Stepping out of the airport after 10 hours of travelling, I was greeted by a Balinese putting a garland around my neck, the aroma lingered long after I had taken it off. Oh! And let’s not forget the heat and humidity which had me sweating through my clothes within 10 minutes.
Welcome to Bali- I sat inside the A/C van we had booked for our trip. As I rode through the streetsof Denpasar, the capital of Bali, I got my first glimpse of this city which is known for its beaches, Hinduism, honeymoon location and also, (as I found out) the favourite holiday destination for Australians. Every second person I struck up conversation with, was an Aussie. The streets were narrow and cobbled and after every few houses, there was a temple whose rooftops resembled a Shaolin temple.
Although Indonesia is majorly an Islamic nation, Bali is as Hindu as India, if not more. There are statues of characters from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata spread all over the city. On the way to the hotel, I saw the statue of Bheema wrestling Vasuki, the queen of Nagas, which was grand in every sense. Right in the middle of a roundabout, this tall structure carved from stone was looming large over us. Hinduism, I realized is not just a religion for the Balinese people. It’s something they embody in their daily lives. They wear prayer beads around their neck or wrists, recite the Gayatri Mantra every day and adorn their shops with idols of Vishnu and Shiva.
While I was lost in my thoughts, the car made its way through the streets of Kuta and we landed up at our hotel, the Swiss Bel-hotel Tuban. In the evening, all of us walked towards the market for dinner in the hope of trying out local Balinese food. The moment I stepped into the market, it immediately reminded me of our open street markets in India. The roads crammed with people with hawkers on both sides of the street selling t-shirts and shorts and wooden items, luring you in with promises of ‘best price only for you, sir.’ I walked around a bit, trying to decode the city and its people who are ever so optimistic and always reply with a ‘Yes’ irrespective of the fact if you had asked a question or not( I wish my parents were like that!).
The lowest currency denomination is 1,000 Rupiya (Rp). So, when we went out for dinner, a dish was around 60,000 Rp and it took us a while to realise that our bill of 3,00,000 was in Rp and not INR! Confusions with currency, names and food that ensued in the beginning, dispelledby the end of our trip.
Sharing the experiences in Bali is mission impossible, but a trilogy may somehow do the job.
Meanwhile if I have managed to entice you to plan a trip to Bali, here’s some Traveler’s Tips for a Better Experience:
1. Use a waterproof sunscreen (SPF 50) before going to the beach or else the sunburns will be unforgiving.
2. Try out the Balinese delicacies: NasiGoreng, Mie Goreng, AyamBatutu, PepesIkan,etc.
3. Bargain your heart out. You’ll be surprised to see how much the shopkeepers are ready to reduce the price( generallyit’snearly50 %!!). In case the shopkeeper is hesitant, simply walk out of the shop. They’ll immediately concede.
4. Speak broken English using minimum words. It’s easier for the locals to understand.
5.Try and use your hands to illustrate what you are talking about for better communication.
6. Exchange money from established places. In the markets you’ll find many ‘Money Exchange’ shops. DO NOT GO THERE. They lure in customers with a higher exchange rate than offered by the bank and then employ tactics to distract and dupe unsuspecting clients.
Written byAnirudh Choudhury
Anirudh is an analytic and assertive guy with unconventional ideas and a wry sense of humorA dancer and a quizzer, he is extremely sporty and loves outdoor activities. He is logical in his arguments and is unequivocal by nature.