who live under the same roof with all the wives and their children. In contradiction, we also found some women in their 50's who are still single.

One day, we were shooting a dance performance by the village youth in the banjar where I stood near by the stage. One of the girl there approached me shyly and made a small conversation. The first thing she asked after my name was how old I am and if I were married or not. When I told her that I am 25 and I am not married yet, there's a moment of silence at her end. She paused and tried to figure out why I am 25 and still not married. In that place, even though we can find women who are not married in their 50's and family with polygamy, 25 is still considered too old and you should be married by then. They also asked this same questions to my cameraman and soundman.

When we were there, there was a big day where the whole village had a ceremony. And then we found some elders who can't even speak Indonesian, they only speak balinese. 

There were so many stories that we've got from our time there. From social problems to the supertitious things. But the 4 of us agreed that all of these are just beautiful. When people hear of Bali, they might think about beach, Kuta, or Ubud. But there, in that place, we felt like we penetrate through the skin and see the real beauty of this island and it's people.


  1. That looks very nice :o
    I wonder, can we see some of your film work? :]

  2. What beautiful photos...& good travel I wish I could make such a journey!

  3. Can I come and visit you? :) I love the pictures and always enjoy what you share about Bali!

  4. Your pictures are stunning. I could almost feel the hot dense air and hear the roosters in the distance.

  5. Oh wow your photos are stunning! We're thinking of going on a little mini tour of SE Asia in the autumn and Bali is one of the places we're looking at. I love the idea of exploring the villages rather than the tourist places - it really gives you the proper experience. :)
    xo April


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