Bali, Island of the Gods

Kuta GateCrossing over the channel from Java and onto the island of Bali, the crown jewel in the Indonesia archipelago, is an odd experience.  I left the town of Malang six hours earlier on a bus that spluttered to life.  With a recoil of black smoke we were on our way; it was the middle of the night.

I don’t remember arriving at the docks and I don’t remember the bus being loaded onto the ferry. I was sound asleep. What I do remember is waking to the jolt of it re-establishing its foothold on terra firma.

It reminded me of the days of the Dover to Zeebrugge ferry crossing between England and Europe.  Upon arrival you were in a different country. Exiting the bus was mandatory as you had to go through customs and immigration.

Arriving in Bali was similar in the fact that everyone had to disembark, lineup, and go through a passport control of sorts. All that was required was an ID and if the security guy could read what was on it in the dim light of the single bulb above him then he’s been eating a lot of carrots.

I could barely make out the silhouette of the person in front of me.

It was immediately clear that you were no longer on Java. The intangible ingredient that makes Bali special lingers in the air waiting for the newly arrived to understand its magic. Java maybe in the tropics but Bali is the quintessential tropical island.  Sea breezes, palm trees, long stretches of white sand, volcanoes, bamboo forests, thatched roofed houses, and temples as far as the eye can see.

At least one per house.

I realize that Java has all these things as well but in Bali they are all in one condensed place…a little piece of land known around the world as the “Island of the Gods”.

My first stop was Legian at a place called Three Brother Bungalows. The small village that gave birth to the Bali tourism industry, Kuta, lies to the east and can no longer be described as small or a village.

It is a pulsating mecca of youthful exuberance and Kuta caters to their every whim. It is chaotic, noisy, and a far cry from the real Bali.

Three Brothers is somewhere in between the chaos of Kuta and a more serene Bali that is the anticipation of every traveler to the island. Entering the grounds is like walking into your imagination of how Bali should be. The bungalows are all nestled in an amazingly lush tropical garden. Fruit trees, palms, and plants blooming with multi-colored hibiscus flourish everywhere. Rich thick grass underfoot with pebbled pathways lead you throughout. It is peaceful, serene, and close to the beach. The only sounds are your own or those of the birds and geckos that make this home.

I describe it with ease as an oasis of calm in the center of crazy.

Tomorrow I head inland to Ubud and then along the eastern coast stopping in a place called Pandang Bai; my two favorite places on the island. Ubud, the cultural center and Padang Bai a sleepy fishing village claiming three bays.

All of which have their own role to play in my happiness.

For photos of Indonesia click here.

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30 thoughts on “Bali, Island of the Gods

  1. I too have been to Bali more than any other place. I just love your description of the oasis of calm in the centre of crazy, how it so perfectly explains the feel of Bali, rather than just the vision. Great read as always.

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  2. As always your words bring back the best of memories! I love that Kuta could once be described as a village, and can only imagine how it was back then. Bali is one of the few places that I actually dream about returning to (usually we say we never return as there is still so much more of the world to explore first). I remember being the most relaxed I’ve ever been, especially around Ubud and Sideman to the East. The stuff of dreams!

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  3. It looks so calm! Indonesia is just like my next door neighbor but sad to say, I haven’t been out of my country in almost 10 years. (The financial strain of sending two children in college has been my biggest roadblock to travelling). Bali will definitely be in my bucket list once my boys are done with school. And that would be three years max. Just enough time to save for the trip. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Bali is so small I find that 3 days is enough and then if I want to return later it’s only a couple of hours away. Java and Sumatra on the other hand are different stories as they are huge.

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  4. Hi Tim – thanks for the trip. Bali sounds like a wonderful place and I love the way you always describe your different modes of transport, you were probably glad to be tired enough to sleep on this bus trip. BTW – love the picture of the rice farmer.
    Lenie

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  5. WOW! Bali seems wonderful. I know about Malaysia that its very beautiful ,green with its rainy seasons and sea but I have never heard about Bali before. I am many females working with me from Indonesia but they never told that its so beautiful. Even nanny of my Daughter is Indonesian, I will just go and ask from her about Bali 🙂 .
    The way you have described the scene of beach area houses and grassy paths and peace with the sound of birds and gecko.. It really amazed me. I do not think so it is less than a heaven on earth.
    The way you have described whole environment around you with beach and houses I really loved that. It really seems the crown jewel.
    Thank you for a nice share. .

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  6. Aha! I see from the above comment that I am not exclusive in my opinion that you are a beautiful writer! I spent a long weekend in Bali some years back, between business jaunts in Singapore and Jakarta. My experience was limited to the southern part…but I was enchanted. So I love hearing about your experiences in the parts of the island that I never go to:)

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    1. Enchanted is a great word to describe the feeling of Bali. It is one of those rare places that, even though it constantly undergoes change and draws in more and more tourists, it has still managed to corral most in one section. That leaves the rest open for a truer experience if one wants. Kind of incredible on such a small island.

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  7. I love your posts so much. Your writing style is really powerful and has the power of making me ‘feel’ in a way that is rare to find among bloggers. I am so glad I have discovered this site. I would love to visit Bali, and I will definitely be thinking about this when I first set foot on the island!

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    1. Thank you very much Margherita. Bali is an amazing place but word of caution; do not judge it by your first impression. Let it soak in and head out of the main areas in the south.

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