With a vibrant culture, delicious food, unreal sunsets, and of course, its beaches, this little paradise on earth has something for everyone.
Words Chahat Dalal
Long stretches of pristine beaches, rich cultural heritage experiences, and magnificent mountains, it’s no surprise that Bali is known as ‘The Island of Gods.’ The beach bum that I am, there is nothing that excites me more than a vacation along the coast, especially when it’s at such an exotic location. Life is wonderfully different at the beach. Time doesn’t move from minute to hour, it moves from mood to moment, and I was completely put in the moment as soon as I could see the island through the window of the aircraft.
Knowing that I had a full week in Bali, I decided to travel with fewer plans and more freedom. After a 15-minute drive from the airport to my hotel Westin Nusa Dua, all I wanted to do was go to the beach and enjoy the salty wind on my face. The Nusa Dua area has a stretch of posh hotels alongside the coast, which pleasantly surprised me, as I was exploring my own hotel’s beach. After spending the first day doing nothing but cherishing the beautiful beach and enjoying the music of the waves that roared and crashed, I set out to explore the island.
There is a spiritual aura all over, as this is predominantly a Hindu island, with temples in every nook and cranny. In Bali, it’s said that there are more temples than houses. The first temple I visited was the Lempuyang temple, one of the oldest and most highly regarded temples. Since the main temple is 1175m above sea level, it’s only for the adrenaline junkies. For the people who aren’t keen on taking the ascent can still enjoy the view and visit the temple at the foot, which has impressive dragon staircases. The next one on my list was Batuan temple. This small temple is designed beautifully and is adorned with Balinese ornaments. Before you enter the temple they lend you a kamben (a traditional Balinese drape). I realised that temples on the island have a strong connection with the number 3, they are divided into three spaces: an outer courtyard in addition to two holier inner yards. Basking in the peaceful vibes of the temples,
I picked Tanah Lot temple as the next stop. Tanah Lot is a must-visit, with its picture-perfect postcard setting. It has a breathtaking view with its offshore location and sunset backdrops, perched on top with constant crashing waves. Another gorgeous temple I had the chance to visit during my stay was Goa Gajah, also known as the elephant cave temple. When I heard the name I was on the lookout for elephants only to later learn that its named after the idol inside the cave of Lord Ganesh, who is characterised by an elephant’s head. This temple is surrounded by rice fields and small streams that lead to the river. The path to each temple is clustered with small shops that sell souvenirs, local artefacts, and clothes at extremely affordable rates. While there were still a plethora of temples that I hadn’t visited, since the architecture and layout is extremely similar to our culture, I then moved on to exploring the other hidden treasures of the island.
I’m an animal lover and was slightly disappointed when I didn't find elephants at the elephant temple. So I booked myself for the “dinner with the elephants” experience at the Bali Zoo. I was picked up from my hotel an hour before the dinner, which gave me plenty of time to survey the zoo. The standout feature of the zoo is the harmless animals that are out there in the open for you to pet, feed, and cuddle. The ones that are dangerous aren’t caged but kept safely in huge enclosed spaces. Dinner was a spectacular spread with elephants bathing and munching on treats right beside us. It also included a special animal viewing experience where I was blindfolded and had a snake put around me - trust me it was fun and amusing to have a snake slither around you.
Post-dinner was an enthralling cultural show where I learned to shake a leg and picked up on some local moves. Seeking similar thrills, I visited the sacred monkey forest. It is encompassed by a vast terrain and filled with naughty monkeys everywhere. It was such a gleeful afternoon full of laughter and amusement. The Ubud palace is a five minutes drive from the forest, but don’t let the word ‘palace’ fool you as the architecture was strikingly similar to the countless temples I visited. I came across a luxuriantly green paddy field, and a short hike through there, I stumbled upon one of the most ‘Instagrammable Spot’ of the island, the Bali swing. This exhilarating ride isn’t for the faint-hearted as you are swaying at the height of nearly 78 metres! While on the swing, I felt as if I had grown wings and taken off into the clouds. This island surely made me feel modest as I realised what a small place I occupy in this massive world and there is so much yet to discover. I guess I prayed too hard for this to be a thrill-seeking trip as, on the fourth day of the vacation, the island was hit with a major earthquake which caused me to skip a few sites such as the volcanic hillsides, the exquisite waterfalls, and a few smaller enchanting islands that surround Bali.
The island of Bali has so much to offer when it comes to food and nightlife, and like the saying goes, one cannot think well, love well, or sleep well if one hasn’t dined well. The Jimbaran beach is equivalent to paradise for seafood lovers such as me, as you sit sipping on beer while a fresh catch of your choice is being prepared to your specifications. To add to that, local artists go around from table to table serenading you with songs in your own language. Untainted fresh sea air, the ocean repeatedly kissing the shoreline, mouthwatering food with some Bollywood tadka makes for a perfect evening. The area of Seminyak is the vicinity to be in if you are a party animal.
From restaurants to clubs to lounges, it's your one stop solution. My personal favourites are Potato Head, Finns Beach Resort and La Favela. Seminyak also catered to the shopaholic in me. High end brands such as Gucci and Channel, to local boutiques and malls, it comprises of it all. Kuta is another area where you could indulge in some shopping and feasting. I highly recommend picking up a painting from the streets of Bali as the art won't fail to impress and mesmerise. When you are spoilt for choice it’s difficult to pick favourites, but I do have two places that stole my heart. Rock Bar Bali is a phenomenal bar where you can inhale the sea mist, as the waves crash against the rocks. It’s when you realise how unforgiving nature can be while still looking captivating. While Rock Bar is famous amongst tourists, my second favourite spot is an extremely well kept secret and I’m going to spill the beans about it. El Karbon is the quintessential cliff bar for a sundowner. It’s enticing how the ocean rocks the sun to sleep at twilight while the Spanish music makes you want to sway your hips and flip your hair. Bali is full of surprises and stays true to those who are bitten by the wanderlust bug.
Bali is more than just a place, it’s a magical mood in itself that offers some soul finding in a tropical state of mind. Its multifaceted lifestyle is simply irresistible and has something to offer to everyone; whether you’re on a honeymoon, with family, friends or even solo, you won’t be dismayed even for a second. Its beaches allow you to relieve the soul-crushing stress of our contemporary lives. I spent hours by the beach just soaking up the sun, riding the waves as they lapped against the shore creating a melodious rhythm, collecting sea shells and floating in the turquoise sea. I fell in love with the serene brutality of the ocean as it was sometimes calm and welcoming and then could suddenly explode with stormy temper. Now that I’m back from paradise to my mundane routine all I can think of is that somewhere on the island of Bali there is an empty chair on the seashore calling out to me in mild whispers through the warm blowing breeze. As it’s correctly said, if all else fails Bali is always a good idea.