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Published: January 13th 2017
The Tiger Air flight made a smooth touchdown at the Denpasar airport in the fading twilight. There was a downpour just before we landed. From my window seat I could see the water splash from the touchdown. The plane taxied slowly to the terminal. I curiously looked at the cottage shaped terminal. Bali! This is where I start my journey. I was excited. I have a bucketful of activities scheduled in Bali that I meticulously planned for the last six months with Desi Yanti, my travel planner from Adventure Indonesia. True, I was going to have some fun time in Bali like paragliding and various water sports, but that is only to satisfy my adrenaline rush. The part of Bali that has attracted me is the rich Balinese culture with its old history of Hinduism that I wanted to explore. I have learned a bit of Bahasa so that I could communicate with the common people.
For me, enjoying the sea beach attractions is only one part of my journey. The other part is to get a vibe of the lifestyle of the locals, visit its many temples, visit the Ubud livelihood and its renowned rice terraces and above all,
try to understand if there is a synergy that binds the Hinduism in India with the Bali Hindus. The Bahasa itself comes from the ancient Indian language Sanskrit (the word 'Bhasa' in Sanskrit means 'language' ). So there is a lot to learn. Unfortunately, I was going to stay in Bali only for three days and I knew it’s a daunting task and I will just be scratching the surface. Oh, well…I will do the best I could.
Immigration was slow, the officers were chatting between themselves while processing the papers…totally relaxed. Cool! I knew Desi and Ayu from the Accounts would be at the airport to pick me up and I had no clue who is who. But it didn’t take me long to figure that out. Just some tricky questions and the cat comes out! We all drove to my hotel in Nusa Dua and Desi’s boyfriend Kadek was already there, waiting for us. First we settled the bill and Ayu left. I threw my luggage in my room and met Desi and Kadek in the lobby. Yaaahoo, party time! We settled for some Nasi Goreng on a road side stall and we kept on talking until
the evening rolled into night. They had a long motorbike ride home to Sanur. And I had a busy day ahead. We called it a night.
Sudana was waiting for me at the hotel lobby 6 o’clock in the morning. We were to drive to the Besakih temple, the largest one in Bali. I recall the argument I had with Desi while planning the trip. I was to arrive in Bali in the evening of 25th November. Desi booked me paragliding at noon the following day. I had the morning free. When I suggested that I visit the Besakih temple in the morning half, Desi told me,
“You are just arriving in Bali on 25th. You can’t make it to Besakih temple the next day. You have paragliding booked at noon.”
“Why can’t I make it in the morning? I have the morning free.”
“Tab, the temple is far away from Nusa Dua. And there is traffic on the road. If you leave even at 8:00 am, you can’t possibly come back in time.”
“I sure can. I will leave at 6:00am.”
“You are crazy, why don’t you take some rest in
the morning before you go for paragliding.”
“Forget taking rest. 4-5 hours sleep is enough for me. I will leave at 6:00 am and be back on time. Just get me a car, please.”
Desi gave up. “It’s your choice, but you are pushing.”
Yes, I know sometimes I push too much. Well, I don’t have a choice. I want to make the most of it.
Besakih is not just one temple. It’s a temple complex in the village of Besakih on the slope of the Mount Agung in Eastern Bali. It is the largest and the holiest temple in Bali. The complex has three iconic Hindu Gods, Shiva the destroyer, Brahma the creator and Vishnu the preserver. And the God Agung is in the center. We were the first visitors to arrive that early in the morning. One is required to wear a ‘sarong’, a printed cloth wrapped around the waist to enter the temple. The main entrance has long stairs that lead to the main complex. On both sides of the stairs there are statues of many Gods and demons that were unknown to me. I believe there is a fusion of the original
Hindu mythology with the local Balinese faith. However, the fundamental remains the same as the mainstream Hinduism has the same concept where the battle always occurs between the ‘good’ and the ‘evil’. Inside, there are many shrines, but not all are accessible to the visitors. I was approached by the guides, but I turned them down. I love to walk around alone and explore. I saw a series of devotees were approaching in one of the temple complex. The men were wearing white and the ladies wearing colourful dresses. I peeped in to see what’s going on. It appeared to be a ceremonial activity of certain community. They were offering to the God in the same manner as the Hindus do in India. A priest came to me and told me it’s a private ceremony and I can’t go in. I left the place and went up further. The view around the temple is spectacular from the top.
On the way back Sudana was showing me the Balinese homes on two sides of the road. To my surprise, I saw there are a number of private temples in every home. The residential area in a home is almost one
third of the total area and the rest are temples. More affluent a person is, the temples are bigger. This is different in India. People there worship in community temples, if there is one. Sudana was explaining to me that the rituals and prayers in each home is very much private. I wanted to visit a Balinese home and Sudana took me to a home that is open to the visitors. It is interesting that each temple inside the homes is dedicated to certain Hindu Gods, but there is one temple dedicated to the deceased. Later I learned that the practice is common to all Balinese homes. The manifestation once again is the reflection of how a religion gets transformed in blending the local traditions and beliefs.
I was back in time for my paragliding. The jeep picked me up from my hotel and traveled through the outskirts of Bali to the Pandwa beach. There were other thrill seekers like me. I have done paragliding in other places. Last year in Hanoi it was almost a wash out due to the bad weather. Finally, we jumped in a late foggy afternoon with almost zero visibility. But this was cool!
We took off after a short run on the slope of a cliff and once airborne, I pressed my GoPro button fastened to my chest harness. Damn! The button was stuck. I should have tested it before. Although I was wearing a sunglass with built in video camera, but I needed another angle. Abort! We touched down quickly to take another Go Pro from Ketut and were airborne again! I was mesmerized with the view of the sea and its turquoise blue water; the beach was glowing in the bright sunlight! We flew over the sea and took a turn towards the sand dunes near the Pandwa beach. The twenty minutes flying time was worth every penny.
The evening was free for me. I ventured to a local restaurant to try some more Nasi Goreng….well, a mild version actually. I love good food, but I’m careful when traveling.
The next day was a busy one with the water sports. Fortunately, Tanjung Benoa beach was merely 10 minutes drive from my hotel in Nusa Dua. “Let’s start with my favourite and the easiest one, the parasailing.” I told the guy! I already arranged extra air time with additional payments.
Ah, Heaven! The cool breeze over the sea and the total silence except the sound of the breeze…I was drifting in a wonderland and was floating forever….Oh, I loved it and loved it and didn’t want to come down. I guess all good time has to come to an end sometime. Only pitfall was somehow my video camera time stamping went to the factory default - you can see that in the clip. Ah well, not a big deal!
I was ready to do some snorkeling. I didn’t have much luck with snorkeling in the past. Well, snorkeling in Phi Phi Island in Phuket was more or less okay, but the one in Costa Rica was a disaster. My main problem is I don’t know how to swim and I had a hard time floating even with a life jacket. I also cooked my previous Go Pro there as water leaked inside. M J Binkley advised me to take more swimming lessons and so I did before coming to Bali. I am not there yet, but the lessons helped. Although I had a guide close by as I explained my challenges, but I did it alright this time. And
Oh Boy, did I enjoy it! And I snorkeled again in the Java sea later on. The fact is, I had less fear in the water this time and that definitely helped.
Walking on the sea bed among the corals and fishes was also fun and this was the first time I did that. No issues there as I didn’t have to swim. They just lowered me on the bed with my helmet on and I just balanced myself against the buoyancy. Another sport I never tried before was the water jet sky boarding. I took a guide as this was the first time I was doing it and I didn’t know what to expect. But it was really cool! Really one doesn’t need a guide for this. It’s just a matter of how to balance with the dancing water jet. It was quite a fun!
Then I realized that I lost my prescription glasses somewhere. Kadek and Desi took me to a downtown optician. I had the prescription with me. That didn’t help as they have to get it done from Jakarta and it will need few days. I didn’t have few days to spare. Oh, well…I’ll
manage without it. “Forget it, let’s go and eat,” I told them. Finally we landed at a food court and had our dinner. Guess what, Nasi Goreng again. It looks like my fate was sealed with Nasi Goreng in Indonesia. That’s it, I’m not going to eat any more Nasi Goreng. Desi laughed. Kadek was driving. It was Sunday, but the Bali traffic was horrendous! And then it happened. A lady riding a scootey with her daughter, swerved from our right, came right in front of our car. And bang! Slow speed, but they fell down. Clearly, it was her fault as we were crawling with the traffic flow. The police came and I thought OMG, what is next! I am used to the standard process one has to go through in North America in case of an accident. No, not in Bali. Crowd came and helped the lady to get on the scootey again. She was visibly shaken. There was no damage and the police waved us off. To the cop, the traffic control on the road was more important. He didn’t want another chaos on the road. What a relief! Hope the lady learns a lesson, especially she
was riding with her daughter and the daughter was not wearing a helmet. This should be her wake up call. Kadek and Desi dropped me at the hotel. It was close to 11pm.
Tomorrow is my last day here. And I intend to explore Bali and its heartland away from the sun soaked beaches.
More to come from Bali in my next blog…stay tuned.
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