From 6am on the morning of Nyepi until 6am the following morning, locals stay in their homes, meditate, fast, and observe general peacefulness. The TV, radio, and internet providers shut down, businesses are closed, and the only people on the road (other than emergency medial services) are a few pecalang (local security) who patrol to make sure nobody is out and about.
Although Nyepi is a Hindu holiday, the entire island is required to participate. Non-Hindus are respectful and follow the rules.
Festivities Surrounding NyepiWeeks before the holiday, the locals start gearing up. They are busy with a ceremonies, cleansing, making offerings, hanging banners, preparing food, and building papier-mache ogoh-ogoh!
There always seems to be something beautiful and cultural going on. There are pre-Nyepi ceremonies such as Melasti where each village has a procession to the water (sea or lake) to cleanse their spiritual artifacts. There was a very large ceremony at the Denpasar park the day before Nyepi, and the temples are all much more active during this time. It's a wonderful time to be on Bali.
Then there's the Ogoh-Ogoh parade the night before to chase away the evil spirits (see Ogoh Ogoh in Bali and the Single Best Place to Watch the Parade and Ohhhhgo ogoh - What a Parade! ). There's even a kissing celebration called Omed-Omedan in Banjar Kaja Sesetan (Jalan Sesetan between Jalan Pulau Saelus and Jalan Pulau Buton) the day after Nyepi.
Being a Tourist During NyepiTourists are also required keep generally quiet, not leave the hotel grounds, and shut their curtains if turning on lights. Your hotel will give you a list of regulations. Some hotels even have special Nyepi package deals!
The restaurant stopped serving early so they didn't have to turn on any lights and they had people eat in an internal banquet room instead of the regular location near the street. They provided a special TV station with a set schedule of really awful Hollywood movies and the internet was never actually shut down. They put black sheeting over all external windows (my bathroom was blacked out) and some internal windows (on locals' rooms) and at night the staff made sure anyone with their lights on shut their curtains.
We were allowed to walk around the hotel grounds (which were pretty vast in my case) and a handful of people sat in the empty cafe along the road. It was so strange being in the heart of the city with not one single person, car, or motorbike on the road. At night it was dark and silent.
My day consisted of doing laundry, eating some of my supermaket food stash (I bought way too much food but enjoyed some real cheese and crackers!), and wishing that the other guests followed the rules better. There are locals that are all in, but the Chinese couple next to me actually has their porch light on in the middle of the day. WTF. Then the Aussie on the other side of me was on the phone for well over an hour. I swear a lot but this guy has me beat by a mile! I finally just left and went back out to the cafe.