The people in Bali are a beautiful bunch. Blessed with big, bright smiles, glossy hair and romantically chiselled faces, many are undeniably good looking. But it is the beauty I found underneath all of that – their warmth, their friendliness, their sheer delight when you attempt to speak their language, that really sets them apart.
This beautiful man works at the Monkey Temple in Ubud and while hundreds of tourists coo and scream at the scavenging monkeys he just goes about his job, sweeping leaves and tidying the place up. He seemed quite bemused when I stopped him to ask if he’d mind being in my picture, he laughed and pointed at the monkeys as if to say ‘they’re the bloody attraction, not me!’ But nevertheless he obliged.
Fortunately, people in Bali always seemed quite happy for me to take their picture, I’d make that international sign of an over-exaggerated shutter push and they’d smile and nod and pause for a minute to allow me to capture a split second of their world.
I guess they’re used to it. But while hundreds of thousands of tourists descend on their tiny little island every year, most Balinese have never left. One of the nicest people I met in Bali was our lovely taxi driver Ketut, which literally means fourth son, who drove us from Kuta to Denpasar. Unbelievably they only have four names in Bali, each one represents the birth order and if a fifth child is born the cycle just starts again.
Anyhow it was on this journey that Ketut explained to us that the Balinese don’t have enough money to travel. Not just because their wages, which may allow them to live comfortably in their local villages, don’t translate into international air tickets, but more because of what they choose to spend their money on.
‘Ceremonies,’ he explained.
‘Our Hindu faith means we spend years and years saving for our ceremonies. Weddings, funerals, cremations are very, very expensive. We spend it all on ceremonies.’
So there you have it, while I am busy saving for a holiday for me, a new camera lens for me, some clothes for me, another holiday for… yep me, many Balinese spend their whole lives saving for ceremonies for their families. And I guess when you look at it like that, posing for a picture is an easy thing to give.
A woman blesses her offerings for the day in Ubud.
Setting the scene for a traditional dance performance at Ubud Palace.
And of course, my favourite man of all, Gung Bawa, who I will be eternally grateful to.