Bali Through My Eyes: 9 Top Experiences In Bali

Bali Through My Eyes: 9 Top Experiences In Bali

Experiences that spur vibrancy in the soul and joy in the heart are ones that really should be treasured. My Bali memorabilia is dotted with experiences like these – experiences that you simply cannot miss out on, those that you can cherish for a lifetime!

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As soon as you step out of Denpasar Airport you immediately feel all your pores open up and then you find yourself breathing in the air heavy with the aroma of burning cloves. Welcome to Bali!

Bali is a tropical layer cake. There are beautiful beaches, scenic paddy fields and majestic mountains, all weaved into one tapestry of vivid colours and textures. Its cultural diversity is a reflection of its colourfulness with no attempts at being too difficult for travellers. There are people who may have felt otherwise, but I must tell you that my experience in Bali was nothing short of incredible.

As an island and province in South Central Indonesia, Bali is every bit as paradisiacal as those beautiful postcards you see of the tropics. The weather smiles on you, the ocean with its turquoise water invites you to its shores and the relaxing greenery of the landscape thrills the heart to experience such beauty. I think there is hardly a view that caught my eye which didn’t mesmerize!

The charm of the island is not just visual but cultural too. Speckled with temples – most of which are based off Hindu beliefs – Bali is home to the highest Hindu population in Indonesia. Its people will consider it their honour and privilege to show the temples to you while also indulging in folklore surrounding the region. The temples are very similar to each other in architectural design, but they are uniquely designed to impress you every time you set your eyes on a different one. Words fail to describe their splendour and all I can say is that you really have to see them in person to experience their impressive beauty.

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Bali has created a very warm and welcoming environment for the tourists. Travellers will find everything organized and accessible making your entire travel experience a convenient and pleasant one. The locals understand and speak English which makes things very easy. Bali is the fulcrum of modern tourist itineraries and beautiful cultural experiences making the island perfect for virgin travellers wanting to explore South East Asia.

  1. First Stop – Ubud

Ubud is the cultural and artistic center of Bali. It is bursting with scenic views, skilled artisans and every inch is filled with magical experiences. I could only wish to have stayed longer so that I could peek deeper into the layers of culture and landscapes that Ubud has to offer. For the span of time I spent here, my camera hardly left my hands and my heart hardly stopped jumping out in joy as I awed in the glory of its natural beauty.

The picturesque beauty of Ubud’s jungles and rice paddies are best experienced from the many restaurants which overlook them. My husband, Vikram and I stopped for a sumptuous lunch at one of these restaurants which offered a spectacular view of the stunning rice terraces cascading down the hills.

While the dreamy landscapes render a vision of relaxation, the beauty & uniqueness of handmade products lined up on the streets truly embodies the Ubud vibe. Intricately designed handmade quilts, wooden photo frames, colourful pottery, exquisite jewellery, pretty trinkets and impressive souvenirs crave attention in Ubud’s beautiful markets. This is the place where you should be shopping for keepsakes of your trip.

The streets of Bali are also teaming with local shops, quaint cafes and restaurants which give you the chance to rest your tired feet and discover the deliciousness of the local cuisine. If you are inclined on the culinary side, then you can also enroll in cooking classes offered by most of the restaurants here. A visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary will complete your visit to Ubud.

But if you are looking for a true Balinese experience then visit a healer who will magically transform your entire perception of the world. Alternatively, you can visit a hotel spa in Ubud to enjoy a rejuvenating spa experience that will help you relax and replenish your energy for the rest of your journey in Bali.

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  1. Walk Back In Time Through The Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

Rice fields are a mark of the Balinese culture, depicting the importance of hard work among its people. This is probably why you will find the island brimming with rice paddies. Yet, there is no rice field that equals the mesmerism and beauty of the emerald green terraces of Jatiluwih. UNSECO rightfully recognizes the splendor of these rice fields classifying them as a cultural World Heritage Site.

Walking past the fresh green rice crops is like living a dream. Begin at the top so that you can drink deep from the panoramic views and breathe in the fresh mountain air. Amidst the green paddies, you will find yourself to be a part of an intricate, ancient and beautiful system which defies time and modern advancements to create a place of its own amidst the hubbub of developing worlds. No matter how long you spend here, every moment will have a lasting effect in your mind and memories.

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  1. Soak In The Sunrise Atop Mount Batur

The adrenaline rush that you experience as you hike up an active volcano in the insanely early hours before dawn to soak in the sunrise is incomparable.

We began our hike up Mt. Batur, located near the quaint village of Kintamani at 3 in the morning. The two hour journey that covered 1,700 meters to reach the top of the volcano was a spectacular one. I was torn between keeping up with the group and stopping to admire the remarkable beauty of the place. You’ll meet steam fissures on your way up and then you can follow the rim of the volcano to explore the crater.

End your thrilling journey to the volcano with a lavish breakfast at any of the nearby restaurants that promise impeccable views of the volcano and the majestic Lake Batur which is just a few hours’ drive from Ubud.

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  1. Savour Delicious Coffee & Discover The Unique Kopi Luwak Culture

Bali lures us in more ways than we expect. Its magnetism goes beyond the rice fields into coffee and tea plantations. And once it has gently enticed you into its embrace, it opens up secrets that would leave you amazed. One such unique experience lies in the Kopi Luwak culture.

But let me begin by telling you about the popularity of coffee and tea plantations in Bali. Coffee enthusiasts visit these plantations to see the cultivation of the berries, and enjoy tasting sessions where they can even buy different varieties of coffees and teas which include Gensing coffee, Bali cocoa and Rosella tea.

While most visitors may stop here and satiate their coffee love with these varieties; there is the Kopi Luwak culture which beckons intrepid travellers to experiment with something different. Koip Luwak is a Balinese drink which is made from the seeds of coffee berries which are defecated by a breed of cats called Asian Palm Civets. Very interestingly, Kopi Luwak is one of world’s most expensive coffees – the price we pay for tasting a drink that is made from a cat’s excreta! It may sound weird, but this drink is savored as a delicacy in many circles.

Note: I’ve been alerted to the mistreatment of civet’s in captivity. If you’re going to visit a plantation where this coffee is produced, please check to ensure that they adhere to fair practice.

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  1. Get Lost In The Ancient Temples Of Bali

With over 10,000 temples constructed through the length and breadth of the island, there is reason behind the popular thought that there are more temples in Bali than homes. The statistics include small temples flecking the roads and beautiful structures constructed atop villas and buildings which are very beautifully designed and have exquisitely carved doors giving them the look of a temple to every effect.

Every Balinese temple is architected according to specific rules which include the position of the shrine within the compound. These temples are usually quiet and peaceful but a festival or special celebration can add soulful vibrancy to its environs. Utmost care is taken in maintaining the cleanliness and beauty of the place cueing at the importance of religion among the people of Bali.

The spirituality of the island will undoubtedly touch you at least once in your journey to Bali. Because more than anything else, Bali is a spiritual island – its soul revels in the colorful exuberance of its diverse cultures.

The ones you find listed here are the most significant and renowned temples; you should definitely visit at least few of these if not all of them: Tanah Lot, Ulun Danu Batur, Luhur Uluwatu, Goa Lawah, Besakih or The Mother Temple, Goa Gajah, Tirta Empul, Taman Ayun, Luhur Lempuyang, and Gunung Kawi.

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  1. See A Traditional Balinese Dance Performance

The liveliness of a Balinese soul is truly uncovered when they come together to perform for religious and festival celebrations. If you are lucky, you may just happen to witness an impromptu village performance. But since it is difficult to rely on chance, you can simply book your tickets and enjoy staged performances held specifically for tourists.

The Barong and Kris dance is a renowned performance of the region which depicts the perpetual showdowns of good and evil. Barong, the good spirit takes the form of a fearsome lion-like animal while Rangda, the evil spirit is represented by a monstrous mythological creature. The performance involves strong stances and stunning stage antics which may even extend to a certain level of obscenity in some of the small village performances.

The Kecak dance is a portrayal of the Ramayana. The performance is a magical exposé of the ancient epic which tells the story of how Prince Rama’s wife Sita was abducted by the ogre Rahwana when she condoned her husband’s safety precautions. The best place to watch this amazing show is in the open near Pura Tana Lot Temple with the surreal beauty of the sunset in the backdrop.

The Devdan Show is a modern rendition of traditional Balinese dance performances. Partially designed by the stage and artistic designers of Cirque du Soleil, this 90-minute theatrical performance is a tribute to Indonesia.

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  1. Snorkelling In Amed and Walking At The Bottom Of The Sea In Sanur, With A Sea Walker Helmet.

Bali is as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside. Its scenic landscapes took our breath away, and the dreamlike ocean had my heart skip a beat when I first witnessed the underwater world in Bali. The island is listed as one of the top 5 destinations for snorkeling and you’ll understand why as you find yourself in a world of shipwrecks, colourful corals, and rich marine life. The best place to snorkel is the area of Amed which consists of Jemeluk beach and has a spectacular coral garden and Japanese shipwreck.

If you are not a swimmer or diving into the ocean doesn’t appeal to you, then you can enjoy observing the ocean life in Bali with the Sea-Walker helmet. It is great for everyone and the helmet also ensures that your hair does not touch the water. So all those flattened hair and helmet head woes can go flying out of the window!

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  1. Nightlife At Kuta

Popularly known as the Sunset Beach, Kuta was one of the first fishing villages in Indonesia to transform into a tourist destination. The Kuta Beachwalk area has multi-brand boutiques where you can shop during the day and when the sun goes down, this place turns into a party destination for tourists and locals alike.

There are lots of dining and clubbing options and if you are looking for luxury then you can head to Harris Resort Kuta Beach or Samabe Bali Suites and Villas. Whether you are travelling solo or with a partner or friends, partying in Kuta is safe even when the party continues till the early streaks of sunlight begin kissing the beach. A night out in Kuta will create some vivid memories of Bali for your vacation journal.

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  1. Feast On The Local Cuisine {more on this in my next post}

 

*Insider tip: Avoid going on a ‘day trip’ simply because a friendly driver or the hotel concierge advised you of one. These trips either end in tourist traps or a waste of your day. And drivers usually profit by taking you to places from where you can buy “souvenirs”. Make your travel plans with the help of my guides and then book a driver on your own and direct him where you would like to go.

 

End note: The stately mountains of Bali and the languid rice field and coffee plantations are in stark contrast to the effervescent beach towns and invigorating active volcano site of the island. But when the languorous beauty of Bali weaves through the adrenaline charged sites, it creates a beautiful balance that gives travellers the best of both worlds. From relaxing spas to feet-numbing parties, Bali offers everything you may want from your vacation. This is the beauty of the island. This is the exquisiteness of Bali!

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* I love bringing together a bunch of conflicting items and weaving my own sense of one-ness to them. *

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