Sharing her travel recommendations, Navneet Mendiratta tells us all about her exciting visit to Bali.
Pictures on a high swing against the blue of sea on Bali beaches and green of the rice terrace fields may be a rage with every Instagrammer these days, but it is the island culture and the idyllic beauty it offers that makes Bali an absolute favourite among world travellers and Indian honeymooners.
A flight lands in Bali every seven minutes. This was actually an observation made by my friend as we sat gorging on delicious sea food at a restaurant by Kuta beach, very close to Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar. The sound of waves slapping the shores was music to ears, even as the eyes got attracted to the lights hanging in the mid air, before they made a perfect landing. Soon, we lost count of the number of airplanes that made it to the island, but not before concluding what a popular tourist destination this island nation was.
Part of the world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia, Bali is the most favoured destination among tourists what with its forested volcanic mountains, iconic rice paddies, beaches and coral reefs. Ancient temples on cliff sides and shores speak of the island’s connect with ancient India, that lives in the form of a prevalent Hindu society that this part of the island nation is today.
Happy go lucky island vibe throbs in the lively bars of Kuta and resort towns of Seminyak, Sanur and Nusa Dua to the south. Those who love clubbing swear by Potato Head Beach Club, Seminyak and the Rock Bar at Ayana Resort and Spa, Jimbaran! For a mind and body balance, you find a generous smattering of spas, yoga and meditation retreat.
Rafting on Ayung River
From Rishikesh to Bali — though I can’t really boast much of water adventure sport experience, but the thought of traversing rapids on Ayung River that flows through Ubud in Bali was quite appealing. Dressed aptly and armed with respective safety gear and oars, our group of five women set out on this fun adventure.
The trek to the river is a decent climb down and an equally treacherous climb up, especially when your clothes are all wet and clinging. However, it is worth every step once you get into the raft. The river stretch is surrounded by lush forest and panoramic views along the course. Somewhere along the way we crossed a stretch with black rock carvings depicting stories from Ramayana. Covered in moss, these carvings looked really old but apparently these have been crafted not too long ago by a skilful artisan on a commission from a local hotel owner.
With rapids of grade moderate to easy and a busy stretch, rafting on this river is often about avoiding big stones and bumping into a fellow raft as one goes along. Nevertheless, it is a fun activity with all the brief stops one gets to make by the banks for a coconut water/snack break or a halt by the small waterfalls for some splashing fun.
When travelling towards Ubud, visit to Sacred Monkey Forest is a must. The forest is a sanctuary or natural habitat of Balinese long-tailed Monkey and a very popular tourist attraction. Well known for its conservation efforts, over a hundred macaques inhabit the forest, and in-depth research and studies are carried out for observing their health, diet and breeding habits. Shiva Shakti Temple is housed inside the forest and dates back to the 14th century. It is only open to the locals for performing religious ceremonies.
We were well warned not to carry any sunglasses or jewellery on our body. The guides tell you to even remove hair accessories, if you happen to be wearing any. Stone statues inside the forest pay ode to the inhabitants and make for a hangout spaces for them. I chose to hang out near the temple rather than venture into the forest. Given the familiarity Indians have with their cousins here, there is not much novelty, but then perhaps…
The Indonesian Islanders have great respect for nature and strongly believe in co-habitation. This also explains the efforts made by them to conserve the fast getting extinct species. Green sea turtles is another such example. Located 10 km south of Denpasar is Serangan Island, a frequent nesting ground for green sea turtles.
Not too long ago, consumption of turtle meat as well as the use of sea turtles in ceremonies led to extinction threat for this beautiful species. Public awareness and timely community action, however, checked the loss and now, a conservation project is run by the local people in partnership with the government on this island to conserve the species.
A popular tourist spot, visitors combine with other water sports activities that they can participate on the eastern side of Serangan, especially surfing. You can choose to just ride on the waves in a glass boat, should you just want to take it easy. After all, Bali is part of the Coral Triangle, the area with the highest biodiversity of marine species and is home to over 500 reef-building coral species. This, indicate the statistics is about seven times as many as in the entire Caribbean!
Rice fields of Tegallalang
These rice terraces offer a perfect Bali photo opportunity with its dramatic views. Located on the north side of Ubud (around 20 minutes drive), Tegallalang makes for a famous tourist attraction for beautiful rice terraces The vista sprawls down and away to the rice terraces on the slopes across the valley and offers a great showcase of Subak (traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system), which according to history, was passed down by holy man Rsi Markandeya in the 8th century.
The highlight of our visit was also the adventurous Bali swing that flies over the rice fields and offers an opportunity for a perfect Instagram shot. Well that is what most tourists come here looking for. Quite a scary adventure, if you don’t have a thing for heights, the swing is well secured with harness to keep you in place. I have to admit, with all the courage I could muster, I could do it only one way looking into the fields.
Temples of Bali
No visit to Bali is complete without a visit to their beautiful temples. A pocket of Hindu religion and culture, locals not only worship the same gods and goddesses, perform similar rituals, and build sacred temples as Indian Hindus, but Hinduism is a way of life for them. I found it fascinating to see that every Balinese Hindu home houses a temple of its own, especially in Ubud, and elaborate one at that. Some of the famous temples of Bali and most frequented by tourists include, Ulun Danu Beratan Temple in Bedugul, Tabanan; Tanah Lot in Tabanan and Uluwatu Temple, Jimbaran. Most temples are dedicated to the trinity and pays homage to the local gods. In most temples visitors are not allowed to pray inside the temple and can only enter the premises if they are wearing a sarong. The rituals and prayers can only be performed by the locals and follow strict codes.
There is a lot that is there to be shared about the local culture and religious beliefs. Perhaps another time. But as a travel destination, there is so much that the visitors can do as part of their stay here, or not should they choose to. It’s not for nothing that it tops people’s travel list. And you just can’t cover all in one trip. You have to come back for more. Well, that’s my promise to self.
Writer: Navneet Mendiratta
Courtesy: The Pioneer