Bali, you are truly a wonder, everything from your deeply cultural nature, to your amazing friendly people, to your diverse scenery. It is a shame that you have been wrongly perceived as a destination only for the elite, a reason that has kept many people away from exploring your beauty. I am glad I ventured here, and confirm, you welcome all sorts of budgets.The below is what we got up to:
This is my favourite place in Bali, you will be amazed by its beauty and the culture of the people. The residents of this area are very traditional and thus, it is a cultural haven, my kind of place.. This place chose to expose its beauty to me, and I now understand why people speak with such awe about it.
- The culture
The residents of Bali have managed to keep their cultures alive in their daily living, a trait I admire.
Most women wear sarongs always and blouses with a see through sweater, looking very beautiful. Even for festivals religious or not, this is what they wear. The men wear trousers on most days but it is common to find them also wearing sarongs even on non-festival days.
The Balinese are very religious with the pre-dominant religion being Balinese Hinduism known as agama hindu dharma. Everyday, I saw ladies carrying various foodstuffs on their heads to offer at the temples and also laying them around their homesteads.
During religious festivals, everyone is dressed up, music rends the air and there is dancing and singing as they head to the temples . All over the city are religious sculptures that are decorated daily.
c) Music and Dance
There is a wide array of music and dance to enjoy while in Bali. I enjoyed music and dance at the Puri Saren Agung complex, next to the Ubud Palace. Most of their art is a mixture of culture and religion, though there are a few just for entertainment. The women are all dolled up, their outfits beautiful and their dance movements vary from the shaking of their heads, their eyes, hands, feet with graceful movements, that I hardly blinked lest I missed anything.The commonly performed dances in such instances are called Bebalihan dances which are mainly for entertainment like Legong that tells traditional stories, Bumble bee that shares a love story and Baris which is a war dance
The male dances however, are more vigorous, most seeming like warrior dances as they go to war. Though no words are spoken, so much information is shared as you watch this intense art. You will try to interpret even basic behavior like the women batting their eyelids and their finger motions, as every movement shares information. Gamelan, which is Java and Bali music, created by percussion instruments with a team of over 20 players, creates such intricate music that will appease your ears and emotions. I may not have managed to interpret all the motions but I did get the story being shared somehow.
This place is very safe, so much so that you can change your currency at almost any shop , yes, even at the internet cafe.
There are several eating places from the street restaurants to mainstream restaurants where you can sample their delicacies. The common delicacies are goreng, which means fried. Thus the options vary from Nasi goreng which is fried rice, mie goreng which is fried noddles among others. Eat and taste everything and anything, I truly enjoyed my meals, and some places went a notch higher in their food presentation.
4) Hire a bicycle:
Due to high traffic, your best mode of transport is on foot and via bicycle unless you plan to stay for long in traffic.
Since I do not know how to ride a scooter or motorbike-I need to learn, cycling is the best I could do to move leisurely beyond Monkey Road. I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in years and even then, I only rode in enclosed spaces. This was different, fun, exhausting and scary as I navigated sharp corners, prayed the vehicles would keep away from me and tried my best to keep from falling off. This allowed me the chance to visit the beautiful rice paddies, visit the markets beyond and get a different feel of Bali, whilst keeping fit.
5) Make Friends
As always, make friends on all your trips. I met Wuxia on the bus ride to Ubud and we ended up exploring the area together.
As I arrived in Ubud, my whole system automatically went into extra relaxation mode. I think its the relaxed lifestyle of the people, or the weather , or the air that makes one go into automatic relaxation.
I was overcome by most home stays having beautiful swimming pools which allowed me to not only cool off whenever I wanted to, but to enjoy it away from prying eyes.
Bali has accomodation options for all budgets, from the highest level of luxury to the budget traveller. I stayed on Monkey Forest Road, which puts you close to everything, shopping, Ubud Monkey Forest , rice paddies among others. I stayed at a homestay which is basically living within a family home compound. In Bali culture, the homesteads are normally large, and the parents would build several detached houses for their sons and eventual families. These houses or rooms are what they then now rent out as home-stays. The great thing of living in such, you tend to feel at home, and you get to interact with the locals from the get go.
8) Near Mishap:
One night as we were walking home, we used an alley that we had used daily. Though it was not well lit per se, we had never feared or worried or thought of any dangers lurking even on days that it rained and the alley flooded. As we were midway the alley, a motorbike came from behind us and thus we moved to the left to avoid being hit. When the rider reached near us, he stopped abruptly and we instantly got worried, were we about to be mugged?(why do negative thoughts usually pop up?) However, we noted that he was still looking straight ahead, but to the floor. When we looked at what he was looking at, now that was scary, right near us was a snake. If this guy had not ridden and made us move to the left, we would have definitely stepped on it, we do not want to imagine what would have happened. He revved his bike and the snake quickly slithered away and we practically ran all the way home. I told you, always keep praying, God has your back and He protects you from dangers you are unaware of . Thank you Lord for sending the motorbike guy.
9) Transport to Bali
I arrived in Bali via flight from Jakarta that lands at Denpasar Airport. I then took a cab to Kuta town and got a hotel as I had arrived in the evening. Kuta is mainly famous with surfers and beach lovers and seemed devoid of the cultural feel I wanted to experience. Where I wanted to go and where we normally see pictures of “Famous Bali” is Ubud, which is about one hour away. I traveled there by mini van, which can easily be ordered from your accommodation area or at the bus stop.
While in Kuta, there were posters and signs all over saying, “Mushroom”, “Best Mushroom”…call… I actually thought mushrooms are a staple food in this area. However, shock on me, when I enquired, I came to learn that it refers to “Drugs”. You have been warned.
Bali is indeed a beautiful place, the people are very warm and friendly, the diverse cultures intriguing, the scenery beautiful and the relaxed mood will make you not want to leave. I can confirm that it isn’t a tourist destination only for the elite, it caters for all budgets from extreme luxury to normal budget travellers. I have to return so as to explore even more of its hidden beauty. This prior notion that it was expensive had made me only plan to visit for a few days, I will return.
For more of my exploits in Indonesia, check out:
Indonesia 101: http://wangechigitahi.co.ke/indonesia-101/