What would one say about being in a place where each morning one wakes up to the deep blue sea turning into a deeper blue in the heat of the mid-day sun and thereafter into silver in the moonlight! The Indian Ocean has held everybody in awe for times immemorial. It is on the shores […]

What would one say about being in a place where each morning one wakes up to the deep blue sea turning into a deeper blue in the heat of the mid-day sun and thereafter into silver in the moonlight! The Indian Ocean has held everybody in awe for times immemorial. It is on the shores of this ocean that one finds an amazing and awe-inspiring juxtaposition of the sleepiness (associated with all beach towns) with the most happening night life in Asia. This exotic destination, totally barren as far as the influx of the Indians landing there is concerned, is called Bali.
This Indonesian island, with its capital at Denpasar and home to Indonesia’s small Hindu minority, is the largest tourist destination in the country and is renowned the world over for its highly developed arts, including dance, cane furniture sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking, woodcarving and music all strongly influenced by Indian, and particularly Sanskrit culture. Resultantly, most of the population here adheres to Balinese Hinduism and Balinese and Indonesian are the most widely spoken languages. As Tourism is now the largest single industry in this country, English is a common third language and Bali Indonesia’s wealthiest region. This fact is more than evident from the moment that one walks out of the Ngurah Rai International Airport and on to the streets. For the very feel of the place is that of a developed country as it exudes opulence in each way, be it the brand of cars, quality of streets, beautifully landscaped by-streets and the number of westerners that one accosts on the roads.
Surprisingly, the island has no railway lines just winding and coastal roads as this enchanting little town has a mix of both – the beaches as well as the mountains. Surrounded by coral reefs, Bali has some beaches that have white sand and an equal amount of beaches that have black sand. But if one were to reach the beach town of Padangbai, one would find both white and black sand co-existing on it beaches in complete harmony. The main tourist locations are the towns of Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Sanur, Jimbaran, Ubud and the newer development of Nusa Dua.
Some of the cleanest and most attractive beaches that Bali has on offer are best seen in the months starting from August through to March. Nusa Dua, in a peninsula in the South of Bali, about 20 kms from Denpasar and Bali’s fountainhead, is the most stylish and spectacular address to stay in. Laced with hotels right from the Grand Hyatt to the Ayodhya, the beaches here are the vantage points for witnessing spectacular sunsets. Nusa Dua, in fact, is like a township on its own. One enters through a huge gate with all the security checks in place. But once inside, one is accosted with a heavenly sight. The majestic light poles, impeccable roads and forever freshly washed and probably the greenest plants that one has ever seen. These roads make for an enjoyable walk to the Nusa Dua beach which is criss-crossed by a number of shacks offering the most delectable array of yummy Indonesian food to choose from. The famous surfing beaches here attract Australian tourists as well as surfers from all over the world. Nusa Dua also offers a large variety to the shopaholics as one can find the local handicrafts with as much ease as one can a Tommy Hilfiger, an Oakley or a Ralph Lauren showroom.
About thirty minutes drive from here one can reach the sleepier and probably the quietest fishing village and tourist resort of Bali – Jimbaran. Again lined with a number of hotels like the Four Seasons resort, the majestic Inter Continental and best of all the Jimbaran Hills resort, exquisitely perched on the top of a hillock, this road takes one to the Jimbaran beach. Here the seafood kiosks that litter the beach are put together as if they were not separate entities at all and where the diners select the seafood live that they wish to eat and which is thereafter cooked immediately. This makes a perfect beach for not only the adventure sport enthusiasts but also for those purely looking at a leisurely stroll. The Hotels, almost all of them, offer the cultural face of Bali by holding cultural events in their premises every evening. Right from the Indonesian Mask dance to the Bamboo instruments display. Jimbaran, today, is also increasingly becoming popular for the foreigners who want to build their villas here.
Among the more popular destinations in Bali, for its rocking night life is Kuta. Barely a ten minute drive from the airport, Kuta is probably the only place in Asia where one is likely to get stuck in a traffic jam even at 3:30 in the morning for that would be the time when the entire party revelers would probably be headed home or to their respective hotels. This is where one finds the hotels, the markets and the malls. A wide variety of nightclubs offering live bands, deejays and cabarets line the Legian road. The more famous ones being Kamasutrsa, Bintang, the Hard Rock Café and Musro while in the day, Kuta offers shopping at the very grand and resplendent Discovery and the Matahari Malls for the shopping enthusiasts. This, combined with some street shopping, followed by a walk on the lively Kuta beach or a visit to the Bali Memorial, more infamous than famous owing to the bombings that shook this sleepy little town out of its slumber on October 12, 2002 , sums up your day even as you get ready to don your dancing shoes for the long night ahead. The famous Batik clothes are available here which are both beautiful as well as cheap. Celup – the jewellery district, about 30 minutes from Kuta, is a haven for women even as they find rows and rows of silver and goldsmith’s shop selling metal ware at really affordable rates. As if all this was not enough, in addition, this fascinating island boasts of active volcanoes like the Mount Batur that experienced the worst eruption ever in the history of mankind some 30,000 years ago! Among the more popular tourist places here also continues to be Mount Kintamani which is not only still active but only an hour’s drive from Ubud. Just at the base of this mountain is the enchanting Lake Batur.

Apart from the Northern port of Singaraja, with its art market, museums and galleries, Ubud is unarguably the cultural center of Bali. The main streets here are Jalan Raya Ubud, Jalan Monkey Forest and Jalan Hanoman. Monkey Forest Park, a popular nature reserve houses over 200 long-tailed monkeys. Balinese gamelan music, belonging here, is highly developed and varied. The dances portray stories from the Ramayana, displaying the Hindu influence again. And the Balinese dances include Kecak, popularly referred to as the monkey dance.
Active volcanoes, culture, shopping, nature parks, rocking nightlife, handicrafts, a currency weaker than our Indian rupee, affordable yet plush hotels, tropical weather, friendly people, cheap transport, sumptuous Baby Guling or the Suckling Pig ( a delicacy of Balinese cuisine) and the fact that you are only another three hours away from Perth in Australia, are only a few reasons as to why Bali today is emerging as one of the hottest holiday destinations in the world.