Heaven on Earth
Meaning “Garden of the Gods”, Bali possesses a magical beauty with its nature, beaches, rice fields, boats, mists, temples, beliefs, exotic foods, women with flowers in their hair, men with wide smiles, dances, statues, paintings, sunrises and sunsets. As if to become worthy of its name, every part of the island is covered with greens and flowers. If you visit it in the appropriate season, fragrances of the flowers are enough to make you dizzy. Apart from their natural habitat, flowers are also especially present on the landscapes of the hotels and offer magnificent scenery.
The eastern shores of the country are luckier than the rest in terms of natural beauties. They boast beautiful coconut trees, palms, and beaches with the whitest sand spanning as far as the eye can see. When comparing north and south however, the southern part of the island is certainly busier and livelier, while the north is ridden with tropical forests, valleys, and rice terraces.
Gods and beliefs hold great importance in the lives of Bali’s inhabitants. Every morning, temples and altars are filled with gifts for the Gods. Temples are a frequent sight and you can encounter them right next to a lake, in the center of a village or on a sea cliff (as in the case of Uluwatu Temple.) Even in the middle of a rice field, you can see an altar and people praying in front of them, offering a cup of rice or fruit for the Gods. Among the Indonesian archipelago, Bali is the only place where Hinduism is the most popular religion. With over 3000 islands, the main religion for Indonesia was a religion consisting of a mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism. After the 16th century, a majority of the population embraced Islam, while Bali remained primarily Hindu due to the their influences from Chinese and Indian traders and monks.
Nowadays, it isn’t very likely to see women in their traditional attire during their daily lives, but it is still possible to encounter them in the magical atmosphere of the big hotels, temples or sometimes in a cortege. The best part of the traditional attire is the red flower which women don their hair with. The red of the flower is the color of God Brahma and the flowers themselves no doubt gives an air of grace to the women. Their sashes are called “kain” and represent endless battles over good and evil and mirrored in the white and black squares on the fabric. In order for the universe to maintain balance, this fight must endlessly go on.
The influences of Hinduism are not only present in the temples, but are also felt in the daily lives and practices of islanders. If a Balinese person believes in reincarnation, he or she waits for three months before placing their baby on the ground after birth. They believe that the baby would be sullied if they touch the ground in that period. According to their beliefs, babies carry the soul of their ancestors.
In order to draw the spirits of the sky, they fill every day of their 210-day years with beauty. As much as we find Bali surprising, they are equally surprised and cannot understand that upsetting nature’s balance, urban sprawl, or polluted seas are a part of our everyday lives.
In Bali, life starts with the sunrise. In the misty mornings, beaches, fishermen, rice fielders, and people going to temples with flowers and fruits all start their day under the sky that turns from orange into pink, eventually transforming from purple to beautiful blue. The daily routine of life, however, begins after the sunrise as people go to their jobs, students go to their schools, and while food scents fill the streets that children run through to their heart’s content. Women go to the riverside to wash clothes, while men craft Bali’s symbols, wooden houses and ornaments. If you go to Bali, leave your morning sleep aside and witness the sunrise and start to the day on the island.
The town of Ubud attracts a lot of visitors, since it is considered to be representative of the culture of Bali. Located close to the Kuta and Sanur beaches, which are next to Denpasar, the biggest city of Bali, Ubud is a popular destination with its hotels and allure of daily life. Kuta is also a quite lively and joyous destination with its renewed outlook, restaurants, stores and clubs. Its beach turns into a gold color as the sun sets. If, of course, what you seek is quiet and comfort, then the Nusa Dua area has you covered.
The central part of Bali is a mountain region with two live volcanos. One such volcano, the Bromo Volcano, sits in central Java. The best time to visit this one is of course during the hours of sunrise. Our best advice is to explore it like we did and start your journey during dark and witness a moment of a lifetime as the sun rises. What you will see is going to be the visage of a fuming volcano. With a quick walk, you can also reach the crater and look into the chasm.
Since you are already on the island of Java, why don’t you rest a bit in the Borobudur Temple. The name of this temple translates to “the temple built on the hill”. One of the most important Buddhist temples of the world, Borobudur is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its 72 Buddha statues, each of them seated inside an individual stupa. The walls of the temple has over 1500 panels with reliefs depicting the life of Buddha and important events.
Traveling to Bali should undoubtedly be at the top of your to-do list since it offers everything you could possible want in a journey. If you want a calm and quiet holiday, the island offers you beaches with the whitest sands and wonderful hotels. For younger souls, the island also has lively streets, clubs and experiences. If you are a diving enthusiast, get ready for amazing diving spots. As for us photographers visiting the island with Zayende Travel, Bali presents moments of pure excitement and will make you cry out with joy!
by Yelda Baler
photos by İlhan Eroğlu