Visiting Bali has been a fantasy I had for years. I envisioned staying among terraces of lush rice fields, watching farmers tend to their fields, listening to the melodies of exotic birds that resonate from swaying Banyan trees near crystal clear waters and golden glitter like sand.
As we landed at Denpasar Bali, the airport reminded me of a large warehouse with rows of eclectic people that reminisce of the tourist hub that Bali is. I was immediately impressed by the Balinese locals who were exceptionally friendly and helpful. As we head out of the airport, we gaze at a row of taxi drivers, one of whom dropped us to our much awaited destination. The Holiday Inn, Bali was spectacular. Tucked in the midst of the lush green pockets of Bali, the hotel is a cultural resonance of what Bali truly represents. Ceiling high curtains in vibrant warm palettes, cultural wooden flooring with a perfect mix of contemporary marbles, traditional Balinese statues embedded into hand carved pillars and hammocks swinging in the light night breeze by the ocean surrounding The Holiday Inn.
As we approach our room through the serene and wide wooden corridors, I feel like I am in a rainforest somewhere in Brazil. Vines suspended from the roof to the ground floor, chirping sounds of alluring birds, and a soothing hum fleeting through the corridors. We are greeted by a herculean wooden door that was adorned by intricate Balinese designs. Our room was picture perfect. We spent the night strolling along the Kuta beach and exploring the opulent Holiday Inn.
The next morning we wake up to a diverse and extensive breakfast spread – the perfect mixture of continental and Indonesian delights. After a scrumptious breakfast, we head for our city tour. Eight impeccable hours of culture, food and nature. Our driver, a very interesting gentlemen named ‘Wayan’ acted as our tour guide throughout the day. We visited the Mas village and encountered a scene that would probably have existed during the time of my grandparents. Traditional straw and hay weaved houses with a well on the front porch along with a generous area alongside the house devoted to farm animals. The beauty of the village were the ladies adorned with silver jewellery and colourful sarongs.
We then travel to the historic Besakih Temple which was atop a hill. The weather was exquisite and the architecture reminded us of a traditional South Indian temple in India, which was decades old, but cultivated its rich heritage. We gather all our energy to walk the 100 flight of stairs that direct to the mammoth temple. A herd of tour guides approach us. We engage a very intriguing gentleman dressed in a traditional Balinese ensemble resembling a dhoti and turban, who guided us through the temple, explaining each deiti with references to the Hindu mythology. As we exit the temple, a young girl raced us all the way out for about 3kms imploring us to buy postcards. Her sombre face, deep eyes and dismal emotions provided a glimpse of the developing Bali.
We had an elaborate lunch at the Sari restaurant with traditional delicacies at one of the most spectaular spots, overlooking the fascinating panorama of the Kintamani volcono. You undeniably cannot leave Bali without trying the highly acclaimed Luwak coffee, known as the Kopi Luwak – one of the most expensive coffee variants in the world. So we drive to the coffee plantation on our way down the mountains. Situated in between a considerable territory of greenery was a garden. As we walk through the garden, we are familiarized with the exhaustive process of coffee production, from the beans to the powder that are available at our nearest retail store. The most intriguing is the production of the Luwak coffee, which is produced by the beans excreted by the Asian Palm Civet. Although bitter, it has a very unique taste. Your tour ends with 10 small coffee cups lined in front of you, that resemble beer samplers, where you have to guess the variant of each coffee. Quite a challenging game and gimic that probes you to buy the coffee. Our final destination was the Tanah Lot temple. Tanah Lot is a natural rock formation on which the temple is built. It is surrounded by a sea, thus makes for the picture perfect spot – very romantic indeed!
Our day concluded with delectable seafood with the sound of soft waves by the beach at Jimbaran Bay. Or so we thought! As we were heading back into the cab, our exuberant driver asks us if we have ever heard of ‘Legian Street’. Even after a hectic 10 hour day of sightseeing, the explorer in us surged and we headed directly to Legian Street. Entering the street, we discoved a complete contrast to the traditional Bali. Colourful boutiques and hotels covered the vibrant street, but the most striking part of this place is the crazy and bustling night life, unlike any other I have ever witnessed. Known fondly as the ‘sleepless Kuta’, the entire stretch of road is huddled with vivid forms of entertainment. Whether you are seeking good music, a spot to enjoy a relaxed drink, or if you want to unleash the party animal in you, Legian street is the place. As you gaze around, the funky street is filled with people who have the most quirky and completely wacky sense of dressing. We walked into some of the most chaotic and noisiest dance clubs we have ever encountered. Who knew that a traditional city like Kuta would have concoctions that we have never heard of, skimpily clad women dancing on poles and people with the most zany sense of dressing. This is when I realized that there is more to Bali than just beaches – the city really is full of surprises!
After a hard night of Legian street, the next morning transported us right into nature’s lap, through a scenic drive from Kuta to Ubud, crossing tall mountains and foggy air, overlooking the luscious green rice terraces that Bali is known for. Contrast to the night and city life of Kuta, Ubud is pure nature. After delving into the scenic view within the hotel, we step out to a local spa for a relaxed massage. Having lived in Bangkok and experiencing some of the finest massages in the world, I genuinly did not have high expectations. But I was proved wrong! As we step into the high doors with intricate Balinese designs, the very friendly staff offer us a signature welcome drink of ginger and lemongrass tea. This drink is a perfect reflection of what a massage experience is all about – it’s unique, it’s healthy and it’s soothing. Through the pebbles and grass adorned corridors, we were greeted to a dimly lit room with a punjent lemongrass fragrance. Ironic to her petite appearance, my massuese exibited great skill using her hands, elbows and feet to release all the knots and tension in my body. I fell into a deep state of nirvana.
It was during dinner that evening that we savoured the Babi Guling, which is one of Bali’s most famed dishes. The pig is infused with a spicy concoction of turmeric, coriander seeds, lemongrass, black pepper, and garlic and traditionally roasted on a log over fire. The buffet was lavish, with delights from Rojak, to spring rolls and tender coconut deserts, with the background of traditional Balinese dancing and music. My food craving was scrupulously satisfied with a true cultural experience.
Our Bali venture concluded with one day in the picturesque Nusa Dua. This city is all about the beaches. Snorkeling, sun tanning and any form of water sports can be enjoyed here. This was my first encounter with crystal clear white sand. It really does have the tropical paradise dream-like charm. We enjoyed a relaxed walk along the beach, collecting sea shells as the sun set in front of us. The perfect ending to a perfect holiday.
Bali introduced me to a whole new meaning of a holiday. Kuta offered a wild night life with a city buzz, whilst Ubud tucked me into pockets of nature. Nusa Dua was the perfect balance between the two to completely relax along heavenly beaches. It is one of the few places around the world that offers something for everybody, whatever your interest may be – wacky night life, unique shopping, beautiful beaches, and for the foodies like me, some of the most mouth watering delights. Bali truly is the ultimate tourist spot for everyone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
To travel is to live. That’s my motto. Some of the best memories in life are my travel adventures. From the exotic cultural experiences in Asia, to the picturesque views in Europe, the people I met in North America to the food across all these places.