[Wanderlust Tips June 2019] Bali, the famous island in Indonesia, may be familiar to most people, but are you sure that you have discovered all of what Bali has to offer? A few days or a few weeks just isn’t enough to explore the many amazing things in Bali. I will tell you about my journey to Bali, and i am sure that my story does not just end here as i will return to Bali many more times to explore and immerse myself in its breathtaking beauty and unique culture.
The flight which took me to Bali landed at Ngurah Rai International Airport on a day in May. Perhaps due to the twilight, nothing much struck me about the island until the next morning. I woke up in the glowing morning sunshine to be amazed by the rays of flickering sunlight shining through the leaves, and the pink flowers of bougainvillaea standing out against the background of a crystal blue sky with light white shadows of clouds. I could also see the lush rice fields and ancient temples in the distance. An unfamiliar language from some people laughing and talking echoed from afar. That’s when I realized I was really in Bali, the one and only Bali.
LAND OF SACRED TEMPLES
I saw temples everywhere in Bali as I passed through amazingly beautiful sceneries along zigzagging and straight roads, from its vast forests to lush rice fields, and from its crowded cities to peaceful villages.
Religion plays an extremely important role for people in Indonesia in general and in Bali in particular. Most Indonesians are Muslims, but in Bali, Hinduism is the religion of up to 90% of Balinese people, which from a religious standpoint is unlike other Indonesian islands.
Temples are the most important aspects of the religious beliefs of Balinese people. The life and spiritual activities of the locals revolve around temples, starting from the moment they were born until they die, and even continue in the afterlife. That’s why there are thousands of temples everywhere in Bali. They can be seen in villages amongst the houses, which may be the private temples of families or community temples for local people to worship.
Balinese temple architecture is not ostentatious and grandiose, temples have an elegant design overall, but it’s the little decorative details that are meticulously focused on. Private temples are smaller than public temples; however, generally, they all respect a basic architectural style of symmetrical pyramidal gates, accompanied by illustrations from the epic Ramayana and the Mahabharata, along with images of the gods and mascots of Hinduism such as Hanuman the monkey god, Hamsa the goose god, Nandi the cow god, and Garuda the bird god as well as a relief of Kala. Towers thatched from black palm leaves are also a prominent feature.
Community temples honour gods who are the source of life and protect human beings, so they are always respected and carefully preserved. Family temples are also well tended to over generations as the prosperity of each family is reflected by its equivalent splendid temple. As time goes by, Balinese people will surely continue to be proud of the architecture of the temples, the way they are preserved, and in their belief in the supreme beings whom they worship. That belief will also retain the unique beauty of the alluring island of Bali.
In the strong cultural and spiritual atmosphere of the Uluwatu temple, the Kecak fire dance has an entrancing, surging rhythm combined with a graceful dance by the fire. I was mesmerized by the movements of the dancers, and deeply felt that the cultural pride and beliefs of Balinese people are as fierce as the bright flames of the fire. In that moment, I fully understood the meaning of the saying: “Bali is a huge floating temple where all houses are temples, and all temples are houses.”
If there were only temples, Bali would not be as famous as it is. Visitors are also attracted by the smooth white sand beach, vast terraced fields, majestic volcano, pristine crater lakes, fast flowing rivers, loud humming waterfalls, and tropical forests teeming with wildlife. Nature has generously endowed Bali, allowing it to offer visitors an unforgettable “party” of flavours.
When coming to Bali, at every moment, you can enjoy a spectacular tropical paradise. Let yourself lie stretched out on a sunny beach, savour a refreshing cocktail or sway to the music at Finns Beach Club on Berawa Beach. When you want to move a little, grab a board to conquer the waves, dive down to explore the colourful coral reefs, or get involved in exciting water sports like water motorbike riding, kayaking, paddle surfing which are all phenomenal experiences.
Bali still has much more to offer to completely satisfy adrenaline junkies. Ubud is the ideal destination if you are keen on “lighter level” adventures, where the Bali Swing, also called the “death swing” will take you soaring out high over the majestic green terraces and swaying coconut palms. If a “stronger level” is more your style, try the cliff jumping and natural slides at the Aling Aling Waterfall in Sambangan. The natural slides here are less than 10m long with the water of the streams pushing you along the perfectly smooth rocks in excitement. Besides sliding, jumping from 5m, 10m or even 15m high is considered the “bravery challenge”. Standing on the protruding ledge, thrill seekers let themselves fall right down into where the rumbling waters meet in the waterfall below, and of course, the water here is deep enough to ensure a safe landing. It sounds easy, but when standing on the edge of the cliff, the dizzying height is sure to make some falter. However, if you overcome the initial fear, the experience is absolutely worth it. The feeling of everything floating before your eyes, and then plunging into the cool water before the bright light suddenly returns when you emerge above the surface once more and open your eyes. That’s when you happily and excitingly realise you have overcome your fears and pushed your limits. Another adventurous sport requiring teamwork is whitewater rafting with the whole group working together to cross the whitewater of the rapids, navigate through the rugged rocks where the boat is about to flip upside down, and the steep drops. The whole time, the teamwork skills of the group of rafters are paramount. After all that overwhelming excitement, when reaching your destination, all muscles relax, floating on the calm water and watching the sky and clouds with a winning feeling is a worthy reward.
From flying in the sky to diving into cool waters, Bali really brings so many wonderful emotions to visitors.
The longer the journey in Bali lasted, the more intensely my feelings increased. I don’t know the precise moment I fell in love with Bali, but maybe it was when I immersed myself in a Kecak dance or when I stood in front of the endless enchanting sea. Bali is like warm water which gently flows into visitors’ hearts, gradually yet deeply and leaves unforgettable memories of an amazingly peaceful and beautiful island.
Bali has two distinct seasons including a wet season and dry season. The wet season starts in November and ends in April, and the dry season lasts from May to October. During the dry season, July, August and September are the peak months of the tourist season in Bali, so the cost of services including motels, hotels, food, and transportation increase considerably. If you don’t like crowds or noise and want to reduce your expenses, you can visit Bali in May or June. In September and October, Bali starts to be affected by storms, so you need to consider this carefully before travelling to Bali in these two months.
From Vietnam, many airlines provide flights to Bali, including Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar, Air Asia, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, but you need to transit in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Bangkok in Thailand, or Jakarta in Indonesia. Vietjet Air just opened a direct flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Bali at the end of May 2019, creating more convenient transportation options for tourists.
Indonesia’s currency is the Rupiah (Symbol: IDR) with a rate of IDR1 = VND1.63. You can exchange money in Vietnam or bring dollars to exchange at Ngurah International Airport or banks in Bali.
Balinese cuisine is rich in the traditional culture of the local people, and the taste is quite similar to Indian flavours because of the spices, curry and sauces they use. There are some delicious dishes in Bali that you should try like Sate Lembat, Babi Guling, Betutu, Nasi Kuning, and Ikan Bakar, to name a few.
In Bali, art is developing rapidly, so there are a lot of beautiful items that you can purchase such as batik – traditional Indonesian fabrics, clothes in many colours and sizes, and a wide range of lovely souvenirs.
H.T | Wanderlust Tips