I finally took my long overdue vacation. At a totally inappropriate time-but we will come to that later when work smothers me this week.
Went to the Island of Gods-Bali.Totally loved it! It reminded me of Goa and yet it was very different.
Bali is the only Hindu island in the Islam dominated Indonesia and has everything from sprawling beaches, active volcanoes to forests and rice terraces. Although I think it has become a bit too commercialized with tourism being primary source of income there and all sorts of touts and scammers abound, you can find your quiet spot if you wish.
The Denpasar airport is like one of the many small town airports we have here or even the major ones before their recent facelifts. You can get visa on arrival for 25USD for 30 days. The conversion rate offered at the airport would be generally low and as soon as you step out you will see a line of exchange counters where rates varied from 1 INR= 135 IDR to 165 IDR!Currency notes here range from 1000 to 10000000! Had a tough time keeping count of how much I spent and even tougher to digest that a meal outside would cost me upwards of a lakh rupiah!!
The moment you step out, you can just smell the firangipani in air. Its there everywhere and I think 3 days later my hair still smells of it.Anyhow we were put up in a cute and tiny boutique hotel right on the road leading to Kuta beach(Kuta actually means Dog in Balinese-the similarities to Devnagiri is quite amazing). Kuta is centre of low end partying in Bali and has lots of places to shop and eat around.You can find wooden artwork, massage creams/oils and cheap beach wear at each and every shop. Everything, repeat everything is open to bargaining.
We also had the traditional Balinese massage. Twice. Once at the hotel and once at the upscale Bali Ratu. Getting the massage was an experience in itself as I had ehmm…never got one before. The lady placed a thong on the bed and asked me to strip down. I had thought years of sharing rooms in hostels had gotton rid of whatever “laj and sharam” I had but apparently not. I think my face was beetroot red throughout the session!
Next day we set off early to Kintamani to see Mount Batur, an active volcano as well as crater lake called Lake Batur. The road from Kuta to Kintamani was scenic especially as we began the climb upwards. We had lunch at one of the restaurants, admiring the breathtaking view of volcano.
On the way back we saw some fabulous rice terraces and spent some time lazing in a cafe which had terrific view of the rice terraces.
That evening was spent in Ubud. It is regarded as the cultural centre of Bali. It is famous as an arts and crafts hub, and much of the town and nearby villages seems to consist of artists’ workshops and galleries.Ubud market reminded me instantly of Janpath. You can and should bargain every souvenir to at least half of the price initially quoted.
Artwork here seemed interesting but it would have not been to lug them to KL and then home on a budget airline. There is the Ubud monkey forest and Goa Gajah caves which we were too tired to fight with our tour guide to fit into the itinary.
Another thing. We went on a package tour which I would advise anyone going there against. Its pretty easy to book a hotel and hire a car and driver and go to locations of your choices rather than spend considerable energy arguing that no you dont want to go to a jewelery shop and rather see the old temples.
The next day we went to Tanah Lot temple.
This place really blew my mind!The temple is located on a rock just offshore. It is said to be the work of revered 15th century Hindu priest Nirartha and forms an important element of Balinese spirtualism and mythology. The approach path to Tanah Lot temple is a maze of souvenir shops and cheap compared to Ubud and Kuta.
From there we went to the more upscale Nusa Dua beach. This golden beach is home to more luxury resorts and upmarket tourists. However its was almost empty, with little or no activity-although it was touted as one of the best places for water sports. We went to the harbour nearby where we parasailed, rode a banana boat which toppled over causing us to almost drown(thats fodder for another post-of how you feel when your drowning nightmare turns real).
We returned home totally zapped and hungry and had lavish Indian dinner at Queens of India at Kuta. I also picked up the first season of Lost from one of the many VCD shops lining Kuta for 300 bucks. I wasnt sure of the quality of these CDs or would have picked the remaining seasons and other new releases as well.Have run them on my laptop now and the print is excellent, so in case your planning a vac there let me know and I will tell you what all I want 🙂 It was pretty surprising to find these pirated CDs being sold so openly in big shops. Also surprising were the shops selling “branded” accessories for Gucci, D&G and LV!For example I was seriosuly tempted to pick up a Pierre Cardin watch for 300 bucks but I guess the only charm in owning a luxury brand is the self congratulatory feeling the owner has on possessing it, which is kinda lost in this case so I gave it a miss.
The next day early morning we were back on our flight to KL. My only regret is that we had 3 days in Bali. We missed more than we saw!If you plan a visit here (and you should-its warm, welcoming and cheap) plan for at least 5 days. I really do miss waking upto exotic smells of firangipani and jasmine.
PS: All pics are mine except Nusa Dua and Ubud market which were googled (if there is a copyright issue, would gladly take it down.) And mere photos copy karne wale tere muh pe khub sare pimples!