It’s the colours that grab you, hypnotic, intense, almost inducing a trance like state of wonder. East Bali is a place of powerful greens, the deepest blues, jet black rocks, and rising above all this is the mighty Agung, ever present, ever watching. Have no doubt, this is,the island of the gods and Alila Manggis is nestled right in amongst it all.
The charming and humble hotel offered something pretty special for my family and I. Solitude, qualtiy family time and a chance to experience some very old Balinese culture.Nyepi Day, the day of silence, Balinese New Year. It is a day that shuts down an international airport annually, it’s a day were lights are turned off, and the citizens and guests of Bali retreat to their houses and sit in silence.It is also deeply relaxing. Try an imaging your city or town… erm off, not a thing on. Just silence. No cars, no background noise whatsoever save mother nature herself.
Nyepi day goes like this. The night before the day a parade of giant monsters, the Ogoh-Ogoh, graces the primary meeting points of practically every village in Bali. Fireworks, music and monsters…and one hell of a lot of noise. We do this to let the spirit world know we are here…and then the day of silence. You see, when then spirits come to find the source of all that racket they discover Bali is empty, quiet and clearly not the source of their concern. The little ruse works every year like a treat, the spirits move on and all is well in Bali for another year. Yes its completely bizarre and loads of fun.
So here we are, Alila Manggis, Candidasa, east coast Bali heading off to see the ogoh-ogoh parade. Its starts with a bunch of 5 years olds and a 45cm monster – 9 little boys in traditional clothes and wrap around sun glasses. Gnarly dude. Gradually we move onto man sized beasts and with each passing creature from the nether world not only do they become larger but more gruesome. Think Freddy Kruger and your starting to get it. The boys parading are in in a trance like frenzy and you don’t want to get to close as bamboo and limbs are whirling all over the place.
Do you remember that scene from Jurassic Park where the kids are in the car and the cup of water starts to shake…its that old saying “something big, this way, comes”. Just as you felt festivities had reach their end a troupe of ninja like musicians appear out of the shadows. There is a lull, almost as if the universe itself is breathing in, a breathe held in anticipation… a rhythmic beat punctuates the air, the cacophony is warlike and upon us is a mighty ogoh-ogoh, well over 15 ft in height this behemoth owns the street, buildings are dwarfed and 20 men, heave and sweat as they bring this lurching beast into the main area….naturally my kids freak out… and so endeth my time to check out monsters and men. So we made like a hungry family for the food, its eaten time.
Santika, Chef Santika, he gait is reminiscent of Master Yoda. Born of Bali, his skills at executing Balinese food are unparalleled. In four years of living in Bali I have never, ever, ever been so blown away by Balinese food as I was for those 6 days. I eat Indonesian meals 70% of the time, when I holiday I don’t eat Indonesian…. This time I would order two mains just to ensure I got to sample the menu. Do eat until your eyes pop, its highly recommended.
At this point you may think I am going over the top..and I am .. and it deserves every letter, vowel and ! that I can throw at it. We were positively delighted by our experience. Please understand it’s a humble, charming hotel, no bling here, just authenticity. You see the secret to Alila Manggis is the colours, they are rich and deep, and they beg you to stare in wonder. And like all great art works their colours, their visages grab you by the soul, your spirit is touched, replenished and sent smiling onto the bright new day.
PHOTO BELOW – My girls – like tigers ready to pounce:-