09.03.2015

BALI - DREAM ISLAND

BALI - DREAM ISLAND, Gönül Midesiz | 09.03.2015

Bali is known as "the island of honeymoon." I never previously had any intention to go there for vacation; however, after a friend of mine praised the island, I changed my mind. Shortly after making my decision, I started to plan a trip with another friend; we would fly over from Bangkok to Bali. Turkish Airlines also has flights to Jakarta, capital city of Indonesia. If you wish, you can fly over from Jakarta to Bali. In fact, you would have a better chance of exploring the country by spending one or two days in the capital.

Our vacation started adventurously due to a surprise at Bangkok Airport. At the check-in counter for the flight to Denpasar, the assistant told my friend that she could not take the flight as her passport was valid for less than 6 months. Even though we told them we had the consent of the consulate, the assistant would not allow us to proceed. We not only missed flight, but also had to stay the night in Bangkok. Next morning we went to the Turkish Consulate in Bangkok and extended the validity of the passport. Thankfully, we reached Bali with only one day’s delay.

As soon as we stepped off the plane at Bali Denpasar Airport, we felt the sultry touch of monsoon climate. Heading towards our hotel, located in Nusa Dua region, the first thing that caught my attention was the lush and gorgeous natural habitat. Bali is awash with a sea of pleasant odors and a real riot of colors. The scent of the spectacular flowers and plants pervades every corner of the island. In the upcoming days, we also noticed that native people has a great deal of respect for nature and their lifestyle was completely integrated with it.

Our hotel was located at the seaside and furnished in typical Bali style. After settling into our room, we went to the bar, which was in the middle of hotel pool. We drank fresh papaya juice and ate the regional dish, Satay. Satay is similar to Turkish shish kebab, but it is generally made with chicken. Seafood is in abundance in Bali and is reasonably priced too.

We spent our first day walking around the hotel. Among all of the tropical flowers, frangipani is the only one that I remember vividly.

Even though Indonesia is a Muslim country, almost all of Bali's people are Hindu. There are altars and temples everywhere on the island. In fact, it is said there are nearly 20,000 temples in Bali. Local people use incense everywhere from temples to shops and even in the streets for repelling evil spirits.

The next day at breakfast, we were presented with thousands of different tropical fruits that we had never seen before. The employees of restaurant cheered "Galatasaray!" when they learned we were Turkish. However, I told them I was actually a Fenerbahçe fan! :)

After breakfast, we went to Kuta using the hotel's shuttle service. There are restaurants, bars, shopping centers, and hotels in Kuta, which is considered the entertainment center of Bali. While it is possible to swim at Kuta's beaches, you should not have high expectations of this experience.

Bali's people are artistic, which I guess is the result of the stunning nature that they live in. Wood carving, oil paintings, silver and golden handcrafts, and batik clothes were only some of the products they produce. You can also buy coffee and sarongs, which are worn by local people. We bought pareos with batik printing for our friends in Turkey. We did not forget to bargain, of course. As is in every Asian city, you should not buy anything without bargaining in Bali.

After a visit to the temple in Kuta, we went to the travel agents in order to see and decide on the tours that were possible for us to join during our vacation. We booked a tour of the Ubud region for the next day and returned to our hotel.

We drank more fresh papaya juice and swam for the rest of the day. If you prefer cooler waters and pebbly beaches, Bali's golden sands and warm seas may not be so attractive to you. Since it is an open sea, the crashing waves and big rocks can also be troublesome.

When you speak of Bali, you can never avoid mentioning the spas and famous Bali massage. In the evening we had both massages and skincare treatments at the hotel spa center. While we preferred to use our hotel's spa center, there were several private salons which provided free transportation from/to the hotel.

We woke up early the next day, and after breakfast we joined the Ubud tour. There are art studios, galleries, and crafts shops in the Ubud region. Different types of activities are performed in each of the villages.

First, we stopped by a silver craft shop in Celuk Village, which is well known for its gold and silver smithery. There are a wealth of souvenirs to choose from in the craft stores; you really can buy whatever you like there. It’s also worth noting that silver and semi-precious stones are relatively cheap in Bali.

We went from Celuk to a studio in Mas, a village which is well known for its wood carving. We were overwhelmed by the wood carved paintings and household goods. Teakwood is generally used in making the products. They will also ship your chosen item anywhere the world for the appropriate fee. However, be warned that the prices are high here, and similar products can be found in galleries in Kuta much cheaper.

Our next stop was Pengosokan Village. Here, we visited a painting studio and saw a lot of oil paintings that depicts Bali's gorgeous nature and Hindu gods.

We visited all of the temples that we passed while walking on the main street Jalan Raya in the city center of Ubud. Puri Saren and Pura Taman Saraswati were the most beautiful. If you have plenty of time or you do not take an organized tour like us, there are a lot more temples to see. Puri Lukisan Museum, which contains the most remarkable examples of Bali art, is also worth a visit.

We continued our tour with Ubud Monkey Forest. When you enter this little rainforest, you are welcomed by monkeys saluting you with their shouts and screams. I kept well away from them because I am not much of a monkey lover! In the forest, you can see the Pedangtagan Temple, which means "temple of death". This place is a little scary.

After Ubud, we arrived at Pura Besakih, which is acknowledged as the most important, sacred, and the biggest Hindu Temple of Bali. Consisting of more than twenty-three structures, its known history goes back 1,000 years. Pura Besakih, also known as "The Main Temple," is located on the 1,000 meter-high foothills of Bali's biggest mountain Agung. The volcano Agung (Gunung Agung) has an important place in Bali's mythology and belief system and it is also the highest point of the island. The views of the island landscape from the peak are truly breathtaking.

The next day we hired a taxi and toured North Bali. Our first destination was the Gitgit Waterfall. While approaching the waterfall in the taxi, we saw the splendid rice terraces and asked the driver to stop. Rice is the most important source of nutrition in Asia. Green rice fields appear as terraces on the hillsides and are a spectacular sight. We took some pictures of the fields and moved on. Other than the rice fields, we also saw the plateaus, on which coffee, cacao, vanilla, cloves, etc. are grown. We finally reached the waterfall along a stone pathway through bamboos. Gitgit Waterfall is 40 meters high. I strongly recommend that you take a raincoat or poncho; even if the weather is fine, the waterfall will soak you if you get too close!

After the waterfall, we went to a restaurant, which offers wonderful views of the Buyan and Tambluganı lakes, for a lunch break. The fog-laden landscape around the Batur volcano and the two lakes is truly an incredible sight.

After lunch, we continued on our way by taxi again and went to Pura Ulun Danu Bratan water temple that is found at the coast of Bratan Lake, near Bedugul Village. The temple, located within a park which contains a wide array of plants and animals, is partly submerged and partly on a little island. You can reach the temple by boat or canoe. The temple was constructed in the 17th century and after the volcano Bratan erupted causing extensive damage, it was restored in 1926. The temple, whose reflection shimmers on the lake, creates a dreamlike view with the surrounding mountains. Please remember it is forbidden to enter the temple wearing shorts or short skirts. For this reason, it can be useful to keep a sarong with you.

Bali Botanical Garden is also near Bedugul Village. If you have time to visit, you will certainly not regret stopping off here.

Later on, we were able to catch the regional dance show at the hotel. Bali dancing has three different categories: Barong, Legong, and Kecak (the fire dance). All of these dances tell a story shaped according to Hindu belief. For instance, the Barong dance tells of a war between good and evil. Even though the costumes were interesting, we were unfamiliar with the subject and found it difficult to follow the story, which was too long and boring for us, therefore we left the show before the end.

Since this was a vacation and we had only 4 days, we spent our last day resting on the beach. But of course we left enough time to have a final Bali massage. 

If you intend to stay longer in Bali, you can go surfing and swimming at Lovina Beach with its unusual black volcanic sand, take a trekking tour on Batur or Agung Mountain to watch the sunrise at 4:30 in the morning, or if you are looking for some adventure there are many more thrilling activities.

Bali, which is called "The Island of Gods," is a heavenly place. Full of cheerful people, Bali island is a great vacation choice if you want to feel at peace, rest, and enjoy different activities. You should definitely visit if you have the opportunity.

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