The mere mention of Bali evokes thoughts of a paradise. It’s more than a place; it’s a mood, an aspiration, a tropical state of mind.
Island of the Gods
The rich and diverse culture of Bali plays out at all levels of life, from the exquisite flower-petal offerings placed everywhere, to the processions of joyfully garbed locals, shutting down major roads as they march to one of the myriad temple ceremonies, to the otherworldly traditional music and dance performed island-wide. Almost everything has spiritual meaning. The middle of Bali is dominated by the dramatic volcanoes of the central mountains and hillside temples such as Pura Luhur Batukau (one of the island’s estimated 10,000 temples), while the tallest peak, Gunung Agung, is the island’s spiritual centre.
One Island, Many Destinations
On Bali you can lose yourself in the chaos of Kuta or the sybaritic pleasures of Seminyak and Kerobokan, surf wild beaches in the south or just hang out on Nusa Lembongan. You can go family-friendly in Sanur or savour a lavish getaway on the Bukit Peninsula. Ubud is the heart of Bali, a place where the culture of the island is most accessible, and it shares the island’s most beautiful rice fields and ancient monuments with east and west Bali. North and west Bali are thinly populated but have the kind of diving and surfing that make any journey worthwhile.
Yes, Bali has beaches, surfing, diving, and resorts great and small, but it’s the essence of Bali – and the Balinese – that makes it so much more than just a fun-in-the-sun retreat. It is possible to take the cliché of the smiling Balinese too far, but in reality, the inhabitants of this small island are indeed a generous, genuinely warm people. There’s also a fun, sly sense of humour. Upon seeing a bald tourist, many locals exclaim ‘bung ujan’, which means today’s rain is cancelled – it’s their way of saying that the hairless head is like a clear sky.
At the end of the day (which is the start of the day for some visitors), Bali’s rich culture, many amazing sights and truly lovely people are what takes Bali’s sheer delight to another level. Because Bali is fun, no matter what you want or who you are. Seminyak has shops and designers, Kerobokan has luxe beachside resorts and superb eating, Kuta and Legian have the nightlife, and Canggu wraps it all into one irresistible package. Plunge deep into Bali’s spirit while renewing your own in Ubud or catching the perfect wave in Bingin. You name it, it’s here.
Indonesia’s numbers astound: more than 17,000 islands, of which 8000 are inhabited, and over 300 languages spoken across them. It’s a beguiling country offering myriad adventures.
The world’s fourth most populous country is a sultry kaleidoscope draped along the equator for 5000km. From Sumatra’s western tip to Papua’s eastern edge, Indonesia defies homogenisation. It’s a land of so many cultures, peoples, animals, customs, plants, sights, artworks and foods that it’s like 100 countries melded into one.The people are as radically different from each other as if they came from different continents, with every island a unique blend of the people who live there. Over time, deep and rich cultures have evolved, from the mysteries of the spiritual Balinese to the utterly non-Western belief system of the Asmat people of Papua.
Beaches & Volcanoes
Venturing across Indonesia you’ll see a dramatic landscape, as diverse as those living upon it. Sulawesi’s wildly multilimbed coastline embraces white-sand beaches and diving haunts, while Sumatra is contoured by a legion of nearly 100 volcanoes marching off into the distance, several capable of erupting at any time.
Dramatic sights are the norm. There’s the sublime: an orangutan lounging in a tree. The artful: a Balinese dancer executing precise moves that would make a robot seem loose-limbed. The idyllic: a deserted stretch of blinding white sand on Sumbawa contrasting with azure surf breaks. The astonishing: Sunday mobs in a cool, glitzy Jakarta mall. The intriguing: the too-amazing-for-fiction tales of the beautiful Banda Islands’ twisted history. The heart-stopping: the ominous menace of a Komodo dragon. The humbling: a woman bent double with a load of firewood on Sumatra. The delicious: a south Bali restaurant. The shocking: the funeral ceremonies of Tana Toraja. The solemn: Borobudur’s serene magnificence.
This ever-intriguing, ever-intoxicating land offers some of the last great adventures on earth. Sitting in the open door of a train whizzing across Java, idling away time on a ferry bound for Kalimantan, hanging on to the back of a scooter on Flores, rounding the mystifying corner of an ancient West Timor village or simply trekking through wilderness you’re sure no one has seen before – you’ll enjoy endless exploration of the infinite diversity of Indonesia.