What’s in a name?

The beach is hard to avoid in Bali and even though I’m not much of a beach bum I decide I should give it a go. So we headed out to Sanur. No agenda, just a whole day of unplanned chill time. Tripadvisors describes it as “a laid back beach scene, where hip Europeans that have outgrown the party scene come to recharge.” I can identify with that. Does this mean I am getting old? Well, at least I’m still hip.


We stroll down the esplanade that is riddled with pretty  beachfront retreats, restaurants, shops, bars and massage saloons. We head out to the beach from where we have our first view of Gunung Agung, the highest volcano on Bali which we hope to climb somewhere in the next few days.  

View of the ocean. In the distance Gunung Agung is visible

View of the ocean. In the distance Gunung Agung is visible

Lots of people are flying kites on the beach. July and August mark the start of the windy season, and every year around this time the skies become peppered with flecks of vibrant color during the International Kite Festival where teams compete for prizes.  A man approaches and strikes up a conversation. He is there with his nephew who is flying a highly decorated bird-shaped kite with long frills trailing from it’s tail. He introduces himself as Ketut. “You are not the first Ketut I have met”, I tell him. One thing I’ve quickly discovered when talking with the locals is that everyone seems to share the same names, the most popular being Wayan, Made, Nyoman, and Ketut. However, unlike many other cultures, the Balinese do not have shared family names, so it can be quite tricky trying to determine one Wayan from another.

There is a reason for this: In general, Balinese people name their children depending on the order they are born, and the names are the same for both males and females. The firstborn child is named Wayan, Putu or Gede, the second is named Made or Kadek, the third child goes by Nyoman or Komang, and the fourth is named Ketut. If a family has more than four children, the cycle repeats itself, and the next ‘Wayan’ may be called Wayan Balik, which loosely translates to ‘another Wayan’. Traditionally they will only add word “I” for male and “Ni” for female in front of their names. Easy enough.

“Are you married?”, Ketut wants to know.  Balinese people seem quite eager to find out more about your personal life. These questions are not meant to be impolite, and neither is the look of pity on Ketut’s face when I admit that I am not married. “What about you?”, I ask. “Are you married? Do you already have a couple of little Ketuts?” He laughs, no not yet. Meanwhile Jack is having a go at the beautiful bird kite. which makes a few dangerously sharp loops in the air before it plummets into the ocean.

Flying kites on the beach

Flying kites on the beach

The sun is setting, marking the end of a perfectly relaxed first day. Locally Sanur is sometimes referred to as S’nore, creating the perception that it is a sleepy coastal town where only the retired folks retreat to and nothing is open past 8pm. True, It is not a big party place. But if you are not here for that the town has plenty to entertain. And besides, what’s in a name?


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