Bali is the best for a short break from the hectic city life, Sophie Choudry found out after visiting the Indonesian island recently. Pampering massages, sumptuous seafood, festive fervour and the best bargains, Bali offers it all.
I have been fortunate enough to get the opportunity to travel across the world. London and Paris where I grew up, New York, Singapore, Thailand and Florence are some of my favourite destinations. My most recent vacation was in the very beautiful Bali. And I want to tell you all about this amazing tourist place.
Bali is located in the westernmost part of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with Java in the west and Lombok in the east. It is one of the 33 provinces in the country. The provincial capital is Denpasar, towards the south of the island. Bali is home to the bulk of Indonesia's small Hindu minority. It is also the largest tourist destination of the country and is famous for its highly developed art forms, including dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking and music. The beaches are simply beautiful and perfect for water sports, something I adore. I absolutely hate swimming in a pool but a sea shore is a different experience altogether!
My first visit to Bali was in December for a Bollywood show. But we didn't even get a chance to step out of our hotel then. However, I went back again last week and stayed at the lovely Conrad Resort and Spa. This time I managed to venture out a bit more. The place was perfect for a five-day break, to relax, unwind and just have fun.
My favorite spots were the beach at Conrad and the Mandara Spa. I loved pampering myself indulging in massages there. Then there were fresh fruit, salads and seafood to satisfy the taste buds. We ate at a restaurant called Spice, overlooking the sea. The cuisine is a blend of oriental and Mediterranean. Beetroot soup with cumin was a hit on my dinner table, as was duck with pancakes. Mahi Mahi fish marinated in interesting spices and pepper prawns were also delicious. Another restaurant worth stopping by for snacks is Ku-de-ta.
Bali's street markets are great for buying artefacts and interior d'cor items. Be careful when you go shopping for clothes, the place is full of fake designer clothes and bags. Nonetheless, you can pick up gorgeous swimsuits, resort wear and some cute stuff in stores like Body and Soul and Surfer Girl. Although luxury hotels are always more expensive it's still worth it because I found gorgeous swimwear and sarongs in my hotel.
The hardest thing to get used to in Bali is their currency. All the price tags are in thousands or millions. It was so funny that I spent 20 lakh Balinese rupaiya in 15 minutes, buying a couple of shirts for my brother and coffee from Star Bucks. Effectively, that's not even Rs 9,000 in Indian currency. But believe me, you get a small shock when you have to pay 4 lakh Balinese rupaiya for coffee!
I really want to go back to the island once again to witness the Balinese New Year celebrations on Nyepe Day (pronounced n-yipee). The locals party throughout New Year's Day, but the very next day the island is plunged into silence and darkness. People don't talk, the supply of power is cut off and one is supposed to spend time at home resting and meditating. Now, that would be a fascinating experience!
I would definitely recommend Bali to all who want a quick break far from their daily hectic schedules. Unless you are Shah Rukh Khan, you could probably enjoy anonymity there even if you are a celebrity. It's peaceful, yet fun with lovely restaurants and a happening nightlife. Check out Club 66, Hard Rock Cafe and do visit spots like Semiyak, Kuta and Ubud.
Language can be a barrier, despite some Americanization of the place. The local populace still doesn't speak English fluently. Just keep your language simple and don't lose your patience!
Remember to bargain hard while shopping on the roadside and save some money for the airport tax on your way back. Let me warn you that the Balinese airport is not a place you would like to be stuck in!