Image: Anushka Trakroo
Image: Anushka Trakroo

Bali: a guide

A mountainous island situated in the Indonesian archipelago; Bali resembles a sort of tropical paradise. With its dramatic cliffs, luxurious foliage and, of course, post-card beaches, it attracts throngs of international visitors every year. I was fortunate enough to visit Bali this summer. Needless to mention, my Term 3 stress was more than relieved.

 

you will also find a submerged Buddha statue

 

Underwater adventures

Bali serves some spectacular sights; not just above water, but underwater too. If you, like me, want to witness these but are too terrified by the thought of scuba diving, snorkeling is a great option.

 

Snorkel off the coast of Nusa Penida, a somewhat lesser commercialized island accessible as a day-trip by ferry from Nusa Dua, a popular tourist destination. The waters are spectacular and, the instructors, resourceful; aside from the usual but nevertheless beautiful coral formations and shoals of fish which come to mind, you will also find submerged Buddha statues, truly astonishing sights to behold.

 

notice the quirky art installations at the entrance

 

Sport

There are several other water sports available to try out, including jet skiing and parasailing. If you get seasick easily, be sure to carry medicine (and trusty paper bags!), as the ferry- ride can get quite bumpy especially during high- tide.

 

Celebrate your snorkeling (or diving) achievements at Seminyak, the hipster and trendy party destination of Bali. Try out The Potatohead, a luxurious beach club, which boasts of unrivaled views, waterfront seating and a superbly lit infinity pool along with great music. Don’t forget to notice the quirky art installations at the entrance, including a gorgeous rainbow-hued structure made entirely out of slippers washed up shore!  While there, sample beer made from local ale with extracts of tropical fruit; I had one with lichi, and needless to say, it was an absolute delight!

 

water forms an integral part of the local culture and religion

 

Culture

People tend to associate Bali with picturesque beaches, tan lines and splendid shutterbug moments that would make for an especially enviable Instagram feed. Bali is all that no doubt, but if you are willing to go off the beaten path, you will discover that it is in fact so much more.

 

The culture of Bali is as vibrant as its streets; it is a culture steeped in gratitude, acceptance and devotion towards Mother Nature. Unlike many other tourist hotspots, the residents of Bali realize that their survival is intrinsically linked to the survival of unpredictable nature and, as such, they are deeply religious.

 

The main roads are beautified with lifelike statues of deities enacting scenes from the Hindu epic Ramayana and there is no dearth of temples. Needless to say, water forms an integral part of the local culture and religion. In Ubud, we visited the Tirta Empul temple where the rituals consist of dipping into ice- cold water flowing from a holy spring. The sight of hundreds of locals and tourists alike, immersing themselves into the water (and metaphorically, the local culture) was electrifying in itself.

 

evil spirits which play a central role in the Balinese culture

 

Sustainability

Tourism here is promoted sustainably, keeping the local culture at heart while going international. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the narrow lanes of the Ubud market area, where quaint cafes and patisseries with European-style outdoor seating coexist with vendors selling traditional musical instruments, statues of local deities and dream-catchers meant to bring good vibes and ward off the evil spirits which play a central role in the Balinese culture.

 

I would definitely recommend a stroll, especially, in the evening, when the streets are lit up. Be aware though, that many of the local vendors allow you to bargain extensively and the wares sold are actually pretty similar, so if you like something but find it a tad bit expensive, chances are that you could getting something similar at a cheaper rate just down the street.

 

try your hand at the gigantic Bali swings

 

Food in Ubud

Try out Mamma Mia if you are in the mood for a quick pizza between shopping or Taco Casa for some no-fuss but excellent Mexican fare. There are also some great seafood options available if you want to try out some traditional Balinese cuisine (being a hard-core vegetarian I cannot help you out there, sorry!). Ubud is also famous as a fitness retreat and this means that there are many interesting vegan options available.  Perhaps, if time permits, you could enroll for a yoga session at one of the many studios dotted around the area.

 

Nature

Do go for a sunrise trek up Mt. Batur, an active volcano in Bali. The fresh mountain air and the surreal sunrise are sure to energize you, so much so that you feel resurrected on descending.  The trek is not particularly hard, but can feel long because of the darkness as you trek up to the sunrise point.

 

If you are feeling more adventurous, try your hand at the gigantic Bali swings. Whizz past the tops of coconut trees, and look down the gorgeous foliage- if you dare. Post-trek, soothe your aching limbs with a traditional Balinese massage at one of the numerous spas dotted around town.

 

All in all, Bali is akin to a kaleidoscope, and an incredibly beautiful one at that – serving up multidimensional and vibrant experiences – no matter which way you look.

 

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