When I hear that someone is going to Bali I go weak in the knees. Actually anything Indonesian gives me butterflies in my stomach.
After my first visit to Bali I ran to the store in search of some pages to keep me busy until my next visit; Fragrant Rice (by Janet DeNeefe) whisked me away with words wrapped up in Indonesian flavours and Colin McPhee revealed a much simpler Bali to me in his book, A house in Bali; a simpler Bali, pre-tourists, when Ubud was still just a tiny village.
After my second visit I picked up an Indonesian dictionary, got a Teach Yourself Indonesian Guide and attended weekly Bahasa Indonesia language classes in Busan, a 100-minute train ride from where I lived in Gyeongju, South Korea.
My third visit to Indonesia had me exploring the uncrowded, untouched and unnoticed depths of Nusa Penida on a motorcycle and my fourth visit turned into two month bicycle discovery when I explored Bali, Lombok and the Gilis from the seat of my bicycle.
I was smitten.
Smitten, besotted, infatuated – with the people, the culture, the traditions, the landscape, the mountains and the food – hook, line and sinker. And not just with Bali, with the whole of Indonesia, because in a country where there are 17 000, it is a bit unfair to write the name of only one across your heart.
In the near future I hope to cross Java by train, immerse myself in the jungles of Sumatra, discover the Torajan myths of South Sulawesi, climb volcanoes, summit peaks and once again, head to Bali for another off the beaten path journey.
So, Bali (and your sibling islands next to you) when I see you again, I will focus on these…
8 Things to do in Bali (again and again).
#1 Watch the rice grow
To watch the rice grow in Bali connects you to more than just the island’s staple, it also connects you to the Balinese culture where the rice goddess, Dewi Sri, keeps a watchful eye over the rituals and ceremonies of the cycle of planting, maintaining, irrigating and harvesting. Grab a coffee, a hammock and a good book and watch the rice as it grows from the padi (rice paddy), into gabah (unmilled rice), to beras (uncooked rice) to the nasi (cooked rice) on your plate.
#2 Treat yourself
Bali does luxury best, treat yourself! Wine and dine at award-winning restaurants, sip on cocktails, visit top boutiques, stroll through art galleries and experience an elegant relaxing retreat and book your hotel online. The Mulia Bali is situated along the beachfront of Nusa Dua where you can soak in all the sun, sand and sea with beach activities, an array of pools, a selection of Japanese, Chinese, Pan-Asian & Mediterranean and other International cuisine and lavish amenities.
#3 Learn yoga from a monkey
It turns out that it is not only humans who salute the sun, stretch and get into the warrior pose; monkey see, monkey do. A visit to Ubud’s Monkey Forest to observe the monkeys’ behaviour is time well spent.
#4 Pay respect to Mount Agung
Mount Agung is the highest mountain in Bali and it is considered the dwelling place of the Hindu gods. It plays a significant role in the lives of the Balinese; it dominates the surrounding area, influences the climate and is the deciding factor of their spatial orientation. The peak, (3031m) can be reached via two popular trekking routes and promises spectacular sunrise views.
#5 Appreciate the sunsets
The island of Bali (as well as its neighbouring siblings like Nusa Penida, Lombok and the Gilis) is no stranger to striking sunsets…best enjoyed unfiltered and unedited. These sunsets attract thousands to the cliffs of Uluwatu, the temple in the middle of the sea, Tanah Lot, as well as the peaks of Mount Batur, Agung and Mount Rinjani in Lombok.
#6 Witness a ceremony and sidestep an offering
It is impossible to visit Bali and not witness a ceremony, a ritual or sidestep one of the daily offerings that is placed outside houses, on the streets, in front of shops, restaurants, spas and inside cars. These daily offerings are called Canang Sari and it is believed that it will bring luck, prosperity and good health. It is common to see a sign saying “Hati-hati ada upucara” which translates for traffic, pedestrians and cars into “Be careful, there is a ceremony taking place”.
#7 Get in touch with Bali’s holy side
Visiting temples might not be everyone’s cup of jasmine tea, but if you find the Hindu culture and religion intriguing, make sure you visit some of the sacred sites in Bali and just observe the prayers, rituals, cleansing ceremonies and the importance of offerings. Always show respect, don’t be in the way of the devotees and dress appropriately with a sarong and a selendang (a sash).
#8 Be Responsible
If you are visiting Bali, please be a responsible traveller and take note of the following:
- When you swim with a dolphin in captivity, you swim with a dolphin suffering.
- Elephant interactions and elephant riding are under no circumstances good, okay or ethical. Elephants in captivity (and the harsh training they have to go through for human entertainment) results in illegal elephant trade and immense suffering.
- Think twice before you take a photo with a bat, python, lizard, tiger or lion. No animal should be chained up, sedated or kept in confined spaces for human entertainment.
- There is a sad truth behind the famous Kopi Luwak. The Civets are kept in cages and have to go through pain and suffering to produce digested coffee beans. Finding Kopi Luwak from wild civets (where no pain is inflicted on the animal) is rare nowadays, do your research before you make your purchase.
- Choose responsible marine tour operators for diving and snorkeling.
If you want to volunteer, donate, help or know more about responsible tourism on the island of the gods, have a look at Bali Animal Welfare Association.