Don’t rush around the island. It is traditional for the Balinese to visit multiple family temples on Galungan with five members of family, dressed in their finest wardrobes, crammed onto a motorbike. Be prepared for lots of traffic. There’s no reason to dart around Bali like a pinball for this festival. Find one place that feels good to you and visit three or four small villages in that region either by foot or bicycle.
Hire a guide. Bali is a crazy place to drive and the most sublime and hidden treasures are off the beaten path so ask your friends, your hotel, or search on the internet for recommended guides who can drive you around the island. We recommend [email protected].
Beware of animal blood. If you’re a little squeamish about animal slaughter, we recommend you lounge by the pool on Penampahan, the day before Galungan, as pigs, turtles and livestock are offered as sacrifices to the gods on that day. If it makes you feel any better, this ritual suggests that these animals will come back as higher creatures in their next life.
Watch a Barong dance. Troupes move from village to village and temple to temple to perform this classic dance that describes the fight between good and evil - Barong and Rangda.
Experience a cremation ceremony. The ultimate Balinese festival, cremation ceremonies happen sporadically in various villages around the island. It’s best to ask your hotel or a guide to direct you to one near you and don’t feel awkward joining into the festivities as most locals appreciate your desire to honor their loved ones’ lives.
Read this book. Fred B. Eiseman Jr’s essays on Religion, Ritual, and Art captured in the book “Bali: Sekala & Niskala” is a must-read for anyone who is fascinated with Bali’s unique affection with festivals and how these festivals connect with the island’s culture.
Fly to Denpasar, Bali which is more accessible by air than many people imagine given how many resorts are on the island.
Galungan is celebrated throughout the island, but nowhere is it more interesting than in the cultural center of Ubud, 60-90 minutes north of the airport (depending upon the occasionally horrendous traffic).
As for accommodation, Bali has a wide variety of choices from homestays for $20 per night to super-luxe resorts for $2,000 per night. There can be value in booking just a few nights in one place at the start of your time Bali visit and then transferring over to another hotel or homestay as you travel around the island. One of our favorite activities is touring multiple hotels and resorts to see such impressive resort design. Room rates vary quite widely depending upon the time of year and amount of demand. Galungan doesn’t necessarily create substantial demand and, thus, you might find paradise at a bargain if you look around.