Inside Bali - The Land of a Thousand Temples
Mark Chaves is a freelance writer and photographer based in Bali. Â His images convey a sense of the essence and beating heart of a truly beautiful island.
When I think of Bali, I think of the native people who live here. For me, the allure of Bali is the people.Â They are that common thread which entices travellers from all over the world to visit. Without them, there would be no magic. The people are whatâ€™s inside Bali.
Similar to other exotic tourist destinations, important cultural subtleties are often masked or overlooked.Â There is definitely more to Bali than meets the eye. I hope to show you glimpses of this.
One nickname for Bali is, â€˜Land of a Thousand Templesâ€™. Actually, there are way more. Every house mustÂ have at least one temple. Furthermore, traditional Balinese live in a compound of houses. EachÂ compound will have at least one temple; most will have more. Every village will have a minimum of threeÂ temples. Bali has a population of almost four million. You might see where Iâ€™m going with this. The specialÂ temples will have a pagoda that could have up to an impressive eleven roofs.
A farmer said to me, â€˜Things just grow here. A coconut, a mango, papaya, â€¦, it doesnâ€™t matter. They dropÂ on the ground and they growâ€™. Whenever business takes me away from the island, the second thing IÂ miss the most is the fresh fruit. The first thing is my wife of course.
Not all travelers are explorers. It takes a deeper sense of adventure and openness to experience whatÂ Bali has to offer beyond the beach and club scene. One of my most memorable experiences wasÂ meditating with this Balinese priest (pictured) at the highest and oldest temple in Bali. It was at dawn. TheÂ temple was smothered in the clouds. The cool mist, smell of incense, eerie light, and ancient chantingÂ created an unforgettable ambience.
I like to photograph what is often referred to as, â€˜hiding in plain siteâ€™. During the peak season, thousandsÂ of tourists will travel up the Batur caldera on a given day - mostly to see sweeping vistas of the sacredÂ volcanos. Some will hike. Most will not. Rather opting to have lunch while admiring the rocky peaks from theÂ comfort of a restaurant. These photos show a couple of gems from daily life high on the Batur caldera â€”Â hiding in plain site.
I call it â€˜Trail Karmaâ€™ from my mountain biking days. Itâ€™s when you see a grandmother and child on a trail inÂ the middle of the jungle high up near the Gitgit Waterfalls or pass by a remote, traditional bamboo houseÂ with its inhabitant seated outside watching the day go by. Trail karma makes you remember what lifeÂ is all about.
Life here is a balance of keeping one foot in tradition and the other in modernization. Itâ€™s also a synthesisÂ of different Indonesian cultures. However, whether you are in an office building or in the rice paddies, atÂ some point you will witness someone wearing traditional formal clothing. No matter how modern andÂ diverse Bali can be on the outside, the enchanting costumes are a constant reminder of what Bali is onÂ the inside. My street photography is mainly black and white. I feel that colours can easily obfuscate aÂ deeper meaning that lies underneath a flashy facade. Sometimes the weight of cultural rituals can appearÂ on peopleâ€™s faces. A viewer could be quickly distracted by the colourful costumes and miss the tellingÂ facial expressions of the two girls.
I live closer to Baliâ€™s interior, away from the shoreline, as you can see from the photographs. Iâ€™ve calledÂ Bali home for almost five years. Thank you for letting me share my home with you.
Besides being curious about people and their cultures, Mark enjoys writing and messing around with aÂ camera. Markâ€™s favourite meditations are a good book with a cappuccino, feeding stray cats and dogs,Â and wishing to be a rock star in his next life. He would be very disappointed if you were in Bali and didn'tÂ meet him for a coffee or a surf sesh or both. Â Â http://marklchaves.format.com/