My Bali Diary
Bali looked promising even as my plane took sharp turns around steep green cliffs facing the deep blue ocean, preparing itself to land below the intermittent yet thick layers of clouds that had made for a rather turbulent flight. Even as I landed on a humid December afternoon, little did I know that at the end of one week, Bali to me would be all about its people, the smiles they carried and the generosity they showed.
The jar of sweet cinnamon wafers placed in the cab that drove me to my resort, only made my arrival in Bali sweeter, a taste neutralized by the rather strong taste of Iced Balinese coffee that awaited me in my villa, and one I was careful to never order again. Being someone who prefers the quiet to noise, I was sure to opt for my slice of luxury in Nusa Dua, quiet, serene, protected even as it’s criticized for being placed away from the ‘real’ spirit of Bali. While in Nusa Dua, I stayed at the Kayumanis Nusa Dua Private Villa & Spa, an experience I will continue to recommend to anyone who travels to Bali, till I can.
Nusa Dua is ideal for those who don’t mind paying a premium for most things and want to spend time lying along the calm sandy beaches of their luxury resorts, laced with a coral reef, enjoying water sports. To be honest, as compared to most countries around the world, Balinese luxury is unmatched and does not come attached with a very heavy price tag.
About a 45 minute drive away from Nusa Dua lie Kuta and Seminyak, better known across the world for their beach clubs, cheap eateries, and the nightclubs. So, if you’re in Bali with a bunch of friends looking to dance the evening away, drowning yourself in Bintang-Bali’s highest selling beer, this is where you must stay. My husband and I made it a point to drive down to Seminyak every afternoon, for some vegetarian Indonesian lunch which mostly worked out to a bowl of Nasi Goreng or Mie Goreng accompanied with some onion crackers and a local chili sauce which we were sure to pack some bottles of, for our friends and family in India.
The streets in Seminyak are dotted with the cutest, most tasteful boutiques you’d ever imagine. Some certainly are over priced by Indian standards but if you’re lucky you could pick up a good bargain. We were sure to spend the sunsets around the Seminyak beach, sipping on coconut water, even as the local women hovered around us insisting we opt for their pedicure and hair braiding services or bought something from their huge collection of wares ranging from sunglasses and beaded necklaces to nail clippers and hats.
At these moments, Bali hardly seemed different from any of our crowded Indian beaches. However, this was understandable for countries around the world may not be isolated from their socio-economic contexts.
On a couple of occasions we did visit some popular beach clubs namely Ku De Ta and Potato Head , spending our evening gazing at the hue of colors the sun left behind, listening to music, soaking ourselves in the what was considered to be the spirit of Bali.
Interestingly, the majority of Bali’s population is Hindu, an identity they hold onto more strongly than their counterparts in India(don’t be surprised if you’re Indian and offered a better price by virtue of practicing the same religion), which makes this island home to some spectacular temples, mostly located by the ocean. The one that particularly stood out, was the Uluwatu Temple, located on a cliff that faces the mighty blue ocean. Like most places in Bali, this place is known for its terrific sunset views and of course the Kecuk dance, depicting quite beautifully a story from the Ramayana. Touristy as it maybe, this is worth an experience, for the breezy amphitheater facing the ocean, if not for anything else. You may stop at the Dreamland Beach on your way to Uluwatu if you’re looking to catch up on some surfing.
The Tanah Lot Temple, situated right in the middle of the sea is apparently the best place in Bali to witness a sunset. However it failed to leave a mark on me, possibly because on the day I was there, the clouds played spoilsport.
Bali has pretty varied geography. Having spent close to five days around the ocean we made our way to Ubud. Nestled in the hills in the midst of rice terraces and coffee plantations, Ubud is away from the hustle and bustle of Seminyak and Kuta. We stayed at Komaneka located on Monkey Forest road, in my opinion the most ideal location one could choose. This plush resort is located most centrally in Ubud and yet once you’re inside you may well imagine yourself to be miles away from any noise, save that of a few insects. If you’re into traditional handicrafts, yoga or are looking to learn some traditional Balinese cooking, Ubud is your kind of place-laid back, quiet and very artsy.
Needless to say, Ubud is a better place to satisfy your urge to pick up souvenirs, offering a wider range and cheaper options. While in Ubud, you may opt for the day long tours that take you around temples, rice terraces and for views of Mount Batur, an active volcano. However, I’d say even if you missed out on those, you wouldn’t actually miss out on much for simply put, in Ubud the best way to be is, to walk around, ‘Instagram’ shots of the beautiful carved doorways and manholes that line the streets, chat up local artisans, opt for a traditional Balinese massage, taste some coffee and just perhaps find yourself a peaceful café and read. Among the restaurants I was recommended, was Dirty Duck, located in the middle of rice paddies, this place serves the best cheesecake I have ever had. Period.
It is immensely tough to summarize my Balinese experience in a single blog. There were a number of things I could not check off my check list, the cock fight for instance. I’d blame it on the larger conspiracy of the island to have me back. True it is that the beaches, the ocean views, and the peace and tranquility that characterize Bali, had me up every morning despite the moody weather swinging like a pendulum, but there was just one thought I carried as we drove back towards the airport, leaving the paddies and plantations behind-the people.
Take my word for it, the Balinese are the most hospitable, the most incredible, the happiest, the most gleaming bunch of people you will ever come across and I don’t say this just about the staff at the luxury hotels we stayed at. I speak for the island as a whole, for every person I spoke to, for everyone I saw.
And now for some parting tips:
· Bargain! Everywhere, even at the money changer.
· If you have time at hand, divide your stay between Ubud and other locations closer to the ocean (Nusa Dua, Seminyak, Kuta)
· Be careful with the currency you are spending. The currency is weak and the denominations are in thousands and millions. You are bound to make a mistake, if you aren’t careful.
· For commute, always pick the Uber over the Blue Bird. It is much cheaper!
· On booking hotels, always negotiate a deal. Most resorts usually offer a complimentary massage, complimentary afternoon tea or something to this extent.
· Be doubly sure that the Water Sport you’re trying is safe. Bali is still developing infrastructure with regard to this.
· If you’re here for a week, do not try packing in a million excursions. While in Bali it is imperative that you find enough time to just chill by the beach, sip a cocktail and do nothing.