Bali: The Island of Gods

Indonesian island that has been favoured by tourists who have been arriving there in crowds. But, of course, that was halted by the global pandemic for a while. Now, Bali is open again to all who have received two doses of the Covid vaccine. Apart from a unique natural world, both above and under sea level, tourists can also explore Hindi temples and dense jungles that hide many secrets. 

This small island in the Indian ocean has become one of the most visited locations in South East Asia. In the past, it was frequented by yoga and spirituality lovers who appreciated the unique vibe this island offers. Even though it has been renowned for being a party hub in the last few years, Bali is still a place like no other. There are many places where you can experience spirituality and calmness. 

Ocean Views

The Kingdom of Ceremonies

Bali is neighbouring Java to the West and Lombok to the East. It spreads for 5,633 square kms but is inhabited by incredible 4.3 million people. The population density is 2.6 times higher than the density of the UK and almost eight times higher than the one of the USA. If we add the thousands of tourists in Bali at any given time, it will be easier to understand why the roads are so busy most of the time.

Over 95% of Balinese people are Hindi, and you quickly become a witness to one of the many religious rituals. They are held in villages, cities, and districts, and once a year, there is a ceremony in which the whole island partakes. The island is known for these ceremonies, which are a way of securing the support of sacred Gods.

It is easy to realise you are approaching a ceremony: You happen to find yourself in a traffic jam and notice many colourful decorations made from palm trees and fabrics spread along the road. The sight of locals who walk with fruit baskets on top of their heads will assure you that Balinese people are indeed passionate about their religion.

Bali: The Island of Twenty Thousand Temples

It is estimated that there are over twenty thousand temples in Bali. Pura Besakih (“Pura” means “temple”) is one of the most famous and most visited ones, alongside Tanah Lot. Tanah Lot stands on a small, rocky island in the South and is renowned for its spectacular views during sunsets. Another temple that has become a popular tourist destination is Goa Gajah, which comprises caves and jungle paths.

Many temples are usually buzzing with tourists, so they lose a little bit of their spiritual charm. However, you can always visit less popular temples. These might offer you the right atmosphere you would expect from a sacred place. One of these is Pura Luhur Lempuyang, nested on the Lempuyang Mountain in the east of Bali. While entering through the gates, Mount Agung will steal your gaze. It is an active volcano, and there were threats it would erupt between 2017 and 2019. The locals understood this as a message from unhappy Gods. Therefore, they performed many rituals and ceremonies to win the Gods on their side again.

Singaraja Waterfall

Be Mindful of the Monkeys

Pura Luhur Lempuyang is a temple complex comprising seven temples, each one at a different height of the mountain. The last and most important one is at the top of Lempuyang. You can reach it by a footpath, which is relatively difficult. The seventh temple is also the least decorated one. Hinduism does not focus on glitter as what matters is the body-soul connection, the connection to nature, Gods, and spirits. The views of the path leading to the top are often breathtaking and will make you forget your worries.

As you slowly ascend to the top, you will notice the air becoming chillier and the soil damper. Be aware of the monkeys; they will try to get to your food, and it is best if you keep it out of their sight. They will not hesitate to jump on your back and try to steal some of the goodies you might carry. And while they look cute, they might carry diseases like rabies.

A Little Different Take on Hinduism

Pura Luhur Jagaraga stands in contrast to Pura Luhur Lempuyang; it is the Temple of the Dead. It is located in the northern part of the island and is specific in having the most significant part situated lower than the entrance. This is very unusual as far as the Hindi temples are concerned. Another unusual feature is that the stone walls of this temple have been decorated to portray the Dutch invasion and Japanese colonisation of Bali. You can see cars, planes, and ships carved into the stone; it is one of the ways to remember those who lost their lives while protecting their island.

Upon entering this temple, you will be welcomed by a smiley monk. He will offer you a sarong, a traditional Balinese skirt-like fabric, which you must wear when visiting a temple. I remember this particular monk welcoming me during my first visit in 2016 and then again in 2019. I was glad to see him again. Generally, Balinese people like to share their culture and stories, and you can learn much about life as you listen to them.

How to Lotus

The monk of Pura Luhur Jagaraga will show you how to meditate; in a lotus pose; and will explain to you the origin of the Swastika symbol. I had known that the Germans stole this symbol and stained it with their twisted ideology. Which is twice as sad when you realise how much it means to some communities. The symbol is meant to symbolise hope, goodness, and spring.

Underwater Adventures

Bali is also known for its rich underwater fauna and flora; it has become an ideal place for scuba divers worldwide. There are numerous scuba diving centres scattered across Bali, which offer courses, equipment rentals, and guides.

You will not be disappointed if you are a lover of this adrenaline activity. The kingdom hiding under the sea level is a shrine of a different kind. You will be charmed by the beauty and grace of the fish and surprised by the diversity of species you will find among the corals. The sea turtles and reef sharks will enchant you with their elegance and curiosity. Scuba diving is like entering a whole new world where what you see you will never be able to forget. Enjoy the beauty and always swim respectfully and carefully to preserve and protect what has been there for years.

You might be brought back to reality by plastic garbage floating in the ocean at times, which is sad testament humanity is leaving behind.

Sea

Would You Like Some Jungle Vibes

Many Balinese forests and jungles have been destroyed due to logging and palm oil plantations. However, there are still many parts that are covered by tropical rainforests. A green curtain of leaves and the sounds of insects and birds will bring you to a dreamy state of mind you will enjoy.

One of these places is the waterfall valley. Located in the north of the island, it is not far from Pura Luhur Jagaraga, and the parking lot is easily accessible. From there, you can access the waterfalls by following a path lined by jungle on both sides. It would be best if you were mindful as Bali is not only home to many monkeys but also to some venomous snakes and spiders. These are not often encountered in the wilderness. However, remember it can happen. Also, it may be helpful to remember that animals usually only attack when they feel threatened or stressed.

Traditional Lifestyle of Bali

Balinese people practice Hinduism, but there are also other religious groups there. On the contrary, in the rest of Indonesia, 87% of people follow Islam. Balinese people are friendly, are keen to help, and always greet you with a smile and a positive attitude. Locals believe in the circle of life, reincarnation, and karma. They believe their actions always bring consequences and determine what body their soul will have in the next life. Therefore, there is very low criminality on the island. Tourists are often further protected as they are the source of income for the island and many local businessmen/women. 

The people of Bali are grateful and tend not to worry about things they cannot change. In their professional life, they would often reject becoming a leader as it is not comfortable for them to tell others what to do or how to work. Instead, they practice mindfulness and treat others how they would like to be treated. Being respectful, kind, and polite while visiting the Island of Gods is always a good idea. 

Bali Yoga

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