Tourist(y) Hub – Kuta – in Bali : A Cultural and Scenic Treat
There is a different air that engulfs you when you are in Bali. The feeling is very different from when you land in Europe or US which either serve as a business hub or provide the best of scenic views. In this island, while both of those exist, the strong cultural vibe takes an upper hand. The first thing you notice is canang sari offering – a symbolic worship of gods and directions – which is present in front of every home, business establishment or vehicles, big or small. Simultaneously you would notice the importance of petal of Firangipani flower in most cultural and religious activities. Once here, one would never doubt the aptness of the nick “Island of Gods” given to this Island. But that is not all of Bali. While religion and culture has its importance, it offers a variety of landscapes from beaches to mountains and from busy business areas to tranquility of jungles. One could equally enjoy adrenaline rushing water sports – surfing, diving, parasailing – or relaxing spa treatments which is another popular exquisite of Bali. So anyone coming to Bali should be ready to delve in myriad of interesting experiences rather than a focused beach holiday.
We had divided our stay in two parts of Bali and first of it was in Kuta, a tourist hub adjoining the airport and proximate to most of the attractions. Kuta is a popular beach destination of Bali and offers a long clear coastline for tourists. The beach is ideal for water sports and provides a nice, sandy beach while also being principal attraction for shopping and nightlife. Development has spread beyond the original Kuta Beach, and now encompasses many of suburb areas of the capital region of Denpasar. However, broadly Kuta can be considered as three different areas – Legian, Sanur and Semiyak. Legian was the area which we had planned to stay.
We were at our hotel by 4 and it took Anga (remember our guide) and the friendly folks at reception another 10 minutes to cross check if all our (special) requests were in place as planned. And then we were ushered into our room on the first floor of Hotel All Seasons. It was a well put up functional room with all basic necessities and flower decoration on bed. There was a balcony overlooking the pool. Overall a good set up for a busy city center providing all one could expect after a long two-legged flight. The staff was courteous and friendly; ready to cater to our demands especially on fooding front. Once we settled in and freshened up, we took a stroll at the nearby Legian street – a maze of narrow crisscrossed streets often paved in stones and selling souvenirs, groceries, restaurants, spa centers and anything else that a tourist may need. Back from the stroll, we dressed up for a lovely candle light dinner by the pool which the hotel had set up pretty well.
Next morning after a heavy breakfast we left for our day long excursion. The first of our stops was a ceremonial dance performance called Barong Dance named after the village it is performed in or may be it is vice versa. The drive took about half an hour from the hotel. The dance is a ritual which depicts the fight between good and evil. The dance performed by ferociously dressed performers was choreographed pretty nicely for a village religious ceremony and the arrangements were decent. Though for those like us who are oblivion to the local language or the story depicted, the sequence may seem boring and one may easily be tempted to leave the performance mid-way. But then, to each his own is what I can say.
Once this was wrapped and we had our share of clicks of the village and a young performer, we moved on to our next location – a tour through a private plantation. It took about a couple of hours of continuous drive at the end of which Anga announced our arrival. He guided us through this vast farm which was set up to allow convenient access to every corner. Anga introduced us to numerous varieties of coffees, spices and herbs being grown there and would occasionally pluck leaves and present to us for absorbing varied scents. The walk took us through more than 10 varieties of coffee, another 10 varieties of spices apart from live demonstration of how coffee beans were being converted to coffee powder. The ladies actually working on this were accommodative to requests for photographs and allowed posing with the equipment being used. This was followed by a complimentary tea/coffee tasting session (reminded me of the wine tasting visit at Napa – California). There was also a sales counter there where we picked a lot of coffee as souvenirs.
Next we embarked towards Mount Batur - one of the two active volcanoes of the island and were greeted with amazing views of the active volcano. Mount Batur is actually just a small volcano, but its setting is in the heart of a huge crater 14km in diameter. Mount Batur was created when there was a eruption in 1917 and is still an active volcano. It has erupted three time after the initial creation in 1926, 1974 and 1994. Adjacent to the volcano is the large crescent-shaped Batur Lake, all surrounded by the high walls of the crater rim. This is the largest lake of Bali and adds to the awesome view of the location. The three kinds of soils with variation in color showcased the lava from various eruptions. This was also going to be our lunch spot. We were taken to a restaurant by the view-point providing an awesome glimpse of the volcano and surrounding scenery for the hour we spent relishing a vegetarian spread laid out for us. By later afternoon, after a stomach full lunch and heart full of pictures we decided to leave for our hotel. After about two and hour ride we were back to our temporary abode.
After some light refreshments and a bit of rest we went out to the beach – The Kuta Beach - which was a 5 minute walk down from the hotel. The beach was relatively clean and managed. However it was rushy with quite a lot of activities going around. With the location of Kuta being center for most tourist activities, the beach was expected to show the tourist rush and so it did. After some dillydallying in the waters of Indian Ocean we spent the rest of the evening glancing at the horizon and relaxing on sand. We followed this with a stroll by the beach and dinner which marked the end of the day.
Next morning, we went to explore the city by ourselves and visited the Bali Bombing Memorial. This memorial was erected after the terrorist attacks that killed 202 people in 2002. The memorial is made of intricately carved stone, set with a large marble plaque, which bears the names and nationalities of each of those killed. It is flanked by the national flags of the victims. The monument is well-maintained and illuminated at night. Later we visited a few malls and Kuta Art Market to admire the handicrafts made by locals. The miracle that these people do with hands is definitely impressive. Again there was some souvenir shopping which obviously was unavoidable for more reasons than one.
In evening, we had booked a tour to Tanah Tot Temple. Don’t be misguided by the name as the temple is only a pretext to an awesome view of the sun setting far in the Indian Ocean. I have been to numerous sunset points and this definitely was among the better ones. We visited the three temples one by one and then spent the evening on the carefully manicured lawns watching the setting sun and attempting to capture every moment through our lens. We left late evening and reached Kuta back in time for a sumptuous dinner at an Indian joint at the Legian Street.
Next day was time to bid good bye to Kuta and move to our next destination – Nusa Dua. But before that we still had a few hours in the mornings which we utilized on the beach. Played with the waves and then relaxed on the beach. Later we returned to the hotel to pack and found our guide waiting to assist our transfer to the new hotel in Nusa Dua. With eagerness of exploring newer areas we left our hotel to spend next 4 days in another beach town of Bali.
This is second in series of three articles from our Bali Trip. The last part would be coming up soon.
Did you like the pictures or was there too much text? Little on knowledge or lacks the personal touch? Tempts you to visit the place or took it off your dream list? Whatever it is that you are feeling right now, do not forget to give put down in comments as your feedback and views – for or against :-)