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The last paradise on earth

A very bold claim, it seems. But that’s just what Bali is – a paradise. It’s one of the world’s most preferred holiday destinations; a treasure trove of spectacular locales, amazing beaches, remarkable culture, great food and fabulous nightlife. Our recent visit to Bali, on which we were invited by the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Kuching, brought us to new locations that add up to the long list of tourism attractions in the Land of the Gods.

The predominantly Hindu island of Bali has a very rich spiritual heritage. Look around and you’ll see evidence of Balinese-Hinduism everywhere, from statues at the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar where you touch down, to the ornate carvings at the hotel where you stay. Sculptures of gods and spiritual beings stood majestically everywhere we looked, including the Satria Gatotkaca statue at the intersection on the northeast of the airport. The stunning piece from the Hindu epic Mahabaratha, with its high levels of detail, depicts a battle between Gatotkaca (a half human half rakshasa son of Bhima) and Karna.

Nature’s big show

It’s no secret that Bali holds many wonders. One of them is in Nusa Dua, where we were taken to witness “water blow” as part of our activity on Day 1. Water blow is when strong waves slam into a rock cliff facing the Indian Ocean. The waves make their way through a small opening in the cliff and with nowhere else to go, they push upwards, sometimes taller than a double-storey house. It’s amazing to witness but can be dangerous, especially with the rock formations surrounding it being extremely ragged and sharp. According to local knowledge, the perfect time to witness the water blow is some time after 6pm. But with other things set in our scheduled, we could not stick around for the “show”. We managed, however, to steal a few minutes and headed to the adjacent beach to catch surfers attempting to ride the waves.

Cultural, spiritual splendour

The highlight of our trip on Day 1 was a visit to the Uluwatu Temple. One of six key temples in Bali believed to be the island’s spiritual pillars, it stands 70 metres above sea level and is perched on a steep cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. While the temple itself was not accessible to us, the view from up there was worth climbing up the steps for.

As the sun slowly began its descent, we made our way to an open-air theatre within the temple’s vicinity. With the venue filled up to the brim almost an hour later, voices were heard approaching from our left. They grew louder and moments later a group of bare-chested men entered the theatre, chanting the word “cak” repeatedly.

The show that evening was known as Kecak, which originally began in the 1930s as a trance ritual accompanied by male chorus. Amidst the chanting was a single male voice telling the story from the epic Ramayana. Actors and actresses appeared in colourful costumes to act out their scenes from the epic, with some humour thrown in, much to the amusement of the audience.

The golden sunset created a stunning backdrop to complement the beautiful, albeit mystifying performance. It brought to mind the Ramayana ballet that we witnessed in Yogyakarta last year, but with a whole different take altogether.

To cap things off, we were treated by Indonesia’s Tourism Ministry, our host in Bali to a fabulous seafood dinner on Jimbaran Beach, about 2.5 miles south of Kuta. A perfect ending to a perfect outing on Day 1 in Bali.

*To be continued

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