The archipelago of Indonesia is a treasure in itself, from hosting over 170 million islands (taxi guy facts) to enclosing the Indian Ocean, to a plethora of tribes and now finally a world-class destination that comes forth as a result of a culmination of races from literally all over the world, Bali is a lot more than its country Indonesia. It is another world by itself. And then there is Lombok, another island that goes beyond its country. Jakarta too isnt half as engrossing or life-changing as Bali, it’s just another city, probably like the rest of Indonesia. Braving an 8-hour layover in Singapore, Bali is two flights away from India yet it is a lot like India! I could imagine the Cholas spreading their territory all across the Indian Ocean setting sail from Nagapattinam in current-day Tamil Nadu and reaching Srivijaya spreading Hinduism in its many forms across South East Asia. They went for trade, for conquering territory, today we travel along the route in a much faster route for the benefit of their trade, our learning and discovering chasing a sense of wonder. Bali is now the most Instagrammed place on this planet and I can only see why. Travel has lost its meaning over the years, with everything out there, every restaurant reviewed, every spot covered, it feels like we’ve been there and done that even when we go somewhere for the first time. And I have come to feel that the best moments have always been missed being captured, they slip with time. The moments that are truly filled with a sense of wonder are the ones that aren’t pre-empted and mostly aren’t planned. Whether it was chancing upon the crescent at Bath or the spectacular Indian Ocean from the throes of the Alila Vilas Uluwatu, the moments of wonder that come unannounced inspire and fill one with a magnificent sense of wonder. A picture tells a thousand words, yet the noveau experience leaves one speechless!
Our visit to Bali, the Hindu Kingdom of Indonesia which now straddles the climes of spirituality along with being super Hindu, a yoga capital of the world -outside of India, the party centre, a surfers paradise and a foodie’s haven was a lot to take in, over a week, with travellers at every corner, the seeing and the to see, get merged ever so often. Every other person we met in Bali were either entrepreneurs in the wellness sector, or yoga teachers, developers of apps on wellness, or designers of clothes, buildings or experiences, why there was an Instagram tour where one would be led to all the Instagram spots around with a photographer who assured one of brilliant pictures or reels ready for Insta! What a tourism incentive! It is an island of concentrated wellness. And the concept sells!
Getting into Bali, I was greeted with an immigration officer who quite plainly asked me for a bribe, the visa is on arrival and hence a perfect opportunity to milk the tourist for some extra bucks right at the beginning. What a grand welcome I surmised. Apparently a lot many immigration officers in other countries too do that. Our stay in Nusa Dua, with its quiet time, a lot of beach fringed cycling, the water-blow point, fancy locales kept us out of the way of tourists and allowed us to engage with the beach unabashedly. Uluwatu was a revelation with its upmarket places and a hotel that we learnt about in architecture school, one that we finally got to experience. The Alila Vilas frames nature so very poetically and in that it is a win, totally. WOHA and their attention to detail is atrociously splendid. Between Nusa Dua and Uluwatu, we got to experience a high point of the island one that would soon be overshadowed by the fabulous Gilli Trawangan that the locals lovingly call Gilli T. Now Gilli T is like no other island, not just because of the fabulous organised party scene but because of its coral beaches that come up close. Such a pity that most of the corals are dead due to global warming and a host of other climatic conditions. One can reach Gilli T through a ferry, it is a part of the island of Lombok that is so pristine and beautiful, the Oberoi in Lombok is splendid. The ferry ride in itself is an experience, on the way one can spot Mt Batur one of the few active volcanoes that arent so active that makes them scalable. Our trek up and down was sheer delight. While the climb up could be a bit tricky due to the loose gravel, the walk down would be a nightmare for anyone with tears in their knees! But slow and steady always does it. Having Koreans for company was too good. What a country and what people! There’s absolutely nothing not to love! The sunrise was beautiful, but ofcourse sighting a sunrise is a rareity with a curtain of clouds on most days.
Gilli T allows no motors and has horse-drawn carriages, bicycles that are rentable and walkways that inspire moon-lit traversing. It is lovely to have no motors, except for those of the ferry that fetch people there. The perimeter of the island can be covered in about an hour by the bicycle though some stretches with its beachy sand may need the bicycle to be carried! The sunsets are a delight on the western part of the island. The peace I felt here, amidst all the cycling, the swimming, watching the corals, snorkelling, the massages, the partying and all the eating was unparalleled. Not only did I kick off the not sleeping habit (that was actually a boon during my red-eye flight) but I felt absolutely relaxed for as long as we were on the island, and no I did not eat the mushrooms that guaranteed my audience with God. But the environment was happy inducing, ofcourse staying in a hotel that was all pink helped, wish the world could be so pink, maybe it’s just time I started wearing rose-tinted glasses! And it was here that I keenly felt that the universe has my back. I do live on another plane, most of the time, okay well always, and the universe has accounted, had by back over many instances, everytime, every single time, and here in Gilli T, it just felt more pronounced. I couldnt manage without the all-encompassing universe looking out for me, for sure. While the one and only captures magnificent pictures, he himself found a brand new hobby, one that we was no doubt very good at and had a flair for ever since the beginning, and got shots that are really drool-worthy. More on his page, again a start in Gilli T. On the island one place highlights itself every day of the week, while all the other bars step back allowing it to have its moment to shine. What a stellar concept, one in which everyone wins. Ofcourse all over the last order for food is 10 pm and having dining out of the way, the undistracted attention is on partying, partying and how! We obviously did not make it to the early morning yoga, which is the one Bali thing which we didnt get to do in Bali. How many yoga teachers and academies there are there, it would put Rishikesh to shame!
While we did Ubud in passing, we did Seminyak in full, from the thrashy yet snazzy Potato Head Beach club, to the world’s best Finns and finally the La favella that took us by storm when casual eating suddenly transformed into table dancing, Bali felt like Goa into a 100. The parties do end here, there is no dancing all night, its good-bye go home at 1 am, but then the party starts at 7 am, following the circadian rhythm of sane men. While the monkeys of Uluwatu stole my sunglasses, the priests of the temple stuck rice grains on my forehead, the endless views of the Indian Ocean, the Nasi Goreng and the unabashed leaning in to the vegetarian and vegan fare, again food choices based on whats good for us, spiritually and the environment sustainably, what I truly enjoyed in Bali is the wind in my hair, the sand at my feet, swimming, surfing, cycling, trekking and looking at marvellous architecture, so neat and detailed, being is nature, watching both sunrises and sunsets, in the same day, possible only on smaller islands, meeting all the people of the world and no doubt sleeping with no sign of insomnia! Thankfully my return flight, again a 10 hour layover in Singapore was not red-eye, perhaps it is the universe making sure I got home in time for bed. And for that I am insanely grateful. Bali showed me where I stand and why, what the universe does and how. Perhaps I might just go listen to Abraham Hicks, a Mom-reccomend by the swimming pool. Bali I am grateful for all the joy, the good times, mainly the sleep and the relaxation. (anyone who lay in bed wide-eyed all night could vouch for that) No wonder it is so crowded and popular. There’s a beeline (always) to everything good. Mainstream may well be the new alternate!