I thought Bali was just a pretty place – fringed with beaches, palm trees and lots of privacy – a place for weddings and honeymoons – and lazing around, relaxing, and taking pictures of sunsets.
Was I wrong!
Yes Bali has all these, but so much more besides.
An island of temples – every 100 yards or so is a temple. Every house has a small temple. They say there are more temples in Bali than there are people
The religion is Hinduism, or a form of it – the Gods are colourful and benevolent, and they are also fierce and punishing.
Two of the most significant and imposing temples are Uluwatu and Tanah Lot – two must dos if you visit Bali. Go at sunset, and make sure your camera battery is fully charged.
Uluwatu is perched high on a cliff, and at sunset you can see a dance performance called Kecak Remayana and Fire Dance – costumes are colourful, music is mesmerising and the fire dance, hot coals and ashes, is heart stopping. If you only see one dance, this should be it – a combination of ancient rituals, drama and a choir of chanting – this is a wonderful memory to take home. The walk to the cliff top is fun as lots of playful monkeys come to join you – looking for anything they can steal – so hold on tight to your sunglasses and hats!
Tanah Lot on the other hand is a temple built on a small island from the beach – at high tide it’s cut off from land, and it looks mythical. Crowds gather here for spectacular sunsets – we arrived on an overcast evening, so disappointed – but as we walked along the beach, suddenly the clouds cleared and the sun, round, gold and glowing lit up the temple just for us and our cameras. Could it have been a heavenly intervention?
Ubud is also one of Bali’s famous hotspots, but I was disappointed to find it quite commercialised. Far better to continue north to see the volcano and the northern beaches, like Tembok. This is definitely the place to chill out, try a typical Balinese massage, and ree-lax! Rice paddy fields, water gardens and tranquillity abound.
Hmm hmm! I haven’t told you about the food yet! Balinese specialities (and I could eat them every day) like Nasi Goreng (Balinese fried rice) Sate Litit (minted chicken/seafood on a lemongrass skewer) Ayam Betutu (chicken with Balinese spices) Delicious!
Wanting to go out on the water, we bartered for a boat and driver. We were pleased with our bargaining power as we set off in our own boat, all to ourselves to explore the coral reefs. The water was warm and clear and safe – we had a full hour swimming, so felt we really had our monies worth. Other activities went on around us – paragliding, water skiing, banana boats and the most popular of all – flying kites!
Of course some parts of Bali are to be avoided in my opinion – nightclubs, seedy side streets, and loads of noisy tourists… Kuta was my least favourite spot – but I did take time to visit the Ground Zero monument – the memorial built in memory of the attack that took place on 12 October 2002 – sad and tragic – but Bali is recovering and the tourists are returning – which is good for Bali and its beautiful sights to share with us all.
Like any travel agent, I have to see one or two hotels and Bali has a choice to suit every taste.
Because I was with family, needing space, privacy and freedom – we chose a beautiful villa with pool and staff, including a driver
If you like unashamed luxury, golf, spas, pools and pristine beaches – The Mulia Resort and Villas are just stunning. Its decadence from top to toe!
The Belmond Jimbaran (ex Orient Express) is discreet luxury – small, intimate villas in secluded gardens in a lovely beachfront setting.
For privacy, retreat, recuperation and rest – I like the Spa Village at Tembok – where you are greeted with a cold towel and a Balinese shoulder rub and foot spa, which melt away the stress of your 10 hour flight from London!