Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Island of the Gods: Bali Series

Welcome to the Island of the Gods - the ultimate island destination in Asia, Bali in Indonesia. After spending 2 days in Jakarta, my family managed to make last minute arrangements to the famed tourist spot. We were fortunate to find reasonable airfares (4k pesos roundtrip) via Air Asia flight from Jakarta to Denpasar in Bali.

I have been in Bali 3 years ago, so I was expecting that much have changed. My parents were just in Bali six months ago, so I was expecting them to reminisce about their recent trip. We arrived at 8AM, after an almost 2 hour flight. After getting our luggage, I arranged for an AUV that would be delivered to our villa after lunch. Yes, we stayed at a villa. The best thing about Bali is that the island was the birthplace of villas - detached private accommodations that mostly boast of its own pool and luxurious amenities. I will be talking about our villa in my next entries. For now, we were picked up by the villa manager, and jetted off to Seminyak, the upscale neighborhood of Bali.

For those who don't know anything about Bali, here's one thing. It is not like Boracay, nor Puerto Galera, or Palawan. It can be likened to the island of Cebu, less the cityscape that has dominated its heart. Bali is a huge island, with volcanos and mountains, and several beaches. I think it is slightly bigger than Bohol. So, it is not Boracay (to all the Filipinos reading this).

With that, don't expect great beaches. As I've said, the Philippines still has the best beaches in Southeast Asia, next to Thailand. We have thousands more, and that gives us the advantage. Bali's beaches are comparable to our "normal" mainland beaches, such as the ones in Batangas, Zambales or even Cavite. Kuta Beach, the center of action in the island, is a wide stretch of gray sand, and extends the same coastline that connects the beaches of Legian and Seminyak.

Seminyak is the trendy town of Bali. Several of the boutique resorts and villas are located here. The restaurants in this area are filled with high-society folks dressed to the nines. The picture above is a famous restaurant bar and venue in Bali, and it is located in Seminyak - the stylish Kudeta. More of that in my next posts.

Bali has several shopping venues, such as the Kuta Square in Kuta, and outlet stores in Denpasar. We spent an entire morning shopping in the outlet stores of Quiksilver, Roxy and Billabong. It was there were I saw Filipinos. I wasn't planning to shop, but my family insisted we do.

Of course, you have stalls lining up most of the tourist streets, especially in Kuta. In Ubud, the supposed art capital of Bali, flea markets are popular, and they sell everything from, clothes to home furnishings, artworks and even artifacts.

Bali is home to the Buddhist majority of Indonesia, thus, Bali is different from the rest of the largest island nation in the world. There are several temples in honor of different gods, from Ulu Watu, a restive temple on a cliff, and Tanah Lot, a temple located on a rock off shore. These sites are popular tourist attractions, and one cannot complete a trip to Bali without seeing these temples.

But at the end of the day, Bali is known for its beach culture, island vibe and cultural heritage. The local people are very friendly, and take pride in their home. After all, the gods have descended to make Bali their home as well on earth. It is indeed a heavenly place, a place where the world's worries can be forgotten easily.

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