Bali is an fascinating island and without the beautiful Balinese people the picture of this island would not be complete.
Whenever I'm in Bali I love to see the Balinese street scene which is a colorful display of people being together, sharing food, taking care of each others children, chatting away or preparing for the many religious Bali events.
It is also immediately evident that the Balinese take pride of their culture and appearance.
When the first European people set foot on the island they were enchanted by the beauty of the Balinese people and until today the beauty is still evident.
Bali might not be the most economically wealthiest part of the world but the people are undoubtedly rich in their social, religious and physical appearance.
The appearance of the Balinese people do differ in the different parts of the island though.
Especially in the north, west and some eastern parts of the island you can see the daily struggles the people have to face. While in Ubud Bali everybody seems to be dressed up all the time.
However despite the region the Balinese people come from, they all focus on keeping their body clean. They will bath at least twice a day and sometimes even more.
Especially in the morning or late afternoon the villagers will seek secluded river banks to take a bath.
Once we were walking around the rice fields in Ubud we bumped into somebody who was just about to wade in the water for a bath.
Other times when crossing a bridge we would see groups of Balinese people busy taking a bath and washing their clothes on the river banks.
While bathing men and women also grab the opportunity to socialize and have conversations at the shallow spot in the river.
There are rules when it comes to bathing in the river though...
First of all men and women bath separately. Additionally among the same sex the private parts are always concealed.
Women use a sarong (a wide cloth) to cover their body when entering the water and once they are finished they will change it easily with a dry one.
Another important rule is the men should not deliberately look at women taking a bath and when if you enter a bathing area you must always make your presence known.
Women mostly use natural herbs to keep their skin and hair in optimal condition. Coconut oil is the most popular, especially to ensure that their long black hair stays thick and shiny.
Men also care for their appearance. Don't be surprised when you see Balinese men glancing into their motorcycle mirrors while using tweezers to pull out their facial hair.
Another unusual feature which will have you looking twice are the long finger nails on the men's left hand.
In other countries women only have long nails, but in Bali the longer the nails the better as this indicates that the man does not need to conduct manual labor.
In a way it is considered a status symbol to have long nails...
The daily clothing of the Balinese people is the Kebaya which was introduced from Java by the Dutch during the colonial period.
In the past women were bare chested with only a sarong, a cloth wrapped around their waist. Under the Dutch rule this became strictly forbidden.
Today you will usually see women dressed in a Kebaya which consists of a long fitted blouse and a sarong. Men also wear Bali sarongs with a shirt or jacket on top, mostly on special occasions..
The sarong is also used with just any kind of t-shirt. These are usually worn by women who are working in the fields or doing other daily chores.
There are different varieties of Kebaya, the plain ones or the one with all kind of decorations.
The last one is usually used for festivities, temple feasts, wedding and cremations. For real special occasions the Balinese women love to use their traditional clothing which is an amazing sight.
Men also use a sarong with a batik shirt or a jacket-like shirt. Additionally they have a head cloth called a Udeng which can be tied in various ways.
When using this head cloth it seems that they do not need to wear a helmet when driving a motor bike.
I saw many men wearing a Udeng and passing the police traffic checkpoint without any trouble. But I think foreigners will not be able to use this trick to avoid wearing a helmet ;-)
During a big royal cremation in Ubud in 2008 we were able to see how beautiful the Bali traditional clothing is. Each region must have a different one because we were able to see the Balinese people wearing many kind of designs.
The traditional male ceremony clothing is a long cloth (saput) tied around the chest with a silk scarf (umpal) in which a kris is stuck on the back. Men do not wear ornaments, except for flowers or a bracelet.
Unlike the women...
Their costume consists of a fifteen feet long cloth (bulang) which is wrapped around the upper body and then covered with a silk overlaid with gold leaf cloth.
The underskirt reaches the ground and is dragged over the floor leaving a trail behind. The whole costume is of bright colors with gold woven within.
The women's hair is an art in its self because they often wear a golden crown with many ornaments or their hairstyle is decorated with real flowers.
In Bali it is very common to see women with fresh flowers in their hair and for special occasion the flower decorations can be amazing.
For different Bali events there is a different hair style; from the basic one with flowers elegantly placed in their hair or neatly tied up without any pins or other hair accessories to brides wearing a crown (gulung agung) of flowers and gold ornaments.
When traveling around the island you will definitely get the opportunity to see the Balinese people and be impressed at the diversity of their characteristics and how much care they place in their appearance.
I'm sure you will be enchanted as well...