Bali - a paradise for tourists, a jewel of Indonesian archipelago

Bali an island, located in the eastern part of Indonesia, is a popular tourist destination that attracts people from around the world because of the sheer beauty of its sandy beaches, coral reefs, exotic temples set against natural backdrops and lively nightspots. 
This writer recently had the chance to visit to Bali, the jewel of Indonesia, for the first time and found it to be a place where nature, the sea and stunning architecture come together in a charming and impressive manner. I travelled to the island as one of the participants of a “Familiarization Trip” organized during August 16-23 by the Embassy of Indonesia in Laos.

The wonderful atmosphere of Ulan Danu Bratan temple attracts many visitors.

Everything was very interesting because this was also the first time I was visiting a large island paradise. It took us an hour and 45 minutes to fly from the capital Jakarta to Bali. During the final five minutes of the flight, I heard the steward announce that the flight would soon arrive at Ngurah Rai International Airport. I looked out the window and could see only the sea.
“Where is the airport?” I wondered. But as I emerged from the airplane, I saw how far out on the coast the airport is located.
We landed at noon and went for lunch to a seafood restaurant, where we tasted many seafood dishes and traditional Indonesian food. We took in the exceptional beauty of the island, including the green trees and the old buildings with their unique Indonesian architecture. Some of them were very old but well preserved.
The roads were clean even though they were quite congested because the big island has a population of more than seven million people. We were in Bali during August 18-20, and although our stay lasted just a few days, I found it to be a fascinating place.
On the first day of the trip, we visited Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park located at Ungasan badung, in the island Bali. It is devoted to the Hindu god Wisnu and his mount Garuda, the mythical bird that became his companion.
“The park has an area of 60 hectares and there is a statue of Garuda which is directly behind Plaza Wisnu. Garuda Plaza is where the 18-metre statue is placed temporarily. At this moment, Garuda Plaza is the focal point of a large corridor of carved limestone pillars covering over 4,000 square meters,” a local guide explained.
The guide then took us to Kuta beach, which had golden sand and crystal-clear water. “It’s the number one sunset site of Bali,” the guide told us. I stayed there for about 30 minutes and I realised the sunset here is more exquisite than at many other beaches. I joined the other participants in capturing the beauty of the beach through photos.
On Kuta beach, I saw people enjoying parasailing, banana boat rides and swimming. Many children played as the waves crashed on the shore.
After enjoying the sunset on the beach, we had dinner and retired to our hotel to recharge ourselves for the next day.
On the second day, we visited Tanah Lot, an important landmark famed for its unique offshore setting and sunset backdrops. An ancient Hindu shrine is perched on top of an outcrop amidst constantly crashing waves. I stood on top of the rock for a photo as the waves rolled in below, and saw this was a highlight for many tourists.
The traditional stage performances showcased the Indonesian culture while entertaining the tourists.
We later went to Ulan Danu Bratan temple, located on the shores of a lake called Bratan in the mountains.
“This is a major water temple of Hinduism and popular with tourists. It’s also famous as many couples use this place as a backdrop for pre-wedding photos,” the guide told us. I was particularly impressed by the wonderful architecture of the temple, which is ringed by mountains and has a garden with many beautiful flowers.
As we drove away from the temple, I saw farmers in their fields along the roadside, growing many kinds of vegetables and crops, some of which were ready to be harvested. In addition, there were also green rice fields on both sides of the road, indicating the fertility of the soil.
While driving along a road, I spotted the plumeria, frangipani or Champa flower, which is the national flower of Laos and is seen in most houses across the country.
“We usually use this flower for worshipping our gods every day and we also use it to decorate our dining tables. Its extracts are an essential oil that is used as an ingredient in cosmetics. It has many uses and is famous here,” our guide said.
We had lunch at Secret Garden Village, which showcases features of the Indonesian-Balinese heritage and offers a breathtaking view of Bedugul. This is a specialist restaurant with rice fields serving as the backdrop. It also has wonderful coffee that shouldn’t be missed by those who love the brew.
After eating and some shopping, we went to meet the owner of Element by Westin Bali Ubud Hotel, one of the sponsors of our trip and the provider of the luxury rooms where we spent our last night in Bali. The rooms had two big beds and a modern bath room and were perfect for a couple.
Nguah Rai International Airport is about 90 minutes from the hotel, making it convenient to catch our flight early the next morning.
We had our last dinner for the trip at a restaurant near the hotel called Bebek Tebi Sawah. We sat in a hut surrounded by rice field and listened to the sounds of different insects the singing of frogs. I could hardly believe this place was located at the city Centre.
Even though our trip was very short, I found Bali to be peaceful, clean and beautiful. The people are friendly and gave me a warm welcome. Everything was unique and the weather was very nice. Every dish I tried was delicious and had a unique taste that mixed sweet and spicy flavors.
As a first-time visitor, I also learnt about Indonesia’s progress, culture and lifestyle.
Of course, I would love to visit Bali island of Indonesia again to experience its many charms and treasures. If you are thinking of travelling overseas, I would like to suggest Bali as a destination for a trip that will leave you with many wonderful memories.
For more information about destinations, food, accommodation and other facilities in Bali, you can go to the website:www.balitourism.org/travelguide/

By Lamphone Pasanthong
(Latest Update October 6, 2018)

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