Many years ago, while on a cruise, I was seated at a large table for dinner which included three very elegant older ladies. They mentioned that they were on the inaugural, around the world cruise on the same ship a few months back. They were sisters, all widowed and spent most of their days travelling the world, mostly on cruise ships. They had been on at least 3 other world cruises and been to most countries around the world. I asked them what their favorite place was. After some conversing amongst themselves, they said “Bali”.
A friend of mine used to own and operate a chain of travel agencies and got to travel on “fam” trips quite often. I asked him and his wife the same question about their favorite travel destination. She said without hesitation, “Bali”.
Many years later, I finally got the chance to experience it for myself.
Bali is a very small island of about 85 by 50 miles at the widest points. It has almost everything that a vacationer or traveller could want. Beaches, valleys, mountains, temples, beautiful scenery, night-life, culture, entertainment and more. Accommodations range from youth hostels to highest end resorts. Food ranges from local street food to the best gourmet fine dining.
If you want the better Bali experience, stay away from the busy beach towns such as Kuta and Seminyak down south. They are like Cancun or Cabo only with Australians.
I chose to use Ubud as a base and venture to other parts of the Island by hiring a guide/driver for the duration of my stay. Ubud, made famous to the outside world by the Julia Roberts’ movie Eat Pray Love, is a lovely place by its own right. It is located near the center of the Island, relatively small, easily walkable, is full of wonderful restaurants and has a very calm and spiritual feel. A number of surrounding towns each specializing in a different type of art and craft are also worth visiting.
My guide would take me on a different direction of the Island each day to visit different sights. The scenery and encounters on the way were immensely interesting. We came across many, many picture perfect tiered rice fields, tropical forests and parades in small villages celebrating one occasion or another. There are hundreds of temples on the Island and each one is different and has a different theme. At least a dozen of them are worth spending some time in. Bali practices a form of Hinduism (different than in India) and the temples are unique and a refreshing change from the usual Catholic/Christian churches, mosques and Buddhist temples that are so often encountered during travels to other parts of the world.
We travelled to all parts of the island, saw many temples, had many good meals and new experiences. The most memorable moments were when we got caught in a tropical downpour in a little palapa restaurant in the middle of nowhere amongst tiered rice fields. The sound of the rain was deafening and yet there was a calm and mystical feel to the sight of the country-side. Also, a visit to the guide’s home (a compound he shared with his family, parents and families of various siblings and uncles) was a great eye-opener seeing how so many people can live together in such a small space harmoniously and working towards the common good.
My time in Bali was full of adventures and wonder. It offered a little more than the usual sights, cuisine and experiences of other travel destinations. Somehow, it touched my soul and I was moved. The people are kind, joyous and friendly. The land is vast in terms of what it has to offer and with a very spiritual feel. It has its own tradition and habits and is not without its quirks.
I loved Bali. It is now on my “one of the favorite destinations” list.