Bali, an Indonesian paradise island situated in the Indian Ocean, had been on my bucket list for quite a while. A travel destination with spectacular landscapes and a diverse culture, Bali is known to be as exotic as an island can get and I am glad to have finally crossed it off my list last Summer. I travelled there in September for a two-week getaway with a group of friends.
Even though Bali has everything you’d expect from a South East Asian island, I felt that it is also marked by a number of Western influences. Tourists are plentiful, however it still remains affordable by our standards. A good dinner would cost us an average of €10.
The majority of locals practise Hindu and live a spiritual tranquil lifestyle. Traffic jams are common and, in the hot and humid weather, you’d think drivers get stressed and irritable. They do not. We were all amazed at how calm everyone was. This reflected the overall atmosphere in Bali; peaceful and serene. Locals are extremely friendly, but polite enough to mind their own business.
The island comprises of many gorgeous and magical villages, each with different characteristics and offering something different.
During the first week we were based in Ubud, a place where life feels just a little bit slower- I simply loved the laidback vibe. It served as a good base for most of the activities that we had planned, as well as being an experience within itself. We spent endless hours at the markets haggling with vendors proudly saying “mahal”, the Indonesian word for “expensive”, which our well-read tour guide Widi taught us. Widi was the best guide that one could hope for, offering us interesting nuggets of information that we would not have heard elsewhere, whist leading us to Bali’s hidden, or not so hidden, gems.
After Ubud, we ventured to the Gili Islands for a few days to experience amazing white sand beaches and nightlife. We ended our trip in the Seminyak area, Bali’s sophisticated yet somewhat mellow entertainment hubs. Here an abundance of dining spots and beach clubs are located, which double up as nightlife hangouts as the sun sets.
With so much variety, it’s safe to say there’s something for everyone in Bali. Having spent only a short while there, I cannot give you the ultimate travel guide, but some of the top places you can visit are described on the following pages. I was only in Bali for two weeks, but what an incredible two weeks they were! Where to next?
Mount Batur Sunrise Trekking
Getting up in the middle of the night is not appealing, let alone whilst on holiday. However, it is a breathtaking experience to watch the sun rising from the top of a 1717m high volcano. Our transport collected us from our hotel at 01:30 am and took us to the base of the volcano. Here we met our guides and started hiking up at around 4:00am. There were countless moments when some of us wanted to just give up but we managed to power through with the help of our amazingly skilled guides. Some paths were rocky, some were steep, and some were slippery.
Finally, we reached the crater and were rewarded with a spectacular sunrise at around 6:00am. It was possibly the most beautiful sunrise of all time. Our guide cooked us eggs from the volcano’s steam and served us hot drinks, which we enjoyed whilst still admiring the beautiful scenery before our eyes (and trying to capture a good Instagram picture). The walk down was rather smooth compared to the way up. Oh, and a massage won’t hurt after this. I got one at the hot springs nearby to Mount Batur.
Many restaurants that cater for tourists serve standard Indonesian dishes. Therefore, visitors sometimes believe that they are trying out the typical Balinese dishes when, in reality, they aren’t. We decided to attend a traditional Balinese cooking class as many people who had visited Bali had told us that it would be a shame not to experience the Balinese culinary delights. This added a whole new dimension to my Bali adventure.
The group of us were welcomed into a Balinese family compound, where we got an overview of the components of Balinese cooking and their traditional dishes. It was a hands-on teamwork experience in which we were provided with fresh ingredients and taught how to cook up Balinese dishes from scratch. After this, of course, we were treated to our own authentic Balinese creations and left to devour them. At the end, we were also given copies of the recipes that we had used to be able to create these flavourful dishes in the comfort of our own home (refer to page 54 for a couple of recipes).
White Water Rafting
This is a must do in Bali if you love the outdoors, with an added splash of adrenaline (pun intended). There are two main rivers in Bali where one can white water raft – the Telaga Waja River and the Ayung River. We chose the Ayung River as it is situated in Ubud, where we were staying. The rafting company provided with experienced instructors and protective gear to ensure safety. Whilst being exciting and packed with thrills, the rafting was safe and rather easy for anyone to master.
We ventured through magical scenery and were given a background and history of the river along the way. We were obviously soaked by the end of the trip so it was a good thing that we brought a change of clothes with us. There were showers to rinse off at the end, followed by a good Indonesian buffet lunch. One last thing… I may have forgotten to mention the three hundred something steps down to reach the river and back up again. That was slightly stressful, but I still think that the experience was well worth it.
Bali is home to countless ancient temples and a trip to Bali wouldn’t be complete without visiting at least a few of them.
An easily stand-alone trip, the stunning coastal temple Pura Tanah Lot features an ancient Hindu shrine which appears to be floating in the middle of the sea when the tide is high. We visited when the tide was low so we were able to walk to the rock base of the temple, where we participated in a traditional Balinese rice blessing from a Hindu holy man. Entrance is forbidden to tourists as local devotees use the temple to pray to the God of the Sea.
On a separate day we visited the temple complex Pura Ulun Danu Beratan, the main attraction being the Tengahing Segara Temple, a majestic water temple. This magnificent temple rises from Beratan Lake, 1,200 metres above sea level (the usual hot temperature felt significantly cooler). The lush tropical gardens within the complex are a perfect spot from which to enjoy the scenic lake views and enormous mountain range encircling the temple. It was unreal.
© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Philippa Zammit