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Back to nature

06-23-2010 14:50 BJT

In the Balinese language, as our Chinese-Indonesian guide Willio Zhang told us, there's no word for "heaven"; having spent a week on this beautiful, peaceful island, perhaps there's no need.

Bali is famous for its tranquil landscape and laid-back people. (Photo: Tong Ting)
Bali is famous for its tranquil landscape and laid-back people. (Photo: Tong Ting)

Bali is to the east of Java Island, and the south of the Indian Ocean. This small island has fertile land and abundant sunshine and is thus blessed with a great variety of wildlife, plants and other wonders of nature; a varied terrain includes mountain lakes, jungles and even volcanoes.

Yet our first impression wasn't good at all. After a seven-hour flight via Jakarta, my companion got stuck at customs, where the officer insisted he didn't have a printed return ticket, and therefore could not pass. It seemed pretty strange since I, who didn't have one either, had cleared the process simply and quickly (a visa is supplied on entry for around 250 yuan). Then suddenly it all became clear, "Do you have 50 dollars? I help you, you help me too," he suggested in heavily accented English. After about 10 minutes' negotiation, he knew we wouldn't offer him more than 50 yuan and so finally gave in.

But this minor unpleasantness was immediately forgotten as we got to Bali proper. After the overcast gloom of a stormy Beijing, the sight of palm trees and flamboyantly blooming flowers were as refreshing as a tall glass of cold coconut juice. Although the roads are narrow and crowded, even late at night as we arrived, the troops of local motorcyclists hurrying home were still an antidote to Beijing's honking phalanxes of gridlocked taxis.

The island has remained in an original state, with hardly any tall buildings. The Balinese value the balance between nature and people and consequently, no buildings over three stories tall are allowed. It also means that life here is slow-paced. The Bali people don't strive much to make a living, nor do they demand much from their lives. This is much influenced by their Hindu religion; Balinese people can often be observed by the roadside doing, well, nothing really.

We decided to do as the Romans, and headed for one of the numerous beaches, whose astonishing views provide inspiration and excitement as well as the best place to get relaxed. The beaches in Nusa Dua are primarily kept and managed by the luxury hotels, and so are neat, tidy and quiet, attracting a more wealthy and mature clientele. There's also a huge golf course nearby, handy to take a stroll after a suntan.

Kuta beach, near the airport, is more of a surfers' favorite and probably the busiest. You can have a meal at Jimbaran beach while appreciating the sunset but we found our seafood dinner disappointing, so perhaps look out for a proper recent recommendation when you're there. Fishing locally is not allowed, to increase sustainability, so if you want it, you have to import it and chilled seafood shipped from Java island is not that cheap.

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