REVELRY: One of the spectacular ogoh-ogohs that lined the streets in Ubud for Nyepi Day celebrations.
REVELRY: One of the spectacular ogoh-ogohs that lined the streets in Ubud for Nyepi Day celebrations. JAN BURMESTER

Salute sounds of silence

TODAY there will be no cars or motorbikes on the roads, nor planes flying across the endless blue skies. There will be no locals or tourists walking the streets. The shops will not open and even the airport will close for 24 hours.

Everyone will be confined to their homes, hotels or villas and many houses will have no electricity.

It's March 17 and I'm in Bali for Nyepi Day - or silence day.

This unique Hindu celebration is also known as Balinese new year. It's the quietest day of the year, when people from all over the Island of the Gods abide by a set of local rules - tourists included.

Observed from 6am until 6am the next day, Nyepi is a celebration like no other anywhere in the world.

It's a day reserved for self-reflection, and as such, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted.

The main restrictions are no lighting fires (and lights must be kept low); no working; no entertainment or pleasure; no travelling and, for some, no talking or eating at all.

The only people to be seen outdoors are the Pecalang - traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed.

Nyepi Day celebrations start about two days before with colourful processions known as the Melasti pilgrimages.

Pilgrims from various village temples all over Bali convey heirlooms on long walks towards the coastlines where elaborate purification ceremonies take place.

The processions are breathtaking as parasols, banners and small effigies offer the tourist a truly cultural spectacle.

The day before Nyepi, also known as Saka New Year's Eve, is all about noise and merriment with the famous ogoh-ogoh (monster papier-mache effigy) parades.

Balinese from local banjars (or districts) spend weeks designing and building the ogoh-ogohs or mythical figures, that feature an intricately shaped and tied bamboo framework before many layers of artwork are added.

I'm in Ubud for Nyepi Day and the ogoh-ogoh parade is one of the best on the island.

Each banjar tries to outdo the other, and the bigger and scarier the ogoh-ogoh the better.

As the street parade winds its way to the local soccer fields, bamboo canons and firecrackers fill the air with flames and smoke. The soccer fields take on a carnival atmosphere.

Festivities over, we slowly walk back to our accommodation - the beautiful Honeymoon Guesthouse on Jalan Bisma.

I wake early on Nyepi Day, with only the sounds of the birds in the frangipani tree outside my window to disturb me.

We have stocked up on books and downloaded games for the iPad (the guesthouse rooms to my great pleasure have no TVs) and we spend the day swimming, relaxing, reading, meditating and enjoying an afternoon siesta.

I awake the next day just after 6am to the familiar sounds of motorbikes and honking car horns. The silence is broken.



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