13 May Things We Love About Bali

1. Taking an early morning stroll through one of Bali’s enchanted water gardens, watching delicate lotus flowers, glossy with dew, gently unfurling with the rising sun. The flourishing gardens at Ubud’s water palace are one of the most beautiful, with sprawling ponds brimming with hundreds of slender pink lotus flowers rising gracefully from the shimmering water. Moss-covered stone statues flank the paths, and intricately carved temple gates are framed by ancient frangipani trees covered in golden-tipped flowers.

2. Weekend escapes to Amed, where steep rocky mountains dip to the sea, their parched red slopes strewn with boulders, brambles, black lava rock and wild grasses baked to a crisp coppery gold. Fishing villages nestle in the palm groves, and branches of bright pink bougainvillea frame the azure sea. Donning a mask and snorkel, or oxygen tank reveals a magical underwater world teeming with sea fans, red sponge corals, tropical fish and pastel-hued soft corals swaying in the current.

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3. The sweet sound of silence as the island grinds to a halt and people retreat indoors for Nyepi, the day of silence. Whereas most cultures usher in the new year with raucous celebrations, the Balinese new year, which falls on March 31, 2014, is a day of peaceful reflection. The streets are empty, the waves un-surfed, the markets deserted, builders’ hammers lie dormant. Even the roosters seem to get the vibe and crow at half pitch. No lights are allowed and the evening sees the island cloaked in darkness, snuggled serenely under a blanket of twinkling stars – until 5am the following morning when the island roars back to life in all its chaotic glory.

4. We also love the noise the night before Nyepi when Balinese Hindus follow the ritual of mabuu-buu. As the sun sets people start banging pots and pans, beeping car horns and generally making as much of a racket as possible in order to awaken the evil spirits – those that cause chaos and mischief. These ‘bhuta kala’ are represented by ogoh ogoh – grotesque statues that are paraded through the streets by the light of flaming torches. Once the demons have been lured priests recite curses on them to banish them from the village, or in some cases burn them on great fires. The Balinese are then ready to retreat silently indoors and start the new year cleansed and purified.

5. Lazy Sundays on the Bukit peninsula, with its soaring limestone cliffs, craggy black volcanic rocks, and white sandy beaches pounded by relentless waves. No longer the lonely outcrop it once was, the Bukit may have been ‘discovered’ but has lost none of its hypnotic allure – and you certainly don’t need to be a surfer to feel the thrill of the raw power of the ocean. We love settling into a warung (especially if there’s a hammock or two) high on the cliffs of Uluwatu on a clear sunny day and losing ourselves for an afternoon, watching one perfect wave barrel in after another.

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6. We love the healing traditions that have made Bali the holistic heart of Asia, with its abundance of opportunities to retreat, meditate, salute the sun and expand our horizons in a multiple of guises. Each year top yogis and performance artists from around the world flock to the island for Desa Seni’s Yoga-thon, and the Bali Spirit Festival; and throughout the year hundreds of retreats and work shops are staged island-wide.

7. The simple things in life, like sunset at a beach bar in Seminyak, sprawled on a bean bag, our feet buried in the warm sand. When La Plancha opened a few years ago, its quirky colourful beach shack vibe heralded the rise of the bean bag in Bali, and we are so glad that it did! Bali isn’t quite the unspoilt Eden of years gone by, but life is still good in the urban paradise that it has become. The setting sun still streaks the sky in all shades of crimson, and is always well accompanied by a funky dj and a cocktail (or coconut) in hand. And once evening falls we can wander down the road for a world class meal. Who says paradise has to be deserted?

8. We love the colourful pageantry of the Hindu religion, which is so deeply entwined in every day life. The constant ceremonies, the daily rituals, the never-ending prayers and meditations all aimed at maintaining balance. Here we have a unique opportunity to tap into an intense and powerful energy, and learn to go with the flow. You don’t need to be a Hindu to get the vibe, and you will notice that once you discover the rhythm of Bali, anything is possible.

9. We love to meet kindred spirits who, like us, really care about this magical island, and truly believe that as a community we can make a difference. Indeed, that we should make a difference, by acting more sustainably, more responsibly, more respectfully, more communally. We love Bali and we want it to stay beautiful, it deserves it!

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Photo by Google