You might not even realise that it’s happening until it’s too late. The signs are subtle, but they are there for anyone paying attention. The shops at the International Airport in Bali close early. The ATM’s are switched off, planes are grounded. Hotel staff finish their night shift early and at precisely midnight the air conditioners will stop working. You might already be asleep at that point so you won’t notice straight away, but in a few hours a thin layer of glistening sweat will have formed against your skin.
When you wake up in the morning everything will seem normal, but little do you realise you are about to wake up on the real life set of a zombie movie. Try to switch on the television in your room and nothing will happen, not even a flicker of power. Flick the light switch and you’ll have the same problem. You might think nothing of it until you arrive at the hotel restaurant to pick up breakfast and find all the plates are out with food on it, but no staff present. It’s at this point that you will probably find a polite letter from the hotel asking you nicely if you can stay in your room for the whole day, the reason; it’s Nyepi. Unless you knew it was coming, you will shortly discover that this very public Balinese holiday will completely ruin your trip to the island.
So just what is Nyepi?
The Bali New Year is also known as Nyepi for Bali’s Hindu population, which as far as you are concerned, means everyone. Unlike in America this is not a time where everyone celebrates with a drink and partying. It’s the complete opposite in fact, this is a time for reflection. It is a day when you should do as little as possible, preferably within the confines of your own home. For tourists, the hotels in Bali also set aside time for the ritual. Some travelers feel this is the best place to visit and experience total peace. You’re not allowed to use motorized transport, no cell phones, nothing. I’m not sure if this means that they turn off the emergency generators at the local hospitals, but I’m imagining not.
If you are a family with young children or even worse teenagers, then you will shortly be experiencing something similar to your car breaking down in the middle of nowhere. Bite your lip, try not to let the rage boil over when your children are running up the walls. Remember, your not supposed to leave your room for anything less than a medical emergency.
If you do happen to be in Bali for Nyepi next year and you can’t take any more introspection, whatever you do don’t have s#x in one of the Hindu temples. Not only does it not go down very well with the locals, but you’ll find yourself facing a hefty Rp20 million fine like an Estonian couple did earlier this week.
Date to Miss: March 31 2014.