Hidden in the hills, 5km from Candidasa in East Bali, is a remarkable 700-year-old walled village called Tenganan, where the residents practice a time-honoured lifestyle based around ritual and ceremony. Tenganan is one of Bali’s original pre-Hindu settlements and a stronghold of native traditions. The villagers are the Bali Aga people, descendants of the aboriginal Balinese who resisted the rule of the post-Majapahit kings, fiercely safeguarding and maintaining their own culture through the conviction that they are descended from the gods.
Ceremonial longhouses, rice barns, shrines, communal pavilions and the imposing ‘bale agung’, where the council of elders make their decisions, have been meticulously positioned in accordance with long-established beliefs. Three parallel cobblestone avenues run north to south, ascending towards the mountains, while narrow lanes run east to west forming a grid. For a small donation to the village, visitors are welcome, and many of the houses function as shops and workshops where expert craftsmen and women perform their centuries old skills. Here, you can see and purchase the famous, highly valued double ikat textiles, known as ‘Geringsing’, Tenganan’s magic cloth. The women will demonstrate the weaving process using small body-tension looms with a continuous warp. The intricate pattern has been tie-dyed into both the warp and the weft threads before the fabric is woven, and great skill is needed to align and loosely weave the two into the desired pattern. A single mistake will spoil years of work. The villagers believe that a powerful energy is also woven into the textile; the ritually significant cloth, used for ceremonial purposes, is said to protect the wearer from sickness and evil vibrations.
At Tenganan, you will be struck by the remarkable neatness of the village, the safe peaceful ambience, the lack of cars, and the laid-back friendliness and dignity of the people. Make sure to visit the honey man at the far end of the village, where you can taste and purchase his wild-bee honey.