The island of Bali in the images of half a century ago

A trip to Bali far back in time shows us the island we have lost

by Roberto Poeti
A trip to the island of Bali forty years ago

Our trip to the island of Bali in Indonesia was one of the most interesting and intense experiences we had during our tours around the world. The trip took place over forty years ago. The island was considered one of the most exotic destinations, but tourism, which at that time did not include organized and group trips, in those distant lands was made up of a few people. Bali was an island still in the hands of the islanders. With the exception of the town of Kuta where young Australians flocked to surf, it was rare to meet foreign travelers in the rest of the island. The images that I have included in this article are images of a real daily life not disturbed by the mass of tourists, to whom ceremonies, shows and funerals are dedicated today, previously reserved exclusively for natives. I have collected by themes these images which are in order:

  • The funeral
  • The fishermen
  • Women coral pickers
  • Religious ceremonies in the streets
  • The rice fields
  • The collective bath in the river
  • Cockfighting
  • Temples
  • The capital Denpasar
The funeral in the island of Bali

The funeral is a great party, there is no sadness, and the participation of the people is great. The mortal part, wrapped in a sheet, is transported into a pavilion, richly adorned with gilded drapes. From there the body is taken by a crowd that engages in a mock fight with the aim of taking possession of the body itself. The corpse is tossed here and there, pulled from all sides, while the contenders scream and laugh. The deceased must leave this earth for a better life and the struggle symbolizes resistance to this passage. The body, after this exhausting duel, is placed in a canopy the higher the more important the deceased is, surmounted by a large black quadruped, in wood or cardboard. The pyre on which the body is placed is made up of bamboo trunks, which are set on fire for cremation. The ashes will be dispersed into the sea or into a river.


Fishermen with their light and agile boats ply the sea. Fishing is one of the main activities of the Balinese.

Women coral pickers

The women collect the coral fragments that are dragged with the waves from the coral reef, fill their small boats and are then transported with large baskets to the kilns where the lime is produced.

Religious ceremonies in the streets

In the streets at any time, you can see religious ceremonies large and small in which villagers participate.

The rice fields

The rice fields are one of the most beautiful works of agriculture on the island of Bali. With the circle terraces they look like works of art.

The collective bath in the river

Along the banks of the streams with their clear and clean waters gather the locals to wash and cool off. Women and men together naturally show their naked bodies.


You can witness an improvised cockfight. It is a very common “sport” on the island where strong bets are made.


Temples are in every corner of the island. Having been able to visit them when there were still no crowds of tourists, allowed us to grasp all the sacredness of those places

The capital Denpasar

The capital Denpasar is today a city full of cars and smog. In the images of forty years ago the only or almost only means of transport were rickshaws.

Lascia un commento

Ho letto la policy privacy e accetto il trattamento dei miei dati personali