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After Kawah Ijen, I underwent a serious patch of bad luck. Some of the worst traveler’s nightmares came true and I could not believe it was happening to me. The ride back to Surabaya was horrible and I got badly fleeced by the tour operators at Ketapang. They overcharged me for the (included in the tour) taxi ride, provided a ramshackle vehicle which broke down after every 45 minutes and my credit card got swallowed by an ATM machine. It was the ultimate icing on the “I can’t take it anymore” cake and being Sunday, the adjoining bank office was closed. Language problem made matters worse and I sat down on a Javanese sidewalk to sob like an orphan. Thankfully my boss came to my rescue and lent me money to pay for a hotel in Surabaya and I drowned myself in work until the financial crisis got resolved. It was nearly a week before everything got sorted out and I made plans for leaving Java before joining the final base of Irianjaya in Papua. Ubud in Bali called and I happily packed my bags to leave Java for the island Pollyanna.

holy temple masks in ubud, bali

Holy temple masks in Ubud, Bali

A brief Balinese history

A beautiful volcanic island, Bali was more of an essence, rather than a travel destination for me. I still like to believe it to the most gentle of Indonesian experiences. An old inhabited island, Bali’s civilization dates back to 2000 B.C. The powerful Javanese Hindu Majapahit Empire colonized it in 1343. After the decline of the empire, there was a mass exodus of artisans, priests, and intellectuals from Java to Bali. They created the charming island as their cultural base and their beautiful, artistic influence can still be felt in Bali. Hinduism existed in Bali since ancient times and the Portuguese first put the island on the global maritime map. Though historically speaking, Bali had a very gentle past, in recent times some deathly events had rocked its serenity. The infamous 2002 Bali bombing by the Islamic militants which killed 202 people, caste clashes, political coups, and volcanic explosions have left some scars on this lovely island. Despite all this, Bali is very delightful and I can actually live there.

Bali temples make day trips from Ubud

A charming island with an interesting history

Having the best of both in Ubud

Now, when I go ga-ga over Bali, I actually mean Ubud most of the times and I had fallen in love with that Balinese town at first sight. A relatively small town to unseeing eyes, Ubud is actually composed of 14 villages and has lush balsam bordered rice fields surrounding it like a muffler. A cultural hub, its quiet aesthetic beauty and vibrant art scene is a far cry of the brash, explicit beachside Kuta. Ubud has a gentle pace which seems to be made for soothing broken hearts and frayed nerves and it is no wonder that the romantic movie, “Eat, Pray, Love” was based here. I love everything about Ubud: its beautiful thatched ancient temples, lotus ponds, artist galleries, stone carver’s studios, dance drama performances, little flower petal offerings, local lively warungs, quirky boutiques and the lilting friendly laughter of its people. My hotel was the charming Ubud Inn on the popular Monkey Forest Road and it was an oasis in the middle of Bali action. Frangipani blossoms, a spacious pool facing room and an in house fruit bat named Charlie made my Ubud stay enchanting and all I had to do for some entertainment was to step outside my hotel. A whole lively world of Balinese cultural fun existed on the Monkey Forest Road and there were cafes, restaurants, shops, bars, boutiques, and warungs to choose from. When it got too hectic, I just retreated inside my oasis where croaking frogs and stars filled nights relaxed me into a deep sleep.

Recommended Read: My Indonesia trip memories

a hotel in ubud

The lush Ubud Inn in Monkey Forest Road

You don’t need persuasion to love Bali

My fondness for Bali is not unusual because loving Bali does not need much persuasion. Long identified as one of the world’s most beautiful and trendiest travel destinations, the island’s emerald rice fields, dappled forests, flower-filled hills, lakes, volcanoes, intriguing Hindu culture, uber-cool luxury resorts, and pulsating nightlife make it a travelers’ magnet. Add to that super surf, some tranquil beaches, gorgeous sunsets, and picturesque ancient monuments and its not difficult to understand as to why Bali has a huge number of life long fans. The food too is awesome and nowhere in Indonesia, apart from Yogyakarta, had I eaten, as much as I gorged in Bali. Spas and beauty treatments are another Balinese specialty and I indulged in plenty of flower and milk baths in Ubud. Although an outdoorsy girl, I like indulging in laces at times and Ubud is a place where you like to dress up pretty.

Suggested for you: My Java stay in a nutshell

a local market near Ubud

A local market near Candidasa in Bali

Ubud is my happy place in Bali…what’s yours?

There are plenty of pretty places in Bali and long-time travellers know exactly which Balinese destination is for them. Much like the Gili Islands, different parts of Bali cater to the various segments of travellers and one can choose between the hills or the mountains or even somewhere in between. Solace seekers can opt for the flower-scented misty Bedugul, serious divers can choose the glistening black-sand beach of Amed, retired visitors prefer the gentle shores of Candidasa and languid Lovina is for backpackers. However, everybody goes to Ubud at least once during their stay in Bali. It is a kind of place where a holiday of a few days can easily turn into a stay of weeks, months or even years and this seductive town affirms what most popular guide books say about this Indonesian island. Bali is indeed a happy state of mind.

a temple in Ubud in Bali

One of the holy Hindu temples in Bali

Little girls practicing Ramayana ballet steps at a village near Ubud

The famous rice terraces of Jatiluwih

The misty highlands of Bedugul

The black sand beach of Amed

A view of the sea and the rice terraces on the way to Amed

Candidasa promenade

And quirky Balinese architecture,

The spoiled rhesus of the Monkey Forest

Lake Beratan Temple in Bali

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