Stepping out of Ngurah Rai International Airport and into the hot sticky heat of Bali, I was met by an overwhelming sea of faces waving signs, name cards and calls of “taxi? taxi?” from local drivers.
It was a welcomed relief to see a familiar face, a Balinese man, whom I had come to know well over my visits to this island, Mully.
The famed “Island of the Gods”, Bali is known as paradise on earth. With its diverse landscape of mountainous terrain, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches, lush rice terraces and barren volcanic hillsides, it is easy to see why.
Mix this with its colourful, spiritual and unique culture, Bali is one of the most popular island destinations in the world. It offers something to suit almost every visitor from the backpacking youth to the most cashed up luxury traveller.
After quick hellos and bags loaded, we were off to my hotel. Arriving into Bali normally is on a red eye flight from Australia so I am keen to get to the hotel and sleep.
I am staying at the Pullman Legian Bali. Legian is a suburban and beach area on the west coast of Bali in Indonesia, just north of Kuta and south of Seminyak. It is close enough to the action of Kuta while being just far enough away to enjoy some quieter times too.
For first-timers to Bali, Legian might seem just like another Kuta, however give it time and you will find it has its own appeal. Enjoy an evening walk along the famous Double Six Beach where there is plenty going on. For a more social evening, head out for a night in a cosy club and make some new friends.
Legian literally means ‘sweet’ in Balinese and, as its name suggests, it promises sweet memories for a solo traveller. The area serves up a vast range of activities for solo travellers and for all tastes: outdoor adventures, nearby hikes, surfing, festivals and many local cultural activities. No matter what – the atmosphere is always friendly and welcoming.
The airport is located south of Legian about 20 minutes’ drive away in good traffic. The whole of Legian is no bigger than a few blocks so walking around the area is the best way to explore. You can walk from Legian to Kuta and taking the beach path is actually quite scenic.
Walking into this urban chic style resort, I am impressed with the quick check in and my spacious ocean view room. Standing on the balcony I can see the beach and ocean in front of me, while the buzz of Bali on the streets below is fascinating to watch. It is the perfect balance of action and relaxation.
Location is key here at The Pullman Bali Legian Beach. I waltz across the road and enjoy a walk along the beach before collapsing into a bean bag under an umbrella. To further escape the heat, I am greeted by a Ketut (assuming that was not his real name as I later found everyone to be called Ketut) who brought me a welcomed drinks menu. I found I couldn’t sit long before the beach hawkers started to swoop, and I high tailed off the beach and went for a walk down the road.
Legian shops and restaurants are just 3 minutes-walk away. The market streets are a mix of designer shops and very friendly local vendors who are keen to sell: sarongs, t shirts, pants, Bintang singlets, wood carvings, towels, hats and more. There are also loads of small cafes and restaurants where you can find local Balinese cuisine or western dishes. After a few quick purchases, I return to the hotel.
I head to the roof top infinity pool and jump in for a swim. Resting against the pool’s edge overlooking Legian beach, I had to giggle at the beach hawkers who were still working the beach, moving in on each new victim. Lazing about in the pool for the afternoon people watching on the streets below while the bar tender from IP Bar brought my drinks, was the ideal ending to the day. Or so I thought. The sun began to set over the beach, the sky illuminated to a bright orange and the funky tunes from the DJ got louder. Now it was a perfect ending to a day in paradise, Bali.
The coming days I set off to not only explore this country in more depth, but learn about its people, religion and culture.
It began with a visit to Tirta Empul Temple. The Balinese believe the springs at Tirta Empul Temple are that of an infinite creation and hold miraculous healing powers. Tirta means “The holy water” in Indonesian language. Watching the bubbling spring mixing up a mystical mist of loose gravel and somewhat luminous green algae that lines the rectangle stone pond I remember a story Mully once told me about the legend behind what causes this magical holy water.
“Long ago, Bali was ruled by an arrogant and powerful king, Mayadenawa. Believing he was more powerful than the gods themselves, he poisoned the waters to kill all that challenged him. Legend has it that the God Indra managed to defeat the evil king, and turns the waters from poison to pure and holy, with a pierce to the ground with his arrow.”
To honour Indra, the Balinese built the temple around this water source. It is here in a long stone pond, lined with rich green algae and the odd lotus flower; you can see the place Indra’s arrow pierced the ground, as the waters bubble and spring to the surface.
This magical story of good winning over evil captivates the mind as I walked around in the sensation like you have been transported back in time, engulfed by the magic of the mystical tale, exploring the bathing pools and surrounding temple.
After giving an offering made of woven bamboo, a mix of colourful flowers and some Indonesian Rupiah on top, I walk away with a bottle filled with this holy blessed water, to later splash over my head with the belief it will purify and heal.
The following days were occupied exploring Kintamani and the active volcano of Mount Batur, sunset at the temple on the sea, Tanah Lot, and an impromptu visit to the local healing and medicine man, Mr Ketut Liyer (who became popular due to the recent Julia Roberts movie, Eat, Pray, Love) who told me of promising future fortunes.
Shopping is unavoidable in Bali, so in between sightseeing; I bartered my way around the markets of Melasti, Mataharia, Poppy’s Lane and the traditional Badung markets in Denpansar.
My last evening was spent taking in one of the most spectacular sunsets on the island, as the sun filtered through an array of pinks, purples, oranges and yellows, before slowly disappearing on the horizon at Kuta Beach.
Amongst all the beauty and wonder of the island, I learnt the balance the Balinese people find in life through their culture and beliefs. I learnt that sometimes no matter how hard you try barter down, you just won’t get that Bintang shirt any cheaper, that you should limit yourself with those Arak Mojitos, and that a hand held fan is the best 10,000 rupiah you will ever spend in Bali.