Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Little Jewel On Earth

The rice fields are abundant in Bali. In the backdrop is an inactive volcano
Kuta is one of the busiest beaches of Bali that is famous for its water sports
Major religion is Hinduism. The art depicting their faith is seen everywhere
Bali has been a dream destination for people all around the world. In fact, the variety this tiny mass of land can offer to a traveller is simply amazing. One can find everything here- right from the beaches to forests to mountains and volcanoes; and right from bars to night clubs to temples to natural parks.... The three pictures above easily tell about the diversity Bali has in store for its guests. Why should there be any doubt if Bali is every body's dream destination. And, after having visited this place, I wonder why for many people it always remains a dream to visit this place and they never get to fulfill it!! This land is so easily approachable, visa is available on arrival, people are fantastic and loving…and above all, it is not very expensive also.

The dream came true for me
The room at Jati Homestay where I stayed in Ubud area of Bali Island
Staying is quite inexpensive in Bali, especially in home stays and hostels
It was my first trip to Bali, and I was naturally excited. I was flying from Singapore to Bali on very cheap fair and on very competitive air service…thanks to new routes started by Air Asia. Singapore is the best place to board a connecting flight for Bali, though one can reach there from Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok also. As for Singapore, you can get multiple-entry visa easily and cheaply, as compared to Thailand or Malaysia. And there are more airline options from Singapore than there are from other places.

I had read a lot about Indonesia on internet… and friends who had already been to Indonesia had been telling me to be on my guard while roaming alone or in night there. Hence, there was an undercurrent of apprehensiveness along with obvious excitement. But this sense of apprehension was dispelled the moment I came out of the most beautiful and quietest airport I had ever seen. The only other airport that matches the quietness and simplicity of Ngurah Rai Airport of Bali is Al-Nozha Airport of Alexandria in Egypt, though it is not as beautiful.

Four days were not enough
A Balinese home...detached buildings in the front, a large courtyard in the rear
My trip to Bali was four-days long; though later I realized that four days were not enough if one wished to savour the beauty of this tiny island and nearby islands of Lombok and Komodo. Bali is indeed a tiny mass of land, but so rich in cultural heritage and natural beauty that one needs time to enjoy all this. The trips are usually a day long, and believe me, every trip leaves you physically exhausted but mentally refreshed. And there are many pre-designed trips offered by travel agents. Some trips take you to nearby islands and these can span from one day to two days, depending upon whether you wish to come back to Bali the same day or the next day. And if you wish to traverse the land on your own, then you need more time.
An artifact shop in Ubud, which is full of artistes; and shops full of artwork
So folks, I had only four days and I had to get the maximum out of it. At airport, visa officer asked a good number of questions before finally granting me one. I suppose they interview everybody like this, and I was not an exception just because I was an Indian. A seven-day visa costs you 10 US dollars, and for a three month visa you will have to furnish 25 US dollars. Just outside the airport, you can have paid taxi to anywhere in the island. The taxis are air-conditioned, and the ride offers you some spectacular views on the way especially when you are heading towards interior areas like Ubud or much higher in the mountains.
The owner of my home stay at work. He is one of the numerous artistes in Ubud
A painting by the owner of my home stay that depicts a scene from Ramayana
Ubud was the place where I stayed for two nights, and it was the place I fell in love with. It is an artistes’ village where every second person is a painter. If you wish to live really close to nature, then you should go for home stays there. There are a number of home-stays where you live in big family houses. In the end of their courtyards, the local people have made provisions for guest houses. The room tariff is unbelievably low at most of the places, and the stay is pleasant, comfortable and well taken care of. One can find a home stay for as-low-as US $4 per day. In most of the home stays, rooms are made of bamboos and wood only.

Charming beaches of Bali
Kuta is always abuzz with activities. If one is not surfing, one is sun-bathing
There are many beaches on the eastern coast and in the southern part of Bali, but during my stay I could go to only two of them. These were the famous Kuta Beach, and very serene Sanur Beach. Kuta beach is in the southern part of the island and is very famous for its water sports. It is one of the most visited and crowded beaches of Bali, thanks to its proximity to main business area of the island. It was in Kuta district where bomb blasts had taken place in year 2002 near two night clubs mostly frequented by Australian tourists. The Kuta Beach is swarmed with people at any time of the day. The beach boasts of a long stretches of white sand dotted with food stalls everywhere. So, while at Kuta, hunger is no problem. If you are a water sports enthusiast and are in Bali, you can’t miss this beach. This beach is so abuzz with activities that one can spend a whole day here if one wishes to. The area also has many cheaper staying options and is not far from the airport.

It is Sanur beach. The sunrise scene here is mesmerizing and unforgettable

Local couples also come to Sanur in morning to soak themselves in warm sunrays
Sanur Beach is in the southern part of the east coast of Bali. It is relatively calmer and less-crowded beach as compared to Kuta Beach. It is famous amongst travellers for its stunning sunrise. I was staying just 5-minutes’ walk away from the beach, and I was awake by 4.30 in the morning to be at the beach. I thought, I would be one of the few people over there, but I was wrong in my assumption. The whole beach was filled with locals and tourists, waiting there for the Sun to come out of its den. And as the Sun started rising behind the tiny mountains of Lembongan Island. Sanur is basically a upscale resort area where there are some of the best resorts of Bali. There are many good restaurants too. But despite all this, the beach has a very relaxed feel about itself. Interesting fact about Sanur is that it was the landing point for Dutch troops in 1906, and also an entry point of Japanese forces during Second World War. It was later developed into a beach resort area. The residential areas around this beach came later, and now it is a small little town and is also popular for its budget accommodations.

Afternoon showers bring respite

The mountains look somewhat like a misty heaven after the showers...
...while roads are suddenly lit up with headlights, much before it is dark
During my stay, it rained everyday afternoon. In Bali, they say it is very usual there. As the day wears on, you feel drenched with sweat… it becomes so humid. But the afternoon showers wash away all the irritation. And the evenings are even more pleasant and refreshing. It is just fun to be on clean roads of Bali in the evening. You just can not get out of  this place's spell very easily. Bali is a destination where you go but may not like to come back from.


For an article on The Temples of Bali, please go to this article of mine on this site.


Text and Photos by Ajay Garg

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3 comments:

As an Indonesian...Nice to know that you really like Bali.Wish you will have another chance to visit some other part of Indonesia.....

It was my first visit to Bali through this blog. Thanks Ajay ji. You have stimulated a
lot of intrest in me to know more about Bali. Hope your next post will be helpful to make this stimulation cool.

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