I know I started out with a significant assurance: I’ve promised you’ll smile in Bali. And not just a few times a day. It seems a slightly exaggerated promise, isn’t it? Well, all I’m doing is to recount my experience, as well as that of my group of friends with whom I visited the Island of the Gods, where there are thousands and thousands of temples.
We arrived in Denpasar in a day of celebration. We drove towards the hotel in Nusa Dua and made small stops along the way, we even strayed away along the way. That’s because every place was superbly decorated, as for celebration. Large groups of people, dressed traditionally, were going to processions and gave offerings – wearing on their heads baskets packed with goodies. Praying. I would have photographed everything – from the decorations, to the people, to the offerings or the temples. And yet I felt some restraint in photographing the locals in a procession, a very important and intimate time for them. I queried by eye contact for permission, and, smiling, they nodded in recognition: yes.
I smiled back, for the first time, and that’s what I did for the rest of my vacation in Bali – smile. The peace and joy of the inhabitants give you such a good feeling, which I, at least, never encountered elsewhere.
Bali is a blessed island, with magnificent beaches on the edge of the ocean and mountains that take your breath away. Most of the time, it’s a sense of tranquility and peace – lesser during the periods in which one of the active volcanoes shakes everyone. Otherwise, it’s the place where you can spend a relaxing vacation on the beach, or an active one, visiting the main points of interest. And, if you ask me, I would say that the perfect option would be a mix between the two.
But where to begin? OK, if you’ve gotten so far, you have to see a few temples. One of the most spectacular is Tanah Lot, located on a cliff at the edge of the ocean. Then, add on your list, Uluwatu, Besakih, Ulun Danu Beratan, Taman Ayun… and the list goes on and on. Otherwise, through all of Bali journey, you’ll encounter many temples, so stop from your designated route and visit them.
Go to Ubud, a town known for its art and traditional dance – and stay there for a few days. Wander in the Monkey Forest in Ubud and then head towards Tegallalang: the terraces where rice is cultivated are simply spectacular. Then, try out the Luwak coffee in the plantation near Denpasar. Enjoy the traditional dishes and buy fruit from the locals. And, by all means, buy a sarong (a Balinese costume, which you can wear as a skirt), and a small Buddha statuette – it’s going to be a lovely memory.
And, because we got to shopping, the rule says that in Bali you must negotiate. That’s it. Yet, do not forget a thing: you’re in a wonderful island with people who have welcomed you with open arms and made you smile every day. However, these people live with very small wages, with which, sometimes, they can barely buy their daily rice ration. So, yes, do negotiate – but don’t forget that every extra penny, that perhaps doesn’t mean anything to you, matters enormously for the locals. Especially since you’re in a place where prices are not at all gigantic and, in most cases, you will be surprised that everything is much cheaper than at home.