“Mama Bali has called you”, is the statement you will gonna get, if you find yourself wondering around Bali, and if you feel like it seem to be something more to this island than party, beach and surfing.
With thousand of people visiting the island every month, Bali is one of the most popular touristic destinations, mainly for its fun and easy going lifestyle.
I have always tried to avoid falling in the “fame trap” and avoid going to a place just because is famous, however something beyond my understanding took me for vacation to this tiny island of the Indonesian Archipelago.
Indonesia has more than 17.000 islands, Sumatra being the biggest one (~400.000 Sq/Km), followed by Celebes (~200.000Sq/km), Java (~120.000Sq/Km),Halumohera and Ceram drops to approx. 17.000Sq/km, Bali is the 12th with approx 5000 Sq/Km and you can only imagine how tiny the rest of the island are, scattered around the Indian and Pacific Ocean.
If it was just a matter of luck for the island to become famous, or is more to Bali than meets the eye, is what I will try to debate next, and feel free to let your imagination fly there, because whatever you can imagine, Bali can offer.
Indonesia has one of the biggest Muslim community in the world, however Bali is predominantly Hindu. The Balinese people believe in spirits, karma and “keeping busy”.
Creating and giving “offerings” to the Gods, is a must, for every respectful Hindu Balinese.
In front of doors, crossroads, even on mountain pathways, and forests, you will have to be careful not to step on coconut leave baskets, adorned with flowers and scented sticks.
The locals believe in the existence of both bad and good spirits, like darkness and light, good and evil. They also believe that the bad spirits are mostly leaving on crossroads and rivers and some locals are able to see them.
The island has become famous for its spirituality, and funny enough, its not the locals who are promoting it, but ” once upon a time” tourists, who decided to settle and explore the potential of the island.
● A home away from home
If you have ever been to Bali, you deffinitely remember the confortable feeling of ” is like I know this place” while at the same time having the adrenalin kick of discovering an exotic land.
If you stop and analise the environement however, the situation in Bali is more like a peaceful invasion. Foreigners have taken over the island. European and Australian1 style restaurants and bars, yoga retreats and Healthy lifestyle centres, have popped up like mushroom after a summer rain.
Is like watching an Indonesian movie with mainly, foreigners actors.
We all love to travel, or the majority of us at least, we love the new and the exotic. However, what keeps us comming back for more or even settling in Bali is the subtle familiarity of the environement brought by the availability of a lifestyle that one is already used to and the familiar faces. What can be better than exploring a new environement and culture, however, now and than, being able to go back to your home country habits and lifestyle ?!?!
Maybe is the Yoga or the Meditation, you might be pushed to think.
You may be right, and maybe is the fact that even there, is like the spiritual ambasy of tourists around the world.
However is not the locals giving the classes, but again, the once upon a time tourists. The only locals that can be spotted in the yoga centers, are at the reception, just for you to remember that in fact you are in vacation.
Walking around mesmarising villages in the north side of the Island and as a matter of fact, everywhere you walk in Bali, you will be in owe of the reachness of the land. Looks like, everything you want, grows in Bali: from tomato to bananas, from coconut to grains, thanks to the variety of the relief.
Than why is the island still quite poor?!
I am not an expert neither in politics or echonomy, so the first answer that crosses my mind is; ” This people are far too nice”
They welcome us in their homes, treat us like kings and ask pennies for it.
You can eat like a VIP for 20$ a day and much less if you want, stay in great 4 stars hotels for as less as 30$ per night and pay an averrage of 40$ to have a taxi for a full day.
Can we call it Paradise already?!?!?!
I can not say that Bali has the best natural landscape on the whole Indonesian archipelago, however, it definitely has some seriously stunning views.
I was recently passing through some “must see” places for a friend who is planning to visit the island, and I have covered two pages, just with “must see”, leaving a side the: should see, beautiful to see, if you have time to see etc.
While the beaches get a lot of attention for their beauty, if you are a nature’s person, I advise you to ” camp” in Ubud. At only 2 h 30 min, from the furthest point of the island, in all directions, Ubud itself is a natural paradise.
Campuhan Ridge walk, Ubud Palace and the Monkey forest, are within walking distance from the center, while Bali Swing, Tagalalang Rice fields, Tangenungan waterfalls, Pura Titra Empul temple, are 30 to 40 minutes away.
If you are not shy to bargain in Bali, and you shouldn’t, than a taxi will cost you 500 RP per day, or the equivalent of approx. 35 dollars. In case bargaining is not your thing, then be prepared to pay up to 80 dollars/day.
Having rented a good car or a good taxi is primordial for discovering Bali. It doesn’t take long to reach to any place on your list, however, many waterfalls and temples are hidden in the mountains, and you will want your taxi to wait for you, while you enjoy a small hike.
This is especially important for solo-travelers, because I know we are many and growing, even though some days ago, I unintentionally overheard some tourist say, ” who goes to Bali alone, that is nonsense”.
Travelling alone in Bali is far from nonsense, is indicated I might say. Not just that it feels as safest as it can get this days, but also, the environament will encourage you to either bound and connect, or fallow an introspection journay and rediscover yourself.
Now that we have establish that the island is safe, you can trust your taxi and take a day trip to discover the hidden ” Bali Niagara; not as massive, but as impressive.
Reserve a day just for waterfall hunting. Munduk Waterfall, Sekumpup Waterfall and Baniyumalla twin Waterfalls, are some of the most impressive, but at the same time, not very easy to access.
On your way to the Waterfalls, stop and take in the beauty of Bratan Temple.
The “Temple on the lake” became famous for its surroundings more than itself. Situated on lake Bratan, and framed by mountains, Bratan Temple can be one of the favorite places for a instagram shots, however, for those who love culture and a good story, the temple is like a goldmine.
Between Bratan Temple and the waterfalls, you will discover the famous Bali Gates, a Instagram sulerstar, leaving you wandering how can beauty be so easy to access, no wow, no struggle, just a gate on the side of the road, able to take you however in a different dimension altogether.
Batur mountain is another jewel to be discovered. Safeguarding the lake and the vilages nearby, Batur is facing the powerful force of Mount Agung. From a safe distance of a potencial eruption, climbing Mount Batur can give you a fair sight of the power of nature.
The day I climb it, the fog has settle in, leaving just a faint impression of what is so close and not visible. Mount Aging has hidden its distruction force, morking my insignificance and childish excitment of trying to stare the nature in the face withouth fear.
Another good glimpse of the Mount Agung can be taken from Lempuyand Temple, south est of the island.
Situated at 1, 175m above sea lever , Pura lempuyand is one of the most regarded Hindu temples in Bali, celebrating its importance with a over 1700 stairs to reach it.
There are two 2 ways of exploring Bali:
The fun, beach and sun, party and surfing side,
And, the spiritual, nature bounding, purifying and meditative side.
Choose the one for you and go explore.