By Stefan Russel
One of the reasons I fell so strong about Bali is because of the islands many faces. You can drive from one end of Bali to the other in three to four hours, but the relative short drive will take you through lively touristy beach towns and local villages where the Balinese live life at their own pace. You will drive past stunning white cliffs towering above the sea, through bright green terraced rice paddies and come by ancient temples. Just within a few kilometers the landscape and the atmosphere can change completely. Below three of the things I like most about Bali.
The spiritual Bali
You don’t have to be in Bali long to realize that spirituality is everywhere. One of the first things you notice is the small woven offering baskets made of coconut or banana leaves. You’ll see the baskets filled with flowers, fruits or rice in on the sidewalk in the streets and outside restaurants, hotels and temples. Several times a day you’ll see woman dressed in traditional sash and sarong placing the offerings and lighting incense outside their houses and in the family shrine.
Although spirituality is a part of daily life all over Bali and there is more than 10.000 temples spread across the Islands, most people consider Ubud to be the spiritual and cultural center of Bali.
Ubud is centrally located in Bali among rolling hills and lush green rice field. The town itself is packed with little places serving healthy organic food and good locally produced coffee. Next to the cafés you find small boutiques selling handmade bags and clothes and shops where local artist display and sell their art. Several places offer yoga lessons and spa treatments where you can find inner peace and calm among the rice fields. For me, just sitting overlooking the rice fields around sunset usually does the trick.
The luxurious side of Bali
Another side of Bali is the one that cater to the ones who like to spoil themselves for a couple of days – or weeks. All over Bali you find luxury resorts and astonishing private villas where a staff, that often includes a chef and a driver, ensures that all you have to focus on is enjoying your holiday.
Seminyak on Bali’s west coast is the major hub for luxury travelers. A beach perfect for surfing and sunset watching, trendy boutiques and luxury accommodation is the primary attractions. Here the restaurant is just a little better (and a little pricier) than everywhere else in Bali. The best of them serve a fusion between Asian and western food and seafood from the local fish market often play an important role in the dishes.
Another favorite for the luxury traveler in Bali is the many spas. Also when it comes to spas, the places in Seminyak are above most of the competition. Treatments comes in all form and flavors and whether you prefer amethyst, avocado, chocolate or honey there is a treatment that will suit you. All you have to decide is whether an hour of scrubbing, rubbing, bathing and vegetable juice drinking is enough or you’ll go for a whole day. No matter which one you go for, I guarantee you will feel renewed when you leave.
Bali for the active traveler
While most tourists stay in the Southern part of Bali, the northern part is much less traveled. Here active volcanoes and forest covered mountains is the ideal setting for trekking, biking and rafting. For serious trekkers a night trek to reach the summit of Bali’s highest volcano Mount Agung at sunset is an unforgettable experience. An even more spectacular view is the view from the 3700 meter high Mount Rinjani on the nearby island of Lombok. If you prefer water based activities you should add white water rafting on the Ayung River or kayaking on Lake Batur to your Bali itinerary.
Along the shores of Bali the surf breaks all year and everywhere in Bali you’ll see the surfers with their boards on scooters in chase of the next big wave. Bali has surf spots that suits any experience level, so no matter if you are and experienced surfer or you never have been on a surf board before you can find a wave that is perfect for you.
If you rather go below the surface, Bali’s eastern and northern coastline has plenty of places for exploring the marine life of Bali. The most spectacular dive and snorkeling site is the USAT Liberty Wreck. The 120 meter long army transporter that got torpedoed during the Second World War is now covered in coral and is the home of millions of species in all colors and sizes.
Stefan Russel is a keen traveler, mountaineer and lover of red wine. He has bases in Copenhagen and in Bali and is one of the founders of Vilondo.com that rent out villas in Bali and the surrounding islands.