A lush paradise

Bali’s one of the world’s tourist hotspots and it doesn’t disappoint with its mix of lush beauty, friendly people, great hotels and nightlife, says Saimi Sattar

What’s the best birthday treat that an adventure and spa junkie can ask for? Obviously, one that features both of the above (cakes and parties be damned). And when my special day came tripping along this year that’s exactly what I found myself doing — in Bali no less. A breathless two-hour rafting excursion down the Telaga Waja River followed by a Balinese massage at a top spa qualified as my kind of celebration.

But then, everything in Bali, right from the touchdown at the airstrip (you can mistake it for a water landing!), is anything but ordinary. Denpasar city, the capital of Bali is just a three-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Bali, the most popular of Indonesia’s 13,000 islands, was a revelation. While the lush greenery — a constant across the 5,780sqkm of the island — makes one feel completely invigorated, the friendly locals make you feel instantly comfortable. So, it’s not surprising that it attracted four million tourists last year! The Australians, Dutch, Americans and, now, an increasing number of Indians arrive here lured by its beaches and swinging nightlife.

We headed south from Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar, for about half-an-hour to reach Jimbaran. Dubbed as the Beverly Hills of Bali or Millionaire’s Row, it’s home to lavish five-star resorts and high-end residential villas.

Our guide told us that though an island, Bali isn’t compact. Travel time between its cities and myriad villages can be over three hours. The drive to the hotel took us through areas with not-so-tall buildings. The guide explained that no building in Bali can be built taller than coconut trees (that’s 15m or 49ft high) and must include Balinese elements. He promised drives by lush green paddy fields, coconut trees and banana plantations. We were told to hold our breaths for the active volcanoes and beautiful beaches that we would be led to in the coming days.

Unlike the rest of Indonesia which is predominantly Muslim, the majority of the population in Bali is Hindu. The Balinese follow a distinct version of Hinduism, which, though similar in many respects to ours, is also unique. For one, their offerings at temples can go from flowers to toffees/chocolates while the Balinese are robust beef-eating Hindus.

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