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Sembiran  

by on Friday, 9 June 2006No Comment | 2,547 views

One of Bali’s oldest traditional villages, Sembiran lies 30 km east of Singaraja. Like many of Bali Aga villages, Sembiran is located high in the hills off the main coastal road. From Terminal Penarukan take a bemo to Desa Pacung, then catch a ride on motorcycle the rest of the way. The winding four-km-long asphalt road to Sembiran is surfaced but extremely steep. This lovely country road, passes beautiful hills, valley, and gnarly 20-meter-high sonokeling trees (rosewood). As you approach the village, there’s a giant kemit tree, the base said to have been a place where corpses were laid out in ancient times. From the top, look down on the Java Sea.

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With a population of 8.000, this is a Bali Aga village, where old traditions are not all forgotten. People speak with a distinct intonation and use a few Balinese words differently (for example, “rude” is considered “refined”). The caste system is not strictly observed. There are toothfiling ceremonies, but they are not as important or elaborate as in the south. Also, many of the typical Balinese time-maker ceremonies are not observed here. The Sembiranese have two Days of Silence (Nyepi) per year instead of the single day observed by the rest of the island. Marriage is by proposal, not elopement, nor are partners arranged by parents. There are 20 pura in Sembiran, 17 containing megalithic artifacts and carved stones.

Before 1951 Sembiran villagers wrapped their dead in cloth and laid them out on bamboo platforms exposed to the elements. If wild animals did not carry them away, the bodies were dumped onto the rocks. In 1951 they tried to burn their dead like the rest of the Balinese, but since the proper offerings were not carried out, inexplicable sicknesses occurred and many people died. The Sembiranese returned to laying out corpses until 1961, when they again began to burn their dead, this time observing the proper ceremonies. Nothing untowards has happened since.

This unique village of corrugated iron roofs gets about five or six tourists per week. From here you can take in the whole northern shore, as well as hundreds of hectares of terraced cornfields marching down the valley. Other crops grown include bananas, coffee, jackfruit, and papaya. In the warung near the market share tea and snacks with the friendly villagers, a number of whom speak Indonesia. No organized accommodations, but you can stay in homes. No telephones, but plenty of televisions. No curios shops.

To leave, take the road out the back way to Tajun on the main north-south road. This is a windy, rocky, only partially paved road through one of Bali’s most undeveloped agricultural areas. Traverse rolling hills, profusions of foilage, hidden valleys, poor desa -about as wild as Bali gets.

Source: Bali Handbook Bill Dalton

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