Uluwatu Temple, Bali, Indonesia
“Chark-a, chark-a, chark-a, chark-a”, and on… the chant goes.
Almost hypnotic, trance-like, the thirty or so barechested Indonesian men sway with the rhythm.
They’re sitting on the ground in a circle – and in the middle the drama is unfolding.
Two young princes; a demon king; a damsel in distress; a mischievous monkey. They all play their parts in the ring of unceasing cantillation.
The nightly performance is very popular here at Uluwatu. Buses bring you from your Bali hotel down to the southern tip of the island in time for sunset, when the show begins.
Through the paths of the temple and past the clifftops with their views across the ocean, everyone walks, until you finally get to the stage.
The performance is called a ‘Kecak dance’, an onomatopoeic title for the sound of the chant. It’s based on a traditional Balinese ritual but was actually created by a German man in the 1930s and based on the famous epic Hindu story of the Ramayana.
It’s complicated plot, with enough twists and turns to be worthy of a television series. But in essence it is the story of a woman who is stolen from her husband (a prince) by a demon.
The narrative follows the challenges and tasks the young prince and his brother must overcome to rescue her.
As the sun sets during the performance, and the sky darkens, the story builds to a climax – a moment when a monkey king sets fire to a castle.
With the orange flames and embers in the middle of the stage, it’s a dramatic moment.
Getting to Uluwatu from Seminyak or Kuta or any of the other main hotel areas of Bali can be a little tricky. You may be better off booking with one of the tour agencies that will arrange your transfers and tickets for you.
There are some options here that are all worth using:
As you’ll notice, some of them include some exploration of other sights on this part of the island. Hopefully there’s something that suits your needs.
Time Travel Turtle was a guest of the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.