A certain curiosity awakens in the heart of the rookie traveller to visit the paradise island in Indonesia famous for its unique adaptation of Hinduism in the large Muslim nation. Tiny, almost Goa-like, Bali smells of a mellow, colourful oceanic island at first glance. Like every place beyond Indian borders, wide, beautiful roads peppered with large trees whizzed past as we landed at the plush Club Med Resort in the heart of Nusa Dua, a region set for the executive resorts in Bali. As the resort prepared for parties at the beach in the evenings, the eye of the mind stood enamoured by the white sands and foaming waters of the Indian Ocean. Everyone took out the to-dos from their pockets, there were personal schedules made to go shopping, to try the famous Balinese reflexology while yours truly craved to sit hours toasting away by the sea. The concept of a vacation is varied enough to create separatist movements amongst travellers, but as modern-day Columbuses clashed with the arm-chair travellers, groups were made to set out on a myriad expeditions. While the weather of this island played truant in the evening, the tropical rain was of the quiet kind, only sprinkling about at night, keeping the parties away from the beach but never letting it get too terrifyingly hot; of course the local beer helped the cause too.
Bali Hai. Two very important words if you are the New-Age thirsty traveller. Local beer brewed in the island is as light as a romantic 60-page novel. As if made by the weather gods themselves, like watermelon martinis they go perfectly with the sun and the sea. Slightly sweet, the intoxication only happens couple of glasses down after it’s mixed well enough with all the sunlight under your skin. Once done sampling the local brew, it is time to put the heavy-duty shopping schedules into action. Local markets like in every other tourist destination are filled with colourful trinkets and absolutely fabulous furniture at prices that reassure you that good things don’t always come with a heavy price tag. We started with buying extra bags first, of course.
On the day of the Temple visit, geared with enough sunblock our bus took us to Tanah Lot. While only locals are allowed to enter the temples with the exception of festivals, the beauty lay in the geographical setting of the temples. Kaja and kelod are the Balinese equivalents of North and South, which refer to one’s orientation between the island’s largest mountain Gunung Agung (kaja) and the sea (kelod). In addition to spatial orientation, kaja and kelod have the connotation of good and evil; gods and ancestors are believed to live on the mountain whereas demons live in the sea. At the edge of the hill, overlooking the great ocean the temples remained enveloped in a spiritual aura. Eras will pass by and the ancient structures would stand looking out at the ocean, priests and worshippers in colourful sarongs would be seen climbing the stairs from a distance while as a tourist one would desperately click away with a digital camera trying to capture the overwhelming calm, volcanic rock beaches and the tremendous ocean. Balinese Hinduism with a heavy influence of Indonesian sculpture is so unique that it almost makes it look like a whole new sub-religion by itself.
Evenings went by watching the famous Balinese fire dance and sampling the flavourful Indonesian chicken curry. The last day was spent in the warm embrace of aromatic oils and the hedonistic serenade of the traditional Balinese body massage at the resort spa. Rejuvenated and exhilarated, the bar at the Club Med Resort made its own itinerary for us. From melon twists in traditional mojitos to cocktails named ‘Don’t Go Back to Singapore’ it set the partying meter to paradise mode.
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