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Paradise Found in Bali

Bali is often described as paradise, and if you have ever visited, you will know why. With beautiful sandy beaches backed by green hills and craggy mountains, it is a picturesque place to visit. Balinese people and their culture make this island stand apart from other tropical beach paradises. Bali’s tourism was marred with terrorist bombings in the recent past and security is now high including in the airports. Visas are now required for most international visitors, even for a short 7-day visit.

Unlike other Indonesian islands, which are mainly Muslim, the people of Bali follow the Hindu religion and culture. You will see the tiny offerings of flowers, rice and salt everywhere. Bali is famous for its local dancing and music. A chance to see the ‘barong’ or lion dance is a must, as performers with fearsome masks depict the battle between good and evil. The less authentic but equally entertaining ‘kecak’ or monkey dance is also a spectacle to see with 250 dancers moving in concentric circles around the central performer. One festival to avoid if possible is Nyepi, the Hindu New Year. It is a variable date in March or April each year and is celebrated by absolute silence. No fun if you happen to be there on vacation. Everywhere is closed and tourists are confined to their hotels. The only compensation is that in the week leading up to Nyepi, colorful giants called Ogoh Ogoh are seen everywhere and are paraded throughout the island on Nyepi Eve.

Beyond the popular beach area and tourist hotspots there is a wealth of culture and many colorful sights to enjoy. Ubud is a delightful town at the foothills of the interior mountains. It is the natural center of Bali’s artistic heritage where art appears everywhere. Everyone’s purpose in life seems to be to create something beautiful to honor the gods. Although teeming with tourists, it still has the local flavor which first drew artisans to the area in the 1920s. Travel further inland and see the paddy fields beneath the cone of the extinct volcano, cultivated by hand and watered by an ancient 9th century irrigation system. This area, overlooking the Ayung River is one of the most beautiful in all Asia, and visiting it, or better yet staying here, is a pure delight.

Balis’s best known attractions are its many Hindu temples along with the Garuda Wisnu Kencana monument of the god Vishnu riding the mythical Garuda bird. On a more natural note, there are several hot springs on Bali, some set in tropical gardens. The Balinese ‘lulur’ body scrub is a must-do experience, traditionally performed before a wedding. Using an array of herbs and spices and performed by experienced locals it will really make your body sing! Balinese massages are cheap and the scalp and shoulder massages are also a divine experience not to be missed.

Balinese local food is tasty and is often pork-based. Alcohol is widely available on this non-Muslim island. Beware the lethal local wine (hatten) and high quality liqueurs and spirits often flavored with fruit such as banana, pineapple, blackcurrant and coconut. The non-alcoholic fruit juices are a delicious way to enjoy the local produce and are very reasonably priced. With excellent accommodation and a balmy climate, no wonder Bali is still considered ‘Paradise Found’.

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Veronica Ho is the owner of Travel Haven, a travel agency totally dedicated to organising creative and luxury packages. Get a COMPLIMENTARY Destination Guide when you join Travel Haven Email Club. Also be the FIRST to receive Special Promotions, Destinations Update and much more. http://www.TheTravelHavenOnline.com

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