‘And then one day, I opened my eyes in the splendor and charm of Bali.’
They say there are a few places that draw together the most wonderful moments of your life in such a way that they leave a smudge on you so intense that you cannot erase the marks. They touch you with an inexplicable tenderness, strengthen up your insides, make you fall in love with the idea of this world and open your eyes to the vastly derelict striking fragments of your existence. And perhaps one day you’ll understand all I say; one day when you immerse yourself in the charisma of one such place.
I have done too many lists lately because they are easy to read and comprehend and maybe simpler to skim through. However, deep down I believe that lists aren’t for the readers as much as they are for the rest of the world. This time I am not going to tell you what to do when you’re in Bali or how to explore it, go all around it or sketch your entire itinerary, rather, I will bring forth a few of my travel tales that outlined my journey to this incredibly breathtaking part of Indonesia.
What prompted me to even think of Bali as a destination to discover was predictably the book, ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’ That was perhaps the very first time I read anything about the place at all and it laid a hand on me, like you pat somebody and ask them to come with you. Somewhere at the back of my mind I realized that I had to go there to find yet another world that could probably swipe me away from the tribulations of the present. You know how it’s like when you want to escape from every place, every person and every instance that has the power to infuriate you and you keep wondering about just one miraculous space that would jostle you in the direction of bliss, load your life with some amazing experiences and would also sensibly fit in your budget. If you resonate with this sentence, I have the ideal solution for you: ‘Go to Bali.’
It was not painless to at last book the tickets amidst the thousands of opinions and warnings that people who loved me came up with; other than, it had to be done. I had researched like anything before I boarded the airplane which had just about four Indians, a few Chinese and at least a good 95% of people who were predominantly from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Russia*. It is a little unsettling to be alone amongst a large number of people who don’t even look like you and who are also surrounded by their friends or family while you are on your own. And then, it is also very liberating to at last be on the verge of doing something only for your own self without considering the woes of your career, relationships, the past or the future. That was how I felt, perhaps the first time in years I was doing something wholly and exclusively for the person I was; the person I am.
The aircraft landed at about 8:30 pm and I got done with all the immigration formalities to enter my most awaited voyage in a totally unfamiliar country where I didn’t know even a single soul. The first setback that struck me before I had even left the airport was that the driver I had confirmed ahead of the trip wasn’t there. I kept looking for my name on the hundreds of boards that different people held on the other side of the airport. It was nowhere to be seen. I called this man several times but he didn’t respond. My heart sank. Finally, he picked up the phone to say that he had forgotten the appointment and wouldn’t be able to come by since he had found other tourists. Wait! How can somebody be as unruffled about something as serious as that? It was 9:30 pm and I was clueless. I picked on the first driver I saw and went ahead for my one hour journey to the hotel. And that’s where it all started: My four day expedition while I was on my first solo travel that had a bulk of happy moments and then there were a few discomfited flashes as well when I tried to be overly attentive about the people around me.
So, the next three days, I traveled to the eminent temples in Bali, witnessed the Kechak dance and the most stunning sunset at Uluwatu. I surprisingly met a school friend after about seven years in a restaurant and paid ten times more to a cab driver because of the perplexing Indonesian currency. I met an American healer who resided in Ubud and helped me find food on one daunting dark night. I stayed in a traditional Balinese home-stay that panicked me when I just entered and made me fall in love with it by the time I left. I met three beautiful American women and spent hours with them on a cycle trek who later even took me for an American Balinese sunset yoga class at the Ubud Yoga house located exactly in the center of the most picturesque rice fields. I got terrified while I was walking towards a club just 500 meters away, late at night on a stranded street when a man on a bike gaped at me in a not so pleasant way and turned around quite a few times to pass me by. I went to a Jazz bar and gazed at couples performing the most sensuous Salsa dance I had seen in years. I even strolled through the market, used my fantastic bargaining skills to do some shopping that I later realized wasn’t as important and low-priced. I got the most remarkable massage and spa therapy that soothed me and brought me closer to the idea of the paradise that could be. However, for every moment of those days, I kept repeating to myself that I needed to stay there longer; that Bali wasn’t some place that could be even remotely explored in four days.
When I got on my flight back, I promised myself that someday I’ll come back and reside here for at least two weeks so that I can submerge myself, my aura and my dreams in the beauty of Bali, in the smiles of the natives, in the poise of the outsiders, in the rhythm of the skies, the tranquility of the beaches and the vigor of the mountains.
And for now, just so you know, there can be no other Bali.
* not that I counted this lot but these are some rough estimates