The force is strong…

The Balinese culture is deeply influenced by the belief in the spirit world. Sometimes this is evident, but other times the traditions stay secret.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Spirituality in Bali is a bit like Star Wars. By that I don’t mean that the spiritual leaders look like Yoda (although I’ve seen a couple who do). But more that the people here believe in an invisible force that is both good and evil and controls all living things.

Take the black and white cloths that are wrapped around the images of the deities or around trees. They symbolize the yin and the yang; the light and the dark; the acceptance that the same force that does good also does evil and the two are inseparable because to understand one, you must have experienced the other.

Religion in Bali

I write this post not because I am particularly spiritual (nor because I couldn’t resist a Star Wars analogy). I write this because everywhere I have gone in Bali, this has been one of the big topics when the conversations turn to Balinese culture.

Even the most short-sighted Australian tourist can’t avoid noticing the deep connection the Balinese have with the spiritual world. Temples seem to outnumber the touts offering you taxis and almost every shop or restaurant has a small offering placed outside it several times a day.

This offering is a simple palm leaf basket holding holy flowers, rice and gifts to the gods – money, biscuits and even cigarettes. Its incense stick burns with an aroma that fills the area and surely reaches a divine nose or two.

Religion in Bali

There is much more to the Hindu beliefs the Balinese practice than what an average traveller sees on the street, though. And I got a much deeper understanding of it through a documentary I saw the other day.

No, before you ask, it was not Star Wars. It was called Sacred and Secret by director Basil Gelpke and, despite the disjointed narrative and narrator who sounded like he should be doing action movie trailers, it gave a real insight into the religion of the island.

It showed the path from birth to death… a baby’s feet must not touch the ground and allow the bad spirits into the body until a special ceremony when it is about three months old… and when a person dies they are buried but it is not until a mass cremation (that in some areas can happen only every few years) that the soul is free and can leave this earth to be reborn.

The whole cremation thing actually seems a bit weird. The families will dig up the bodies of their loved ones when it’s time for the ceremony, they’ll wash the bones and then they’ll celebrate as they’re burnt next to the bodies of other villagers who have died since the last mass cremation.

The film also showed quite amazing access to some of the secret ceremonies of the Balinese.

The hectic dancing that leads to trances and men stabbing themselves with their holy daggers; the filing of the six front teeth to rid the body of the six enemies within; and the hiding of the kilos of cannabis in the boogie board bag (ok, that last one was just to check if you were paying attention!).

Back to the serious stuff, though, and I’ve spoken with a few people who have lived in Bali for years and they all talk about how the invisible light has become brighter during their time here. Some thought it was mere superstition at first but over the months and years they came to see its effect.

Religion in Bali

Like any religion, it takes strong faith and belief to commit yourself to an immeasurable hypothesis. In Bali, though, the belief system is ingrained in their upbringing. The idea of karma is strong in their attitudes and their behaviours and it certainly makes for a calmer sense of being.


I’ve got some tips here, based on what area you want to stay.
To be in the heart of the action, you might like Kuta.
For the trendiest bars and cafes, you can stay in Seminyak.
For something a bit more chilled on the coast, try Canggu.
Or for the mountains, the obvious choice is Ubud.


If you’re looking for something affordable in Kuta, I would recommend Green Garden Hotel.


And, even though it’s got a central location, Amnaya Resort offers peaceful affordable luxury.


When it comes to Seminyak, I would suggest CR Tris Rooms for an affordable hotel.


And for modern luxury, Kanvaz Village Resort is wonderful.


For Canggu, a lovely hotel at a reasonable price is Perissos Echo Beach.


For some stunning accommodation, the Haven Suites in Canggu is fantastic.


And in Ubud, I would recommend Ubud Tropical Garden 2 for an affordable hotel.


Or, for a really special boutique place, have a look at Calma Ubud.

4 thoughts on “The force is strong…”

  1. Hiya I loved your great blog post on The Balinese spirituality has many customs and ceremonies. Hey, I’m a random reader, but I LOVE your idea! I would totally buy into it


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