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Inside Bali - The Land of a Thousand Temples

Mark Chaves is a freelance writer and photographer based in Bali.  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. 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 what’s inside Bali.

Similar to other exotic tourist destinations, important cultural subtleties are often masked or overlooked. There is definitely more to Bali than meets the eye. I hope to show you glimpses of this.

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One nickname for Bali is, ‘Land of a Thousand Temples’. Actually, there are way more. Every house must have at least one temple. Furthermore, traditional Balinese live in a compound of houses. Each compound will have at least one temple; most will have more. Every village will have a minimum of three temples. Bali has a population of almost four million. You might see where I’m going with this. The special temples will have a pagoda that could have up to an impressive eleven roofs.

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A farmer said to me, ‘Things just grow here. A coconut, a mango, papaya, …, it doesn’t matter. They drop on the ground and they grow’. Whenever business takes me away from the island, the second thing I miss the most is the fresh fruit. The first thing is my wife of course.

3_portrait_balinese_priest_fog

Not all travelers are explorers. It takes a deeper sense of adventure and openness to experience what Bali has to offer beyond the beach and club scene. One of my most memorable experiences was meditating with this Balinese priest (pictured) at the highest and oldest temple in Bali. It was at dawn. The temple was smothered in the clouds. The cool mist, smell of incense, eerie light, and ancient chanting created an unforgettable ambience.

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I like to photograph what is often referred to as, ‘hiding in plain site’. During the peak season, thousands of tourists will travel up the Batur caldera on a given day - mostly to see sweeping vistas of the sacred volcanos. Some will hike. Most will not. Rather opting to have lunch while admiring the rocky peaks from the comfort of a restaurant. These photos show a couple of gems from daily life high on the Batur caldera — hiding in plain site.

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7_portrait_woman_child_mountain_trail

I call it ‘Trail Karma’ from my mountain biking days. It’s when you see a grandmother and child on a trail in the middle of the jungle high up near the Gitgit Waterfalls or pass by a remote, traditional bamboo house with its inhabitant seated outside watching the day go by. Trail karma makes you remember what life is all about.

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Life here is a balance of keeping one foot in tradition and the other in modernization. It’s also a synthesis of different Indonesian cultures. However, whether you are in an office building or in the rice paddies, at some point you will witness someone wearing traditional formal clothing. No matter how modern and diverse Bali can be on the outside, the enchanting costumes are a constant reminder of what Bali is on the inside. My street photography is mainly black and white. I feel that colours can easily obfuscate a deeper meaning that lies underneath a flashy facade. Sometimes the weight of cultural rituals can appear on people’s faces. A viewer could be quickly distracted by the colourful costumes and miss the telling facial expressions of the two girls.

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14_traditional_market_scene_35mm_film
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16_portrait_man_ricefield_35mm_film

I live closer to Bali’s interior, away from the shoreline, as you can see from the photographs. I’ve called Bali home for almost five years. Thank you for letting me share my home with you.

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Besides being curious about people and their cultures, Mark enjoys writing and messing around with a camera. Mark’s favourite meditations are a good book with a cappuccino, feeding stray cats and dogs, and wishing to be a rock star in his next life. He would be very disappointed if you were in Bali and didn't meet him for a coffee or a surf sesh or both.   http://marklchaves.format.com/

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