Jan 17, 2016

Bali By The Beach

Bali and Beaches go hand in hand. The southern Bali, in fact is considered as a Surfer's paradise. All around one can see people carrying their surfboards along the beaches. The sea is full of surfing enthusiasts- some learning how to surf, some practising their new-found skill while others deftly dancing over the speeding waves.
Surfboard Art on Display

The beaches of Kuta, Seminyak and Legion area are very crowded; however the accomodation there is relatively cheaper as compared to the resorts at Nusa Dua. However Nusa Dua boasts of cleaner and calmer beaches. If you want to experience the 'real', 'party-hard' kind of Bali, go to Kuta, Seminyak or Legian. However, if you are looking for the perfect relaxing trip, head to Nusa Dua. 

Since I am not a water-person, I was content with spending my evening time, enjoying sunset, with a Bintang in hand at Legion beach. Despite being crowded and touristy, it has a very spirited (no pun intended!) atmosphere- A few surfers gambling with the sea-waves, children playing with kites on the sandy beach, another person getting a massage done while watching the sunset, families and friends sitting and chatting, girls getting nail art done by nail-artists. Nail painting and hair braiding are much in demand all around Bali.
Sunset at Legion Beach
Legion Beach

Its a crime to goto Bali and not try the famous Bintang beer ;)
The streets are sprawled with numerous superstores, opened 24*7. And that's not all...most of these stores sell alcohol and ready to eat stuff, like cup n noodles! Not only this, most of them have open air seating outside their stores. So just walk in these stores anytime of the day (or night!), grab a bottle of beer and cup n noodles for the little one. They even provide you with ready boiling water for those 'Ready-To-Eat packets!! Sit outside, drink, eat and make merry. Somewhere from around you will surely hear some loud music or live bands!! Its amazing! Its an effervescent atmosphere all around the city. The streets are full of brightly lit cafes, bubbling with lots of conversation, sea-food and music.This is one of the pictures I took at 4pm and this Mini Mart is already full with tourists.
Street View, Kuta

After you are tired of just lazing around at the beaches and in the city, take out time for a flying visit to Tanah Lot Temple. Though it was just a few kilometers from Kuta, it took us almost 3 hours to reach it. Normally it takes 45 minutes from Kuta to Tanah Lot. But the traffic was crazy that day. The temple was a bit of a disappointment though. Firstly, it was extremely crowded; secondly it was only partly open and I hated not able to go to the top of the temple; and thirdly the area around the temple was very dirty. However the brighter part of Tanah Lot visit was its picturesque sunset and the sea around. 
A note to tourists: Don't bother about sarong or even dressing moderately. Make a short stopover at Jimbaran Bay when returning from Tanah Lot. 
Tanah Lot Temple
Sea Waves @ Tanah Lot

The beachside Bali is perfect for honeymooners, party-lovers and sea-food enthusiasts. Dont forget to carry your sunscreen and hat for beachy Bali!
Stay tuned....more on Bali in my next post.

Jan 16, 2016

Ubud At A Glance

Bali...Bali...Bali...brings back a flood of memories. My recent trip to Bali was a 'culturally enriching' experience. Bali is not only about beaches and surfing but more so about Hinduism, elaborate rituals, typically styled temples, rich art and its vibrant culture.

Om Swastiastu 
That's the traditional Balinese greeting :)

Ubud is the cultural hub of Bali though beach spots like Kuta, Seminyak and Nusa Dua area are the touristy party zones, famous with honeymooners, sea-food lovers and surfers. Well, I fell in love with Ubud where the essence ranged from ancient temples amidst crowded roads to animated cafes with tourists to glamourous shops a surrounded by tropical green environment. I was amazed at the presence of  highly evolved art and sculpture in the city. This was the first sculpture I stumbled upon as soon as I took to the road.

My first temple visit in Bali was to the Gunung Kawi. This 11th century temple is enlisted as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. A long flight of steps lead to this serene temple. The rock carved mountains were magnificent. In fact there were 2 similar rock carved mountains facing each other, their mirror-image views blocked by a row of trees amidst them.  
A note to all tourists: The entry ticket includes the rent price of sarong, so don't bother carrying one or haggling with the shopkeepers just outside the temple.
Gunung Kawi Temple

My next visit was to the Besakih temple that is considered as 'Mother Temple' by Balinese here.  And fortunately that was a full moon day. So the entire temple complex was brimming with the hustle-bustle of local Balinese people in traditional attire, offering prayers. This is a very artistically styled huge temple complex. Here you need to be fully clothed or carry your sarong along if you are in shorts.

A small Balinese family can be seen performing rituals and offering prayers at a secluded part of this Besakih temple.

View of a part of Besakih Temple from the top. It is a magnificent temple, not to be missed at all.
Besakih Temple

This is the main temple complex where a huge gathering is seen offering prayers. Footwear is allowed inside the temple unlike the temples in India. I was fortunate enough to get a guide who showed the entire temple complex and also helped us in offering prayers 'Balinese' style.
Besakih Temple

This is our helpful guide posing with my husband and brother-in-law on either sides. They loved sporting the traditional 'snake-turbans' in their entire trip of Bali.

And, this is the grand exit of the Besakih temple. Obviously not a very elderly friendly place. Most of the temples in Bali have numerous steps.
Besakih Temple

Most of the in-city tourist sights are at a comfortable walking distance from any hotel. Ubud Palace is a small, nondescript place; nothing very spectacular about it. However another beautiful temple by name of Saraswati Temple close to Ubud  Palace is quite attractive and serene.
Saraswati Temple

And here comes the very famous Monkey Forest of Ubud. Its quite an aesthetically designed place with well trained monkeys. However take care of your sunglasses and mobile unless you are charitable enough to lose them to the monkeys!
Monkey Forest

Bali is also famous for its various styles of dancing namely Kecak dance, Barong dance and fire dance and many more. Since I was in Ubud for only a few days, I could manage to fit in only one dance performance in my travel schedule- Kecak and Fire dance. Kecak is a slow style dancing depicting different stories from Ramayana epic. The fire dance was a pleasant surprise and it seemed more like an act than a dance.  
A note to tourists: Don't forget to take in your Bintang beer and other refreshments before taking your seat for the performance. Also keep away from bright lights since moths are a major problem during evening performances.

Kecak Dance

Before going for the dance performance, I strolled in this colourful and artistic local market of Ubud. This market became much famous after being visited by Julia Roberts for the movie, 'Eat, Pray and Love'. Well, the young shopkeeper was kind enough to pose with us after we purchased a couple of trinkets from her shop.  
A note to tourists: Brush up your bargaining skills before you venture to Bali ;)
Local Street Market
This is just a window to Bali...more is yet to come.