Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Island of the Gods

The island of Bali has been a lifelong dream of mine, and probably for each and every single woman who saw the ever popular Eat, Pray, Love movie which was filmed here. Seeing Bali through film and pictures I've often wondered 'Is it really THAT pretty?', and the day finally came for me to see this slice of paradise with my own brown eyes.

The short answer - ABSOLUTELY! And you can see why.



The long answer ~
Bali is nicknamed the Island of the Gods due to its rich Hindu culture which promote yoga and tradition, its colorful landscape of glittering beaches and lush rice fields, and the smiling faces of its people who try to make the best of the over encompassing tourism industry the island has learned to thrive on. All these factors allow this little island to cater to the needs of different types of travellers by creating an idyllic setting for anyone who wants to get away from reality.

The island has many places of interest. I chose to say in Kuta beach, the overly touristic beach town catered to party goers, backpackers and families. I only had two nights in Bali so I felt Kuta would be the easiest choice to make the most out of little time.
Kuta reminded me of the beach towns in Australia - lined with Aussie surf shops (Roxy, Billabong, RipCurl) and banging clubs and drug vendors. The crowd is made up of mainly Aussie college tourists who are surfers by day and party animals by night. Almost like spring break in Florida.
Kuta Beach

We stayed in a new Best Western hotel a bit further away from the main Kuta strip, but the hotel had a shuttle bus that would drop us by the biggest shopping center in Bali - Discovery Mall. The trek was def worth it since this hotel was brand new and the staff were incredibly nice. Plus they had an awesome pool which came in handy once we laid eyes on Kuta beach which was nothing to write home about. It was filled with vendors and quite dirty. After a 5 minute stroll we were glad that we had made the decision to stay in the Gili islands.

Kristine and I did a day trip to Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali. This little town is filled with green rice paddy fields and historic Hindu temples. Most people opt to stay in Ubud since it provides more of a cultural experience with its nightly Balinese dance performances and the vast option of ethnic foods. Kuta on the other hand is filled with Western food, we were unable to find any authenticity in that little nook!


Since we only had a week in Bali,  a day trip to Ubud had to suffice and luckily for us we found an amazing Indonesian couple who were our driver and tour guide. They made us feel like family and took us to their favorite temple which had fresh water springs and wasn't as populated. The drive was scenic and the day ended with an hour of haggling at the Ubud market. I'm not sure if 3 years in Asia has improved my haggling skills or Indonesians are just darn nice, but I actually enjoyed the haggling in this country. And the Balinese are a lot more laid back and less greedy.

2 days in Bali is simply scratching the surface. It was tough partying it up by night and trying to be awake early enough for our day excursions. I thought this was a vacation?! But the sacrifice was well worth it, especially for the house anthems, live reggae bands and cheap sheesha. Beware of drugs though, they fill the streets outside the nightclub strip. Yet when you arrive at the airport, the big sign at immigration clearly states 'Trafficking drugs means death penalty'. What an oxymoron!

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