How can you not like a place where people are such blithe spirits that they gaily sing-song “Thank you’’ after you take their picture? This zestful spirit where every local on the streets will be ready to involve in a conversation with you is found everywhere.
As soon as we arrive in Bali, I understand why it is known as “The Island of Thousand Temples”. Grand avenues boasting fabulous nineteenth and twentieth century architecture. Here, you will find every trope of white sand beaches fringed with spectacular picture postcard sunsets, but it is the warmth and the hospitality and the cheer of the Balinese that help to attend the transcendent verisimilitude.
A few minutes after 3 PM, a few minutes after we arrived tired and dirty, we were summoned to lunch. Two ancient retainers, with inclusive job descriptions-bellboy, waiter, housekeeper, errand man, cleaner with names like” Krishna “; hovered solicitously and volubly’’.The rooms are still vast, still have old ceiling fans. There are still exquisite chairs on the spacious, breezy corridor-cum-balcony.
Nusa Dua, the vicinity we were staying at, has one of the most peaceful and scheduled beaches, in part because it contains some of the most expensive real estate on Bali . We decided to walk and explore the streets that night.
The place has as many versions of any story as the people you ask, right from the geological formation of these spectacular tropical islands to the dispute of who first settled here. The most accepted one is about the theory of slow biological formation of these islands, over centuries, an original volcanic layer. This, though, is only the most commonly accepted theory-you will find a different one under every rock. Still, whatever the conflict, there’s no doubt that the beauty of these islands far surpasses your expectations of the average Indian beach destination.
There are several routes one can take through Bali, and exploring its stunning physical attractions is one of them. Physical attractions in and around the city can be roughly classified into smoking volcanoes, mountains, beach and farm; all however, best seen in summer time.
I have read Bali isn’t a single homogeneous city, but a collection of little neighborhoods, each with a personality of its own. So on my first day we start exploring Ubud, a peaceful, a quite enclave with tree lined streets. A leisurely drive around the 72 Km long road takes most of the day as we stop to explore the many art and craft galleries including the illustrious Mask gallery and temples in the quiet little towns.
Ubud is a riot of bustling streets, soaring temples and cobble stoned squares filled with artists, hawking their paintings.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is well-worth a visit, where thousands of monkeys live among the mystical Hindu temples. For us the most impressive thing about Ubud was its symbiosis with the surrounding villages. This enables you to wander through the rice fields and after just a while find yourself tasting excellent Balinese cuisine in one of the restaurants or relax in a well-priced spa or massage salon. In short, Ubud will show you the best of Bali.
In the night we go on to explore the much talked about night life of Kuta. The new pragmatism had become evident almost as soon as we landed at the Kuta Streets, all a little enamored with the rhythm of Bali’s dancing & nightlife socialism. This region has an extensive network of food joints, and so most tourists refer to stay here. You can feel the unbounded energy everywhere.
Next Morning we wanted to just relax by the beach , so we decided to head out to the much talked about beach in Bali –The Semiyak beach– the beach slopes into the sea and with no weeds and rocks, it’s a perfect place to swim or simply sloth under an umbrella all day long. Even though the island has a single coastal ring road, we manage to get lost trying to find legendary La Plancha and its delicious break fast food .It really does not really matter though, as we whizz around stopping at street side vendors.
The best way to explore Bali, in spite of its size, is to walk or just cycle around. So I take my cycle to take a peek around. The muggy air of the summer evening clung to my clothes as I wandered desultorily through the streets. One of Indonesia’s finest views can be enjoyed right here in Bali!! Like all great cities, Bali’s charm creeps on you when you least expect them. Everywhere you look there will be rice fields tended by locals.
Indeed when traveling alone, you won’t be able to hide from the most complex and intriguing person you’re ever likely to meet: Yourself. And yet I kept cycling up and down the street baffled and fascinated by the domestic monuments that modified a basically hindu house plan to cater to a Bohra lifestyle. The composite whole-neither this nor that but something else completely-successfully transformed the very ideas and images it had borrowed.
On my 3rd day, I decide to stay back and explore the neighborhood on my own. convince Aadit, our hotel manager to show me around. And then comes the most remarkable Bike ride!! I am given a crash course in the history of the Bali by Aadit, while on a ride about to Uluwatu. Originally all the Hindu influences adopted from India flourished, enriched and shaped the Balinese culture. Culturally and Linguistically the Balinese are closely related to peoples of Malaysia, Philippines and Oceania.
Uluwatu has the one of the most beautiful Hindu temples of Bali “The Uluwatu temple’’, next to the ocean waters which change from a crystal blue to a topaz green and are so clear they make you thank god for the miracle of creation. The colors are so real and need no wizardry of photoshop.
There are nearly 1000 temples on this small island that says much about the influence of religion here. Again, there are many theories about the establishment of Hinduism. Bali being one of the cities in Indonesia with much of Hindu influence rather than Muslim Influence.
On our way back we stopped for the view of the sunset at the Blue Point. It is a 45 Minute drive away from Nusa Dua. As I sit on the deck of the seaside restaurant, a beer close at hand, I discover the Blue Point Sunset is really as spectacular as everyone says it is.
On our last night in the city, we went to our favorite impossibly smoky sublime bar called “the Engine room’’, where period funk played on the turntables.
Bali doesn’t have the quaint moral rectitude of Bangalore, which means the Bars don’t have to be shut at 11 PM. The best way to drive there is to find one cabbie, because the place is infested with them.
It was cloudy the morning we left, didn’t want to miss the chance to get a lovely massage. Returned our rental car and slowly making way to the airport terminal building. The sun broke as our plane took off, and as we circled the mountains, the oceans and loud bursts of green in between.
I am back home and I am surrounded by people who start demanding Bali Stories, and it’s my turn to answer questions now. Why then, do I find Bali so alluring? Perhaps, because given its warm, egalitarian nature, you will always have fun in frenetic Bali. All you have to do is smile and go with the flow.