A Short Walk in A Balinese Village or "Walking to Villa Nilaya"
Sacred banyan tree, the heart of Mendira Village, East Bali
East Bali is a dream! People consistently comment that it’s the way they fondly remember Bali when they first visited in the 70s. Today, then province of Karangasem is only an hour and twenty minutes from Bali airport thanks to the smooth Tohpati-Kusamba by-pass road built with the assistance of the Australian Government, in an attempt to enhance infrastructure so that East Bali may share in the economic boom which the well-known sites of Kuta, Seminyak and Sanur have been enjoying for years.
As soon as you pass the Denpasar region, and drive a little way, you’ll notice the coastline on the right, and rearing up on the left, the beginning of the central Balinese mountains. High rise buildings diminish, and the paddy fields become visible. After an hour or so, you’ll pass the Bat Temple – Goa Lawah – on your left, and that is the signal that you’re close to the Padang Bai harbour, and the beginning of the marine reserve which stretches beyond the tourist resort of Candi Dasa to Mulu Point.
Within a quarter of an hour you’ll be turning off to the right – towards the coast , passing a volley ball ground and a huge banyan tree… as you enter the village of Sengkidu… you’re just minutes away from Villa Nilaya!
The walk from Candi Beach Cottages to Villa Nilaya takes about 10-15 minutes. It’s a direct route which, for the main part, takes you along a pretty backstreet of Sengkidu, a Balinese village where the traditional village life proceeds unabated.
The street is lined with walled houses, small shops (equivalent to our corner store), village meeting places, a restaurant or two and a road side open eating place common in Bali and known as a warung. Balinese temples which stand like elaborate sentries protecting the ‘lands’ are enlivened by daily ‘offerings’ that explain the smell of incense that floats in the air.
I have walked this path many times and it is one of the great joys for me when I’m in Bali. You rarely see a motor vehicle although you do see those low powered motorbikes which are a popular form of transport throughout Bali. You will meet villagers along the way. They are shy and generally won’t initiate a greeting as you pass. However, if you say ‘Hi’ with a smile, they will happily respond. After that, the next time you pass they will be pleased to see you.
In recent times I have been able to use some basic Balinese greetings which have improved my connection with the local villagers. You need to know only a few such greetings and if you have the time, why don’t you commit them to memory and try them out on the villagers.
Even if you get them wrong it may cause a laugh but you have made contact and the local people appreciate the effort.
A standard opening greeting, depending on the time of day, is:
‘selamat pagi’ (sunup until 11am)
‘selamat siang’ (11am to 3pm)
‘selamat sore’ (3pm to sunset
‘selamat malan’ (sundown to sunup)
The correct pronunciation is not difficult. The ‘a’ sounds as ‘a’ in ‘far’, e sounds as the ‘e’ in ‘her’ or ‘per’. The ‘g’ is always pronounced as ‘g’ in ‘god’ or ‘golf’ – not soft as the ‘g’ in ‘page’. Otherwise the consonants are pretty much the same as in English. Don’t get too hung up on pronunciation. The local Balinese mainly understood me, sometimes corrected me, but always appreciated my interest.
On the way to Villa Nilaya in the morning (before 11am) you could confidently say ‘selamat pagi’ to a local Balinese, which means ‘good morning’. In reply the local would most often repeat your greeting but don’t be surprised if they simply replied ‘pagi’. They often drop the ‘selamat’. In fact, after a week or so I also began to drop the ‘selamat’.
If you wanted to say something extra, you could follow your greeting by saying apa kabar, which is literally ‘what’s news’ and is the equivalent of saying in English ‘How are you?’.
It’s not difficult, and the fact you have made the effort is genuinely appreciated. And you will feel good having established a a direct Balinese connection.
Just for the record, terima kasih means ‘thank you‘ and can come in handy. Note that you pronounce the ‘i‘ as ‘ee’ in ‘bee’.
Please have a go – it’s worth it.
The last part of the the road to Vila Nilaya weaves through natural jungle tamed by the villagers allowing domestic pigs and cattle to graze. Notice the ‘living’ fences made out of cuttings which have been planted in a line and have ‘struck’ making fence posts out of saplings.
You can expect to see villagers going about their traditional occupations such as climbing the coconut trees to remove the coconuts, clearing the foliage, tending the animals, collecting honey, and so on.
It’s just a great walk – nothing spectacular just charm and delight. A wonderful experience to remember.