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Bali is the most unbelievably beautiful place and magical island on earth.

By: Syed Nazakat in Bali

‘Ninety thousand,’ said the driver who brought me from international airport of Bali to my hotel in Nusa Dua. “Ninety thousand, for what? It is such a shot drive,” I asked. Admittedly it was the start of my confusion to remember how much rupaih is equal to Indian rupees or for that matter US $. Thanks to my bad math, the problems remain there with me during my week long stay in Bali. It was possible to spend half an hour debating the last few thousand rupaih and getting quite irate when they won’t back down, before a bit of effortful mental arithmetic reminds you that you’re arguing over fifty rupees.

 Welcome to Bali! 

As we left behind the honking traffic of Denpasar and walked into the marble foyer of the Melia Bali villas in Nusa Dua to live up to the clichés. Werner Vom Busch, our host in Bali, told us that we are lucky that the rain is still away from Bali and the air is full of the scent of flowers. The wind off the sea was sharp and atmosphere was stingingly romantic. ‘This is paradise,’ someone observed, calling on all his imaginative resources.

Bali had always conjured visions of sandy white beaches with palms, packed with gap-year backpackers and surfers in sarongs under a vast sky of stained glass blue. The Island is also honeymooners’ paradise. Bali is always busy. But you would not know it from inside the secluded grounds of Melia Bali – 15 acres of tropical flowers and private luxury villas, a huge pool, amphitheatre and its own stretch of beach. But once you take half an hour drive from Nusa Dua to Kuta, you will feel like to be in a different country. It is a party town – loud, raucous.

As well as the partying in Kuta it is a nice place to stay. Busy, lots of shops and some nice restaurants such as the well-known Poppies which is a hotel that has a lovely restaurant in a garden setting – the steak and Mexican coffees tempted me back three times. I stayed in a nice hotel in Kuta, Adhi Dharma. It was just a holiday hotel really and didn’t have a lot of character but it was very comfortable and had a nice swimming pool and a lovely swim up bar. 

In Bali, as Rita, a Bali based journalist later told me that the people of each island identify themselves firmly with their birthplace and local dialects differ significantly. Though I had to take her word for this, as I managed only to learn the indispensable phrases ‘bon appetit’ and ‘I love you’. While rooming around in Bali I noticed that people are very religious here.  The 94% population of Bali is Hindu. One could see people going to temples and putting offerings, made from plants and flowers, on the ground as well as on higher ground for the bad and the good spirits every time. We were constantly tripping over the offerings as they were often in the middle of the pavement but apparently as long as the incense stick has stopped burning it is OK to tread on the offering and so the remains of offerings are strewn all over the floor. 

Driving through Bali, we noticed that the statues of the Hindu gods in the towns wore little skirts of black and white checked material. But God is not happy with Balinese these days. The Bali bombing and later a culture of fear has had a deleterious effect on the tourist industry on which the life of most of Balinese is dependent. Daya, the cab driver said that after the bombing Bali the number of visitors has dropped considerably. “There is very little business,” he kept saying as he drives us around Bali. 

Later in the evening I met Philip and Anderson who had both moved from Australia to live and work in Bali. After we had got over conversation that is essential for determining where they once lived, they were phlegmatic about the bombing and optimistic the tourist trade would pick up. Both seemed lyrical about the Balinese way of life: the serenity, the peacefulness, the beauty. Later in the evening we went to check Bali’s nightspots. 

Nightlife in Bali starts late, which means around midnight. My Pakistani friend, Zulfiqar often wondered where crowds of backpackers suddenly come from around 11 in the night– even when all of streets of Kuta has been very quiet during the whole evening. The pubs, bars, and discos of Kuta are just blusterous and rocking. Visitors looking for company don’t need to worry. Wherever you go in Sanur and the Kuta area, there are many other single travelers with the same problem around. 

In Bali’s discos you’ll meet also many scantly clad “night butterflies” and dashing boys. They are there for a lot of fun if you want to dance, drink and have a little fun with. And you don’t need to worry about to remember the name of nightclubs and pick up joints, the Balinese cab drivers are there will all kind of information and they disseminate it free. 

Bali amazed me. But to be honest I did not found the island a good place to shop. The reason in part is that I am not that good shopper and bargainer.  The sales boy or girl will leave you in a clumsy position with an awkward question – “This is our prize what is your price boss”. And I’m telling you that it is possible to spend hours bargaining and it is also possible to get things 100 times cheaper then the initial tag price. 

I spent my last evening in Bali relaxing by Kuta beach overlooking the see, couples walking along the beach hand in hand, children playing football and the surfers. Sitting here, alone, watching the sun drop into the Indian Ocean, while children enjoy their last swim in pool is as riveting as life can be. It was incredible moment which will remain with me forever.

(Sahara Time, 2007)

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