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Fire dancing at Ulawatu

Somehow we had managed not to see any of the traditional dances whilst in Ubud, despite several shows being on throughout the week! So when we heard that it was possible to see Kecak fire dancing at Uluwatu temple, located on a cliff, with an amplitheatre overlooking the Indian Ocean providing some of the best sunset views in Bali we knew we had to go!


It would take us about an hour to get the tip of the south coast from Jimbaran and we organised a driver to take us there and wait to bring us back after the show had finished. We d been advised to get there an hour or so before the show and that it would be difficult to find an available taxi if we had not prearranged one as the show was so popular. Our driver was a guy called Awan, who also helped us organise our tickets when we got there and walked with us around the temple. Unfortunately he didn't really give us any insights into the temple as all he wanted to talk about was how we would get to our next destination the following day, how easy it would be to cancel our taxi we d already booked and he could take us for less money etc... This was fine, the first time, but he kept going on about it despite us saying we would sort it out later.

The traditional sarong and sash are provided when you arrive so you can be dressed appropriately as you walk around. Knowing we were going to a temple I had chosen to wear long trousers anyway so did not need a sarong and it was just a bonus that they co ordinated with the waist sash you need to wear.


I think its fair to say that the reason this place is so popular with visitors is due to the cliff top setting rather than the temple itself. The temple is quite small and you are only allowed to walk around the outer grounds, catching glimpses of the inner grounds which are reserved for people who are coming to use the temple to practice their religion.


There is a walled path that runs along the cliff with great views and from a distance looks a bit like a mini Great Wall of China.


We had been warned several times by our driver to be careful of the monkeys that live at the temple. They are attracted to shiny objects, have no fear of humans and no qualms about stealing your camera, glasses, water bottles etc... Now given that I can't see anything without my glasses and hadn't thought to wear contacts this would be a bit of an issue if I was targeted, although I didn't really believe that they would be bold enough to take them off your face! However I heeded the warning when a troup of monkeys came around the corner and quickly took my glasses off...and it was lucky I did as in a flash one monkey had jumped on my head and another had jumped onto my back. After a lot of hair pulling and realising my glasses were no longer on my face they got bored and jumped off but that was a close one. I then had to run the monkey gauntlet back up the path being led by Dan as there was no way I was putting the glasses back on when they were close by. It was quite funny and I was gutted that I had been guarding the camera at the time so we weren't able to get any pics of the potential thieves in action.

We timed getting our ticket before the hoards and were given a sheet telling us the Ramayana story that would be told through the dance.


We still had about an hour to kill before the show began so just enjoyed the view as the sun began to set...


And watched as more and more people were squeezed on to the benches...


You would think this is full capacity but no, they kept ramming people in even after the show had started, given there would be a lot of fire later and the benches are mainly wooden, not sure overcrowding is a good thing to add to the mix!

Jazz hands! Well it is a theatre after all.

From our vantage point at the back of the stands we had the interesting view behind us of the performers getting ready. It was great to see how they were putting on their makeup and costumes and also how they were each blessed before the performance began.


The Kecak dance uses no musical instruments and the rhythms are all created by the chanting of a group of men. The main chant was "Chak, Chak, Chak" and on watching and listening more closely we began to relise that not everyone was chanting the same and as the momentum built and the chanting became more complex it was clear why this is known as the trance dance.

As the male chorus created the ambiance the dancers moved amongst them to depict the story.


One of the favourite characters was the white monkey who would from time to time appear amongst the crowd and generally getting up to monkey business, stealing sunglasses and grooming people's hair.


The climax of the show was when the monkey character was surrounded by a ring of fire and had to jump and dance over the flames, kicking at them with bare feet to put them out. I'm sure there were a few concerned people in the front rows! Video upload is not working again so can't show this at the moment.

Can definitely see why people say if you only go to once traditional dance in Bali then go to the one at Ulawatu. The setting really adds to this unique trance/fire dance.


Posted by doyledan 21:15 Archived in Indonesia

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