As you know, I have recently spent time in Bali, surely one of the most amazing islands on earth: from the architecture to the people, the food to the ambiance of daily life, it is one of the few places where you can truly be yourself. Bali is, pretty much, a long way from anywhere else but the journey is utterly worthwhile. You need time for Bali - time to appreciate and just to look around…
PEOPLE & CULTURE
Bali has been touted as the “island of the gods” because of its strong religious practice and hundreds, if not thousands, of temples that occupy the island.
While I was there, I was so aware of how rich the Balinese are, not in money terms but in life. From the beginning, you can feel how beautiful, diverse and peaceful an island it is. I live on a Mediterranean island most of the year and I can tell you that calmness is not a national characteristic there!
It’s possible that Balinese calm comes from deep faith and inherent artistry. They take great care of their temples as well as their gods, families and guests. Every day, for example, you will see bowls of Canang Sari left out as offerings for the gods and prayers are said daily too.
Balinese hospitality is also legendary. The most smiley nation on earth. However, if you are a punctual north European, you need to know about jam karet or ‘rubber time’. Everything will be done, just possibly a little more slowly than we are used to.
For the local Balinese, fashion is not really relevant. Their efforts seem to go into being the nicest, kindest and most friendly people who just KEEP CALM all the time. That is not to say they are not stylish!
There are some amazing looking people everywhere with true style. As a visitor, my goal was more to try to keep cool (sweating is not elegant!) and clean and stylish – in that order. You can let me know if I succeeded when you look at my other posts.
Whatever your beliefs, the architecture of the temples is just stunning. Designers use local materials (coconut wood, bamboo poles, teak wood, stone, and bricks) to construct buildings, structures and houses, as well as to reflect local tradition. You would probably need a year to see every temple on the island.
Balinese temples are called pura and follow specific architecture rules. The concept revolves around harmony with the natural environment as well as showcasing Balinese artistry and design skills. The gates to the temples are always extraordinarily beautiful and the spaces are as carefully designed as the rooms and shrines.
Food has always been important to me and I would say I am an adventurous eater. However, in Bali I discovered fruit and vegetables that even I had never seen or tasted before.
Durian anyone? If you can get past the smell – think raw sewage which is why it’s so hard to ship abroad! - it is supposedly the most delicious fruit in the world. Did I try it? Hmn, maybe I should talk more about pomelo, jackfruit and ambarella.
However, you have to be very careful, so here are a few pointers: Do not drink the tap water, don’t even clean your teeth with it. Bali Belly may sound cute but it’s not. Stick to safe places to eat, be careful with street food and don’t have ice in your drinks. Other than that, you should be fine. If you like Asian food, you are going to love Bali.
The climate in Bali is, obviously, tropical so it’s hot nearly all the time and sunscreen and insect repellent – lots of both - are a MUST.
Waterfalls, jungle, endless beaches and the stunning paddy fields are all breath-taking, especially if you normally live in a city. Sunrises and sunsets over the lakes and the volcanoes, as well as the beaches, are unforgettable.
The rice terraces are spectacular: more than a ‘sight’ or an Insta moment, they are a view into the real life of the Balinese who have used the same techniques for growth and irrigation for centuries.
If you are not very into ‘standing and staring’, then you need to go to the Ubud monkey forest. It’s seen by the locals as a spiritual place as well as an environmental and conservation area. With 186 species of trees for 700 monkeys, it’s enchanting but a bit scary.
The monkeys are very used to humans and are not remotely worried about helping themselves to anything they fancy! It’s not a requirement but it is considered good manners to make a cash donation to the sanctuary when you visit to help keep it thriving.
Bali is ranked at No. 4 in TripAdvisor’s Top 10 Places in the World (FYI Paris is No.1) and I couldn’t agree more. A beautiful, friendly and awe-inspiring island filled with lovely people going at their own pace. We could all learn a lot from Bali.
You can read more about some of my adventures and see what I wore on: