Travel diary with Mara Coman: Bali

Bali is a paradise that taught me an important lesson: never forget to be happy for what you already have

She told us she loved writing since forever – or, more precisely, since she has learned to write. First, she started writing letters to her cousin, using colored pencils and capital letters. She was only six. Then, she kept a diary and, as a teenager, she wrote some kind of essays – now she finds them childish and silly, but still, it was a way to express herself in writing. With a few colleagues, Mara tried to launch a magazine in high school, printed on a classic office printer. It had only one issue J. Now, she is the editor-in-chief of Marie Claire in Romania, and she is still writing (not as much and she would like to) in the magazine and on her blog, Mood Board. She says about herself that she’s lucky: her job is also her passion, so she doesn’t feel like working.
She loves good books, fashion, especially shoes, photography, writing instruments and ink pots, but, probably on top of everything, she loves traveling. If possible, she would go on a trip once a week. She dreams (too much!) about living in a small city close to the sea. Or, why not, close to the ocean.

I asked her to talk about one of her favourite places she has visited, and, with no hesitation, she said Bali.

When I asked you about the destination you would like to recount in this interview, you said Bali. Why?
I just came back from Bali and, even if it was not a long trip – I was there for a few days, as a journalist, invited by Club Med –, I was impressed by the beauty of the island, the culture, the temples, the people, the food. I tried to understand the culture of this place as much as I could, and, believe it or not, I came home and even watched Eat, Pray, Love, just because the love part was shot in Bali. No, I didn’t have the patience to see the movie or to read the book before this trip (it seemed kind of too romantic even for me).

What did you know about Bali before going there?
I had some fabulous images in mind – the rice fields, the ocean, the palm trees and some very beautiful women. I knew it was the island with more than one thousand temples and that people are happy and smiling all the time. And all these made me so keen to fly 14 hours and discover the island. I really counted the days, waiting for this vacation with the eagerness of a child who can’t wait to open his birthday gifts.


What plans did you make before going to Bali?
Well, I knew I will stay in Nusa Dua, at Club Med, and the first thing I’ve done was to search the resort online, to see how it looks like. And I have to say that the place is even more beautiful in reality. You step in there and that’s it: the vacation mood is on. So I planned to spend at least an afternoon by the pool, because it looked amazing, to take advantage of a relaxing massage (and believe me, that lady was so good at it), to eat traditional food, as I always do in all my trips. To take a walk on the Indian Ocean’s beach and enjoy the sunrise – and yep, imagine me waking up at 5 in the morning, watching the fishermen in the ocean and the crabs climbing on the rocks. I really loved that morning, with peace, silence and solitude. And, after all these, I wanted to see how the Balinese people live, to visit their temples, the rice fields, the Monkey Forest, the local markets. I had a driver who took me to Ubud and showed me some of the most beautiful temples, the Luwak coffee plantations, the Kintamani volcano. And yes, I also ate in a traditional restaurant – I love the way they cook the noodles and rice (carbs, I know, but I was on vacation!).

What were the places you enjoyed most and which would you recommend to your friends planning a trip to Bali?
A trip to Ubud and to the amazing rice fields would be on top on my list. Ubud is a colored city, with many little shops where you can buy dream catchers or traditional statuettes made from wood, bronze or stone. And it’s also filled with small little restaurants where you can taste the local cuisine. Plus, there is a local market – I really love going in the traditional markets, I think it’s a way to find out more about the people and their culture. I also loved the Monkey Forest, where little monkeys were jumping around (but hey, the locals told me it was better not to touch them). And if you are in Bali, you have to visit the temples. One of the most spectacular view was at Tanah Lot Temple – it is build on the top of a rock, in the ocean. The words (and unfortunately, not even the pictures that I took) can’t do it justice. Also, I loved the Mengwi Temple (or Royal Temple), the Batuan Temple… Well, there are temples everywhere, so you really have to see some of them.

… And the places you didn’t like?
It’s not about a place I didn’t like. Really, Bali is a paradise. But well, it was a thing that really impressed me and didn’t let me sleep for a few days back home – the poverty. Imagine this: you fly 14 hours, arrive at the airport and a car takes you to a fantastic and luxurious resort. The grass is perfectly cut, the frangipani flowers spread an amazing fragrance around and you see the ocean and the beach between the palm trees. People are lying on the beach, enjoying cocktails, playing tennis or golf. And then you leave the resort and you discover the real life, the way that most of the Balinese people live. And probably – just as I did – go on the internet and find out that some of the people actually live with a couple of dollars a day. You just can’t be indifferent and can’t not think about these people who smile all the time and who are happy. Yes, they are poor. But you don’t see it on their faces. Their poverty, contrasting with their happiness and peace, impressed me a lot. For me it was kind of a lesson – never forget to be happy for what I already have.

Which are the reasons you would return to Bali?You know, I had tasted Bali and now I want more. It’s not easy to point out why, it’s definitely a mix of all I’ve said here. But also, even if I’m not a very religious person, there is something there that made me feel different. A sort of spirituality that was in the air and made me feel that this place had something magic. I think this is why – because Bali made me believe that magic exists and that all my dreams will come true. And because I was smiling all the time there, as the Balinese people do.

How are the people in Bali?
As I just said: they seem happy. And they are very friendly – they smile to you, like they know you for a lifetime. I wanted to take photos everywhere and sometimes I was thinking I might disturb some people, so I asked them if I am allowed to take their picture. None of them said no. I remember this woman who was praying – it was a great image, but how could I disturb someone who’s praying?! She saw me looking at her, she smiled and, without even telling her what I wanted, she said yes.
And one more thing: in Bali I’ve seen the most beautiful women ever. It was not only in the way they were dressed – with colorful printed sarongs, lace blouses in a bold shade and some grains of rice on their foreheads, for luck –, but they really have the most beautiful physical features I have ever seen. I don’t know about the men, but I suppose they are kind of common, as I can’t remember at least one of them.

How about the food?
I love the Asian flavours and spices, so I really enjoyed the Balinese food – morning, lunch and dinner, three meals day, which never happens to me at home. I am a fan of rice, noodles and sea food, and this is what I ate every day. I rarely eat pork, but still, I was curious, so I tasted and loved it. They have this roast suckling pig that is a must try. And despite the fact that I don’t like sweets (don’t envy me, I stick to carbs J), I was impressed by their fried bananas. Well, I’m hungry now…

What did you buy from Bali?
I bought a sarong – a traditional printed skirt, like a pareo. First, I bought it because I needed one to visit a certain temple, but then I wore it a whole day and I fell in love with it (which is really unexpected, as I don’t wear prints, especially not floral prints). I also bought a small Buddha figurine and I regret I did’t buy a dream catcher for the girls’ bedroom. I know I can also find one in another place, but, I can’t tell why, now I want one from Bali J. And I bought fruits – three of four types, I don’t know their names, except that some of them were passion fruits, the most tasteful passion fruits I ever had. The ones that I tried before were no even close. And I remember this beautiful girl in a pink T-shirt who was selling the fruits on the side of the road.

If you would pack tomorrow for Bali, what would you put in your luggage? I would definitely take my blue and white sarong with me. Then, my nude one-piece swimming suit, a hat, sunglasses and loose dresses, as the weather is hot and humid. Flat sandals and flip-flops for the beach. No make-up needed. Just a lip balm, a SPF cream and a perfume – probably Flower by Kenzo or Eau de cologne from Chanel Les Exclusifs. Do I have to decide now? 🙂

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