svetlana baghawan maverickbirdPost Kawah Ijen, I had undergone a continuous patch of bad luck and one of the worst traveler’s nightmares had come true. The ride back to Surabaya had been horrible and I had been badly fleeced (yet once again) by the tour operators at Ketapang. They had overcharged me for the (paid) taxi ride, provided a ramshackle vehicle which broke down after every 45 minutes and my credit card got swallowed by an ATM machine. It had been the ultimate icing on the “I can’t take it anymore” cake and being Sunday, the adjoining bank office had been closed.

Language problem had made matters worse and I had broken down on a Javanese sidewalk and sobbed myself empty. Thankfully my boss had come to my rescue and had helped me pay for a hotel in Surabaya (on a loan basis), till the financial crisis got resolved. The Indonesian bank had taken forever to settle the issue and for some time I had been under a forced hotel room arrest in the sprawling, busy Surabaya. Thankfully it had been the luxurious Shangri-La hotel and I had spent my days swimming, sleeping and watching TV. Although my meals had been included in the stay, I had burnt a lot of midnight oil, fearing a whopping amount of extra expenses getting added to my bill. Surprisingly, my Indian bank had co-operated with me and had sent me an alternative card without much harassment.

It had been nearly a week before I could finally manage to get out of my Surabaya hotel room imprisonment and I had plans of exploring Bali a bit before joining back work. Happiness and excitement had made me joyfully rushed off for dinner at a city restaurant with my freshly arrived card and it unfortunately turned out to be a bad decision. My last Surabaya dinner had made me violently sick and by the time, I had managed to cope up with yet another setback, my duties had beckoned. I had just a few days left to spend in Bali before heading back to work and being already traumatized by too many mishaps (and fear of losing my job owing to non stop dramatic events) my 1st Bali visit had been restricted only till Ubud. Later, in the following years I had kept going back to Bali and had explored the small enchanting island in bits.

A beautiful volcanic island, Bali had been more of an essence, rather than a travel destination and to me, it is Indonesia’s most gentle dream. An old inhabited island, history points out to Bali’s civilization dating back to 2000 B.C and the powerful Javanese Hindu Majapahit Empire had colonized it in 1343. After the decline of the empire, there had been a mass exodus of artisans, priests and intellectuals from Java to Bali and they created the charming island into their cultural base. Hinduism had existed in Bali since ancient time and apart from Indian and Chinese influences, Portuguese had been the first foreign culture to put the island on maritime map. They had been followed by the Dutch and Japanese and despite its gentle joie de vivre, Bali too had its share of violent history. The most recent one had been the infamous 2002 Bali bombing by the Islamic militants (which had killed 202 people, mostly foreigners) and caste clashes, political coups and volcanic explosions had once affected its booming tourism industry.

I had stopped over at Bali during my flying days and had simply hated it then. Our airline chosen hotel was at the super swanky Seminyak and being a short duration layover, our Bali stay used to include only the brash Kuta. The hotel had been absolutely stunning, and while Kuta‘s nightlife had been exciting, its sleaze factor had always put me off. Blatant sex tourism does exist in Bali and recently, the local government officials had tightened its measures to fight an alarming growth in child prostitution. These, coupled with Kuta’s annoying toyboys had made my previous Bali visits quite unpleasant, but all that got changed when I, unwittingly following Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love”, chose Ubud for my mini break.

I had fallen in love with Ubud at first sight and rejuvenated by its balsam bordered rice fields like never before. A relatively small town to unseeing eyes, Ubud is actually composed of 14 villages and is a cultural jewel. Its quiet aesthetic beauty and vibrant art scene is a far cry of the brash, explicit Kuta and its gentle pace never failed to lull me into a hypnotic trance. I love 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 had been the lovely Ubud Inn on the popular Monkey Forest Road and frangipani blossoms, a spacious pool facing room and an in house fruit bat named Charlie had made my Ubud stay most enchanting. Interesting artsy days and frogs and stars filled nights had relaxed me and catapulted Bali into my favourite destination list.

Loving Bali (with time) however does not need much persuasion. Long identified as one of 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 had been equally awesome and nowhere in Indonesia had I eaten, as much as I had feasted in Bali. Spas and beauty treatments are another Balinese specialty and I had indulged in way too many flower and milk baths in Ubud. Although an outdoorsy girl, I like pampering in laces and fancies at times and Ubud had been one such place where I had given into girly clothes, heels and pretty flowery accessories. The flower scented misty Bedugul, the glistening black sand beach of Amed, secret paradise shores of Candidasa and languid Lovina too had happened eventually, but I had stopped by at Ubud everytime I had visited Bali. Food, culture, shopping, spas and nature, Bali had actually been (as much waxed eloquence by a popular guide book), a delicious mood, a happy vibe..a real tropical state of mind.

Some photos have been taken from the internet.

Leaving Kawah Ijen

Leaving Kawah Ijen

Had been oddly discomforting

Had been oddly discomforting

And it had not been rosy at all

And it had not been rosy at all

I left Java

I finally left Java

And all its charms

And all its charms

For tranquil Bali

For tranquil Bali

Rich

Rich

Stunning

Stunning

Vibrant

Vibrant

Varied

Varied

And lively

And lively

Beautiful Bali

Beautiful Bali

Had been a lovely surprise

Had been a lovely surprise

I loved its

I loved its

Unique

Unique

Colours

Colours

Flavours

Flavours

Sights

Sights

And sounds

And sounds

Intrepid

Intrepid

Exquisite

Exquisite

And absolutely

And absolutely

Healing

Healing

My Balinese moments

My Balinese moments

Pure bliss

Had been pure bliss

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE