Tucked away in the cerulean waters of the Bali Sea and the towering Mount Agung is an island blessed with fertile lands and rich biodiversity. Bali, with its varied terrain, numerous white sand beaches, picturesque temples, and standout local cuisines, has always been a favorite holiday destination for both local and international tourists.
When I found out I won a free trip to Bali, I got overwhelmed. I never thought I'd be back here so soon! For three days, we went to rediscover Bali, and to understand more about its culture.
Monday, Nov 21
As our plane made its final descent towards Ngurah Rai International Airport, the city lights of Denpasar which glittered like stars became more apparent. My mom and I, who came all the way from Davao and Tacloban respectively, had traveled more than a thousand miles to get here. As we settled our things in our hotel room, we immediately fell into deep slumber despite the traffic noise in Sunset Road. Four hours later, we woke up, had a hearty breakfast, and off we went to some of their famed secluded beaches.
Unlike most of the Muslim-majority provinces of Indonesia, more than 80% adheres to Balinese Hinduism. It is an amalgam in which Hindu gods and goddesses are worshiped together with the heroes of Buddhism and other indigenous deities. As we drove our way on the narrow highways of Badung Regency, reminders of Bali's rich and colorful heritage are everywhere.
Three decades ago, Bali was not as famous as today. Its economy back then was largely agriculture-based. When tourism started to grow in this island province, it provided more jobs to the locals. Today, tourism is the bread and butter of Bali's economy, making it as one of the richest provinces in Indonesia. Despite the rapid urbanization and the rise of social media, Bali still retained its charm.
|Surfing is popular here in Bali.|
|Padang Padang Beach.|
|Julia Roberts was here! :D|
Adjacent to the towering cliffs of Uluwatu is Padang Padang and Dreamland beach. Unlike the crowded Kuta Beach, these two beaches offer a scenic view of the Bali Sea and huge waves perfect for surfing. In pop culture, a scene from the movie Eat Pray Love starring Julia Roberts was filmed at Padang Padang. Regardless of how cliche it is, one shouldn't miss the opportunity to visit this beach. The surrounding limestone cliffs make this beach even more scenic.
Tuesday, Nov 22
Bali is not just about pristine white sand beaches and vibrant nightlife. Dubbed as the Island of Gods, Bali prides its numerous indigenous tribes, local languages, culture, and beliefs. At eight in the morning, we hopped on the bus and traveled for an hour to Ubud, the cultural center of Bali, to watch Barong Dance. The show, accompanied by an ensemble of Gamelan, is a classic story of good (The Barong) triumphing evil (Rangda). The Barong is a large lion-like creature played by two men. The Rangda is an epitome of evil with long fingernails and droopy breasts.
For lunch, we went to Bebek Tepi Sawah Restaurant and tried some of the best Balinese cuisines. Since ducks (bebek) aren't common in the local food scene here in the Philippines, we ordered Bebek Betutu (Balinese smoked duck with vegetable, steamed rice, and two choices of sambal). I highly recommend this dish.
To know more about Indonesian culture, we traveled south and visited Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) Park. It boasts one of the largest artistic masterpiece and most astonishing work of arts ever created in Indonesia's art history. Garuda is a mythical bird-like creature both appears in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. It reminds me of our very own Sarimanok.
Further south is a temple overlooking the Indian Ocean. Uluwatu, which literally translates to the edge of the cliff, is a sea temple located at Kuta South, Badung. The temple sits at the edge of a cliff and offers a breathtaking view of the Indian Ocean especially during sunset. The pillars and stones of the temple complex are intricately decorated with Hindu deities, most of them are figures of elephant-headed men. There’s a mini-forest where the monkeys of Uluwatu dwell. One should exercise extreme caution when encountering with these monkeys as they might steal some of your small belongings, so keep your valuables in your pocket. Yup, they’re not friendly to tourists.
|Before the Kecak Dance.|
When in Uluwatu Temple, don’t miss watching the Kecak Dance, an onomatopoeic title for the sound of their cultural performance. The performers chant the words ‘Cak ke-cak ke-cak ke-cak’ (pronounced as Ke-chak) repeatedly while other performers dramatize the epic Hindu story of Ramayana.
Wednesday, Nov 23
Back in the Philippines, I have never tried white water rafting. My friends who have already experienced this extreme water sport experienced body pain and sore muscles after. This is probably the highlight of my Bali trip. On the third day in Bali, we went water rafting at Ubud for two hours (but it felt forever during that time). While braving the rapids, I lost my balance and fell off the raft. The water was deep, and my lower back hit something hard underneath, probably a huge boulder. I managed to grab the rope of our raft, and our guide instructed me to jump from the water (human flying fish, anyone?). Adrenaline started to kick in and the next thing I knew, I was back on the raft.
It was fun, nonetheless. I guess I'd like to try white water rafting elsewhere, but not too soon.
During our farewell dinner at Made's Warung Restaurant in Seminyak, we shared our best experiences in Bali. Even if it was our second time here, we still enjoyed every moment of it. Not to mention that we have met new friends from Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and Indonesia.
Truly, Bali is not your once-in-a-lifetime destination. You will be drawn by its charm, and you'll always come back here. Bali is my home away from home.
|The competitive millennials of southeast Asia. And because of that, we each won prizes from Ministry of Tourism! Say hi to my new friends, Lennah and Afiqah from Brunei!|
To the Ministry of Tourism Indonesia, terima kasih! I hope to see you all again real soon!