Sunday, January 11, 2015


When you are stuck in a weekly conference listening to one of the senior person making poor jokes, & you along with your colleagues dreading this moment of being forced to find the jokes funny and laugh on it. That is the moment when you feel like running away from that room to a blissful place, a place away from pretence and where you can sit and breathe, just breathe. That’s when you need to go to Bali!

Every day you wake up, go to office, travel back, eat and sleep. When this routine chore makes you want to pray or crave for change & excitement. That’s when you need to go to Bali!
When nothing in your life makes sense and you have spent too many hours thinking about where you are heading in your career or better yet, pondering on what is the purpose of your life? That’s when you know you need to take a BREAK and head for Bali!

When you have read the best ever work of Elizabeth Gilbert Eat Pray and Love and fallen in love with  the picturesque beauty of Bali aesthetically directed by Ryan Murphy in the movie based on this novel. That’s when you need to go to Bali!

No, I did not go to Bali to search for myself. I did not go to Bali to take a Soul trip. Nor did I go to Bali clutching the copy of Eat Pray and Love hoping it will transform my life, nor did I went their to fall in love with an Italian dude. 

I am just an average Independent Indian Woman, who saved just like any other Indian tourist to have her first ever international solo trip to one of my dream destinations. And the only agenda I had in this trip was to make the money I have spent worthwhile and enjoy every freaking second of my vacation.

Bali is considered to be the Art Center of Indonesia and even after being an Island, it has plethora of things to get indulge in. And that’s just what I did and ended up having THE trip of my life.
After enduring 14 hour long trip through Malaysian Airlines, not to forget the hyper anxiety of considering the possibility of vanishing into thin air any second, I landed at the Denpasar Airport, Bali and started the 5 most memorable days of year 2014 of my life.
The first thing that you will catch in Bali is the wave of hospitality and heart melting smiles of Balinese people, which can be experienced right from the Immigration section to the day you get on board at the end of your trip. Even the broody flight attendants seems to smile a little brighter just as the wheels of your plane touches the airport runway which is surrounded by water from three directions.

The second thing that will hit you being an Indian is , coming from a land, where more than 88000 Gods are worshiped, you may believe that you belong to the most religious, traditional and culturally rich country. Your myths will be in for a shock if you have spent even a day in this outrageously beautiful place which is covered from head to toe with structures depicting the historical and mythological tales of Hindu religion, especially the tales of Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Yes you read it right!

Scene from Ramayana
Almost all the roundabouts in Bali has life size statues of Ram, Deva Ruci, Ghatotkach, scene of Krishna giving Arjun the lessons of Bhagavad-Gita, or a magnificent life size work of art where Ravana is challenging Ram to kill him. One can get into a trance watching the meticulous hand work of the statues and it takes considerable amount of will power to stop staring at them and get moving from the middle of the road.
Third thing you will notice in Bali is that Balinese are very nosy people. The moment I entered my Hotel room I grabbed their Welcome Book as I settled with Hot coffee wishing it will take some of the jet leg away and almost spilled a mouth full on the book when I read the first few lines of the “our people” page, which clearly gave a warning to not get offended as Bali people can be very curious (softer word for nosy I thought) and will keep asking personal questions with you, request you to kindly treat them patiently as this will be your experience almost in every part of Bali.
When the words finally sunk in I laughed my head off, I am from India, INDIA, what did these Balinese know about being nosy. May be that’s the reason I didn’t take a picture of that book. Boy! Was I in for a shock, shock was it was.

The warning of the welcome book was nowhere closer to reality, not only Balinese nosy people, they will inquire your life out like a Biographer. They do not understand the subtle warnings, subtle yet clear warnings of your body language stating you do not want to answer the questions, may be for the sake of your safety or may be for the sake of not being super annoyed with the taxi driver who is going to drive you for next 9 hours. They will keep getting into the details until you spill all your beans and ensure that nothing else or ambiguous is remaining to be clarified. But at the same time they are downright sweethearts, they talk politely, pay attention to every details, go far and beyond to make your travel comfortable. If you share a good conversation with your driver or guide, they will show you the cheapest places to buy goodies, eat delectable meals or places that you can enjoy which you wouldn’t find in any of the travel sites, blogs or forums.

Fourth thing you will notice which will have many Indians running away is most of the souvenirs in Bali is phallus shaped. Talk about, pen stands, key chanis, refrigerator magnets or a bottle opener. You will find them sitting around at the front row of all the artefact’s or just dangling from the ceiling of shop, carved out of wood with utmost precision, believe me I can tell!

In those five precious days that I had, I experienced two completely different faces of Bali while one was fun, alighted, glamorous, funky and wild at times; the other was calmer, serene, quiet and laid back.
One would make you want to party all night while the other will force you to grab a Yoga mat and sit in the company of self and embrace every second of it.

This being my first solo experience, I will refrain from writing on my budget, as I hold no constraints there. I had researched and read about the places and services available for travel, eat or sightseeing, that even before I landed I knew exactly where to go and how to go, even the landmarks I will be crossing while reaching my destination. Traveling alone, builds in you a new level of confidence and a renewed sense of responsibilities. All you need is to give yourself some time to enjoy your own company and before you knew it you will be addicted to the quality time you will spend indulging with self.
The first half of my journey I spend in Seminyak couple of kilometres away from Kuta. That is just my way of spending my vacation; wherever I go I find out the most hyped places, the most commercialised and then plan my trip in a way that I stay away from those places. The most commercialised place at any tourist place is not driven by the native culture; it is driven by the tourist’s expectations. The formula to enjoy the essence of any place or city is, to live in a place  which is whithin approachable distance from your destinations so that you can enjoy the feel of the city, with more native people around and less tourists. In Bali Kuta is one highly commercialised location, in fact the entire Bali struggles to keep a hold on their years old traditions and culture in the midst of increasing tourist footfalls.

Semiyak is “the” city of Bali. With almost 3 to 4 kilometres long market, dazzling with everything from apparels to some really awesome beaded and stone jewellery. Semiyak beach rattles all morning with water activities pursued by mainly families, in night it transforms in to a blazing land with hundreds of lanterns, bean bags, Balinese delicacies and live music. It was serene day and night.

Being with self turns into an adventure when you are in company with amazing people from different nationalities and you will make friends at every corner, at eating joints, in the temple lines, during shared conveyances and even when you are negotiating while buying souvenirs. Another reason for choosing Seminyak was its approachability in terms of kilometres to travel from south to north Bali.

Barong Dance
The very first night I fortunately stumbled in the restaurant by sheer sound of the music coming from it which could be heard from across the street. Good thing I did went in, that too just in time to enjoy the one hour show of Barong Dance, traditional Balinese Dance. This dance is another Story narrating dance form, Barong is a lion and Barong fights with Rangada, the demon queen the mother of all evil spirits. I saw that dance as the combination of extremely enhanced and controlled expressions, both at the same time and the grace with which the girls and the boys performed the entire routine, which was so well rehearsed. Trying to strike up a conversation with one of the performer wasn’t very successful, although my bartender did inform that these girls and boys are anywhere from the age of 12 – 17. I mean can you believe this. Being so young and yet so strong in their performance, as they act out the mythological tales of Bali. It would be true to believe that Balinese live and sleep their culture.

Bali is full of serene sights and thousands of Temples, what will do you well is searching out all the tourist attractions, historical monuments you would like to visit from the huge list of tourist attraction, and also list down the activities you would like to do which was rusting in your wish list since like forever.
Tanha Lot Temple

And so I dove into the 16th century architects of the most sacred temple in Bali including Holy Spring Temple, Taman Ayun and my personal favourite place Pura Tanah Lot, a temple which is a small island in itself, the darkened structure, caused due to dense trees all around, only made the place feel more desirable. The temple is one of seven sea temples around the Balinese coast. Balinese temples are not maintained as the temples of India, they are not crowded, there is no line you need to stand in for hours together and definitely far more squeaky clean, which is easy to maintain as tourists are simple not allowed to step near the mail temple station,  specially the temple that are considered most sacred like Tanah Lot Temple. Although you might encounter the best ever Sunset you have witnessed in your entire life.

 Tirta Empul Temple
Tirta Empul Temple also commonly referred as Holy spring water is a reflection of the tradition and culture followed in India where the Indians take pilgrimage to the Ganges and take a dip in the holy water in order to clean themselves of sin. Small pond lined with beautiful design serving as an opening for the spring water from Sungai Pakerisan River to flow in the pond, which is considered holy and it is said to make you pure by cleaning your mind, body and soul, three words that the preachers of temple have learned to speak in flawless English. Mesmerised as I was with the temple in the entirety, I was more amazed to see, how dedicatedly and faithfully people from various nationalities, took a dip in that water, hiring preachers from the temple in order to help them clean their mind, body and soul, it makes you wonder, how much work does it really take to convert a person from a believer to a follower. Although I did not take a holy water dip myself, but I surely walked out of there feeling more acceptable towards the tradition of my own land, do I not know how many tourist comes to India in spiritual search and how many jumps into ganga to become sinless, off course I do. But here, I am referring to the people who neither come from the land of zillion traditions nor are they interested in developing spirituality and definitely not looking for any Guru. But people who would temporally accept any kind of tradition if it can at all help in their personal agendas hoping, may be this will work for them, but then may be not!

Coffee Estates
Another attraction you do not want to miss is the Coffee Plantation. You may want to park beside th street and take a walk in the trench filled with Coffe Estates, they even show you how the worlds most expensive Luwak Coffee is made and indulge you with Coffee and tea samples, while you enjoy the serene beauty of coffee estate.

When it came to doing activities which was rusting in my wish list, the one that topped all was Scuba Diving, 16km away from Semiyak is a beach called Nusa Dua. The beach will remind you of goa back home but the water activities offered their will bring you right back, from water walking to Snorkelling to Scuba Diving. You name it they will offer it. Here and at all the market places you go in Bali you will have the pleasure of dealing with money in Lakhs, given the currency exchange rate between Indian rupee and Indonesian Rupiah, even taking cash out from the ATM the lowest figure you can punch in is 50,000 rs. Isnt it amazing, and all through my trip I had negotiated from 50,000rs to 5 lakhs rupees. The entire scuba diving experience costed like 10 lakhs rupees which is around 4700 to 5000 rs only in Indian Rupee. Call me silly but the pleasure of dealing in lakhs was out of the world. Not to mention the laugh roit I had after winning my every negotiation had my taxi drivers thinking me as lony bit. My entire trip in Bali as per their currency was somewhere around 1.5 crores, sounds extravagant, well it wasn’t, wasn’t at all.

Picture taken while scuba diving
The whole scuba diving experience was simple out of the world, wordless and so much worth every bit of the trip. No, I did not suddenly realise the meaning of life nor did I suddenly became more aware of my being like shown in the movies.  But the entire journey from the shore of the sea to the middle of the sea, jumping in and gearing up with the oxygen cylinder (requiring two men to just lift it up enough so that it can be thrown in water, where you get fitted with it), and then swimming to the depth of the sea, with your instructor as your soul saviour (well although I can swim, but we are talking about going to the deepest of the sea and staying there, I mean you need help, like clinging to someone for your dear life “help”). 
I have no fear when it comes to water I embrace it like an old friend, yet I was glad it wasn’t as deep as I have seen it in the movies or discovery channel, yet I enjoyed every moment of the twenty minutes I spent inside, the Shoals of tiny iridescent fishes or the Swaying anemones filtering the gentle currents of their tiny unseen haul, the best twenty minutes spent of the Bali trip, and an awesome experience “checked” of the list.

After my on the toes days in Seminyak, I went to Ubud, where I met the flip side of bali. Like the myth in the ancient Roman religion where the God Janus, which has two faces, reflects on the two sides of each situation, moment and person. Likewise Bali’s other face is subdued, calm and comfortably quite. I did not planned going on any adventures from Ubud, Instead I soaked in its calm, walked the quite roads lined with restaurants of every kind, Mexican, Italian , thai, indian, and indulged in the most relaxing foot massage, just before I was scheduled to say good bye.

I did not intend anything before visiting Bali, it wasn’t a journey of spiritual search or journey towards understanding my purpose. My trip went smoothly and I did everything that I planned for. All I wanted was to have fun, meet great people, eat delicious food and pick up souvenirs for my family. And yet when I returned, I returned with an enhanced sense of completion.

When traveling solo the realization that you are on your own sinks in only when your feet touches the land of your destination, strange place surrounded with strangers. Though traveling with friends has its own perks, but traveling solo is definitely a high, a high so addictive that it kept me giddy the entire six days of my trip that by the end of it I was already making plans for my next fix.

Written By – Ritika Patel

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