I fell for Bali. Instantly!
It is not just a place. Bali is a way of living. It is a dreamy tropical lifestyle.
It just simply has it all - rich culture, beautiful temples, history, the warmest of people (they're quite inspiring, you'll come back a better person), volcanic mountains, lush forests, adventure sports, serene beaches (your eyes will pop), an intoxicating night life and some yummy food for the ever-hungry. Who would have thought a small island could pack in so much?
Bali's trademark would probably be its serene, pristine, flawless, divine and alluring beaches. Its a shame to be describing it in words.
You will understand the true meaning of the colour turquoise. The shades of blue are magical and will seem to be jumping right out of a painting. (Totally Instagrammable!)
The sunsets are to die for and they will automatically instigate a soul-searching mood in you.
In case you are not a beach person (and that's almost impossible), the hills, forests, lakes and waterfalls will make up for you. An early morning hike to Mount Batur which is an active volcano is totally worth it. It is a picturesque scene with Lake Batur serenading the hill. It is quite a nice chilly break from the humidity. It amazes me how Bali accommodates both tropical humidity and the cool hill station vibes on such a small radius.
The rice fields and waterfalls at Bali are a must visit. You could just take off on a bicycle ride and get some cardio done while on a vacation or you can even take part in guided tours at the rice fields where you visit a traditional home, help local women harvest rice, and end your day with a delicious Balinese lunch.
There are a number of water falls in Bali. I happened to visit the most beautiful hidden treasure called the Munduk Water Fall. With hardly any people around and the wind blowing little droplets of water onto my face, I had quite an energising and exhilarating moment.
The Water-Blow at Nusa Dua is definitely worth a mention. The waves are so strong and they hit the rocky shores so hard creating a spectre (read illusion) , that it qualifies to be on top of a must-experience list. You must be warned of getting drenched without even knowing it.
So, with all the beaches, hills and cliffs, there definitely is scope to satisfy that adrenaline rush. Pandawa Beach is a para-glider's heaven. Jumping off a cliff and gliding over the sea should compulsorily be on your bucket list. You will feel like a bird - light with a beautiful view to admire from the top.
You could also go parasailing and of course surfing (if you don't surf, its fun just watching too).
The moment you land in Bali, you'll notice there's one thing that seems to be constantly following you, everywhere you look, everywhere you go. The captivating smiles of the locals - there's no escaping it.
The locals here are probably the most friendliest, warm and zen-like people I have ever met. They have a very simple reason behind their happy smiles and that's gratitude. They have been secretly competing with the infamous Indian hospitality, always ready to welcome you into their homes.
Balinese people are spiritual and have held on tight to their rich history and traditions. More often than not, you will stumble upon offerings they have laid out for the departed souls.
Hinduism is the majorly practised religion in Bali and they have a very famous and interesting ceremony of cremation called Ngaben. Generally, the deceased are buried straight after death. When the ceremony is decided (which could be years later), all members of the family meet, dead are then removed from the grave for a very grand celebration. This celebration is no less than a wedding with a procession around town. This ends with a final cremation ceremony.
Traditional dance performances happen all around Bali. There's one that needs particular mention - Kecak dance at Uluwatu temple. I saw the Balinese interpretation of Lord Ram and Sita's story. They have a unique way of presenting the story with vibrant costumes at the most picturesque location any performer could ask for. Staged to a packed crowd on top of a cliff at the temple, the show starts moments before sunset and goes on till nightfall with a full moon light. You will be able to hear the silent waves in the background.
Okay now, let's talk food!
We all agree, anything without food is incomplete. You cannot go to Bali and not have the famous Indonesian Nasi Goreng (fried rice). Being a vegetarian, it was a bit of a challenge in Bali, until I tried the vegetarian version of Nasi Goreng. And then, I could not stop eating it. It is mildly spicy and I happened to love the texture of sticky rice in Bali.
Every restaurant in Bali does their own version of the Nasi Goreng and it is worth trying them all. Apart from Indonesian cuisine, there are a lot of continental options, given the tourist crowd.
It is an understatement to say that I am in love with Bali. The beaches, temples, forests, hills, people, food and culture have bewitched my gypsy soul. I have left a piece of my heart there and I cannot wait to get back. The next time, probably for longer.
Here are some details on the stay -
Stay : The Bene Hotel is beautiful and highly hospitable. It is going to approximately cost you Rs. 5000 per night for two people and is more than worth every penny. It is extremely well maintained and is right opposite the Kuta Beach (highly recommended for all those impromptu night beach walks). It is also close to the airport.
Address - Jalan Benesari, Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali 80361, Indonesia
Best time to visit : It is generally dry from April to September and rainy from October to March. But Bali is really a round-the-year kind of place. Always a good time in Bali! ;)
So finally, here's a quick list of the must-visit places in Bali :
1. Tanah Lot
2. Uluwatu temple
3. Mount Batur and Lake Batur
4. Dewaputu Artist home tour
5. Rice terraces at Ubud
6. Ubud market
7. Kemenuh village
8. Kuta Beach
9. Pandawa Beach
10. Tirta Ampul temple
11. Ubud Monkey forest
12. Water Blow - Nusa Dua
13. Gili Islands