UBUD, Bali, April 9, 2016 – At one time or another we have all heard the expression, “I’d go to the ends of the earth for you.” Well, the island of Bali in Indonesia is about as far as you can go from the United States before you find yourself on the return trip home.
Of the 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia, Bali nestles between Java and Lombok. It is also the Hindu hub of an archipelago that has a majority Muslim population.
What strikes visitors the moment they set foot on Bali, which is roughly 100 miles in width and 75 miles from top to bottom, is the warmth and serenity of the people. There is a gentleness in the Balinese spirit that is both welcoming and captivating.
With an average salary for most Balinese of about $500 per month, it is obvious that the island population is not a haven for the lifestyles of the rich and famous. At least the local population, that is.
Which, in its own way, defies the notion from Islamic nations that the lack of resources is an excuse for global terrorism.
Bali was the third stop for Julia Roberts’ character in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” based on the book of the same name by Elizabeth Gilbert in 2010.
And it doesn’t take long to discover what captured Gilbert’s heart about Bali. Everywhere you look there is a temple rising above congested streets filled with mopeds and other forms of transportation.
Yet, somehow there is a spirituality in the minds and souls of the people that is infectious. It is a serenity of spirit that travelers immediately understand though it may be subliminal at first.
Ubud is a thriving, growing community that both Gilbert and Roberts found infectious. At one place or another, no matter when you visit, you will discover a festival somewhere. Here grateful residents bring their offerings to the temple to honor their individual histories.
Bali is lush. Despite its teeming streets filled with traffic, there is also a primeval atmosphere where birds sing in the tree-tops, palm trees and other tropical plants abound amid terraced rice fields, active volcanoes and a huge national park to the west.
The night market is a daily gathering of local food vendors cooking up traditional Balinese street food. Everything from chicken, beef, pork and even goat sate (skewered meat on a stick) to spicy roast pork, fried fish and other local fast food. Don’t look for a Big Mac. You won’t find it in Ubud.
Closer to the main square in Ubud is the more traditional street market, where hawkers sell their wares by negotiating a price for scarves, masks, wood carving, bracelets and all manner of other traditional Balinese trinkets.
For travelers who want to become instant Donald Trump wannabees, Bali is the place. The exchange rate is roughly 13,200 Indonesian rupiah to the dollar. In other words, if you go to an ATM and get $100, you are an instant millionaire in Bali with 1,320,000 IDR in your pocket.
Other than the markets, popular attractions in and around Ubud are the active volcanoes in the northeast, the terraced rice fields and the Monkey Forest in the main part of the city. Visitors enjoy strolling through the 27-acre forest to view the monkeys that occupy the area by the thousands. No matter when you go, you are guaranteed to see a great show.
It takes some effort to reach the Indonesian nation. It’s not the traditional six- to eight-hour flight to Europe from the east coast of the U.S. But if you plan for at least a day of travel to get there you will be richly rewarded.
Then you too can return home to tell your best friend that you literally “went to the ends of the earth for him.”
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world.
Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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