BACK TO BALI
THINK YOU KNOW BALI? REVISITING WHEN YOU’RE A TAD OLDER (AND WISER) WILL REVEAL A DIFFERENT SIDE OF THE HOLIDAY HOTSPOT
There’s so much more to Bali than Bintang, cheap clothes and Kuta’s nightlife. That might have been the Bali you experienced if you visited in your 20s, maybe even your 30s, but with age comes wisdom and the few extra dollars needed to experience the absolute best it has to offer.
The Wyndam Garden Kuta was our base for a few days in the city.
Overlooking Kuta Beach and central to everything on our to-do list, it was a great home away from home, and the inhouse spa proved to be a wonderful highlight. Before I had unpacked my bag I was enjoying a full-body massage.
The four-star hotel is right in the thick of the organised chaos that is Kuta, a big noisy city known for its shopping, beaches and nightlife.
The restaurant and courtyard of the hotel are open to the street, allowing you to relax and watch the passing parade of traffic, which has its own kind of chaotic harmony.
The rooms and surrounds of Wyndham Kuta Garden delivered on all points.
But you don’t go on holiday to stay in your room, no matter how comfortable the bed, so we were up early for a busy day of playing tourist.
To explore the southern, and most heavily populated, end of the island requires transport and it is best to leave the driving to a local.
Despite the apparent lack of rules and the constant beep-beep of horns, the traffic seems to flow and, surprisingly, there seems to be zero road rage. Still, I was happiest watching from the passenger seat. We left the streets of Kuta behind, opting for a splash of indulgence at El Kabron, a Spanish restaurant and cliff club at Uluwatu. It is the kind of place you’d expect to see superstars and models hanging out.
There were no celebrities there the day we visited, so we became the stars, sipping Moet from golden goblets, lazing in the pool, enjoying the stunning views of the Indian Ocean and gorging on platters of delicious food.
El Kabron has a fixed price for entry that allows for a food and drink credit, making it a luxury destination, but it is an indulgence most Aussie holidaymakers can afford.
One of the delights of Bali is that one minute we were enjoying the lifestyles of the rich and famous and a short time later we were silenced by the sheer size and beauty of Uluwatu Temple, which dates back to the 10th century.
Donning mandatory saris we joined the stream of tourists. Holding our phones and bags close, we dodged cheeky monkeys eager to steal from careless visitors. As the afternoon slipped away the temple was framed by golden rays and a sense of peace descended.
The tenacity required to build such a structure, which is still an active place of worship for Hindus, is hard to fathom.
The cultural lesson continued as we filed into an open-air amphitheatre, overflowing with people of all nationalities. Still wearing our saris and looking like we are all in uniform our differences seemed to diminish.
With the temple and sunset in the background, a narrator welcomed us in a number of different languages and reminded us that there was “unity in diversity”. I wished his words could be heard in all corners of the globe.
The sunset kecak (dance or show) was powerful with the voices of the men supplying the only music for the main players as they acted out a legendary tale of the red and white monkeys and their battle for power.
With flashes of humour, stunning costumes and a roaring fire, it was a spectacle before an appreciative crowd.
With the kecak over it was time for dinner and it seemed fitting to choose Bumbu, which is named after the signature mix of spices used in Balinese home cooking.
The restaurant also offers cooking classes for those who want to recreate the taste at home and I wish we’d had time for that.
It is easy to eat and live well when on holiday in Bali and that is part of the appeal for Australian tourists. Food, drinks, accommodation and experiences all seem cheap in comparison to Australian prices and calculating the bottom line is easy. We tended to take off four zeros for a rough conversion to Australian dollars from the rupiya used in Bali.
After just a few days it felt as if my life had slowed down, the things that mattered seemed clearer than ever. As I packed my bags, I was wondering how soon I could come back.