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

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - EYE ESCAPE - WORDS: SHARON LUCK

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.

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