Bali is our place to go to escape the stresses and strains of daily life. For us it is just a reasonable three hour flight away and, being a tropical island close to the equator, the temperature there doesn’t vary much. So, while there’s no guarantee of dry weather, we can be confident it will be pleasantly warm.
We sorely missed our trips there during the Covid 19 pandemic and when we returned to Bali earlier this year, we could see that the lack of tourist income had caused a severe dent in their economy. Businesses, shops & restaurants had closed and probably may never reopen. Many Balinese had no source of income for two years and yet their spirit and friendliness seemed just as strong as ever. Everywhere we went, we were warmly welcomed and thanked for returning.
When you get away from the noise, traffic and chaos of Kuta, a popular town among the tourists, you’ll discover 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.
Whilst we go to Bali to relax and unwind around the hotel pool, we also like to explore a little, but we don’t recommend hiring a car. Motor scooters, cars and trucks all interweave in an alarming fashion. To our inexperienced eyes, there don’t appear to be any road rules. But you can hire a car with a driver for the day at a reasonable cost. We always require our drivers to be highly patient because we always like to make frequent photo stops.
A striking feature in rural Bali is the terraced landscape. Rice is a very important commodity to the Balinese. They consider rice a gift from the Gods. Growing it, however, on their hilly landscape isn’t easy, but they have succeeded by creating staggered rice terraces. Irrigation of the rice crops is by a system of canals called the Subak Irrigation System, which carries water from the springs to the rice fields.
We can highly recommend a trip to the water palaces in Eastern Bali. We’ve visited two of them. The below images are from Taman Ujung Water Palace. This is a beautiful, peaceful oasis set in landscaped gardens. It was built for the King of Karangasem, I Gusti Bagus Jelantik, in 1909. It’s a great place to escape the crowds of Kuta and Seminyak.
About 10 kms away is Tirta Gangga. Owned and maintained by the same royal family, the Karangasem family, these water gardens cover1.2 hectares of ponds and gardens. I’d guess they are slightly more popular with tourists than Taman Ujung. The slabs in the lily ponds are popular with Instagram photo seekers. But there are quieter sections for those who prefer the tranquillity. There’s also a restaurant overlooking the gardens for a nice meal and a cooling beverage.
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. The pathways are scattered with little baskets made of palm leaves containing flowers, fruit and smoking sticks of incense. These are Banten, or offerings made to the Gods. It is disrespectful to tread on them but 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. It’s the evening of the Ngurupuk parade when many villages parade their Ogah Ogah through the streets. Ogah Ogah are large statues made from lightweight materials and based on mythological beings. The statues are carried on platforms made of bamboo and wood. They get twisted and turned, which we gathered was to confuse the evil spirits. We might not have fully understood the signficance of what was going on, but we had a great night with plenty of noise, crowds, and laughter.
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, as I’m a browser, isn’t my cup of tea, but definitely worth checking out, if, for nothing other than the great photos you can get.
This beautiful beach is 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.
A pleasant thing to do is to go to Jimbaran Bay to eat at one of their beachside fish restaurants. The balmy evening breezes mingle with the wood smoke from the barbeques. The fish is fresh and tasty and, to add to the occasion, you should get rewarded by an amazing sunset.