Bali Shutters Airport, Blocks Cell Service And Internet For 24 Hours

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The island of Bali will shut down its airport, internet access, and cell phone service for 24 hours Thursday in observance of Balinese Hinduism’s holiest day.

The Indonesian island will begin observing the Hindu holy day of Nyepi at 6 a.m. Thursday, deploying special patrols called Pecalang to ensure that all people stay inside and that public areas remain silent. Nyepi is the Balinese Hindus’ annual day of silence that begins their New Year, called Saka, and is meant to be a day of reflection and purification. Thursday will mark the second time that cellular service companies have shut off service in Bali for Nyepi.

“A day of silence to mark Saka (Balinese calendar) New Year for us Balinese Hindus is an opportunity to restart life with a pure heart,” hotel manager Wayan Gota told The Associated Press.

“For me, through the ritual of observing thoughts while meditating on Nyepi, in essence I get the opportunity to evaluate my achievements for the past year and rearrange the plan of life for the next year,” he added.

Pecalang have detained and sanctioned tourists caught wandering in the streets during Nyepi. The authorities usually take foreign tourists back to their hotels, which face sanctions for not ensuring that their foreign guests stay inside. Domestic tourists, however, face direct sanctions of about 100,000 Indonesian rupiah, equal to a little over seven dollars.

Celebrations on the eve of Nyepi, by contrast, feature the colorful and macabre Ngrupuk parade, a procession through the streets of colorful effigies of demons called ogoh-ogoh, meant to drive out evil spirits. The effigies are then burned to ashes in a cemetery to symbolize purification.

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