For a few days, one can feel like a multi-millionaire in Bali. 100 New Zealand dollars gets you almost a million Indonesian rupiah! Of course I was very excited to visit Bali not to feel like a multi-millionaire but because the history of how Bali came to be is very interesting. In a country that is dominated by Muslims, Bali remains to be a Hindu majority province. Most of the inhabitants are descendants of migrants from other parts of Asia and there has been a long documented history of Hindu rulers for over 700 years. The Dutch colonised in 16th century and then came a long difficult colonial period.
Being just 8 degrees south of the equator, Bali has a fairly even climate all year round. Tourism is now the largest single industry and cruise ships are starting to see the appeal and they have been docking close enough since 2011.
I was most impressed with the Bali Mandara Toll Road carried by a bridge stretching across the Gulf of Benoa and 12.7 km in length. For the first time in my life, I wanted to experience an all-inclusive resort style holiday with our grown up children. Guess I soon realised that this is not the type of holiday we enjoy at all. So we were all itching to get out and about.
We went for long walks along the beach. There was a Zen feeling around the place with stone sculptures of Buddha along with beautiful homes and lovely gardens everywhere. The stone sculptures be it that of Buddha or some Hindu Gods, was just very calming and the gentle smiles of the local people made it for a memorable stay.
I heard so much about Kuta and the neighbouring surrounds of Legian and Seminyak. I dragged the family out there – no sooner we got there I wanted to run away from the madding crowd. The beach is very crowded not only with tourists but also with hawkers, people wanting to give you a massage or braid your hair! In fact I found solace in Starbucks! We didn’t venture out to Legian or Seminyak after that.
We booked a tour to go to Ubud and also visit a couple of temples. The volcanic activity provides for fertile soil and therefore rice cultivation. Ubud is a sea of green with rice fields as far as the eye can see.
We went to a place that made Kopi Luwak coffee. I love my coffee and when I tasted the world’s most expensive coffee, I felt it was meh. Kopi Luwak or civet coffee (yes you heard it in the movie “Bucket List”) is coffee that includes partially digested coffee cherries, eaten and defecated by the Asian civet. The traditional method of collecting faeces from wild civets has given way to intensive farming and battery cage systems, so the coffee origins are really questionable.
From north to south Bali is 112 kilometres and from east to west it is 153 kilometres. While it is not large, given the traffic, it takes more than two hours to get anywhere! During the heat of the day we arrived at Tanah Lot, one of the famous temples. It certainly has a unique off shore setting and you have to get into the waters to be able to visit the deity.
We drove further and got to Uluwatu temple in time for sunset. This is very popular with tourists as they have local dancers performing after sunset. The temple itself is perched on top of a steep cliff approximately 70 metres above sea level. Balinese architecture, traditionally designed gateways add to the appeal.
If you are the adventurous kind, you can go up the volcano for sunrise. I am told it is a bit of an ascent and you get picked up about 3 in the morning. When planning your trip to Bali, don’t forget to look up when the festival of Nyepi falls. This is celebrated in spring and it is a day of silence and nothing happens for the day before and the day after!