Bali is called the Island of the Gods but arriving in Denpasar, its chaotic main city, or in nearby Kuta, the famous surfer’s beach, you get the impression to have arrived in a noisy hell made of bars, pubs and clubs, rahter than in the idyllic and mystic place its nickname promises.
But for those who want to really get to know Bali, it is easy to leave behind the hustle bustle of Kuta, renting a car or one of the many taxi vans, to discover the most authentic soul of the island, a world of peace and quiet where religion is deeply rooted in people’s life and is expressed through a high respect for nature and a sincere devotion. The religious sense is experienced and lived with great joy, with ceremonies made dance, music and ritual gestures that convey serenity and harmony, the principles of the Hindu worship.
Just outside the town of Kuta a winding leads across green terraced hills , the typical landscape of the island that tells about its rural heart, made of rice cultivation and hard work in the fields; among these terraces , where water reflects the clouds creating an amazing perspective picture , it is easy to see some farmers bent over rice paddies: ancient gestures so far from the hustle and bustle of the tourist centres.
Along the way you will find small villages where if you’re lucky enough you could stumble on one of the many colourful religious ceremonies Balinese people are so fond of: choral festivals full of joy, where people get on the streets carrying statues, garlands and baskets with votive offerings. One of the best memories I have of Bali are the women walking in a line, carrying fruit baskets on their head and wearing beautiful and welcoming smiles on their face!
Pay attention to the many tourist traps and beware of the ceremonies proposed by not authorized tour guides, you could run into one of the many theatres have been made up to extort money from tourists.
When entering the green hinterland you will come to Ubud , cultural and artistic center of Bali. Immersed in the lush vegetation of the tropical forest, the village offers many trekking paths in the nearby mountains and is home to many artisan workshops where expert hands create beautiful batiks, wooden statues, kites, jewellery and many other handcrafted items.
You can spend hours admiring these stunningobjects or looking at a craftsman paiting a batik.
Ubud is full of tiny restaurants serving typical Balinese food and small traditional hotel, oasis of peace and tranquillity surrounded by greenery, with rooms overlooking internal gardens adorned with fountains and flowers. Even if it’s a well-known tourist destination, Ubud has retained an aura of piece and quiet that is the true essence of the island.
While visiting Bali you cannot miss a visit to one of the many Hindu temples scattered throughout the island, but even here one must be careful about which one to choose, the most famous are unfortunately also those where the atmosphere is ruined by the crowd of tourists and where it is easy to be picked up by fake guides who will insist to show you around. One of the most visited temples is Tanah Lot , perched on a cliff and famous for sunsets: a place unquestionably impressive if it were not for the crowd that invariably every night invades the cliffs making the experience somewhat disappointing. Better try one of the temples of the hinterland, lesser known or in more remote locations, where you can still enjoy peace and quiet, and get to know the deep religious spirit of these people and harmony with their land.
Many come to Bali expecting to find a beach destination but I think of all the natural beauty that the island has to offer, the sea is perhaps the less impressive: although there are beautiful beaches, those expecting typical tropical landscapes will probably be disappointed. Kuta Beach is famous for high waves that attract surfers every year from all over the globe. For those who want to relax on the beach better to opt for other places such as Lovina, famous for its characteristic dark sand or other more secluded bays uo in the north.
But the real authentic Bali is far away from bars and beaches and is made of dance, music, flower gardens and immense rice fields: this is the island that will transport you to a magical dimension, where you can enjoy slow rhythms and rediscover the value of a smile, the beauty of simple gestures. A place to see at least once in a lifetime. Once you get to know this Bali you can say to have truly reached…
the island of Gods.
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