Bali screams culture the moment you step out of the plane. It quickly overwhelms the senses – Hindu statues ornamented with flowers and fabrics everywhere, the thick smell of incense, feeling the humidity and warmth… and the food! An Asian spicy sweet island mixture of flavors, it’s delightful!
First we went to Sanur, a holiday beach west of Bali. Usually we try to avoid touristy places but we wanted to check it out at least for a day. As expected there were many people, restaurants, hotels, etc. We took a walk to the beach which was nice despite the trash littered about. On our way back we found a street market and even though I wasn’t planning on buying anything, I couldn’t resist stopping in. Bargaining is very common in Indonesia. You can bargain for almost everything. If you are good, you will pay less than half of the asking price. We also tried some street food; a spicy soup with chicken, noodles and bean sprouts with a sort of chips. We loved it, and loved the price even more… fifty cents!
The next day we moved to central Bali to a city called Ubud. For those who have seen the movie Eat, Pray, Love; this is where they filmed part of it. It is busy, but very laid back at the same time. People from Bali are extremely friendly, however many are only trying to sell you something. An overwhelming majority of Balinesians practice Hinduism. This sets Bali apart from the rest of Muslim Indonesia and makes it very special. Every house, village and city has a temple and there are religious statues everywhere along with offerings. Offerings are made three times a day and consist of little baskets with incense, food, flowers and cigarettes or candy. Every business also places offerings outside of their doors. A common belief is that if you do not follow this ritual something bad will happen. As you can imagine, they are very superstitious. This is only one of the many rituals they practice. Hinduism is very complex. Almost every local we met filled us in on the many gods, rules, ceremonies, and meanings in Hinduism.
We spent three days here, waking up to fresh fruit, coffee and banana pancakes that our home stay included. Then rented a motorbike and went exploring. We visited a monkey forest, temples, drove through rice paddies and the jungle. Finally we treated ourselves with a relaxing Balinese massage followed by a very authentic local dish. It doesn’t get much better!