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Long-term living on Bali – Hindu full moon ceremony

Continued from part 2…

This is a series about various observations and reflections I’ve had while staying in Ubud, Bali for a month.

How we got to go to the full moon ceremony aka Bulan Purnama

We (Amy and I) noticed that the hostess and the rest of the staff regularly went to the nearby Pura Puseh temple in Ubud and since the staff has been so overly friendly and forthcoming towards us with everything else we thought we’d ask them if they could take us. We thought about going to the temple ourselves to see but I’m glad we didn’t because it would have been like sending two elephants into a porcelain house – we’d stick out like two sore disrespectful thumbs.

“At this point we didn’t know what kind of experience to expect and honestly I just thought it would be a standard Sunday ceremony.”

They suggested we go a few Sundays later (yes, you guessed it – they said yes) and without thinking further about it we smiled, said thanks and started to look forward. At this point we didn’t know what kind of experience to expect and honestly I just thought it would be a standard Sunday ceremony. We would later find out that this was actually a bi-annual event called Bulan Purnama, a full moon ceremony that lasted for four days!

Full moon ceremony, bulan purnama balinese clothes
The staff that was friendly enough to take us to full moon ceremony. It’s Amy on the left.

Full moon ceremony preparations

After visiting countless temples around South East Asia you’ve become used to certain requirements to clothes (long pants, cover your shoulders etc.) but for this ceremony the requirements to clothes were even more strict. Two bags of clothes were kindly handed over to us from the staff prior to the ceremony. One bag for me and one bag for Amy.

Amy’s bag contained:

  • Sarong – A sort of skirt to wear as the lower part of the dress
  • Corset – In earlier days the women went topless.
  • White shirt – In our group we all wore the same style shirt and I think it represents caste/family/relationship.
  • Selandang – A colourful piece of cloth tied around the white shirt as a belt.
classic balinese clothes full moon ceremony
Traditional Balinese attire. The sarong, the selandang, the corset and the white shirt.

My bag contained:

  • Large colourful sarong – Used as inner sarong and only the front part could be seen
  • Small white sarong – Used as outer sarong to create a two-layer effect
  • White shirt
  • Selandang – same as for the women
  • Udeng – A special type of white hat worn by all men.
wearing traditional balinese attire full moon ceremony bali
Wearing the traditional Balinese attire


With these clothes, we felt significantly more prepared. It was also at this point we realized the grandeur of the ceremony. They didn’t do this every weekend. Since the women had all set up their hair and the men were wearing hats literally no one was wearing helmets. It seemed the whole region was heading for the temple.

“With these clothes, we felt significantly more prepared. It was also at this point we realized the grandeur of the ceremony.”

Arriving at Pura Puseh (the temple)

As we approached the temple of Pura Puseh in the middle of Ubud we saw hundreds of locals dressed in local attire and a nearby field had been turned into a parking lot to accomodate all the motorbikes rolling up.

If you’ve been in a similar situation you’ll know that it can be very overwhelming to be so suddenly and deeply submerged into foreign culture. You don’t know where to go and what to do – and more importantly: you don’t know what not to do.

full moon ceremony in bali ubud
The full moon ceremony (Bulan Purnama) is in full effect!

To give an example, you are supposed to go by a small fountain next to the entrance and sprinkle yourself with holy water before you enter the temple. It’s easy to miss a detail like that so you’ve got to pay close attention to avoid showing disrespect.

“Anyone who’s been in similar situations knows that it can be very overwhelming to be so suddenly and deeply submerged into foreign culture

The Full moon ceremony commences

The ceremony starts in the morning but doesn’t end till around 10pm because of the many waves of people having to go through the full ceremony. It takes about 1 hour for a ceremony but two parallel ceremonies happen simultaneously – one in the outer temple and one in the inner.

Add to this, the fact that the full moon ceremony (Bulan Purnama) runs for four days straight! That’s a lot of people!

We performed two rituals – first in the outer temple and second in the inner temple. Before each ritual a flower bowl with incense sticks was prepared for every person.

“Add to this, the fact that the full moon ceremony (Bulan Purnama) runs for four days straight! That’s a lot of people!”

Outer temple ritual

The outer temple ritual consisted of 5 steps as follows:

  • Step1: Hold your hands over the incense to “catch” the incense smoke and afterwards pray with your (empty) hands in front of your face. I didn’t get the full details but I’m assuming the “catching” of smoke is a way of cleansing.
  • Step2: Repeat the same procedure but this time you’re holding a yellow flower while you pray. The yellow flower is then put behind your ear.
  • Step3: Repeat the same procedure but this time with a small bucket of flowers
  • Step4: Repeat the same procedure but this time with two flowers, a red and a yellow. Once again, you put them behind your ears afterwards.
  • Step5: This is the same as step1.
full moon ceremony bali praying flowers
This is step3 of the ceremony where I’m praying with my hands in front of my face while holding a small bucket of flowers

My guess is that step 1 and 5 is cleansing before and after the ritual while step 2, 3, and 4 each represents praying to one of the three primary gods in Hinduism:

  • Brahma, who creates the universe
  • Vishnu, who preserves the universe
  • Shiva, who destroys the universe

To make sure everyone follows the same pace, a man with a small bell sets the pace. Each step is performed as long as the bell is ringing.

“Step 1 and 5 is cleansing before and after the ritual while step 2, 3, and 4 each represents praying to one of the three primary gods in Hinduism:

After the ritual, everyone proceeded to the inner temple, bringing with them flowers and offerings.

balinese full moon ceremony women carrying offerings
Offerings are carried around the crowded temple by the women. Mostly they are carried on their head and often without the use of hands

Inner Temple Ritual

Inside was a completely new set-up of Gamelan musicians. To give you an idea of the sheer size of this ceremony, the outer ceremony had about 20 Gamelan musicians while the inner ceremony had closer to 50 musicians.

gamelan musicians inner temple full moon ceremony pular punarna
A subset of the Gamelan musicians performing in the inner temple. The lady smiling at us is our hostess, Wayan.

The first part of the second ritual is the same as the entire first ritual. However, after this is done there is an addendum.

“To give you an idea of the sheer size of this ceremony, the outer ceremony had about 20 Gamelan musicians while the inner ceremony had closer to 50.”

All the offerings are carried to the offer site and while the offering ritual is being performed ladies walk around with holy water (it had a very smoky smell and taste to it) and a second ritual is performed by each person individually:

Step 1-3 is done 3 times

  • Step1: They give you holy water in your hands and you wash your face. This is done 3 times.
  • Step2: They give you holy water in your hands and you drink. This is done 3 times.
  • Step3: They give you holy water in your hands and you put it over your head. This is done 3 times.
  • Step4: Rice is put on your neck and your forehead. It sticks to your body as you are wet from the washing.

Finally, after this step, the ceremony is over and everyone proceeds to the exit. Next group comes in and the ritual is repeated for the next group


kids at bali full moon ceremony ubud
Two adorable kids at the full moon ceremony.

After the full moon ceremony

Although most people have the whole weekend and monday off there are still things to do and a large chunk of the ceremony goers head straight home. The majority though, sticks around and participates in the general festivities across the road from the temple where everyone is dancing and singing.

Around 12pm everything ends, the streets can finally rest and only the silence sticks around; until the next the day when the cycle repeats.

Long-term living in Ubud, Bali – The foreigners

When we first arrived to Ubud, Bali, we didn’t have a place to stay and the only thing I had looked up before was Hubud (a co-working space in Ubud) and that generally Ubud was a nice city to stick around in for a while – away from the very touristy and crowded Bali beaches.

The first two nights we spent at a run-of-the-mill place near the airport as it would just serve as a base to find our actual long term place in Ubud, Bali about 40km’s north (or about 1½ drive on motorbike). The first two days were spent running around looking for places, renting a motorbike and a lot of transportation time between Ubud and Denpasar. For those interested in how we found a place and what the prices were/are in the area for housing, motorbikes etc. please drop me a comment below or contact me here and I’ll be happy to help.

Without beating around the bush anymore, here are some semi-random observations I’ve made over the last two weeks.

The (foreign) tourists in Ubud, Bali

The crowds are noticeably older and much different from the typical teens, early 20’s backpackers so infamously present at the islands of south Thailand for example. In fact, most of them aren’t even backpackers but here for longer term (1+ years). They are not travelling only on budgets but have jobs of some sorts that they can work on from Bali which lets them keep on going for much longer than what a typical vacation budget can sustain. You also get a much more pronounced week rhythm like in “normal” cities with more nightlife in the weekends and less during weekdays because people actually work on weekdays. With islands like Koh Phi Phi (south Thailand) everyone’s on vacation and you have no idea what day of the week it is – the party is there every day all year around.

hubud co-working space in ubud
The Hubud co-working space on an early monday.

Why is this? I think the answer is simple – the beer is expensive and there are no beaches. With an hour to the nearest beach and beer at about 30000 IDR ($2,5) this is not where the typical tourist heads. Especially not when you’re already on Bali – an island overflowing with famous beaches. Ubud has lots of drowsy but pleasant rice paddies though and because the city is a bit up the mountains the temperature is more tolerable (~30 C). At this point, the city also has a reputation for having a good work environment and networking potential which further attracts more digital nomads.

ubud frisbee team
Part of the Ubud frisbee team. Serves well to illustrate a sample of the Ubud crowd

Lastly, you also get your richer Australians looking for a get-away, honeymooners and other such types but they keep mostly to themselves in resorts or private villas.

Yoga, vegan food and organic food

Expanding on the previous topic about the types of people you see here there is an abundance of alternative lifestyles walking around. If having quit your stable 9-5 job and uprooted your life to work location independently – either freelancing, e-commercing or likewise isn’t “alternative” enough for you, you come here. When we were looking for a place to stay we saw many offers of, for example, yoga collectives where meat is banned and yoga instruction is free with the rent. Everywhere out in the rice fields you see these villas turned collectives.

yoga, meditation cacao ceremony ubud
A “cacao” ceremony in Ubud. 4 hour long circle ceremony with all things spiritual. Quite an extraordinary experience

There are lots of vegan/vegetarian restaurants and organic alternatives. Most of the menus (except the local shops) boast gluten-free alternatives or are organic only. The shops are flooding with high quality (and expensive) wares made using sustainable materials and definitely cater to a more demanding crowd than your typical “whatever is cheaper” type of person.

This also stems well with the fact that everyone’s a bit older here and have a bit more buying power. Most people here aren’t just teenagers on a gap year but are fully submerged in whatever lifestyle they chose. Prices on housing is given in monthly and yearly rates rather than daily.

The local market in central Ubud

A funny thing to remark is the local market. From 5:30am to about 7:30am the central market in the city is booming with locals buying fresh, cheap and overall delicious fruit and vegetables. Many small trucks turned stores come rolling in with fresh produce every morning. Then magically around 8am all these stalls vanish and the whole market turns into a tourist trap with cheap china jewelry, bintang (local beer) t-shirts, clothes and all other kinds of trinkets. At a bloated price. If you’ve got the morning constitution to get up early it’s an exciting transformation to witness.

This concludes part 1 of the series about Ubud, Bali – part 2 is ready here!

Top 5 things to do around Bali, Indonesia

So you’ve just arrived to Bali fresh from the plane and you’ve found a place to stay and you need something to do – you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got both top tourist spots and your hidden gems.

If you’re not quite that far yet and still need a place to stay you should check out Bali hotel deals. In case you are ready for some over-the-top honeymoon worthy luxury Alila Seminyak is a good place to start for that once in a lifetime experience. Otherwise if that doesn’t intrigue you, many other cheaper alternatives can be found on that same page.

1. Tanah lot

This is one of the biggest attractions on Bali with many people making the pilgrimage every day. Tanah lot is a row of waterside temples and astounding views. Picture worthy indeed and a great place to visit. If you have the option get here for sunset. It’s beautiful.

MAP: Tanah Lot

tanah temple bali
This is not the actual Tanah Lot temple but one of the nearby temples as it is a whole row of temples.

2. Pengempu Waterfall (aka. Air Terjun Pengempu)

This is a small but beautiful waterfall you won’t see listed anywhere else. It is not hard to find and the 30 minutes we were there not a single other person showed up. Another couple showed up when we left but that’s it.

To get to the waterfall from the road you have to climb some steps which takes about 10 minutes give or take. Nothing that can’t be done in flipflops.

MAP: Pengempu Waterfall

pengempu waterfall bali
A nice little waterfull off the beaten track

3. GitGit waterfall

Probably the most famous waterfall on Bali so expect to see a lot of tourists there. As this is a list of top things to do in Bali, It’d be a shame to leave this one out.

Popular for its bridge walkway and cool water where you can take a swim, makes this place worth a visit.

MAP: Gitgit Waterfall

git git waterfall bali
Git Git Waterfall

Photo source:

4. Ubud local nightmarket (aka. Pasar Senggol Sindu)

I lived in Ubud for a month and for the first two weeks I wasn’t able to find a local market to buy my necessities like clothes and everyone just led me to the supermarkets near Ubud (western style indoor supermarket with aircondition) – even the locals.

Finally, one day I found the market as I was casually driving by and it was just as I had hoped. Cheap clothes, cheap shoes, cheap food. We’re talking less than $1 per meal. I didn’t see a single other foreigner when I was there.

MAP: Ubud local nightmarket

ubud night market bali
The night market in Ubud. Sorry for the bad quality of the picture!

5. Mt. Batur

The volcano on the Island of Bali. It’s active. Many tours are arranged here and fun things such as cooking your own food using the heat from the lava are on the program. Ask any travel agency about the details and if you’re adventurous go do it yourself. Hiking up to see the sunrise is a prominent activity and very popular. Get there before the crowds (start around 3:30am) and you’ll have a pleasant ascend.

I’ve heard rumours that scams are going on where they tell you that guides are mandatory. It’s not true (!) and it’s easy to find the way by yourself. Although, as before, if you prefer to just relax and let someone else guide you – the guides aren’t expensive.

MAP: Mt. Batur

mt. batur bali sunrise
The beautiful Mt. Batur at sunrise.

Photo source:


To get around, the local way, I would rent a scooter. They are about 60-100k IDR / day (=$4.5 – $8) for a new model scooter and all they require is a scanned copy of your passport (they’ll copy it for you). You are then free to roam wherever you may please at your own pace and that’s freedom like nothing else. Be aware that you get no insurance with that price and that traffic can be terrible. I would not recommend renting a scooter here if this is your first time.

If motorbiking is not your thing you can rent a car + driver for a full day for around 250k (=$20), at least when I checked last time in Ubud. So if you’re 4 people or you prefer a car this is definitely a viable alternative.

The beaches of Bali

I didn’t mention any of the beaches but they are everywhere. If you’re out for that resort style beach with comfy chairs and cocktails, the south Kuta peninsula is your go-to place.

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