I went to Bali when I was thirty, along with three wonderful travel companions in their forties, fifties and sixties, from all over India. The trip was unimaginably beautiful and that should tell you how diverse and appealing to all demographics, this island actually is.
Bali, as is known for, is truly an island of Gods, culture and art. Spirituality is a way of life here and that can be seen in the faces and mannerisms of the simple folks who reside here. One of my fellow travelers had lived in Bali for ten long years and knew Balinese, their local language, which made us the receptors of even more warmth than tourists normally receive which is already an awful lot. Balinese architecture, traditionally designed gateways and sculptures of mythological figures add to the island’s appeal.
Although Indonesia is a country with Muslim majority, this small land is an exception. One often hears from Hindus that Hinduism is a way of life and not a religion; one can understand the meaning of this phrase by observing just a day in the life of the Balinese. In fact, the day after we were to leave Bali, the festival of ‘Nyepi’, a day of silence, which is Balinese new year, was to be celebrated wherein the entire land shuts down for 24 hours! There are no incoming or outgoing flights on these days. Shops, ATMs and streets remain empty as people are supposed to stay home with no lights. (with no electricity supply in some places) We were told that the day is dedicated completely to connect more deeply with God (Hyang Widhi Wasa) through prayer, fasting and meditation with an additional layer of introspection of the Self, to evaluate personal values such as love, truth, patience, kindness, and generosity. Now compare this with the grand and sparkling new year parties elsewhere across the world, when we hardly hear the voice of person near us, let alone the sound of our own mind! Their immense belief in tradition and the spiritual nature of these rituals makes one wonder how far people here would go to preserve their culture, and the answer to this question is the fact that local watchmen known as Pecalang (Nyepi Police) are deployed all over the Island on this day to ensure that rules are obeyed! I know, right?
We took a flight from Bangalore,India to Denpasar Airport in Bali, Indonesia via Bangkok, Thailand and hence began the five day decamp to the nature loving land from the concrete jungle of silicon valley of India. The people and places here are so close to nature that the city noise, that is nowhere to be found, gets erased from even one’s memory, within a day of living here. I met a woman from Denmark who had come for a trip of few days like me, but stayed back for 3 long months, working online to sustain. Wishing and praying that some day I find the courage and resources to do what she did, I wished her luck with her journey and went on with mine.
Out of the five days spent in Bali, we were in Sanur for two days and rest were spent in Ubud. Sanur is a coastal town in the south eastern part of Bali and attracts a lot of tourists given the beautiful beaches and well known cultural hot-spots nearby. On the first day out from Sanur, we went to Pura Tanah Lot. (Pura means temple) This is one of the many sea temples, the spiritual pillars of Bali, along the Balinese coast and claimed to be built during the 16th century. To reach this temple from the parking ground, you walk along a road with shops on either side selling Balinese artwork, musical instruments, clothes, variety of food. Only things i bought here were a sarong and a sash. (pieces of cloth like scarves) Some temples in Bali have a dress code which is actually part of temple etiquette; this included us wrapping around a sarong and tying the sash to tighten this rustled up skirt. Tripping on this skirt and regaining balance every few steps, I walked up to the temple just to be told that due to rising sea level we would not be able to cross the path leading up to the temple rock. So we took pictures of this iconic tourist place, spent some time at the beach and headed back to the cozy Laghawa resort where we had booked a cottage, crossing a St Patrick’s day celebration in one of the pubs with the local band singing the Irish band U2’s number ‘Beautiful day’ in this part of Indonesia. That was the end of day one.