Looking for paradise on earth? Then Bali is one of those destinations. As the aircraft lazily hovers over the island, I am overwhelmed by the idyllic panoramic landscape with rice paddies tripping down hillsides like giant terraces, mountains soaring up through the clouds, dense tropical jungle and long sandy beaches. The big bird slowly taxies to a halt at the Ngurah Rai International Airport, the only airport in the picturesque tranquil tropical island. Ten minutes drive from the International Airport brings me to the town of Kuta. Over the years, Kuta's development has spread out its wings - almost absorbing the neighbouring towns of Legian, Tuban, Sanur and Nusa Dua.
Kuta -- a place of vibrant colour.
The mesmerising tiny island of Bali is the island of thousands of temples, magnificent beaches and mountains and magical beauty of art, culture and way of life. Blessed with a beautiful nature, endless sandy beaches envelope most of Bali's shores kissed by silvery waves. On reaching Hotel Tuban, I am greeted by a welcome lemonade drink and following negotiations with the hotel staff, immediately whisked to Telengananan Village, an hour drive from Kuta.The entire village is a showcase, famous for its artisans who produce a vast array of wooden handicrafts.
Majority of Bali's population about 95% adheres to Balinese Hinduism, formed as a combination of existing local beliefs and Hindu influences from mainland Asia. The entire city as well as the countryside is literally dotted with numerous beautifully maintained grandiose temples. The roads of the island and roundabouts are equally decorated with beautifully carved statues of hindu deity. Women and children worshippers attired in traditional costumes with overhead baskets of offerings are a colourful sight.
In the evening, I dash to the nearby Kuta beach. The five-kilometre long arching white sandy stretch is arguably the best showcase of Bali. The beach is extremely famous, crowded with hundreds of people in late afternoon who gather to watch the spectacular sunsets. The site is equally well-known among surfing enthusiasts. The vendors with baskets of fruits, drinks, garments, toiletries and cosmetics frequent the beach. The massage girls are found busy attending to the needs of the clients as they lazily bask in the tropical sun. The fruit salad served fresh with a coating of tamarind and hot chilies by the Balinese girls is simply mouth watering and I developed a craving for it.
Kuta with its colourful markets, street vendors, night clubs, hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes and plenty of entertainment is lively and vibrant till the wee hours. In the evenings, I found time to browse the adjacent alleys loaded with locally made jewellery, handicrafts, priceless antiques, artifacts and paintings.
Tuban within easy walking distance of Kuta also has numerous antique shops, handicrafts, restaurants, bars and café showcasing a vibrating nightlife. Tuban too has a spectacular panoramic view of sunset.
The following day, I venture to Denpasar, an hour drive from Kuta. As the capital of Bali, the city is the administrative center as well as the commercial hub. On the way to Denpasar, lies serene landscape interrupted by some of the spectacular temples in this part of the planet. The city is shoppers' paradise. It is here where most of the hotels, restaurants, malls, cafes, and marketplaces are located. Vendors are found selling tropical fruits, mostly water melons, mangoes, bananas and coconuts on the wayside make shift thatched shops. All kinds of beautiful Balinese handicrafts including artwork, pottery, textiles, and silver find their way to the wayside market.
I have not missed the opportunity to visit Ubud. About two hours drive from Kuta, it is one of the most pristine areas in Bali. The scenery along the drive is simply mesmerising. The captivating beauty of dense green forest, picturesque hillside rice terraces and the awesome magnificence of mountains reaching the clouds is breath-taking. The unique artist township is filled with sophisticated palaces with their grandeur traditional architectural styles. Spectacularly set among lush rice paddies and the stunning hillsides, Ubud is a renowned center of art with the surrounding royal houses and temples as the main patrons. The city is particularly famous for its hand painted batiks. The Balinese girls are extremely professional and persuasive and it is difficult to leave Ubud without emptying one's wallet.
Bali is a gastronomic heaven. In the evening after market browsing, I barge into one of the many beachside cafes and relish Balinese cuisine known for its spicy ingredients with sumptuous local delicacies like Nasi Goreng and Sate Campur.
Bali is inviting and it's worth spending a few days in the “treasure” island and enjoying the unspoiled beauty of nature at its best.
(R) thedailystar.net 2010