Category Archives for "General"

What your Bali Tour Guide won't show you – Cockfighting

One of the secrets of Bali that your tour guide will not show you is the illegal practice of cock fighting.

The Indonesian government made all forms of gambling including cock fighting illegal in 1981.  Prior to this, big time professional events in large public arenas were a daily occurrence throughout the island.  The big events are a thing of the past, but cock fighting is still very much alive in Bali.

The existence of cock fighting is more confusing when realising it becomes part the Balinese Hindu religion.  A major part of the religion is to make offerings for many different good and evil spirits.  Visitors to Bali would be aware of some of the offerings placed on the ground and at temples.  There are some ceremonies that require a blood sacrifice.  At these ceremonies, cock fighting is legal.

Cock fighting and betting on the result, has been a popular obsession with Balinese men for generations.  Many forms of gambling in western societies are anti social, but cock fighting is quite the opposite.  It is a very social event.

Many Balinese men own one or more fighting cock.  They are kept in rattan cages and fed high quality food to develop muscle.  The cages can often be seen on the side of the road during the day, to make the birds used to noise.  In the afternoon you will see men sitting in groups, chatting, and grooming their birds.

The fight is called tajen, a word derived from the steel blade tied to the cock’s leg, taji.  So complex and mysterious is the sport of cockfighting, that there are around 75 words used that are not used anywhere else in the Balinese vocabulary.   There are also beliefs that certain coloured cocks should not fight certain other colours on particular days depending on the phase of the moon.

The men and their birds assemble at the location of the event.  By the temple if it is a legal event, or some more obscure place if it is not.  The preliminaries involve much noise and colour.  The owners or handlers need to find an opponent and then fix the bet.  This is a very time consuming activity.  After 3 or 4 pairings have been made which is considered one set of matches, the preparations for the fight begin.

The blade or taji is fixed to the cock’s leg.  This is done by a third person, a specialist, not the owner or handler.  It will be fixed in different positions, depending on the size and weight of the cock.  There are many unusual stories about the taji that lends more intrigue to cock fighting.  It is said that menstruating women should not look at or touch the taji.  Some say that the taji should only be sharpened in the light of the moon.  Undoubtedly there are dozens of different myths from village to village.

Before the fight can commence, the side bets need to be made.  The cocks are brought into the ring and the referee announces the central bet that was previously established between the owners.  This is where the chaos begins.  Yelling, arm waving and hand signals go on around the ring while the wagers are set.  This too can take some time.  Another interesting point is that the wagers are made in ringgit, a unit of money used by the Dutch many years ago.  Nowhere in Bali is the ringgit quoted other than at the cockfights.

The fight itself also has some complex rules.  It usually only lasts a few minutes and the fight is over.  All side bets are paid with money being tossed and handed around the ring.  The owner of the winning cock takes the entire central bet, and also the body of the losing cock.  It will not be wasted.

Cock fighting has been a popular obsession with the Balinese for generations.  With the intrigue, the mystery, excitement, and colour, it will continue to be part of their lives for many more generations.

Deadly Drop – Wine Kills 21

Two Britons have died after drinking rice wine laced with methanol, in what appears to have been an attempt at a mass poisoning on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Alan Colen, 59, suffered a painful, drawn-out death on Saturday after buying an adulterated bottle of local wine, known as arak, from a roadside stall hear his home in Canggu, North Kuta.

Rose Johnson, 48, a British-born painter based in Phoenix, Arizona, died early yesterday in the eastern Sanur area after drinking from the same batch of poisoned arak.

Mr Colen, who has lived on Bali for 13 years, and Ms Johnson, who was holidaying on the resort island, are among 21 people who have died in the past week from alcohol poisoning.

Bali Black Out

At about 6 pm Sunday night the entire Island of Bali lost power.

The blackout created panic at some shopping centers, whose generators could not work automatically, such as at the Carrefour at Sunset Road.  The blackout also created traffic jams at a number of intersections as traffic lights did not work.

The cause of the problem is unknown, but power was back on by about 9.30

All of Bali’s power is supplied from Java.

Ascension Day

Some public offices being closed yesterday caused me to investigate the public holidays.  That was what prompted me to post my last story.

Confused about the Ascension Day holiday on May 22, I did some research.  A quick Google search on “ascension holiday indonesia” came up with some mixed results.

Number 1 result said it was a Christian holiday.

Number 2 result said it was the ascension to heaven of the prophet Mohammed.  There were other results in the top 10 that mentioned Mohammed.

Pretty certain that it is a Christian Holiday.  This is what said –

Ascension Day is the 40th day of Easter. It occurs 39 days after Easter Sunday. It is a Christian holiday that commemorates Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven according to Christian belief.

Bali Holidays

I thought Australia had too many public holidays. Well I guess not. Indonesia has more.

There are four different New Years Holidays, as well as 4 different religious holidays – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu.

Here is a list of the official public holidays this year.

  • 1 Jan –  New Year’s Day
  • 26 Jan –  Chinese New Year
  • 26 Mar –  Nyepi – Hindu New Year
  • 9 Mar –  Mouloud – Birth of the Prophet
  • 10 Apr –   Good Friday
  • 8 May –  Waisak Day – Buddha’s Birthday
  • 21 May –  Ascension.
  • 17 Aug –  Indonesian Independence Day
  • 20 Jul –  Lailat al Miraj – Ascension of the Prophet
  • 21 Sep –  Eid al Fitr – End of Ramadan
  • 28 Nov –  Eid al Adha – Feast of the Sacrifice
  • 18 Dec –  Islamic New Year
  • 25 Dec –  Christmas Day
  • 26 Dec –  Boxing Day

Bali Tourism Still Strong

kuta-beachThe current global financial crisis has had little affect on tourism in Bali.

Bali has experienced solid growth in tourist numbers between January and May this year.  The total number of tourists visiting Bali in March was 168,205, an increase of 4.66% on last year.

The number of tourists from China, Malaysia and Taiwan has increased.  Australia and Japan still provide the largest number of tourists to Bali.

It is not known if the political situation in Thailand has any bearing on the increased numbers.

Authorities do say however, that the improvements in security measures in Bali have made foreign tourists feel more comfortable.

Source – The Jakarta Post 21 May 2009

Finding the right Bali Driver – Bali Tour Guide

What should you look for when you are trying to find a good Bali Driver or Tour Guide?

There are many good drivers in Bali.  But there are some duds.  When you are planning your trip to Bali, you obviously want to get the best value for your money, and will want someone who can help you make the most of your visit.

Getting a good driver can make an amazing impression on your holiday.  A bad driver could certainly leave you wondering what went wrong.

Some drivers will have bomb cars, while others have late model cars.  The difference between sitting in a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle for 8 hours versus one without A/C and a broken seat is obvious.  Pick someone with a good car.

It is important that your driver / tour guide knows his way around.  That is fairly obvious.  It is fair to assume that someone who is driving for a living would know Bali, but don’t take it for granted.  It is the hidden treasures of Bali that are sometimes the best.  Only experience will find those special places.

Your driver should have a good grasp on your spoken language.  Communication is the key.  I am assuming that you will want someone who speaks English if you are reading this.  They don’t have to be fluent, but you need to easily understand each other.  Trying to tell your driver you need a toilet stop by sign language could be embarrassing.

Avoid drivers who receive “kick backs”

You definitely don’t want someone who is receiving “kick backs” from manufacturers or retailers.  Most Balinese are honest hard working people, but a rare few are unethical.  You do not want to be going to the most expensive silver manufacturer in Teluk, and being told they are the cheapest.  Meanwhile your guide is pocketing 20% of the sale.  Or similarly being taken to a “great restaurant” where the food was very ordinary, but the driver received a commission.

The final quality of a good Bali Driver is his character.  The last thing you will need on a long day trip is a driver who wants to talk all day, and thinks he is a comedian.  Almost as bad is someone with no personality that only mumbles seven words for the whole day.  A driver who can talk with you when you want, and then stay quiet while you take in the amazing sights of Bali is ideal.

Do some research and then sit back and enjoy the ride.

Welcome to The Bali Driver

ComanMy name is Coman, and I have been working as a Driver and Tour Guide in Bali for 8 years.  In that time I have learned what people want to see when they visit our magnificent island.  I know how to make your day trips enjoyable and fun.

In the next few weeks this blog will grow, and will provide Bali visitors with a valuable resource.  Our aim is to give you all the information you need, to make your Bali visit a memorable one.

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