Bali was made more pronounced to me after watching the movie-Eat, pray, love. Unlike what most people talk about it appealing to them due to the self-discovery Julia Roberts went through, I was enticed by the culture, the traditional dressing of the community, their smiles and somewhat warmth that went beyond acting. I wanted to sample that for myself, learn their culture and though all I read and saw talked about it being expensive, only a destination for the elite, I decided I wanted to sample it even if for a few days. I wish I hadn’t listened to the “expensive” part as it is actually quite affordable and I would have planned to be there longer-clearly a return trip has to happen.
When I arrived at Denpasar Airport, I was disappointed it didn’t look anything like the pictures-no blue clear waters, no palm trees, no culturally dressed people-I was in concrete jungle. It is only later that I learnt we were in Kuta and I would thereafter have to travel by bus to Ubud which is where I would see my dreams come true.
This is culture area galore. These people still uphold their culture is most ways, their dressing, their art, their beliefs, their homes, their art among others. It is located about an hour from Ubud and one can travel by bus or mini van.
The women wear sarongs always and blouses with a see through sweater atop-always looking very beautiful. Even for festivals, this is what they wear. The men wear trousers on most days but it is common to find them also wearing sarongs even on non-festival days.
The Balinese are very religious with the pre-dominant religion being Balinese Hinduism known as Agama Hindu Dharma. Everyday, you will see ladies carrying various foodstuffs on their heads to offer at the temples and also laying them out at their homesteads.
During religious festivals, everyone is dressed up, music rends the air, there is dancing and singing as they head to the temples . All over the city are religious sculptures that are decorated daily.
Music and Dance
You can witness music and dance at the Puri Saren Agung complex, next to the palace of the royal family. There is a wide array of music and dance to enjoy while in Bali. Most of their art is a mixture of culture and religion though there are a few just for entertainment. The women are all dolled up, their outfits beautiful and their dance movements from the shaking of their heads, their eyes, hands feet and graceful movements will have you not willing to blink-in case you miss something.
The men however are more vigorous, more seeming like warrior dances-with warriors about to go to war. Though no words are spoken, so much information is shared as you watch this intense art- you will try to interpret the women batting their eyelids and finger motions-every move shares information. The gamelan ( Java and Bali music created by percussion instruments with a team of over 20 players), heightening the pitch, the mood and having both your ears. I may not have gotten to interpret all the motions but I did get the story being shared somehow – with my favourite show being the bumble bee dance which is a love story.
This place is very safe, so much so that you can change your currency at almost any shop , yes, even at the internet cafe.
There are several eating places from the street restaurants to mainstream restaurants-Eat and taste everything and anything, loved , loved , loved it.
Hire a bicycle:
Now, since I do not know how to ride a scooter or motorbike(I need to learn), cycling is the best I could do to move leisurely beyond Monkey Road. I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in years and even then, I only rode in enclosed spaces. This was different, fun, exhausting and scary as I navigated sharp corners, prayed the vehicles would keep away from me and tried my best to keep from falling off. This allowed me the chance to visit the beautiful rice paddies, visit the markets beyond and get a different feel of Bali-whilst keeping fit.
As always, make friends on all your trips. I met Wuxia on the bus ride to Ubud and we explored the area together.
As you arrive in Ubud, your whole system automatically goes into relaxation mode. I think its the relaxed lifestyle of the people, or the weather , or the air–Ok you will feel completely relaxed-I did.
Now, honestly I did not get to enjoy the beaches in Ubud, or get to swim in them let alone see them. I was overcome by most homestays having beautiful swimming pools which allowed me to not only cool off whenever I wanted to but to enjoy clean, blue water while at it.
I stayed on Monkey Forest Road, which puts you close to everything-shopping, Ubud Monkey Forest , rice paddies among others. Due to high traffic, your best mode of transport is on foot and via bicycle unless you plan to stay for long in traffic. I stayed at a homestay which is basically living within a family home compound. The rates are quite affordable. In Bali Culture, the homesteads were normally large, and the parents would build several detached houses for their sons and eventual families. These houses or rooms are what they then now rent out as home-stays. The great thing of living in such, you tend to feel at home, and you get to interact with the locals from the get go.
One night as we were walking home,we used an alley that we had used daily. Though it was not lit per se, we had never feared or worried or thought of any dangers lurking even on days that it rained and the alley flooded. It was the easiest way to get to the home stay(or so we thought). We learnt the next day that we had actually been using the longest route. As we were midway the alley, a motorbike came from behind us and thus we moved to the left to avoid being hit.When the rider reached near us, he stopped abruptly and we instantly got worried-were we about to be mugged?(why do negative thoughts usually pop up?) However, we noted that he was still looking straight ahead but on the floor. When we looked at what he was looking at, now that was scary-right near us was a snake. If this guy had not ridden and made us move to the left, we would have definitely stepped on it-we do not want to imagine what would have happened. He revved his bike and the snake quickly slithered away and we practically ran all the way home. I told you, always keep praying, God has your back and He protects you from dangers you would otherwise have not been aware of . Thank you Lord for sending the motorbike guy.
Bali is indeed a beautiful place, the people are very warm and friendly and there is lots to see and do. I can confirm that it isnt a tourist destination for the elite, you can afford it. I will have to return, there is more I need to explore here.