This year in Bali Nyepi, or the Day of Silence falls on the 17th of March. Nyepi starts at 6am on Saturday and ends at 6am on Sunday morning. During these 24 hours, the island of Bali shuts down completely. Here’s what to expect from this very special celebration.
What is Nyepi?
Nyepi marks the beginning of the Saka new year. In other words, Nyepi is the Balinese New Year and it’s observed according to the Balinese calendar, meaning the exact date will vary from year to year. Unlike elsewhere in the world where New Year is celebrated with loud music and fireworks, in Bali Nyepi is known as the Day of Silence – literally. During Nyepi, the whole island of Bali comes to a standstill with no public activities permitted between 6am on Saturday and 6am on Sunday. Nyepi is a Hindu celebration and marked as a public holiday throughout Indonesia.
What about the parades?
Somewhat paradoxically, the Day of Silence is proceeded by great clamour and noise. On 16.3.2018, the night before Nyepi, the streets of Bali will be filled with ogoh-ogoh parades. The ogoh-ogoh are fearsome creatures crafted from papier-mâché by local communities known as banjars. The ogoh-ogoh are paraded down the street accompanied by gamelan music and the occasional fire crackers. The processions usually start after sunset. Your villa or hotel staff will advise you on the best spot for watching the local parade.
What is forbidden on Nyepi?
Basically, no public activities are allowed on Nyepi Day and everyone on the island is expected to stay at home or at their villa or hotel. It’s also not possible to check in or out of your villa, hotel or resort on Nyepi Day, meaning the minimum stay for any stay on Nyepi weekend is from Friday 16.3 until Sunday 18.3. Even Ngurah Rai International Airport is closed for the day, with no flights arriving or departing for 24 hours.
According to local Hindu beliefs, the following activities are not allowed on Nyepi: no lighting fires (lights should be also kept low), no working, no entertainment and no travelling. Some people even abstain from eating and talking. While non-Hindus are not expected to fast or remain completely mute during Nyepi, everyone in Bali is expected to stay at home and refrain from any loud activities. No lights should be turned on after nightfall.
What is allowed on Nyepi?
So if you’re not allowed to leave your villa for 24 hours, what are you allowed to do on Nyepi? While many expats and non-Hindu residents prefer to leave the island on Nyepi, many also look forward to this uniquely quiet and relaxing day.
Nyepi is perhaps the only day in the whole calendar when you can simply stay at home and do absolutely nothing, guilt free. If you’re staying in a villa, hotel or resort, you can enjoy normal activities within the complex: spend the whole day by the pool, hit the gym, work on your tan or catch up on a trashy holiday read. As no lights should be used after it gets dark, Nyepi is also a unique time to do some stargazing with no light pollution to cloud your view.
One thing to consider is that some venues might be working on a limited staff capacity due to the holiday. It’s good to check beforehand if your accommodation will be serving food or to stock up on some groceries. In case of an emergency, hospitals will still be open on Nyepi Day.
What happens if you go outside on Nyepi Day?
During Nyepi Day, the streets of Bali are patrolled by local security officers known as the pecalang. You will recognise them by their black and white plaid sarongs and udeng head wraps. If you happen to wander off from your villa, the pecalang will simply escort you right back where you started from. The only exception is made for emergency vehicles and women about to give birth.
Will there be Internet on Nyepi?
Lately, the hottest gossip in Bali has been that during Nyepi 2018, even the Internet will be shut down for 24 hours. The country’s leading Hindu council PHDI has appealed to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to restrict Internet service on Nyepi Day, forcing people to abandon their live streams and selfie posting for one day. The same plan was also discussed in 2017, but never came to pass. According to the latest news, the Internet shut down of 2018 will only affect data packages on mobile devices, so using the Wi-Fi at your villa should still be fine.
Nyepi is one of the most unique holidays in the world. After all, where else but Bali can you experience a day of complete silence? In a world that seems to be spinning faster by the minute, we could all use a Day of Silence every now and then. So sit back, relax and enjoy Nyepi!