Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bali, Indonesia

Bali is not to be confused with Bali Hi (or Bali Hai) the mythical island in Rogers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific for those of you whose geography ain't too strong!! Or for the numerous exotic South East Asian restaurants that are named Bali Hai. Never quite figured out why.

We went to Bali in early December, one of the best times to go since the weather isn't too hot and humid. It's still somewhat warmer than say Chennai and it does rain a bit though (need I say it) there is no water logging! And I only discovered much later that that it is actually in the Southern Hemisphere (just about -- 8 degrees).

Indonesia, as most people might know, has the largest Muslim population in the world (India is next by most counts). Bali, one of the many small islands of the Indonesian archipelago, is however majority Hindu -- around 93% - in fact the only island to be so. (Indonesia itself, though, is deeply influenced by Hindu culture and mythology in its art, music, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata have a very important presence in their mythology, even its national airline is called Garuda.) The locals in Bali often asked us if we were Hindu, since the number of 'Hindu tourists' are minuscule, being limited to a small number of Indians who visit the island.

The influence of our epics is everywhere. There are innumerable dance dramas and puppet shows mostly based on the Ramayana (a few on the Mahabharata). Here, for example, is a picture from the famous Kecak dance based on the Ramayana and revolving around the monkey sena.

Many minor characters of the epics are important here. One traffic island has an enormous statue of Ghatotkac on an chariot, the botanical garden has a huge image of Jatayu in the centre.

We divided our time between two parts of the island. Sanur is the beach area where we stayed at the Puri Santrian a beautiful resort right on the beach.

Ubud is the cultural heart of the island and we stayed at the Tsampuhan resort .

The northern part of the island are the mountainous regions and are truly beautiful -- there are numerous resorts there

as are the botanical gardens

Despite being a very popular vacation spot, nobody tries to cheat in Bali. You could try and bargain in the shops but savings are not going to be very significant. Amazingly, even taxi drivers, notorious all over the world for fleecing tourists will at worst overcharge by say about 10% (which I think I is acceptable!!). The general culture of fleecing the tourists seems remarkably absent. (Compare with say a place like Goa).

We wound up our trip at the Indian High Commissioner's beautiful colonial style bungalow in Singapore (an old college friend) where we were treated like royalty by him and his wife, starting with being picked up literally from the aircraft's doorstep!

Do have a look at my complete collection of pictures of this trip (I will put in some videos later) here.


AmOK said...

Nice! Thanks for the brief travelogue, OTO. Royalty at last as well.

vbalki said...

"Amazingly, even taxi drivers ...will at worst overcharge by say about 10%... The general culture of fleecing the tourists seems remarkably absent."

These people are clearly in dire need of education. Didn't you suggest they send over some of their people for a brief internship with Chennai auto drivers?

AmOK said...

Hmpf! No pictures of the High Commissioner? Now now, don't jump to any conclusions, O Leaping One! It's all on the WWW!


Rahul Basu said...

AmoK: I normally don't put an individual's pictures on a public place like my blog. But as you say, it is there on the web.

AmOK said...

Yes the locals seem to be devoid of greed? What accounts for this apparently unnatural honesty?

Anant said...

Sounds totally awesome. The pictures prove it too.

sunder and sonati said...

Bali sounds too good to be true: Thanks for that travelogue. Lovely pictures, too.

Enakshi said...

Rahul with his blog and books and recipes and so much more is no more with us. May he brighten up the other world.