The Celebrations Never Stop!

* Lunar New Year starts 25 January with a new 12 year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac marking the Year of the Rat!  Call ‘em savvy or superstitious, those who adhere to Chinese culture may advise you to assure prosperity and health in the year ahead:

Get all your debts paid by the 23rd and don’t borrow money on the 24th!

Embrace the joy of this holiday by wearing red (powerful, festive color AND denotes health)!

Avoid doing laundry for the first and second days, the 24th and 25th.

Do your housework before the new year, and no sweeping on the 24th, lest you sweep away all your luck!

Here in Bali, the stroke of midnight may just be the time to catch ethnic Chinese shop owners setting off long strings of fireworks, though you might encounter some going off during the day.  Singaraja, Denpasar, and Amlapura, with sizeable Chinese populations, are your likeliest locations for exciting lion dances.    

*  Got a resolution to stay off alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes?  Want some night life on the straight edge?  Check out restaurant Akasha at Newearth Haven, north of Ubud in Tagallalang.  This New Age retreat space creates magical events, and validates a healthy lifestyle.

*  Time to give back to Mother Earth?  One Island One Voice is hollering for us all to get outside and pitch in to this record-breaking environmental and public health movement. 15 February is the island-wide cleanup, and in east Bali, cultural tour de force restaurant Bali Asli is coordinating the Amlapura team. I can’t think of a more gorgeous place to gather and then wind up for a refreshment afterwards.  Start at Bali Asli at 8:30 am and return for morning tea back at 10, when you and some new friends will have finished de-trashing a black spot in Bali’s countryside.   

*  February 18 is the day of the Galungan festival when Hindu men create all those penjors outside their homes.  Leave the car and go for a stroll in that magical hour just before sunset, to enjoy this spectacular declaration of good triumphing over evil.  Great time to say hello to your neighbors!

* Java Jazz illuminates Jakarta February 28 – March 3, a favorite gig of the musicians themselves.  Just go, and report back to me if you’ve attended jazz anywhere else, with such enthusiastic, appreciative audiences. Sister Sledge, NYC guitar virtuoso Mike Stern, New York Voices, and The Jacksons are some of the international acts to entertain you.  Indonesian greats include ZAD, Tommy Pratomo, and Ardhito Pramono, but there are too many to list here, so check out

* March is the region’s hottest month for visual art, with Art Basel (March 19 – 21) and Art Central Hong Kong (March 17-22) anchoring the regional shopping junkets of international museum directors and private collectors.  Jakarta’s excellent Museum MACAN will be reopening at that time, with their renovated rooftop exhibition space, so keep tabs on to get in on the festivities. 

* Right here in Bali we still have time to see Ugo Untoro’s starkly beautiful works, including video and sticker art (the artist is truly multidisciplined), at Biasa Art Space. Exhibition closes soon (at deadline, their gallery girl knew only that the published closing date of 8 March was incorrect), so check 0361 730945 before you go. 9 to 9, daily.  Jl Raya Seminyak 34.

* Keep an eye out for Cinema Paradiso’s Indigenous Nights and other events created by the Indonesian Indigenous Awareness Group, via fb and other social media.  You may never find a more rewarding cultural experience!

On that note, Paradiso offers singers of any level an open door to their Community Choir. Consider dropping in on Wednesday, January 29, 1-2pm. this is a judgement-free group whose leader gently coaches vocal and breathing techniques. 

Also on the 29th, at 8pm, Paradiso will be screening 1920’s downright creepy yet visually rich silent film Der Golum, accompanied by Angela Lopez on voice and piano.  Part of their monthly program of silent films set to live music.  Jalan Goutama just off Jl Hanoman, Ubud. 0812-3697-4727 

* It’s Beethoven’s 250th birthday this year! Jakarta Sinfonietta plays his famous 5th Symphony, alongside the evocative Egmont Overture and Piano Concerto No 5, Saturday 1 Feb, 7:30.  Worth traveling for.

* Plan ahead! Janet deNeefe’s favorite way to experience another culture is through its cuisine, so she gave us the Ubud Food Festival, April 17 – 19. This is serious fun, with such events as a farmer fire roasting his free-range chicken and ingenious organic seasonings right before an eager audience, who dine on the results.  Try master classes, tasting menus at beautiful resorts, lively debates, travel ideas, and activism. If you’re in the hospitality business, this is a great place to network and learn the food and comfort trends which today’s visitors expect.

By Renee Melchert Thorpe

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