05 July 2015

Visit to Bali

6 Days in Bali !

The plane turned to land on a narrow strip flanked by the ocean on both the sides. We barely got a glimpse of the runway due to the darkness and realized its beauty close to the touchdown.

Bali is a tiny island amongst the Indonesian Archipalego. The other islands of Java and Sumatra are heavily populated and are largely Islamic. Bali is different due to the influence of Hinduism which had reached its shores in the 1st century largely from influence of southern India. People here mostly have Sanskrit names, including ones like Su-Greewa, Wibi-sana, Dewata – referring to our Sugriva, Vibhishana, Devata. 

Bali’s most visited places are Seminyak, Legian, Kuta which are the party places and the main shopping districts. The beaches here aren’t too bad and its great to watch the sun go down from one of these places.
Nusa Dua, Jimbaran are a little isolated and away from the hustle-bustle, but have good beaches on that side too. We spent 4 days around Seminyak and 3 days in Ubud- the hilly area with scintillating Rice fields. The northern areas of Singaraya , Tanah Lot are less visited, but we were told - are equally beautiful.
There are few tiny islands called – Lembok, Gilli islands which are far less crowded and spectacularly beautiful. One needs to plan to stay on those islands and need to spare atelast 2-3 days for it. There are many Scuba diving, snorkeling places in those islands.
If you don’t have so much time- you can follow our itinerary J Read on!

We started towards Denpasar on our rented bike, skeptical about not having an international license. Fortunately, the cops don’t bother the tourists much unless you break the rules!  After wandering on the roads of Denpasar, both being history buffs, headed towards the Museum to get a glimpse of the Bali history. The Museum was actually a Dutch palace in older times, which fortunately survived 2 centuries. Opposite the Museum is the park where the Balinese resisted the Anglo and Dutch invasions and a mega rock concert (dedicated to the army) was going on, to mark an anniversary.
I always wondered how Bali escaped the sword of Islam or the missionary zeal of the colonial era.
I was told that the Dutch (bless them) had forbidden Missionaries on this island to preserve the Unique Hindu culture – turned out to be a great move.  Thus Bali remained a Hindu oasis in the world’s most populated Islamic country.
As is common across the globe, the Balinese worshipped a mother figure – Cili from ancient times, a tradition which has carried to this day. They carry cane baskets on their heads to mark the festival of Cili to ask her to continue blessing them with the Bounty.

The Indonesians had begun embracing the western wear only after their independence, with the women moving wearing clothes on the lower half. Guess we became more and more conservative & fanatical about religion in the 20th century, than it’s widely believed to be the other way!
 The guide told s about the old ruling families and showed us around how the KERIS- a Dagger and coins are important to Balinese. They have coins for various occasions – A coin to bring in fortune, another to cure illnesses and so on, whereas the Arjuna coin is worn by women to attract handsome men!! He told us about BARONG – the good spirit and RANGDA – The bad one, which are in constant tussle- another common theme around the world.
Bali is strewn with temples at every 500m, we visited a Jagannath temple where a prayer was going on. One needs to be in traditional Balinese dress to enter the temple.
Men – Sarong + Head gear. Women – Sarong + Prayer Jacket (they are pretty !!)

We drove around Denpasar for a while along the lanes and strolled around the Seminyak beach for a while and headed back to our villa. Kuta, Legian are the key party places with great options to unwind in the evenings. There are multiple Disc and Pubs and as most of them are in the main Shopping district, one can hop multiple times J
We headed to SKYGARDEN and it turned out to be the biggest party place, I have been to. It’s a 4 storeyed Lounge and Disc. It had amazing ambience with dazzling lights and great music going on. Being a weekend, it was buzzing with people from all over the world. Entry gets you a few drinks and the place isn’t too expensive – 1000K IDR including food and Entry. Taxis are easy and safe around this place, commuting isn’t a headache, though the traffic jams are!! Sky garden is right next to the Bali Bomb memorial which was built to honor the 2002 blast victims. It’s a horrible memory in the otherwise peaceful Bali.


Day 2: WIBI-Sana, Nusa Dua, Jimbaran, Uluwatu

After a lazy breakfast, we started out with Komang who showed around most of Bali. He led us to Wibi-sana where one can do all the water sports we see in Goa at Candolim or Baga. The weather was pretty and their charges reasonable, so we did parasailing, Jet-Ski and few other sports in the amazing breeze. Many people were also surfing a little further into the sea.

ULUWATU TEMPLE: A beautiful Cliffside temple which is spread out on a large area. It had some points with a spectacular view of the ocean crashing against the hillside. Partly reminds of the Fort Aguada, but is much better.


Jimabaran and Nusa Dua has some high end Villas and resorts. The area is less crowded compared to Kuta and the beaches are cleaner and better.

CATCH THE SUNSET! The sunset is great to catch on this side, just hit any of the sea side cafĂ©’s in Jimbaran or Nusa Dua for a great view. Unless the clouds play spoilsport and hide Arka (yes, the names popular here too) !

We stopped at the Jimbaran Beach Club - decent ambience with lazy bean bags around. The beach was nice to chill atthe sunset.


CUISINE: Bali also A Unique Cuisine, dominated by sea-food of great variety. Though I would make many waiters uncomfortable by asking for vegetarian options.
They can make some of the dishes vegetarian by not adding Chicken/Shrimp to you. I tried the NASI GORENG and NASI CAMPUR and a few other options where they substituted meat for veggies for us.

There are many Indian restaurants too - Queens Tandoor, food’s good, but over priced!
As we didn’t have 2/3 days to spare for Gilli islands (supposedly most scenic)… we chose Lembongan islands.
After a  45 min Ferry ride (we climbed onto top of the Ferry – Fabulous ride!) we reached the Lembongan islands. There are multiple diving sites strewn around these tiny islands with sea and mountains on all sides, giving it a legendary view on any side.

We hopped onto a jeep which took us to the very end of the island at a diving site. It was an idyllic village where the women seemed to do most of the work. Some men were working as diving instructors, rest were playing cards/chilling with a drink/smoke in their hands!!
I immediately fixed on this island to settle down post retirement!!!
The instructors led us into the sea on a boat and we jumped into the sea with the Snorkelling gear. IT was a breathtaking experience to swim with the fishes and amongst the coral reefs. The weather was perfect for the dive and we could spot a few star fishes, Sea anemone – almost a page  out of the 20,000 leagues under the sea!
Will move on, as I can’t do justice to it in words.
The island is a “PERFECT” place to laze around the whole day with a book in your hand, lying on the couches by the shore. You can even sip a gigantic coconut which took us almost 15 mins to complete!

Day 4: Visit to KINTAMANI & KOPI LUWAK !!

Kintamani is the only active Volcano in Indonesia, its at a 3 hour drive from Seminyak.
The drive was through the rice fields and leads to hillside in the central part of Bali. We stopped in one of the farm places for the world reknown – KOPI LUWAK! We saw the civets who are fed coffee beans and their digestive tract processes the coffee with a special enzymes in their stomach. It lends a delicate aroma to the coffee.


An employee from the farm gave us a tour of the farm and showed us the process of making the coffee. They sampled us almost 17 flavor of tea and Coffee, each splendid in its own unique manner. KOPI LUWAK was good as a coffee, but i wasnt able to appreciate the reasons for it mega popularity. I leave it for the connoisuers ! I preferred other flavors like the Cinnamon and Ginseng Coffee. They also gave a taste of the Local rice Arak - It had a tangy sweet taste!  We bought a few flavors and left for the Volcano.
Pretending to be art connoisseurs, we stopped a place selling paintings. They are nice and pretty, but mostly made to con the tourists. Beware of paying any hefty price for the paintings. I took a particular liking to a Budha, which they quoted $ 450 and said that they would come down to $300, because they liked me!
Fortunately for me, I moved out and later found exactly similar copies of that painting being sold I Ubud for $20 upwards!! If you want a piece of art, shell out some money, but buy it from a reputed gallery which is licensed by the govt of Indonesia.
The air became cooler as we climbed to the Kintamani. The peak can be reached after a trek of over 2 hours, but being lazy, we just chose to see it from distance.

There are a few nice restaurants lined up on the hillside with a view of the entire valley and Kintamani. You can sit around for a while and enjoy the panorama. There are some hotels up there and you can stay for a night if it you fancy the trek.


Day 5, 6 & 7 : 3 days in UBUD , Bali

 Day 5 & 6: UBUD!!

Ubud  is in the foothills of the mountain range in central Bali. It’s considered as the art and cultural capital of Bali. After the release of Eat Pray Love, many tourists started flocking to this place.
 The air is much cooler and there are multiple drives around which lead into the beautiful country side. There are seas of emerald green paddy fields around the place. The drives around the country can be amazing, and would recommend getting off the main road, and exploring any road that goes deep in. Its perfectly safe during the daylight.  
  The Tegallalang Rice fields are incredible and there are many nice cafes around the place where one can pause time and sip the warm coffee in the cool hillside watching the fields.
We reached the GUNUNG KAWI – a 11th Century temple, which is nestled in the middle of the forest. It was one of the best temple complexes I had seen in Bali. There are a couple of water fountains and a huge park around the main temple. As at all the temples, you need either a sarong or a sash to gain entry, apart from the ticket J
The evening was fun at Budha Bar – with a Live band performance. It’s a small place, but the crowd was fun and the ambience was pretty good.
Next day, we went to the Goa Gaja which is a cave temple with an ancient Siva shrine and a few places to go around.

We reached the Ubud Palace- which is not much of a palace, as large part of it is out of bounds for visitors as the royal family still resides there. We caught a performance of the Balinese dance coupled with the Music performance.
They played 5-6 short plays which were picked out of the puranas – Sunda, Upasunda story, etc. Its definitely worth a watch for their expressions and the radiant costumes they wear!

Ubud also has a few amazing party places and can rival the Kuta/Legian area. We went to CP LOUNGE which is an intresting lounge with a LIVE band here too. This is unarguably the best place to chill in the evenings.

One Restaurant – Bambi right opposite the Ubud Palace is worth a mention for its outstanding food quality. Also its one of the most value for money places in Bali !!

The westerners were quite fascinated with the Balinese women when they landed, probably due the custom clothing of that era spanning only the lower half. They did a bit of a study and learnt that their features were due to the Hindu rituals where they used to balance heavy Cili baskets for long walks to the temples.

One such artist – Antonio Blanco of Spanish origin was quite enamored by the women and an entire art Museum is dedicated for his love of Balinese women in various paintings.

The Monkey forest is also worth a visit in Ubud.Compared to the glitter and glamour of Kuta, we loved the Ubud visit too much, probably because of the freedom to roam around on bikes!
 Overall, Bali turned out to be a dream vacation.