Sunday, November 07, 2010

48 Hours in Bali

Vacation? Try it comes to Bali, Indonesia. You all will find a variety of wonders, though only within 48 hours.

Stunning volcanic beauty, a landscape dotted with temples, undulating terraced paddy fields, beaches and a rich artistic culture. All these and more combine to make Bali a popular tourist hotspot and backdrop for the new Julia Robert movie Eat, Pray, Love, adapted from Elizabeth Gilbert's best selling book about the recently divorced author's search for self-discovery.

The number of visitors to Bali plummeted after the 2002 nightclub bombings but the Indonesian island is now a recovery story with tourist arrivals leaping by 60 percent since 2005 and expect to near 2.5 million in 2010.

East of the main Indonesian island of Java, Bali is home to a majority of the country's Hindu minority. Here how to get the most out of a 48-hour visit:


3pm - "There is no love sincerer than the love of food" (George Bernard Shaw)... and there is nothing like a good meal. La Lucciola at Seminyak is the place to be, with its good food, great service and a beautiful view of the sea. The thatched roof restaurant split into a two-level dining space is set amid a well manicured green patch that merges into the sandy beach.

You can hire a car for some 450,000 rupiah per day. This will help you squeeze the most out of your trip.

5pm - About an hour away from La Lucciola is Uluwatu. This southern tip of the island is famous for its cliff-hanging temple that perches on the edge, high above the sea. The "Kecak", or fire dance, is performed here daily at sunset. Artists perform to music made by a group of chanting men.

8pm - To finish off the evening head to Jimbaran Bay where restaurants dot the beach offering alfresco settings, candles, local dances, a moving band of boys singing songs on request. Kick off your shoes, feel the sand, and tuck into the catch of the day or grilled lobster with spicy sambal sauce.

Midnight - If you are a party animal, see in the morning at Kuta or Seminyak where the night is always young.


9:30am - Start the day with a another dose of Balinese culture by heading for a "barong and keris" dance performance. There are many places where this performance is held. One is the Catur Eka Budi on Jalan Waribang in the Kesiman district of Denpasar, capital of Bali. The barong dance, or lion dance, depicts the fight between good and evil and is performed to gamelan music.

12pm - About 50 kms from Denpasar is Kintamani, a favourite with tourists for the panoramic view of active volcano Mt. Batur and adjoining crater lake. It's a good idea to reach Kintamani early as it tends to get cloudy after 3pm. Have lunch at a local restaurant with a view of Mt. Batur and the lake. Tourists can trek up to the Mt. Batur peak to catch the sunrise. The two-hour trek starts off at 4 a.m.

2:30pm - Head back to Ubud, the seat of Bali's fine arts, dance and music, and spend the rest of your afternoon strolling through its streets. Stop by the Ubud Palace, or the Puri Saren Palace, the seat of the local ruler till the 1940s, rummage around in the nearby art shops and visit the Neka Art Museum.

The beautiful Cafe Lotus calls for a snack stop. You can sit on bamboo mats overlooking flowering lotuses while enjoying Balinese music wafting down from the Puri Saraswati, one of Ubud's temple complexes. You can also catch a Balinese dance performance or a temple ceremony.

Much of Ubud's charm is scattered in the surrounding handicraft villages. There are factories making batik, which is a kind of textile dying, silver/gold jewellery at Celuk, painting gallery in Gianyar and wood carvings in Mas village.

Then there are the terraced paddy fields which are a must.

6:30pm - Spa time! Spa Hati, in Ubud, is a good place. If you are staying in Kuta, then AlamKulKul's Jamu spa is a good option. Book ahead.

8:30pm - Depending on where you go for a spa, your dinner options could be Ibu Oka, opposite Ubud Palace, famous for its suckling pig. (Eaters beware, though; the pig sometimes runs out before dinner). There is also Made's Warung in Kuta, which serves international as well as local food.


6am - It's time for a dip in the sea -- and don't forget the camera. Some stunning shots are assured.

10:30am - Brace for another half day trip to two of the most famous temples in Bali. Drive down to the Taman Ayun temple at Mengwi. This royal temple boasts intricately designed wooden doors and a beautifully laid out garden that leads to the temple, which is surrounded by an artificial moat with lotuses.

12pm - Next up is the Tanah Lot temple, perhaps the most famous of them all. Built on a rock that gets cut off from the main land during high tide, the temple is best seen in the afternoon when it is silhouetted against the sun or at sunset.

1pm - Round off your trip with another dash of taste. Stop over at Poppies in Kuta. Set in the centre of the madding crowd, Poppies offers a spot of solace and is a great hit with tourists.

Time permitting, you can indulge in some retail therapy or another short spa before taking the flight out. Bon voyage!

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