#UWRF18: A dynamic space to share, listen, encourage, enlighten
THE Indonesian paradise island of Bali boasts events packed with festivities and colors, thanks to the diversity of the rich Balinese culture and traditions.
In fact, aside from the Gregorian calendar that is being observed worldwide, the Balinese has two other completely different and not synchronized calendars: the pawukon calendar, a numeric calendar of 210 days per year and the saka calendar, a lunisolar calendar starting every Nyepi.
This makes for a myriad of celebrations, anniversaries, and a chock full of fun to be had.
From total silence throughout Bali as the island shuts down to celebrate Nyepi, the turn of the years, to grand temple anniversaries which line the streets with lively carnival-like parades, and the smaller ceremonies to mark sacred days, they are all a part of the Bali experience.
Any traveler who spends upwards of a week on the stunning island is bound to witness one of these events and fortunately, the Balinese people are usually willing to let you take a peek.
So long as you are respectful. That goes without saying.
But there is one festival that is not officially in any of the calendars, an event which sees the convergence of thought leaders, activists, writers, and readers from around the globe all in one breathtaking location.
It is the annual Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF), an event that is not to be missed.
After all, it is the country’s longest-running international literary gathering and Southeast Asia’s largest and most renowned cultural and literary event.
Now in its 15th year, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival follows the rhythm of the Balinese life: laidback, wholesome, and cultural.
And maybe a little eclectic on the side.
There are food trails to discover delicious culinary finds and intimate sessions fueled by coffee or wine. As well as panels featuring in-depth discussions about massively popular issues like #MeToo to the ones that desperately need our attention such as illegal fishing.
Of course, let’s not forget the exclusive book launches celebrating authors plus literary gems up for grabs.
Bringing together multiple nationalities and cultures, united by one universal language, the festival serves as a dynamic space for people to share, listen, encourage, and enlighten.
All the while with a hint of the soothing percussions of traditional Balinese music lingering in the air.
And because the programs are held at various venues spread in and around town, it is a great opportunity for curious minds to explore Ubud on foot while picking up morsels of narratives and experiences along the way.
From the lone interdisciplinary artist championing environmental awareness through his traveling exhibits to the UC Berkeley Ph.D. holder and author manning a panel about ethical writing when representing cultures, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival will stir your thoughts and inspire you.
In speaking about his views on climate change, Toronto-Tokyo based artist Daisuke Takeya said, “In tourism, because of the nature it, it causes more plastic consumption and plastic waste, which enhances and escalates global warming. That is an issue.”
Daisuke has conducted numerous projects and workshops designed to aid locals in the Tohoku region following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and has worked with disaster-affected communities in Aceh, Indonesia.
“A paradigm shift is necessary and ways of thinking need to be changed,” he told Travel Wire Asia.
On the other hand, the “Cosmopolitan Creativity” panel saw Under Your Wings author Tiffany Tsao manning a multinational group of authors in a discussion about how leaving home influences the writer’s mind.
Tsao, an ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, is multinational citizen herself – she was born in the US, lived eight years in Singapore then six years in Jakarta before shuttling off to the US for university, and finally settling down in Sydney.
“I think if you asked me five years ago, I would have felt uncomfortable with it. It is so complicated when people ask me where I am from. My accent kind of shifts sometimes so it is really kind of difficult from that respect. It was not practical and I was really annoyed,” Tsao said of her multinational identity.
“But being in my mid-30s, I am like, you know what? Whatever. I am what I am. I cannot fit into a box so let’s just embrace it. I am much more comfortable with it now. I am more enriched by it. It is nice to have different sides to where my identity is located,” she explained to Travel Wire Asia.
After five incredible days of meaningful exchanges and cross-cultural dialogues, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2018 officially wrapped up at a vibrant, music-filled closing party at the sprawling lawn of Blanco Renaissance Museum.
The festival may have ended and perhaps there may be stories left untold, but there will be lots more to be discovered when it returns next year.
If travel broadens your horizons, then the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is that and so much more.
The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is the major annual project of the not-for-profit foundation, the Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati.
It was first conceived by Janet DeNeefe, co-founder of the foundation, as a healing project in response to the first Bali bombing.