I dipped my feet into the warm water and shuffled the sand as the fish scurried away

The earth was still wet from the night before, but the sky showed signs of a sunny morning.

Good. I thought to myself remembering yesterday’s misadventure.

I stumbled out of bed while grabbing my camera which was neatly placed next to my spectacles on the wooden table beside my bed. The road was empty except for a couple of people speeding off on their scooters.

I heard a faint sound coming from one of the houses. Chanting. The neighbors were starting their day with a prayer, I presumed. In a way, it made my morning seem more magical.

Walking around the island
Narrow forest path
Many hotel signs
old contraption random home
child smirking
view of Mount Agung in the distance

After several dead-ends and a failed attempt to go back to the guest house, I found myself on a white sand beach overlooking Mount Agung in the distance. I took a deep breath and thanked god I ended up on a pretty beach this time.

I dipped my feet into the warm water and shuffled the sand as the fish scurried away. Ah! That felt good.

There was a small pathway through the shallow water that led to the other side of the beach. No resorts or restaurants, just some overgrown grass.

mossy rocks
mountains in the distance

The Invitation

When I returned to the guest house, my hosts asked me if I wanted to go with them to a birthday celebration. Intrigued, I nodded my head and sat at the back of Komang’s pink scooter.

On the way there, I made a short visit to a nearby attraction known as the Gala Gala Underground House. At first glance, it was what it was said to be. A house built below the ground resembling a cave. A priest built the house after being inspired by a Hindu epic. The Pandawas made a cave and lived in isolation after they were banished in the forest for gambling losses.

The guide who took me around the cave said it was his father who built the underground house. I asked him if he had lived in the house too, but he just laughed and shrugged it off. Unsure of the meaning of his response, I decided to stop asking questions.

cave owner cave home

The Birthday Celebration

Komang wrapped me in a borrowed sarong before I entered the house. I quietly took a seat in a wooden chair and observed the other guests on the sideline.

  1. Instead of balloons, cake, and candles, the place was full of offerings and incense.
  2. Instead of the usual Happy Birthday song, constant rhythmic chanting replaced it.
  3. Everyone wore a sarong except for the kids who ran around the house.

Believing that no one would notice me, I was startled when a lady carrying a baby approached me and asked where I was from.

They shared about their life on the island and what they did for a living. It turns out that it was her baby who was having the party. I felt ashamed that I didn’t even know who the celebrant was.

She explained that they celebrated their birthday through a cycle based on their calendar. In the western calendar, the sequence occurs every six months. So technically, their birthdays happen more than once a year. I found this article that explained the celebration well.

birthday celebrant and mom
woman squatting in floor
women praying man smiling with kids people praying
women talking
cage child playing with dog
people laughing
offerings offerings offerings

Driving Around

After lunch, Komang drove me around the island on her pink scooter.

seaweed farming
man preparing nets rocky cliffs
yellow bridge
rocky cliff
rocky cliff
rocky cliff
grass growing
man taking in the view
faint view of mountain
cactus yoga plant pointing up
hand reflection