A House in Bali

During my course of stay in Ubud, I lived in two homestays— Taman Mesari at Jl Sandat and Rojas Homestay at Jl Kajeng. There are heaps of guest houses, villas, and hotels but living in a homestay is a unique experience. For  one, you are staying in a real family compound with a real Balinese family.

I found Taman Mesari at AirBnb while I found Rojas by simply going to Jl Kajeng when I cancelled my trip to Lombok and extended my stay in Ubud. Rojas was the first place at Kajeng and it was cheap. I know, I should have checked others out but I was too lazy then.

The Balinese don’t live in stand-alone houses. They stay in large compounds with several bungalows with their extended families. Entering one is getting a quick introduction to their spirituality. Like the rest of their lives, orientation of the different structures are governed by their Hindu beliefs.

Outside the entrance is a small shrine where offerings are placed.
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Main entrances are always narrow but are beautifully adorned with carved lintels and doors.
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These statues of stones welcome you as you enter.

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Because of the belief that malevolent spirits travel in a straight line, there is always a wall to block their entrance. Nope, spirits can’t climb walls.

A statue of Ganesh for added protection.
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Another shrine is also by the entrance to ward-off evil.
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The placement of all structures in the compound are of utmost importance as there are cosmic implications. North (utara) and east (timu) are the orientations of choice. The temple have to be aleays north so it faces Pura Besakih, the mother temple. In fact, temples all over Bali are oriented towards Besakih.

The different bungalows which are the sleeping quarters of the family members are oriented as follows: the parents are in the north while the rest are in the west and east.

The structure on the left is where the Pak or the old man lives. To the right is the family temple.
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All compounds must have a family temple.
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If a house is small, the temple could be up on the roof.
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Once the eldest son gets married, he moves to the back of the compound and builds his own bungalow.

The younger one gets his own bungalow.
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The kitchen is considered a dirty place so it’s in the south.
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You will also see a pavilion with a bed. This is the bale danginwhere ceremonies are held.
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It’s cool having your own bungalow.
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At Rojas, I’m in a two-level purpose built structure with 2 rooms per level and a veranda.
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Here’s my room.
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And this one in Taman Mesari
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At Taman Mesari, I had my own bungalow, which is  usually the case in most homestays. I really  relished staying in one of those because it was like having your own little cottage with lots of privacy plus a cute veranda perfect for coffee or simply passing away the time.

Balinese family compounds are really interesting places and sometimes I would peer into one to just look at the little gardens and courtyards and admire the architecture. They’re also very leafy with lots of plants and flowers.

Even the tiles are decorated.
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You can simply enter any compound that has been turned into a compound. They will gladly entertain you. You are, after all, a potential guest. A family member, usually the Ibu (mother) will show you around.  “If you want to take pictures of my house, it’s okay,” one pleasant lady told me.

They’re usually located in small quiet streets away from the traffic and crowds of the main commercial roads. Often these small streets and even lanes are purely residential. At the end of Jl Sandat where Taman Mesari is, I would sometimes here the neighbor practicing on the tingklik (a bamboo xylophone). Many nights I would sleep to the sound of a gamelan echoing probably from some nearby temple or family compound celebrating something.
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This one is just off the art market and the entrance is an extension of the shop.
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Aside from the all-over feel of the place, staying at a family compound lets you interact with the locals. At Taman Mesari, the owner’s cute kids would sometimes get their procession banners and march around the compound pretending they were in a ceremony.

I like to be as close to local life as possible as homestays let me do that while still allowing me my small comforts such as a Western-style toilet and free wifi. Plus of course, ranging from IDR 150,000 to 250,000 it’s really budget friendly. Some like Rojas even include free pancake and fruits breakfast plus all day tea and coffee at your veranda. Can’t get any better than that.
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