So, here’s our story.
India → Singapore → Ngurah Rai International Airport Denpasar
Eight of us – we were travelling with friends – arrived at the Indonesian archipelago heaving sighs of relief (earlier, there was a drifting volcanic ash cloud from Mt. Ruang that disallowed flights from landing in Bali).
Our foremost visit was, naturally, for coffee; a spice garden producing the most expensive, exotic coffee beans of Kopi Luwak, also called civet coffee. Oh well, we tried it anyway!
Next stop and our home for a few days: Villa D’Carik, Sayan, Ubud
Built in Balinese style architecture, this property almost assumed seventh heaven – a lilt in the air, rooms of wooden walls, bathtubs fit for royalty, and an idyllic infinity pool overlooking the rice fields of Bali.
Peace was present then and there.
Bali, referred to as Vali in some languages, means ‘ceremonies’, and luckily enough, we were in the midst of Galungan Day celebrations – a time of the year when Hindu homes and temples are adorned with their aesthetically decorated, signature penjor.
On Sunday morning, we were chauffeured by our guide to witness the cornucopia of temples that Ubud hosts, the untempered summer sky for cover.
First, Pura Tirta Empul or Holy Spring Water Temple, an hour’s drive away, located in the largely populated town of Gianyar. A sight indelible, this sanctuary, is where the Balinese people immerse and purify themselves in the blessed water.
The temple is divided, by ornamented doorways, into three regions symbolic of hell, Earth and heaven. Here, we were told tales of spiritual beings, religious customs and ancestral rituals, and it fascinated us infinitely.
“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand, there is the story of the Earth.”
Then, Gunung Kawi. A 11th century wonder, carved into solid rock. Amazingly, the construction isn’t a temple but a monument revered by both the Hindus and Buddhists.
This magical place was discovered beside a river, in the valley, beyond the rice terraces.
We had a gastronomic experience with Indonesian food. Our favourite restaurant being Ibu Rai in the heart of Ubud, serving authentic Vietnamese rolls, tempeh skewers on a bed of Nasi Goreng, Cap Cay overflowing with tofu, curry-like Kare a la Bali, Nasi Campung spiced with Sambal Oelek, and of course, Bintang to wash it all down!
We serenaded through the Ubud Art Market and the palace of Puri Saren before ending our evening with a quiet swim, poolside dinner and moon-watching. Nyctophilic, us.
In the early hours of the day 3, we headed towards Indonesia’s most sacred, active volcanic trails i.e. Mt. Batur of Kintamani.
Hiking 7.5 km on a moderately challenging terrain, to watch the honeyed sun ascend, was no easy feat but the breathtaking vistas of the fields yonder, archaic lava engraved into the crags and the loose rocks with black ash, made for a surreal affair.
The summit was most magnificent a spectacle (albeit a bit foggy during the actual sunrise). In the distance, you can see the largest caldera lake, Danau.
A satisfying meal of Mie Goreng later, we spent the late evening promenading the property of Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.
In the gleaming waters of Bedugul was poised a resplendent temple complex, its reflection shimmering. The pale peaks of the mountains in the farness, the trimness of the turf and the tranquil setting added a dash more of beauty to the site.
Sama-sama Ubud and halo Seminyak!
What can be said about the boutique suites in Astana Batubelig Luxury Villas that isn’t, it’s one of the best hotels we’ve ever stayed at?! For one, an exclusive plunge pool all to ourselves, a bath of eminence.
Renting bikes in this beach town was a good idea – you instantly feel one with the land.
The west coast of Bali is truly a magical wonderland.
Tanah Lot, north of Kuta, an exotic rock formation which was highlighted against the backdrop of a pavonine sky and the last rays of the sun with its flickering lining of warmth, is a remedy for all indispositions.
Bali, apparently, mustered the courage in us to try something new, and so we did – scuba diving!
After a short training session with PADI instructors, we found ourselves on the east coast of the island, at Sanur Reef. Nerves rattling, we finally dove into the turbulent seawater.
But underwater, all was calm; among the gently waving weeds in the sandy seabed, and the picturesque coral, were numberless Xmas tree fish, a shoal of surgeonfish (Hi Dory!), an occasional, tinted starfish, schools of parrotfish, and the trumpet fish merging with vertical polyps.
We biked all the way to the Uluwatu temple, that evening. Perched 70m above the waters of the Indian Ocean, this structure in its habitat makes our list of one of the most exceptional sunsets ever witnessed.
It was the tacenda.
You can’t leave Bali without an actual beach visit! We were fortunate to have the Batu Belig Beach just a few steps away from our villa.
The voice of the whispering breeze, the sine curve of the coastline, the heaving of waves and the immense sky with cloud and sun made for a quintessential postcard of sights and sounds.
We asked each of our friends to describe this destination and what they said was, blissful and impeccably serene yet lively and spirited, colourful and magical, a stimulating, exhilarating experience.