Bali welcomed me the moment I arrived on its surface: at the Ngua Rai Airport I was immediately impressed by the richness of Balinese art displayed in the airport compound. We hailed a taxi and headed to Ubud, up in the hills. Downtown Denpasar was easily reached in a 30 minute drive, where we stopped to have some food in a local restaurant. Balinese food is simple and yummy, and for those not familiar or not keen on Balinese food, don’t panic: fast foods are all around the place. We eventually reached our destination and settled in our room for the night in Ubud.
The next day was temple visit day! I got up quite early for the visit to Besakih Temple, located on the slope of Bali’s highest volcano, Mount Kunung Agung, which is still active. During the trip, the minivan passed through Kintamani Village to visit Batur Lake, the biggest of the volcanic lakes present on the island. At the temple, I rented a sarong and changed my clothes to better blend with the locals and to respect Balinese culture. Besakih incorporates altogether 30 small temples. The main temple is made of carved stones, with a black palm tree roof.
To reach our next destination took over an hour. The lanes were very narrow and it seemed that all cars were heading to the same place, the traffic terrible at some points. Tanalot Temple is perched in part on a large rocky outcrop in the Indian Ocean that, at high tide, is completely surrounded by water. Reaching the temple on foot is only possible at low tide. Underneath the structure grounds there is a small cave with two sacred snakes living inside, believed by Balinese to protect the compound. With its spring sprouting from beneath the earth, it looks more like a painted backdrop than something real.
Tanalot Temple is popular for sunset watchers; the atmosphere is magical during the last minutes of daylight, and it can be compared to that of Laem Promthep of Phuket. We were there at the right time; the colours were amazing and donated a special aura to the already amazing scenery.
Dinner was an experience in itself. The many restaurants along the 2 km long Jimbaran Beach serve fresh seafood on tables located right on the beach, for that sea breeze feeling. Musicians move from table to table to create a romantic atmosphere. The last hours of the day were spent at Legian Road, where I experienced the atmosphere of Bali by night: a popular place for foreign visitors, with restaurants, pubs, souvenir shops, brand-name products and relaxing spas.
On the second day I followed a local guide for a walk around Ubud, a picturesque place with a lane replete of Bali-styled souvenir shops, art shops, modern restaurants and museums. In the background, terraced rice fields and high hills so typical of Ubud County. From Ubud, we proceeded to Kintamani village and nearby Tampaksiring, the sacred spring; Balinese believe Gods can help blow away all the mishaps or illnesses of the sick and the unfortunate who bathe at this spring.
The journey to Lovina Beach, tourist outpost in the north of Bali, where we were to spend the night, took over 3 hours of driving along curved streets flanked by deep slopes; it reminded me of the journey to reach Mae Hon Song in the north of Thailand. By the time we reached the place, it was already dark and we headed straight to bed.
On the last day, I awoke as early as 5.30 am for a local boat ride to watch the dolphins. It only took a 10 minute ride to find them along the coral reef, flipping out of the water and performing fantastic loops. It was such an exciting experience. I later spent a few hours on Lovina beach, admiring its unique 8 km stretch of black sand that originates from volcanic lava; quite a sight.
The morning after, time came to reach the airport for our return flight. Those few days passed so quickly that I felt compelled to return to Bali, the magic island. I did eventually, and ended up living there for 4 months quite recently.