It must be the smell. It is a unique blend of incense, rice, clove cigarettes and something entirely indescribable. It hits you the second that you step off of the plane. Mixed with the heavy tropical air it immediately lets you know that you are somewhere exotic. It is no wonder that Bali is known as the island of the gods.
Nestled in the trendy areas of Canggu, Seminyak and Legian are a plethora of palatial private villas for the taking. Walking through your very own Balinese entrance, you are transported to the Garden of Eden. A stone pathway meanders across perfectly manicured, lush, green grass. Scattered along the edges of the garden are delicate frangipani trees dropping their creamy flowers. The centrepiece of the luscious tropical landscape is the turquoise pool dropped in the centre. The cool waters glint invitingly in the sunlight.
Each room is lusciously appointed in a tropical motif with its own private outdoor shower. Nothing induces holiday mode faster than taking a shower while looking at the stars. The main room is open to the elements, yet still offers a pleasant refuge from the heat.
The island is home to many, many exquisitely delicious restaurants in some of the most beautiful settings imaginable. You can sample the freshest seafood on the beach in Jimbarran Bay, savour a delectable satay amidst the rice padis at Slippery Stone or enjoy a delectable Indonesian satay at Made’s Warung.
At sunset, there are a range of perfectly situated vantage points to watch the sun drip into the coral sea. The famous temple at Uluwatu makes a stunning backdrop to the setting sun. If you are more inclined to enjoy a delicious martini while listening to some perfect ambient music than the iconic Ku De Ta and its up and coming competition, Potato Head, are your best bet.
Eventually, even the most seasoned sun junky might want to head out and try something a little different. In the middle of the island, lies the quaint town of Ubud. It hosts a wide range of health/ yoga retreats for the stressed. At the entrance to the town, there is also a monkey forest, where for a few rupiah; you can feed a rather large troop of monkeys. The monkeys roam over temples and intricately carved stair cases that are covered in thick forests. It is equal parts magical and hair rising.
Almost all taxi drivers who head up north, will inevitably shuttle their chosen tourists into a range of different large shops to purchase locally made products and crafts. These can range from silver to art to batik, a type of fabric. The art stores are particularly good for picking up large canvases for very cheap.
For the adventurous, there is white water rafting in the north of the island. The rapids are not the grandest, but the scenery is hard to beat. The river is hewn in on all sides by lush, verdant topical forest. Monkeys and colourful parrots can be seen chattering in the canopy. Further north yet again, there are elephant treks to be done. Since it takes some time to get there, it would be wise to approach a tour operator and see about doing a two or three day safari in the rather remote north end.
Surfing! One of the main reasons that Bali became so popular with westerners was the amazing surf. Large waves roll in off of the Indian Ocean onto long, sandy slopes that produce fantastic waves that seem to go on for an eternity. It is every surfers dream to chuck it all in and retire to this little happy island blessed with some incredible surf. Strewn up and down the beach from Kuta to Canggu, you will find people who will rent you surfboards by the hour. For the more experienced surfer, the waves off of Uluwatu will have you jumping for joy.
Many travelers who come will, at the end of their stay, feel like they have discovered a new home. It is a place that is so foreign and different for the most of us, but you will leave wishing that you could stay forever underneath the hot sun watching the kites sail in the sky.
Written by Joseph Ramsey for The Essential Destination