Back to Bali. I returned this year to kickstart my big trip, visit a friend and get back into spending winter in my favorite place: Southeast Asia. Last year was filled with so many remarkable experiences that Indonesia for me sat quietly on the sideline and I wanted to come back and dig into the culture and the country to find out a little bit more after only scratching the surface the year before. This year it was easy to see why I had returned and I quickly remembered what drew me here in the first place. Here is a list of 8 of the many reasons you’ll travel back to Bali year after year.
1. Intriguing religion
Bali is an island of spirituality and it’s religious customs are deeply rooted in its culture. The good with the bad is present in everything, showing even in the black and white checkered fabrics adorned on shrines to represent good and evil. There are shrines and temples at every turn, giving you a chance to take a step into the spiritual realms.
This year we took a class to learn more about the practice of placing daily offerings and we also had a chance to learn how to make them out of palm leaves, bamboo sticks and fragrant fresh flowers. It is not as easy as they make it look and I made sure to add our little knives in the shot because I can’t believe I didn’t cut my finger off using that thing!
2. Friendly people
I can’t get over how pleasant everyone is you meet here. Warm, welcoming and always with a smile, the Balinese are gracious hosts and you really feel a genuine happiness that’s hard to fake. Their jovial nature is contagious, I found it’s easy to strike up conversations with locals and other travelers alike, making wonderful connections along the way.
3. Scrumptious food
Last year I didn’t take advantage of Indonesian food as much as I could and this year I couldn’t get enough. Often overshadowed by culinary giants of Thailand and Vietnam, Indonesian food and in particular Balinese can be over looked. You could eat a different variation of Nasi Goreng daily, it’s arguably the national dish of Indonesia. Much like other Asian countries there are choices of noodles and rices all with meats or veggies and spices, providing a plethora of choice for the pickier eater. Fruit here is wonderfully fresh and we spent most morning noshing on papaya picked right from the tree. There are food choices abound, ranging from road side local spots to upscale organic farm to table fare. We found one of our favorites that had buy one get one lychee martinis for happy hour along with live music and they drink may have climbed its way to the top of my libation list.
4. Busy beaches
I’m usually one for a quiet secluded beach, the sand and surf selfishly all for me and me alone, but on occasion I’m inclined to squeeze myself in between a bunch of other beach bums, watch all of the surfers navigate through the water. I’ve been to more beautiful beaches than those in Bali but none match the energy and action as here. Surf lessons are a must, even if you can barely stand up on the board, the rush of trying amidst the huge waves is worth an afternoon of looking foolish.
5. Crazy driving
For as much as the traffic is loud and obnoxious it’s forever entertaining and when in the car I’m looking wide eyed in wonder of how people survive just in the morning commute. Families of four may be smooched onto one bike, with the toddlers proudly balancing in from of their dad steering. I watched a man speed past us with a home-made bamboo chicken coop full of birds fitting masterfully on the back of the bike hovering two heads taller than the driver. Honking is a daily, no hourly, wait minute by minute occurrence and to get behind the wheel is not for the faint of heart. The motorbike driving here is unparallelled to any I’ve seen, the drivers bob and weave through the line of cars seemingly unaware of lanes, lights or roundabouts. During the rainy season it showers late in the afternoon like clockwork and I love how within a blink of an eye each biker magically has donned a rain slicker, flapping behind them like superman capes. You have to be a bit heroic to be on the road to begin with. If you are traveling with others hiring a driver is reasonable on the budget and the blood pressure. Bali has an astounding number of driving fatalities and for that I think those who drive there as a profession are angels on four (or two) wheels.
6. Rural life
Ok it seems like I can’t be content with busy city life & crazy driving and then turn around and say I love the quiet rural areas as well but I can have my cake and eat it too right? The center of the island offers farmland and iconic landscapes of rice fields with a peaceful escape from crowds of tourists. I think it’s important to experience both places when you are visiting a new location because it gives you a better overall perspective of a location.
7. The shopping
I’m not one for shopping while I’m away and the allure of buying souvenirs ended long ago for me. My trips are too long to carry around little trinkets so unless something really moves me, I usually go with my memories and my photographs to commemorate a trip but this time around I had a little bit of a shopping spree. Ubud is covered with small boutique stores with great jewelery, island handicrafts and flowing frocks perfect for island living while Seminyak has it’s fair share of upscale designers.
8. Bali Time
Ah, the leisurely attitude of island life. Perfect for reminding vacationers why they are there in the first place, it forces the those type “A” personalities to relax and enjoy. For me even just being here a couple of days is a great way to reset myself, reminding me of how patience & low stress makes for a happier way of living.