a pleasure-hunting monkey.
Nestled at the edge of Lake Batur in northern Bali, a small cemetery named Trunyan offers a unique experience not to be missed when holidaying on the island. Still in Bali, but the locals didn’t burn or bury the dead.
Curious stories that I had heard about the place encouraged me to go and see it for myself. Was it true that the dead were not buried but instead simply laid to rest on the ground? And that the cemetery did not smell at all unpleasant though the local practices should suggest otherwise?
On my recent trip to Trunyan, my search for answers made for an intriguing, fascinating experience.
Reaching the place alone was an adventure of sorts. After an approximately 60-minute drive from downtown Ubud, visitors need to cross Lake Batur using a motorboat.
From the nearest jetty, called Kedisan, the remainder of the trip takes around 30 minutes. The price may vary depending on your bargaining skills; local guides in Kedisan can be found offering their services starting from Rp 700,000 (US$52.50), which includes a return boat ride.
Fortunately I saw a small ticketing office near the jetty and went straight there. The official price for renting a boat is in fact Rp 560,000 for a boat can accommodate up to seven people.
On the boat ride to Trunyan, where I shivered a little from the cold wind that blew throughout the journey, our guide Wayan shared stories about the locals’ unusual funeral ceremonies.
“We are not like other Balinese. We did not burn or bury the dead. We have a tradition where we bring the dead from our village using a wooden boat, crossing the lake to reach the cemetery, and then we lay their body on the ground,” said Wayan.
The indigenous people live in the nearby Trunyan village on the slopes of Mount Batur in Bangli regency. Also known as the Bali Aga, they are said to be the first population to settle in the Mt. Batur area.
Wayan added that if we happen to smell any unpleasant odors, they would not be from the deceased. It would be the smell of decomposing chicken as chicken forms a part the offerings and was used at our recent funeral ceremony.
As we got closer to our destination, I saw a modest sign for the cemetery along with some skulls that sat beneath it. I suddenly felt a bit nervous, but at the same time, excited.
Onsite, though I enjoyed curiously exploring the eerie arrangement of human skulls on stonewall shelves in unusual yet peaceful surroundings, I must say that the most extraordinary sight at the cemetery was a set of bamboo cages where up to 11 dead bodies were kept along with leftovers from ceremonial offerings.
From Wayan, I knew only 11 bodies can be laid in the bamboo cages at one time. When a new body arrives, the locals will transfer the oldest one to another part of the cemetery and place the skull on the stonewall shelves.
A huge banyan tree known as Taru Menyan in the southern part of Trunyan was also an interesting find. According to Wayan, the so-called fragrant tree has a unique scent that neutralized any unpleasant smells produced by the human corpses.
The word Trunyan itself is derived from taru (wood or trees) and menyan (incense). Thus the name Trunyan is owed to the presence in the village of many pleasantly scented trees.
Interestingly, only native Trunyan who die of natural causes can be laid to rest in this cemetery, which is the most popular cemetery for tourists. There are other cemeteries in Trunyan that cater to those who die young and who die of unnatural
This post is originally published on The Jakarta Post Travel.