Culture

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The Mystical Batu Caves Temple in Kuala Lumpur

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Ancient limestone caves housing Hindu temples that hold murals of stories from Hindu mythology, the Batu Caves are an unmissable day trip from Kuala Lumpur. Watched over by a golden statue of the spear-bearing Hindu deity Lord Murugan, the caves are said to be a national treasure of Malaysian Tourism and are the central point of  Thaipusam, a Hindu festival in Malaysia.

Formed in the limestone hills, located just on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, the temples get their name from the Stone River that flows past the hills.

The vel-shaped entrance of the main cave is what inspired an Indian trader to dedicate a temple to Lord Murugan inside the limestone caves, making it one of the most popular Hindu Shrines outside of India. Another reason why it’s thronged by tourist is because of a 140 feet tall statue of Lord Murugan, the tallest in the world.

The Architecture and History

The temple site consists of three main caves and a couple of smaller ones. The Cathedral Cave, as the largest cave is known, has a very high ceiling and houses opulent Hindu shrines. The shrines reflect the tales of Lord Murugan’s victories over the demon Soorapadman. To get the blessings of the lord, you have to climb 272 steps up a steep flight, while troops of monkeys keep you entertained with their antics on your way up!

Walking past a 50 feet tall statue of Lord Hanuman and a temple dedicated to the devotee and aid of Lord Ram, you will reach the Ramayana Cave.  This cave tells the tales of Lord Rama in narrative carvings etched along the uneven walls of the cave. An audio guide is available to help you decipher the carvings, but a local guide would be better able to explain the myths and stories surrounding the Batu Cave Temple. During your Kuala Lumpur city tour with your guide from Locaguide, do include a visit to this holy shrine in your itinerary. Explore the fascinating caves for a unique experience in Kuala Lumpur and also get blessed by the lord while you’re at it.

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CultureLocale

Bali, The Island of Gods

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A trip to Bali would be incomplete visiting a few of the famous temples and witnessing the rituals, ceremonies and festivals that take place. Also known as the island of Gods, Bali with it majoritarian Hindu population has hundreds of temples also known as Pura, many of which being centuries old. Lets get familiar with some of the must visit temples.

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CultureLocale

Balinese Culture at Tenganan Pegringsingan Village

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With Bali becoming more and more mainstream as a tourist destination, did you ever wonder what an original Balinese village experience was like in the past? If you wish to see it yourself, then pack your bags and pay a visit to one of the most conservative, original & authentic Balinese village — Tenganan Pegringsingan. It is a walled village in the regency of Karangasem and was once considered to be one of the most secluded societies of Indonesia.

If you are looking to dig deeper into the cultural and historical traditions of Bali, Tenganan Pegringsingan village has everything to satisfy you.

The experience of an authentic Balinese tradition is not something that you get every day. Following a local folklore about a 14th-century king, the villagers still observe the concepts of cleanliness and purity as the most important virtues in their lives. The Tenganan village has kept its culture, tradition, and rituals intact even through the modern era. If you’re a traveller who has little understanding of the Balinese traditions, travelling with a local guide could give you more insights into the cultural significance of this small heritage village.

Tenganan Pegringsingan Village
Tenganan Pegringsingan Village

The village looks really old and secluded from the rest of the Bali island. Even though agriculture and weaving are the primary occupations of the villagers, you can see some souvenir shops around that sell traditional clothes and handicraft items, such as paintings and writings on palm leaves. One of the best souvenirs you can collect from Tenganan is the Geringsing cloth, or the double ikat as they’re known here.

To sum everything up, the Tenganan village is a great getaway destination in Bali where you can delve deeper into the life, culture, and tradition of the islanders. Planning your trip with Locaguide can greatly enhance your travel experience in the most hassle-free way possible. Your personal tour guide will ensure that you get enough information about this place and its history, and come back richer in knowledge.

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Culture

Nyepi – Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence

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The thought of a New Year’s celebration brings to mind fireworks, resolutions, and merrymaking in general. However, in Bali, New Year’s celebration is a day of solemnity and silence.Nyepi, meaning ‘day of silence’, is celebrated by Indonesian Hindus in Isakawarsa of the Indonesian Saka calendar, when the island shuts down for 24-hours. The celebration takes place over six days when shops, banks, and streets close early.

Nyepi - Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence
Nyepi – Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence

Balinese Hindus believe that on Nyepi, evil spirits are all around the island. To avoid disturbing these spirits and trick them into thinking that there is no life on the island, silence is maintained. Every single day of the festival has a different significance with unique rituals being performed all across Bali. 

Day 1

3-4 days before Nyepi, the Melasti ritual is performed in Balinese Temples that are located near the sea to purify sacred objects from temples in the holy waters of the sea. Villagers in Bali form processions carrying idols from shrines, bathing them in the sea and then returning them back to their respective shrines.

Nyepi - Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence
Nyepi – Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence

Day 2

Performed the day before Nyepi, the cea Ritual is meant to dispel negative energies and create a good balance in the environment. Balinese devotees create ‘ogoh-ogoh’, demonic effigies made of bamboo and paper that are then paraded around the island. 

Nyepi - Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence
Nyepi – Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence

Day 3

On Nyepi, the Balinese observe a day of silence, fasting, and prayer. Four main restrictions are followed on this day:

  • There is no lighting of fires or using electricity
  • No one is to work
  • There is no entertainment
  • No traveling

These restrictions are followed by all Bali Hindus and non-Hindus as well. If you’re visiting Bali at this time, you will be expected to abide as well, although you can do what you want within your hotel. Everything is shut for the day, including the airport, ATMs, and stores. You are only allowed to travel in the case of an emergency. Your local travel guide from Locaguide will be able to tell you more about this and help you understand how to make most of this day in Bali.

Day 4

A fascinating practice takes place on this day called ‘Omed-Omedan’ (literally translated into pull-pull) or ‘the Kissing Ritual’. Unmarried youths aged 17 to 30 years take part in this festival, where male participants pull in female participants and kiss them, while villagers pour buckets of water on them. 

Day 5

On this day, the locals of Bali visit friends and family in order to ask for forgiveness. With this ritual, they hope they can start the new year afresh and welcome new days for more prosperity.

Day 6

After all the Nyepi rituals are finished, the Dharma Shanti ceremony is performed. This is like a closing ceremony after which the festivities end and life goes back to normal in Bali.

Nyepi - Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence
Nyepi – Celebrating The Balinese Day of Silence

Though Bali is a gorgeous place to visit all year round, it’s spectacularly unique to visit during Nyepi and definitely calls for a visit to experience it first hand.

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CultureLocale

The Royal Maimoon Palace of Medan

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Along with the raw natural beauty of the islands, Indonesia also has a complex history and culture. If you’re eager to know about the history of Indonesia, the Maimoon palace in Medan is a great place to feed your curiosity.

The magnificent palace exudes the aura of one of Indonesia’s most spectacular architectural specimen and is a treasure trove of stories from the past.

 

Where is it located ?

Maimoon Palace is located at Jalan Brigadier General Katamso, Sukaraja village in downtown Medan. You can hire a cab and get to the palace. But if you want to get adventurous, you can also experience the local pedicab service.

Built in the 1890s by the Sultan Makmun Al-Rasyid Perkasa Alamsyah, the Maimoon Palace serves as an ‘Istana’ or a royal house for the Sultanate of Deli. Its unique architecture and interior designs are influenced by Mughal, Malay, and Italian styles. This palace is believed to be designed by an unknown Italian architect commissioned by the Sultan. Hence, unlike the other monuments, the Italian attributes, fused with the traditional Mughal and Malay designs, make the monument one of the most incredible places in Indonesia.

Maimoon Palace
Maimoon Palace

Though only the main room of the palace is open for tourists, the lavish inauguration throne and the lush green gardens are definitely worth visiting. Take a look at the amazing collection of the ceremonial kerises (the unique Indonesian daggers) and get to know more about the kingdom through the photo gallery in the main room. A local guide who understands the Indonesian culture and history could explain the importance of everything that is displayed in this palace. If you want, you could even dress up in the traditional Malay costume as a king or a queen and get pictures clicked in those attires.

Since Deli Sultanate continues to be the only kingdom in Medan, the heritage and the aura of the kingdom is priceless. Occasionally, traditional music performances also take place in the palace vicinity. So, a complete guided tour around the palace with Locaguide will give you a good look at the past and present of traditional Indonesian culture.

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CultureEvents

The Iconic Kite Festival of Bali

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The Bali Kite Festival embodies everything the island is known for – culture, beauty and unadulterated fun. This annual festival is held in between the months of July and August (sometimes in October) during the dry season to leverage the wind that allows the kites to soar high. It’s rare to see Bali’s bright blue sky free of colourful kites at this time. The air is often filled with Gamelan orchestra music, giving the whole experience a more exciting feel.

Historically, this festival was celebrated to thank Hindu deities for a bountiful harvest. Today, it is easily one of the most spectacular kite festivals in the world. 

Kite Festival of Bali
Kite Festival of Bali

History of the celebration

Kites in Bali are meant to be a symbolic take on different forms, with fish (Bebean), bird (Jaggan), and leaf (Pecukan) shapes being the most popular. These traditional kites are handmade and are a real joy to watch them being created. For instance, you can watch the Jaggan kites being fitted with a guwungan, a tightly stretched ribbon that vibrates in the breeze to create a soothing humming sound. Create a personalized trip itinerary with help from a local travel guide from Locaguide to include a behind-the-scenes tour of kite making workshops.

Kite Festival of Bali
Kite Festival of Bali

If you’re looking to fly a kite yourself, or even participate in the kite flying competition, then the eastern coast of the Padang Galak is the best place to be. The largest event, the International Kite Festival is held here at the Sanur beach and contestants from all over the world travel here to participate. As the festival dates change according to weather conditions, it’s best to check with your hotel in advance to see if they’re aware of the dates. Once the dates are frozen, connect with Locaguide and request for a local tour guide for an amazing experience in Bali!

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CultureEvents

The traditional Legong dance of Bali

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The spirit of Bali has always been in its ancient Hindu traditions, beautifully infused into its art and culture. The music and the dance-dramas of this mystic place derive their storyline and characters from the ancient Hindu scriptures, prominently the Ramayana, often entwined with various elements from the Balinese historic kingdoms. The traditional Legong is one such dance form.

The Legong dance, which has become a Balinese cultural emblem to the outside world, is one of the most popular among a list of cultural dance performances native to this magical island.

 

Historical significance


The dance, which developed during Bali’s feudal era, is usually performed by three young girl dancers. One of them acts as a maid, who dances the opening act and the other two dancers perform the main part. Beautifully dressed in colourful attires, the dancers look as traditional as you’d imagine — with gold brocade costumes, intricately-designed gold ornaments, and headdresses decorated with frangipani flowers.

Legong dance
Legong dancers

Traditionally a long ceremonial dance performance, the Legong, when performed for guests, is abridged to a 90-minute version. There are various versions of the Legong dance, and the most popular among them is the Legong Keraton, which developed in the 1920s.

The dance can be seen throughout Bali during festive seasons, but in Ubud and Sukawati, it is performed round the year for tourists. A local guide can be booked with Locaguide, who can take you to the best Legong performance available for your convenient date and time.

Legong dance
Legong dancers performing

With the help of the local guide, you can ensure that you get a legit ticket to one of these dance performances without getting duped by children who try selling these ticket along the way to the show. Usually, the ticket also functions as a brochure explaining the performance, so that you get the essence of what is being enacted. Each slight finger movement, facial expression, footwork, and gesture of the Legong dance has a meaning attached to it, and your guide could also help you understand the various nuances during the show.

A holistic Balinese experience is impossible without witnessing one of these traditional dance-drama forms of Bali, such as the Legong dance. Arrive early at the place your local guide recommends, get a front-centred seat, and enjoy the performance to its fullest!

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CultureLocale

The local Sea Gypsies of Panglong Village

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Ever heard stories about the community of sea gypsies and wished to meet them in real life? Then a visit to Panglong village on Bintan Island, Indonesia would surely be a treat for you during your Bintan vacation!

Panglong, a small nomadic village towards the north of the Bintan island, is the residence of some of the world’s most unique villagers, also known as Sea Gypsies or Orang Laut.

This remote village, which is just an hour’s ride from the Bandar Bentan Telani port, is one of the most popular Bintan tourist attractions. When you enter the village, you may not find anything different from the other fishing villages. However, a long list of surprises awaits as soon as you enter the village.

An interesting fact about the Panglong village is that it is left so untouched that it has remained in the most pristine form, even in the 21st century. They live in houses made of red bricks, almost resembling the houses of the Eskimos. The villagers call these houses “Dapur Arang”. Your local guide from Locaguide can tell you more about their lifestyle, legends, and folktales about mermaids and mermen as you walk through the village.

Dapur Arang of sea gypsies
“Dapur Arang”

The Sea Gypsies

The village is a unique tourist site in itself, but the villagers are even more special — they’re quite aptly called the sea gypsies. They have lived as nomads all their lives in very simple houseboats just off the coasts of Indonesia. They are experts in detecting the areas with a lot of fish just by listening to the reverberation of the seawater clashing with rocks at the shore. All they have to do is, keep their ears close to the floor of the boat!

At the Panglong village, you can be sure to enjoy your evenings by watching these elusive but real-life sea gypsies doing their daily chores as the sun sets — an experience you can cherish forever! Don’t forget to ask your local guide to help you plan a day trip to this unique place on Bintan island.

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CultureLocale

Buddhist spiritualism at the 500 Lohan Temple

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There’s nothing as spiritually satisfying as a travel that accompanies meditation. If you’re longing for such a spiritual expedition, Indonesia has a lot to offer. The 500 Lohan Temple is one such amazing destination where you can immerse yourself in Buddhist spirituality.

The 500 Lohan temple, also known as Vihara Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, is one of the very few monasteries that is dedicated to the Buddhist saint, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.

Where is it located ?

Located in Tanjung Pinang City of the Bintan Island, this surreal Buddhist monastery is featured as one of the key attractions in Bintan Island. From the outside, the 500 Lohan Temple looks like any other Buddhist monastery. But, pass through the grand stone archway made in the Chinese architectural design guarded by the statues of General Ha and General Heng, and be ready to be fascinated by the incredible sculpture park. A local guide from Locaguide could be a great choice as he can give you more insights into the meanings of the sculptures and inscriptions as well as describe some of the legends and history behind this temple.

500 Lohan Temple
500 Lohan Temple

The Golden Arhats

With 500 golden statues of arhats or Buddhist saints all lined up in perfect order and harmony, this place is truly a spiritual extravaganza. The peculiarity of these lifelike statues is that all of the arhats are sculpted with a different posture and facial features, depicting their characters in its true sense. Each statue also displays the name of the saint at its base.

500 Lohan Temple
500 golden statues of arhats

The incredible Tibetan Buddhist artwork and symbols adorn the surrounding walls of the temple. The Thai style sculptures of the Buddhas along the pavilion. You can see the sculpture of the Baby Buddha, as you walk facing the pavilion.

The 500 Lohan Temple is indeed a photographer’s wonderland. It is best to explore this place along with the other tourist destinations in Bintan Island, such as the mangrove forest near the Sungei Sebung river or the quaint Senggarang village so ask your local guide to plan your day accordingly.

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CultureEvents

Bali’s iconic Kecak dance

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Imagine dozens of men in traditional Balinese costumes, loudly chanting and dancing in rhythm in a large circle, while immaculately dressed actors enact stories from the Ramayana around fire torches. That’s what the iconic Kecak dance of Bali looks like. Based on the Hindu mythology of Ramayana, the actors and dancers enact how Ram and his brother Lakshman rescued the former’s wife, Sita, from the evil Ravana.

The Kecak dance has been recognized internationally as a unique Balinese art form that is performed every evening at the Uluwatu Temple and the Tanah Lot Temple.

Bucket List Item in Bali

The performance draws a massive crowd and is regarded as one of the top 10 activities to do in Bali. You can ask your local travel guide to take you to either one of the two locations and club this activity with a visit to the respective temples for a perfect way to end the day.

Kecak dance
Kecak dance performance

This dance form is quite dramatic in more ways than one and gives the audience a glimpse of rich Balinese culture and traditions in a beautiful setting. With the sun setting in the background, the stage is set for a dramatic performance by the actors, while the fire torches at the centre stage add to the ambience. The presence of fire is of much significance in this dance in order to portray how Ram’s loyal aide Hanuman burnt Ravana’s territory in their attempt to rescue Sita. There are no musical instruments used in this act, but the synchronised chanting of the dancers provide a wonderful backdrop for the entire performance.

Kecak dance
Kecak dance fire performance

If you are looking to have a truly authentic cultural experience in Bali beyond the usual tourist attractions, watching the Kecak dance is a must! These days there are also slight variations of the original performance enacted in certain places in Bali using a different storyline from the Ramayana. So if you’d like to watch something different, ask your guide from Locaguide to take you to the right places. A magical setting, coupled with gripping performances by the dancers, makes this one of the top things to do in Bali!

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