Island of the Gods

Taman Tirta Gangga

I’m currently writing the last novel in my romcom/chick-lit series that began back in 2015 with Baby, It’s You. In case you’re keeping up, the other books in this series are: Big Girls Don’t Cry (out now), Wish You Were Here (out now), I Want You Back (Coming in Feb 2020), Careful What You Wish For (May 2020) and the one I’m writing now – (working title) It’s In The Stars (August 2020).

Anyways, like Baby and Big Girls, this one is set partially in Bali so I’m going back through notes and blog posts and photos – and planning another trip…maybe…

I first visited the Island of the Gods in March 2011 – and have been numerous times since. From that very first trip I loved it – Bali got right under my skin.

That first trip was with a girlfriend. We stayed in Legian and were only there for a few days. The next trip, with my family for Christmas that year, we stayed a little longer and travelled a little further. The following year we added a few days in at Ubud and explored some more. Then we added more days to the Ubud stay and ventured further into the villages. Now when we’re planning a trip to Bali we’re splitting our time evenly between the mountains (Ubud) and the beach.

Each time it’s both the same and yet also very different. Why do I keep coming back? I’m glad you asked. Here are some of the reasons…

The Culture

It’s everywhere you look and tread.

The daily offerings are the most obvious – the beautiful little palm baskets that are left around shrines, statues, doorways, roadsides, paths, steps…wherever.

Some are elaborate, most are not. Some contain a few petals, maybe some rice, a cigarette, a couple of tiny crackers, an incense stick. There’s something so peaceful and mindful about watching the (mostly) ladies as they carry their baskets of offerings on their heads, and then carefully place them, saying a little prayer as they complete the mini ceremony.

Who are the offerings to? The Gods of course – and there are many. The tributes are designed to both thank and appease. It’s also a sort of proactive if I give you this will you leave me alone and go away type of thing.

These days, as life is busy, this too can be outsourced – well, at least the construction phase can be – as complete offerings may be purchased at local markets.

It’s not just offerings though, religious ceremonies can be seen all throughout Bali on any day at any time with the whole family – from the oldest to the youngest – participating with pride.

One time on a walk through the rice fields in Ubud we followed the faint sound of a bell to a temple in the middle of nowhere and watched the ceremony taking place. Just beautiful.

The scenery

Oh my goodness, the scenery. It’s jaw-dropping – but you’ll need to venture out of your resort to see it. From the rice terraces at Tegagalang near Ubud, or Jatiluwih near Tabanan (below)

to the lush green in the foothills of Gunung Agung in East Bali (below) – and that’s just for starters.

You can hire an English speaking driver in an air-conditioned car for between $50-$80 a day, so why wouldn’t you get out and about?

A great day trip from your resort can take you to a water park

a traditional village – Tanganang (below)

to see the old royal kingdom of Bali – Semarapura or Klung Kung

into the mountains to see where spices and coffee is grown

to a beach at Jasri near Candiasa where an old surfer named Charlie created a chocolate shop. (As an aside, I set some scenes in Big Girls right here.)

The food

Sure it’s about nasi goreng and satay, but it’s so much more than fried rice and chicken on a stick. There’s the fabulous babi guling, or suckling pig (below) flavoured with spices that taste like the island (and yes, I used that line in Baby, It’s You), and bebek betutu – roast duck.

There’s also soto ayam, a flavourful turmeric spiced chicken noodle soup, and beef rendang – the Indonesian version is a tad different to the Malaysian. My favourite, though, is nasi campur. Essentially this is a mound of steamed rice surrounded by small portions of a meat dish, some vegetables, perhaps egg or satay, sambal. There’s no rhyme or reason to it – and it will differ from place to place.

Oh, I’m almost forgetting my favourite salad – sayur urab. It translates loosely to mixed vegetables. You’ll find the recipe here.

There’s a fabulous restaurant scene in Bali now – especially around Seminyak and Ubud, but my favourite is still Bali Asli. Owned by an Aussie expat, the menu changes daily depending on what’s in the garden or what’s come out of the sea that day. It’s traditional food, prepared traditionally.

Located near Amlapura in East Bali, it’s a couple of hours from Legian and Kuta, but only about 30 minutes from Candidasa – and is well worth the trip.

I’ve written about it a few times – herehere and here.

The loo with a view at Bali Asli

Temples

Temples are such an integral part of Balinese life. I could do an entire post on temples. I love them. Of course, there are the biggies like Pure Tanah Lot (below)

but there’s so much charm in the temples you find in family compounds and in villages.

Pura Luhur Batukau, in the central mountains west of Kuta etc is one that’s worth seeking out. For a start, there are no touts, but the serenity is what it’s all about. I’ve written about it here.

Take the time to read the signage. I was particularly taken by the extensive list of warnings that this temple in Sanur came with. I have no idea what crossed streak is – and hope that I’m not afflicted by it any time soon. Speaking of which, according to the Lonely Planetguide, Sanur is one of the “few communities still ruled by members of the Brahmana caste”…and is a centre for black and white magic. Perhaps I’ll refrain from flirting – and ranting.

Ubud

Yes, Ubud. Sure, it has all the Eat, Pray, Love connotations (and I’m absolutely a fan), but Ubud is like a great big exhalation.

Lotus

Don’t just stop at Monkey Forest, stay a while and feel your stresses melt away to the faint sounds of the gamelan.

Okay, it’s Thursday so that means it’s Lovin’Life linky time. You know the drill – clink on the link below to read and share what you’re loving about life right now.

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Author: Jo

I write, I bake, I chase sunrises.

9 thoughts

  1. Bali looks so beautiful. Love the photo’s you’ve got in this post – so colourful and enticing! I haven’t been to Bali but I hope to one day, even though me + heat don’t go together so well. Most people I know who’ve been there seem to love it and I know many whose skin it’s got under also. I’ve read the first two of your novels – looking forward to the next ones! 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

  2. Yes, I think you need to return to do more research and I will drive you!!
    Those offerings are so delicate and such a lovely tradition. Everything just seems so pretty. It is admirable that the whole family worships together and participates together in spiritual activities. I may never get there myself, other than through Google images and your books. Thank you for whisking your readers away to paradise.

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