First Visit to Bali?

bali-beach

We all have firsts. When I first arrived in Bali on a fam-trip (familiarization trip) hosted by the Indonesian Tourist Bureau, my expectations were high. After the threat of terrorism in Jakarta, the Indonesian government wanted to send a message to the world that Indonesia was still a safe, desirable tourist destination. The trip was exciting, relaxing, informative and a wonderful ‘first’. As I learned, however, Bali, the jewel of the country, doesn’t need promoting since it has all the charm, laid back atmosphere and natural attractions that fill any self-respecting tourist’s bill.

When I travel I like to go off the beaten path and into the backdrop of an area. I choose to visit with the people who live outside of the tourist traps and learn about the culture more directly. I do occasionally run into a snag here and there like the time my little boutique hotel didn’t have hot showers since the local hot water heater repair fellow was entertaining guests of his own and unavailable. Doing without a hot shower wasn’t fun, but hardly a show stopper.

Wayan’s Healing Ways

jamu

I arrived at the Balinese Airport with a heck of a chest cold, aggravated by the long plane ride, and feeling like day old dung. My plan included ten busy days of writing, relaxing and nosing around the back neighborhoods for the best local shops and places to eat, however at this point I just wanted to lie down. I made a date with Ben. Not my dream date, but I was soon flat on my back with Ben – Ben Gay.

After a few hours of feeling sorry for myself and wistfully staring out at the azure blue sky, I called my friends to let them know I had arrived safe – if not sound. As I was coughing into the phone, my buddy Made (pronounced ma day) told me that he could be at the hotel in about an hour to take me to visit a local healer. Ni Made works at his family’s crane company and is a very busy guy, but typical of the Balinese spirit, he realized my time of need in such a compassionate way. Compassion is one of the traits of the Balinese people that make me feel at ease half-way around the world.

Hinduism in Bali

bali-hindu-temple

With approximately 88% of Indonesia being Muslim, the small country of 205 million boasts the world’s largest Muslim population. There is one exception to the blanket of Islamic preference, and that is Bali. The vast majority of the Balinese are Hindu.

As a peaceful Nation, the rest of Indonesia doesn’t seem hell bent on converting the little island through any forms of force. It appears that a live and live atmosphere prevails among the two very diverse religious systems. On one of my visits to Bali, I sat next to a local fellow on the airport shuttle service bus who was returning from a business trip. He had grown up in Java, and as a child, he was raised Muslim.

Visiting Bali

bali-temples

Bali is known for its warm and friendly people, its beautiful, lush scenery and its ability to soothe the stress fed beast in any one of us. Stepping off the plane at the relatively new Ngurah Rai International Airport and descending the stairs, I am immediately enveloped with a sense of calm. I have come to believe it is naturally inherent to this little Indonesian island.

The airport, like others all over the world still has its hustle bustle but the underlying current of serenity is easily detectable. On board the party bus Hamilton, I and several of my fellow passengers make our way into the center of town to the Hamilton hotel. I have found that the party bus is the most accommodating form of transportation. The bus is air-conditioned and to make the short journey to Kuta even more pleasant they serve the best Ice Beerice beer with just the right amount of lime on the island.