I remember the day as if it were yesterday.
The moment I set foot at Denpasar Airport in Bali I thought the air smelled different. The sky looked blue, the grass was green, people with big smiling faces … what was happening?
I guess, the real reason why my Bali experience is my “Top Ranked” was because it was my first trip abroad – ALONE. I had turned 21 and my Mom felt I ought to take a break from what was the busiest year in college. I got a week off in November, but she couldn’t join me – long story short … My uncle based in Jakarta – was my only “local guardian” in Bali!!!
It had helped that my fabulous globe-trotting Grandma (until then!) had already been to Bali so had stationed her army of friends and well-wishers to watch out for me. As I was “Mama Geeta’s” grand-daughter, I was to stay in the charming Natah Bale Villas, Sanur where she stayed, have Ten Sang and T.Apti , one of the resort’s owners and his wife take me around and visit all the six major Hindu temples that she had visited!
The resort was a delight – six bale’s (villa in Balinese) around a pool, narrow pathways of car-petty lawns leading you to them. I particularly enjoyed the enormous flower-filled bathroom, with the outdoor shower; it immediately made me realise that the Balinese value the small comforts of life!
Sanur, where I stayed is a sleepy little village – quaint shops, a lazy beach – I even found a place where some fabulous stationery and art material was sold. I could buy a small sketch book and pencils, sip lemon tea and enjoy the attention of the lady at the counter who kept asking me “Pretty Indian girl alone? First time to Bali? ”
The seven days I explored different villages – mountainous Ubud, funky Kuta, groovy Seminyak, picturesque Padangbhai. Somehow, I managed to get a 45% discount on a Dolphin cruise and day trip to Lambongon Island, it was a lucky day to be roaming around the village where a chap in the corner was distributing pamphlets with all their prices slashed! Lambongon is a mini-paradiso, one can snorkel, eat, swim in pools, ride banana boats – tan on the decks of the huge Catamaran that took us there – on a clear day catch the view of Gunung Agung, the last active volcano on the island of Bali.
Of all the Temples I visited, my personal pick is Pura Taman Saraswati, at Ubud within the palace premises, dedicated to the Goddess that is my namesake – Saraswati Devi (for knowledge, wisdom and intellect). Frangipani trees, lotus stalks a foot above the water, well-preserved motiffs, absolute serenity, flecks of red, gold – green waters and ivy …the place is for those who seek solitude in prayer.
But the best thing about Bali was their people – friendly, eager -to-help often to the point of being intrusive , confused whether I was Spanish or Indian and why I was alone – and as I soon later understood one should reciprocate by asking questions about their children and families (quite similar to India!) They make the island the destination for travellers, lovers and families with their cuisine, mysticism, beliefs, their hospitality is renown for good measure and nothing tops the spas and foot massages; so ingrained in their daily lives.
If I were to advise someone heading to Bali – it would be to prepare for not making a travel schedule! Let there be surprise on your journey and give the island a chance to speak to you, I watched several people in tour groups moving from helter-skelter – especially at Pura Taman Besakih; but Bali is where one takes time to sip a chiller, read a book, meditate, balm one’s senses … essentially relax. What else could a holiday possibly be about????? =)