Wondering when’s the best time to visit Bali? Many will say it’s during the “dry” season of April through October, but others say the best month is March for the unique Balinese-Hindu New Year, known as Nyepi or “Silent Day.”
Following the lunar-based Balinese saka calendar, Nyepi’s date changes each year. The next Nyepi falls on March 7, 2019, and then March 25, 2020. While most of the world marks a New Year with social gatherings and midnight fireworks, in Bali, it’s a time to cleanse the spirit, meditate, and give Mother Nature a full day of well-earned rest.
“If one has never heard what silence truly sounds like, there’s no better day to experience it than Nyepi,” said Uday Rao, General Manager of Four Seasons Resorts Bali. “It’s my favorite holiday in the world. Where else will an international airport shut down for 24 hours, an entire island come to a standstill to give Mother Earth a break? Nowhere but Bali. It’s an ethereal feeling to hear and see nature in its purist state, without the clutter and noise of everyday life. You will be moved by witnessing the spirit and practical meaning behind Nyepi.”
During the 24 hours of “silence,” Bali’s airport, seaports, roads and all businesses close. The island is quiet and peaceful. Balinese stay home for a day of introspection and meditation, tricking evil spirits into thinking the island has been deserted so they won’t cause trouble. Tourists are allowed to move freely within their hotel grounds, while all public areas around Bali are off limits until the next morning. Most hotel facilities and services remain operational with staff accommodated on-site to serve guests.
There are few better places to watch the Nyepi “inaction” than at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay. Overlooking the traditional seaside village of Jimbaran with its 3-mile beach, the resort’s ocean-front villas, pools and restaurants provide unrivalled viewing points for guests to witness the fascinating spectacle of Bali seemingly deserted. While the secluded location of Four Seasons Sayan feels like Nyepi every day, immersing guests in the natural beauty of the Ayung River valley.
“In most places the New Year is a busy holiday season, but in Bali it’s one of the quietest – literally,” said Uday. “The term ‘Silent Day’ puts off some travellers, but it’s truly a unique-in-the-world Bucket List trip – unless of course you’re a shopaholic or clubber who can’t go one day without!”
Here are our top tips to experience a very different New Year celebration, Bali-style:
1. Learn the flavors and rituals of Balinese cuisine at Jimbaran’s Jala Cooking Academy, or at Sokasi by the river at Sayan. After a guided tour of the local markets, learn traditional recipes cooked in homes on Nyepi Eve, since Balinese are not allowed to use fire during the 24 hours of silence. Available daily (except Nyepi Day), 9 am-1 pm.
2. On Nyepi Eve, watch the local village’s ogoh-ogoh parade. Giant ‘monster dolls’ measuring up to 5 meters high are carried on the shoulders of village men through the streets, accompanied by live kulkul music and dancing. The intention is to wake up evil spirits to join the party, before the island ‘plays dead’ the next day ostensibly to bore the spirits into sleeping themselves.
3. Wake up slowly with morning yoga at Jimbaran’s ocean-front pavilion with views of the sparkling ocean, deserted beach and fishing village. Or soak up the serenity and greenery of Sayan’s Dharma Shanti Bale with a Sacred Nap, gently rocked to sleep like a baby as resident wellness mentor Ibu Fera sings a lullaby and tells a story of Buddha’s life.
4. With lighting minimized on Nyepi night, it’s the perfect opportunity to cherish a Candle-Light Dinner in the privacy of your villa. Our culinary team will set the scene at your villa’s poolside terrace, and personally serve a decadent degustation menu. Choose from Indonesian or International menus, or create your own. Wine and cocktail pairing are also available.
5. See how the stars shine even brighter for you on Nyepi. You won’t need binoculars or a telescope; the absence of electricity and air travel makes the night sky even darker and clearer, perfect for naked-eye stargazing. Or make the most of the Silent Night with our annual Nyepi Meditation Under The Stars, in the stunning treetop setting of Sayan’s roof-top lotus pond.
6. Last but not least, the annual Kissing Festival known as Ngembak Geni is held on the day after Nyepi in Sesetan, Southern Denpasar. This unusual event involves pre-arranged young couples lining up with girls on one side, boys on the other. They are jostled towards their partner for a brief kiss and cuddle, to wild cheers from the audience. Meanwhile, village elders douse the couples with water, adding even mayhem to the mix. It’s certainly one way to shake off Silent Day!