Bali is one of those places I’d heard a lot about, much of it not good, and it definitely wasn’t on my “to visit” list. That is until the bosses at my workplace decided to “treat” its staff to an all-expenses trip to Bali for a training conference. To be honest, I wasn’t excited, but I figured I should suspend my opinion on the place until I’d seen it for myself. Just for context, I live in Western Australia and here, Bali is no big deal as it’s only a 3 hour flight and a more affordable holiday destination than most Australian resorts. In fact, it’s harder to find someone who hasn’t been to Bali than one who has.
The work trip lasted about four days. We spent three days in a hotel meeting room learning how to do our job better, the remaining time we were free to explore. In between training sessions, we also found time to dash out to explore Kuta, where our hotel was located, and do some shopping. But during our full day off, a few of us hired a vehicle with a driver for the day, something you can do cheaply in Bali, and we took off to see the sights. And Bali captivated me. When you get away from the noise, traffic and chaos of Kuta, a popular town the tourists, I discovered a magical charm about the island reinforced by the smiling faces of the Balinese people. It is a place rich in culture, with breathtaking scenery, gorgeous beaches and amazing architecture.
Although I fell in love with the place during that work trip, it took me over ten years to return. However, I’ve since become a regular visitor until the Covid pandemic stopped overseas travel. And how I miss it. Bali has become my place to go to escape the stresses and strains of daily life. Being close to the equator, the temperature there doesn’t vary so while there’s no guarantee of dry weather, I know it will always be pleasantly warm.
Yes, it is touristy but the tourists flock to certain areas so it’s easy to find quieter places if you want to escape the crowds. When we visited the Taman Ujung Water Palace in East Bali (see above and below) there was hardly anybody else there.
The Balinese are deeply religious people and everywhere you go you will come across these little shrines. You also need to be careful where you walk. Little baskets made of palm leaves containing flowers, fruit and smoking sticks of incense get placed everywhere. These are Banten, or offerings made to the Gods. It is disrespectful to tread on them but as they’re often left on pavements, and footpaths, it’s easy to do so accidentally, in which case, it’s polite to apologise.
One year we were there in March during Nyepi, which was quite an experience. Nyepi is a Hindu celebration, a day of silence, meditation and fasting. During Nyepi the entire island shuts down. Everyone has to stay at home, without entertainment, or even electricity. As visitors, we had to remain on our hotel premises and after dark, were confined to our rooms with the shutters closed to prevent the escape of light. It was a surreal experience!
The day before, however, was the opposite of quiet. That’s when many villages parade their Ogah Ogah, large grotesque statues made from lightweight materials, through the streets.
The Ngembak Geni (Relighting the Fire) festival is celebrated the day after Nyepi, the day of silence. This is a day of self-introspection when the Balinese locals take time to contemplate on their values about tolerance, love, patience and kindness.
The Balinese are gifted artisans. Here are some of them creating some of the gorgeous handicrafts available on the island.
The markets are colourful and noisy and the stallholders can be a little pushy, which isn’t my cup of tea, but definitely worth checking out, if for nothing other than the great shots you can get.
This beautiful beach was close to Nusa Dua in the Southern part of Bali. However, not all Bali’s beaches have inviting golden sand. As Bali has an active volcano, there are several beaches with dark sand.
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