Bali: First Impression I

With sublime beaches, lush forests, sacred Hindu temples, beautiful blossoms and friendly people, Bali is an island paradise abundant in beauty.


Under the warning of security from my family and friends due to the previous bombings in Bali, I flew to Bali with my heart of curiosity and adventure for my May Day vacation. After more than eight hours flight (with much time in waiting on the plane or at the airport), I arrived at one of my dreamlands—Bali, the fabled “Island of the Gods” in Indonesia. It was almost midnight upon my arrival. On my way to hotel, with the help of the dim streetlights, I savored the first impression of the Hindu culture—temples are here and there, statues of gods stand at the crossings, in front of shops and of course, guards at the gate of the temples day and night; the evening is peaceful here except constantly hearing stray dogs’ barking. Bali’s roads are narrow and zigzagging. I don’t know how many turns we had made and how many slopes we had climbed before we reached the hotel—Le Meridien Nirwana Bali Golf & Spa Resort. My hotel is quite far away from the tourist spots but it also gives itself advantage to offer guests a completely tranquil vacation and a closer touch with nature.


I checked in and got my welcome drink at the reception desk. I guess it was a glass of iced pineapple juice. Yum…I LOVE it! The first self-taught Indonesian phrase is “Terima kasih,” meaning “Thank you” in English. Actually I realize this phrase is the most frequently used one among the three Indonesian phrases I’ve known in the whole journey. Not until the next morning did I recognize the superb location of the hotel, which is facing the Indian Ocean and right next to the temple of Tanah Lot, which perches on a rock isolated off the coast of West Bali. My dad said he’d like to process a property like that just for himself when looking at the postcard of Tanah Lot. I told him there are thousands of desolated islands in Indonesia, he can buy one if he’s rich enough. The perfect boundless ocean view from my hotel is magnificent; birds are chirping, toads are hopping, squirrels are leaping and geckoes are busy seeking their preys; in addition, the roars of waves hitting on the rocks can be heard clearly. For me, I could just stay at my hotel without stepping out to see the rest of Bali.


However, I couldn’t resist the temptation to get to know other parts of Bali. Before I left for Bali, I did a travel column on Bali. So my mind was overwhelmed by those gorgeous natural scenery online pictures. To see is to believe. That’s why I enjoy travel so much. Bali is an island of flowers. Colorful blossoms are everywhere. They are especially used as decorations in temples. Dancers wear blossoms in their crowns and even in the pattern design of their beautiful traditional sarongs you can find the inspiration from flowers. I LOVE the tuberoses the best. Kamboja and Tuberoses are two commonly seen blossoms in Bali. They’re just so beautiful and fragrant.


The first tour spot I went to was Kuta beach resorts area. It’s no doubt that Kuta is famous for its spectacular sunsets as well as being a shopping heaven. A local Balinese told me that life in Kuta is an extreme compared to the rest of island. I believe so because you can see tourists of all skin colors here and international brands as many as you can name it. I didn’t know I was so crazy about shopping until the desire of buying kept coming to me whenever I saw new stuff in Kuta. And I became a “millionaire” of Rupiahs for the first time in my life in Bali. However, thanks to many zeros on the bill, this dummy millionaire had a problem distinguishing 5,000RP and 50,000RP. So I made a few embarrassing jokes because of that. You never notice how tired you are when shopping until afterwards. I was mistaken for Singaporean, Taiwanese, Japanese or even Indonesian because I could barely speak “Terima kasih.” But after I told them the truth of Karen’s identity, the negotiation price dropped. I guess I made a good bargain for being a Chinese, just like the hotel price too. Chinese guests can benefit cheaper price at a five-star hotel. Terrific!!!


Kuta’s long coastline and sublime sunset drove me return on my last full-day visit in Bali. Facing the horizon, I stepped into the waves, spreading my arms to feel every ray of sunlight. Kuta definitely has its WOW FACTOR! I was fortunate to witness a Hindu ritual on the beach. It was said that day was auspicious and the families were throwing into the sea the afterbirth of new born to assure good luck for the baby. Apparently, after the explosion in 2005, there were not too many tourists by the beach. That’s my ideal—appreciating the beauty of nature all by myself. I took quite a few snapshots of Kuta’s sunset and observed people’s activities by the beach. What a pleasure!!! That moment was the time I got away from my daily troubles at the farthest distance. I suddenly felt envy at Balinese’s simple life with nature.


The second tour spot that drove me return on my last full-day visit in Bali was Ubud, the cultural center in central Bali where surrounded by lush forests and verdant rice fields and Bali’s legendary rice terraces. Although I have been to Ubud twice during this trip, it’s still not enough for me to see it all. There’re a lot of art galleries full of paintings by famous and not so famous artists in Ubud. I happened to see a western artist drawing outside a temple. I visited the Neka Museum, which showed an excellent history of Balinese art. There is where I learned more about Balinese culture and their belief. In the evening I took in a traditional Balinese dance. You don’t need to understand the dialogues because all the meanings are perfectly conveyed via the dancers’ exquisite movements and their darting eyes. The costumes are the best part! The dance took place at a local palace in Ubud. And I had the chance to visit the family living in the palace during daytime. People are so friendly here! Flowers and plants are everywhere in this family. And their master room is separate from living room and guest room, which like the open verandahs furnished with decent sofas and tables or beds and most importantly, the statues of gods including garudas. You can see offerings everywhere too. One local told me that they had to worship three times a day: in the morning before 10AM, noon time and afternoon before 6PM. Their hand-made offerings are so unique and delicate. They’re seen everywhere in Bali besides in the temples—a pretty good reminder for me that I am in Bali.


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