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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 March 2019

Don’t try to visit Bali today, because the island is closed

You can't fly in or out, hit the beach or even leave your hotel for the next 24 hours on the Indonesian island

A deserted ocean at Nusa Lembongan, Bali. Courtesy ​​​Shura / Creative Commons
A deserted ocean at Nusa Lembongan, Bali. Courtesy ​​​Shura / Creative Commons

It's typically known for its beautiful beaches, thriving surf culture and fantastic nightlife - but for the next 24 hours, Indonesia’s Bali is set to be a ghost town as the city has shut down for its annual day of silence.

From 6am today until 6am on Friday, March 8 (Central Indonesian Time), the airport will be closed, shops won’t open, mobile Wi-Fi will be turned off and there will be strictly no music or sunbathing allowed as islanders celebrate Nyepi.

Although the sacred day is a Hindu tradition observed as part of New Year celebrations, non-Hindu residents and tourists are not exempt from the rules and must stay off the streets and beaches and respect islanders’ vow of silence.

With Ngurah Rai International Airport - the only airport on the island and the second busiest in Indonesia - closing down completely, you won’t be able to fly in, but you also can’t fly out. So what should you do if you’re already there?

Serious downtime

Travellers are forbidden to leave their hotels during Nyepi, and street and beach patrols take place with consequences including rule-breakers being arrested - so don’t risk it. Instead, take advantage of your hotel where things will be operating relatively normally, other than no check-ins or checkouts allowed. Many of the bigger hotels offer longer breakfasts, complimentary movies or Wi-Fi and discounted spa deals for guests staying with them during the celebration.

As you're on an island known for its culture, you could make the most of being in a place where traditions are austerely observed and join the locals in their vow of silence. Not only does it this make for a perfect day of rest, it’s also ideal conditions for meditation.

Today, the only traffic allowed on Bali’s oft-moped clogged streets are emergency vehicles, so pick a spot poolside and enjoy zero emission air, even if you’re staying in downtown Kuta. The same goes for epic stargazing opportunities - with an entire island adhering to lights out, you’re in for a moonlit extravaganza when night falls.

New Year Joy

Come 6am on Friday morning, the day of silence ends and things return to normal. Locals will visit one another to ask for forgiveness and perform certain religious rituals together. In the afternoon, head to the small township of Banjar Kaja in Denpasar where villagers celebrate the rather unusual Omedomedan.

This ritual involves the entire community coming out to stand in the main street where young, pre-arranged couples line up opposite one another. The crowd then push and pull the couples towards each other so that they meet in the middle where they kiss very quickly, before being pulled apart again.

The village elders spend the entire celebration spraying the crowd with water hoses and the whole celebration is meant to symbolise joy for the new year.

Updated: March 7, 2019 10:39 AM

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