Travel can and should be a learning experience. Cooking classes or experiences are a fun and delectable way to learn about a local culture. When John and I were at the Pan Pacific Niwana in Bali, Indonesia, we participated in a cooking class that gave us real insights into Indonesian culture. Hotels often make such classes available to their guests. We have found that people are happy to share their culture and, during a cooking experience, we often learn more about a local culture the goes beyond the culinary aspects.
Chef M. Kadek Ari Utami taught us to make several Balinese dishes, including fish satay. Satays are a popular Southeast Asian dish in which small pieces of meat or fish are grilled on a skewer and served with spiced sauce.
One of the things we learned was about child naming in Bali. We knew our chef was her parent’s second child because Balinese traditionally include the word for the child’s birth order in their child’s name. For instance, “Wayan” indicates first born; “Kadek,” which is in the chef’s name, means second born; “Nyoman” is reserved for the third born; and the fourth born is “Ketut.” A fifth child may be called Wayan Balik which means Wayan again. And so it goes.
Sometimes cultural traditions become part of newer movements such as Earth Hour, the worldwide blackout for energy conservation. We travel in Southeast Asia often and we’re usually in Asia during Earth Hour. In 2013, more than 7,000 places in 153 countries and territories turned off their lights for an hour in an effort to bring attention to energy conservation and the need to protect the environment. For the Balinese, energy saving is just an extra benefit. Darkness is one of the ways they traditionally celebrate one of their religious holidays so they’ve simply incorporated Earth Hour into the mix.
I would love to be in Bali on Nyepi Day, the Balinese day of silence. According to the Hindu calendar, It is the beginning of the New Year and usually occurs in March. It is 24 hours of reflection without the noise of vehicles, TVs, and even the airport is closed to traffic. While most of the people in Indonesia are Moslem (Muslim) the majority of the people in Bali are Hindu but even the non-Hindu people of Bali observe Nyepi Day out of respect. Can you imagine 24 hours without the sound of cars, radios, TVs or any other manmade noise? On Nyepit Day, guests at the Pan Pacific Nirwana hotel can swim in the multi-level pool, enjoy a spa treatment, play golf on the Greg Norman course, and walk to the Tamah Lot Temple—all in silence.