Taman Budaya or Bali Art Centre is a prime example of how traditional art forms should to be preserved. Built in traditional Balinese architecture this is a centre of learning and also a centre of excellent performances. It motivates young Balinese people to learn all the forms of traditional Balinese performing arts. Bali Art Center grooms young ones in traditional Balinese arts- dance, theatre, music, painting and lot more.
A beautiful complex run by public money is a very sincere attempt to preserve the traditional forms of art. Interestingly, all these classes are completely free of cost for the children. Such art centres encourage them to learn and perform and thus keep the traditional art forms alive by transferring them to the next generation… A way to learn for all such societies!
In Islamic Indonesia the Hindu majority Bali is fascinating example of co-existence of cultures. Equally fascinating are the attempts to preserve art and dedication among the young ones to learn.
It is not yet five years old, as it was opened only in September 2013, but it certainly leaves tourists coming to Bali in an awe. Almost 13 km in length stretching across the Gulf of Benoa, the Bali Mandara sea link is often referred to as pride of Indonesia. This beautiful sea link runs over sea and some part of it through protected mangrove forests, making it a beautiful experience to drive. It gives wonderful views from the road and the sea as well! It is claimed to be one of the “most beautiful” road stretches in Indonesia. The name Mandara is an acronym for Indonesian words — maju (move forward), aman (safe), damai (peaceful) and sejahtera (prosperous).
Bali Mandara Toll Road or Nusa Dua-Ngurah Rai-Benoa Toll Road is a toll road carried by a bridge 12.7 km in length. This highway connects the city of Denpasar and South Kuta, Badung Regency, Nusa Dua and Ngurah Rai International Airport, thus providing additional link to northern and southern parts of Bali. The reason behind construction of Bali Mandara Toll Road would have been to prevent traffic jams on the Ngurah Rai By Pass Road, but slowly it has also become an attraction of sort. This toll road was officially opened on 23 September 2013 by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Whole project took just 14 months to be completed. It was an amazing feat, considering that there was no sort of foreign help involved at any stage.
Numerous academics, scholars and environmentalists had voiced serious concerns over the construction of the sea link, which could have deviated from its approved environmental impact analysis and perhaps dangerously affect both the mangroves and surrounding marine habitat. Local fishermen and nearby fishing villages also no longer have access to their previous fishing grounds. Indonesian authorities however claim that this infrastructure masterpiece was built with environmentally friendly and advanced technology. Undoubtedly, the views from the toll road are breathtaking. Even the local norms and traditions were respected during the construction. You can see the water below the road and green mangrove forests all over the place. To minimise the impact of construction almost 16,000 pieces of mangrove trees were planted after the construction of link was completed.
The road runs over the sea and was built using 33,835 concrete columns, some of them through an area of previously pristine mangrove forest. The road has a separate lane for motorcycles on both the sides, thus providing separate drive ways for two wheelers and four wheelers and making it more safe. The length of Bali Mandara Road is equal to Penang Bridge in Malaysia which too is 12.7 kilometres in length.
The road runs through a fragile environment and rough seas. Hence, there are many checks and controls involved. There are strict speed limits and all activities are thoroughly monitored. There is exhaustive system of CCTVs and also a wind monitor to keep measuring the wind sped. Anemometer are installed at every toll gate (Nusa Dua, Ngurah Rai, and Benoa). If the wind speed reach 40 kph or more than the movement on this road is controlled or stopped temporarily.
Travel with me to this Bali Mandara sea link through this video on my YouTube channel by clicking on the thumbnail below-
So next time you visit Bali, get a driving experience on this Bali Mandara toll road. It will certainly be worth.
Have you driven on this amazing Bali Mandara Road? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments section below.
It is indeed one of the most adorable and loved fishes of silver screen and also of aquariums thereafter. Orange Clownfish Nemo has been craze of kids world over after that landmark film – Finding Nemo. Hence watching Nemo in its natural habitat in the sea is indeed filled with a lot of excitement. But of course, this is not about Nemo, it is about walking under the sea and feeling the nature’s bounty around you. Sea Walking is a gem of an adventure for all those who don’t want to go in nitty-gritty of diving. And there can be perhaps no better place for sea walking than beautiful waters of Bali in Indonesia.
Sea walkers are the latest craze for the under water adventure seekers and what a place can be better than Bali to do this. Tanjung Benoa in South Kuta district of Badung Regency in Bali is the hub of water sports activities in Bali and it has lot to offer. One of the best among them is the Sea walker, where one walks few metres under the sea with the help of special helmets filled with oxygen. While you walk, you see the fishes and corals around you. You can be under the water for 20 to 30 minutes or more. A thrill and lots of fun, if you are not afraid of water.
The host of water sports activities in the region include snorkelling, sea walking and diving besides the regular ones like parasailing, jet-sking, water scooters and lot more. Sea Walking is fairly new but interesting adventure.
For this activity, once at the beachside base, you are registered. After the paper formalities, one has to change-in in special suits. Then they are transported by speed boats to offshore docking stations which are actually boats anchored in the sea away from the coast.
Once you reach at the docking station, you are given instructions on the process, which is mostly related to sign language that has to used with the instructor. Walkers are given a helmet to wear, which provides oxygen supply through pipe attached to docking station. Walkers are supposed to breath normally. It is a walk, not a dive or a swim. Special rubber footwear are also given here (these are not flippers as of divers).
You go down the sea through a ladder attached to the boat. The instructor than pulls you down further from the ladder and parks you on the sea bed, where you can stand holding specially fixed rails and ropes. Now you are ready for the walk.
With directions from the instructor you walk on the sea-bed holding rails and ropes, enjoying corals and fishes around. You will be seeing many of them for the first time in your lives, as was with me.
What is interesting that, you even carry bread with you to feed the fishes so that they gather around you and one has the few of being surrounded by the fishes under the sea.
After spending around 20-30 minutes under the sea and walking around, you are taken back to the boat, through the same ladder.
Its an exhilarating experience and good one for first timers who don’t have an exposure of going under the sea water. With safety of life jackets and oxygen helmets, it is a safe activity for even those who don’t know to swim.
You can watch a video of my sea walking experience on my YouTube channel by clicking on the link below:
With many competitors around in the Tanjung Benoa area of Bali, rates are often bargained. We did this activity for 600K Indonesian Rupiah (roughly 2800 Indian Rupee). Don’t forget to carry your water proof cameras for capturing memorable experience, but if you don’t have it, than sea walking operators will click your images with their cameras, but of course for a handsome amount.
Well, Mercure Legian Bali hotel is located in the area, where heart of Bali beats. When we were in Nusa Dua area, we were in a sort of exclusive zone with all sort of luxury and privacy. But this hotel lies in an area, where as soon as you step out of the hotel, you find yourself in the hustle & bustle of a busy tourist destination like Bali. Hotel is just a five minutes walk from the beach. Hotel is close to Legian, Seminyak and Kuta areas. Mercure has two hotels in the area. There another property Mercure Kuta Bali is located right on the Kuta beach and is slightly away from the, what few people may call as, chaos of Legian area.
Hotel is located on a busy intersection on Legian street. Running parallel to a long coastline this street is just a five minutes walk from famous Legian and Kuta beaches. This street is quite close to Bali’s international airport. With hotels suiting all sizes of pockets in close vicinity, this place is famous among tourists who prefer being close to beach. That makes it one of the busiest places in Bali.
You will find constant stream of tourists from all around the world, flowing up and down the street. You will find here everything- from massage parlours to money changers and from souvenir shops to 24 hour departmental stores. Street is lined up with number of restaurants offering all types of cuisine to take you to a rich gastronomical experience. Being one of the best places for shopping, you need to bargain hard to get best prices.
Also remain aware of the strangers offering services of escorts and ‘more’. Its a busy tourist place so all the pros and cons of such places are to be taken care of. There are many shops selling tour, tattoos, clothes and spas. A lot of people will try to stop you for a sale. Need to be careful about, whom to cater and whom not. Since Legian is more famous for some street shopping, therefore more serious shoppers might like to go to Kuta or Seminyak markets nearby.
The way to beach passes through the busiest tourist market of the Kuta area. So staying at Mercure Legian is like enjoying everything day out and night and then relaxing in comfortable environs of your room.
This hotel might not be so spacious like hotels in Nusa Dua area or Ubud region of Bali but it still provides enough luxury to enjoy stay in romantic destination like Bali. Rooms are descent and service is excellent. Highlight is the rooftop pool and the nearby bar. Either go for a poolside room or a room high up with a balcony to get best of views. There is another bar near restaurant at lobby level. We didn’t had the opportunity to dine here, but had breakfast in two mornings and they were quite relishing. Overall, we had a thoroughly enjoyable experience of stay at Mercure Bali Legian. We didn’t dine here, as we tried some Indian food at Queens.
Well, it might quite be OK if you are a non-Indian and searching for an Indian restaurant in Bali and land at Queen’s. But if you are an Indian and love your taste, than you will feel a bit disappointed here, especially for the taste of Indian foods you love. Ambience is good but lot more needs to be done for the food items and also in terms of service. The staff needs to know about Indian food, when they are serving in an Indian restaurant.
Bali itself is a dream destination and staying in Melia Bali adds zing to this dream! Its an ultimate Balinese hospitality and captures all the aura & beauty that can be associated with this beautiful island. It is a big beach resort and actually staying here is itself a complete holiday with there being a private beach and all sort of activities.
Hotel is in Nusa Dua area, which itself is a calm and secluded area reserved for top class hotels, quite far from tourist frenzy at Kuta or what is like in Ubud. That might not be of liking to all, but certainly favourite for those who love to be in calm and serene place.
Once you enter the hotel, you will feel how it is like to be in a high end hotel in Bali. You will be welcomed traditionally with flowers and coconut.
Hotel has a beautiful lobby, befitting the mood of the place. It is such a big property that you won’t find too many people (guests) around at any place, else than the beach area.
Hotel is not a high rise. It is often said about Bali that there as a rule you can’t have a building higher than a coconut tree. Hence only the main section of hotel has three floors. Rest all villas and apartments are spread in sprawling coastal greens. Overall, there are 494 accommodations in ten different categories.
Hotel has every other facility, one can think of, including spa (YHI), yoga and treatments. Service is very good, staff is hospitable and food quite good. Rooms are clean, spacious and aesthetically designed.
There are also some suites with there own pool alongside there bedrooms. A pool is shared by few rooms. These are some of the best rooms in the property. Resort also has 56 premium lagoon access rooms. Lagoon access suites feature a private patio, which gives direct access to the resort’s new lagoon just steps away.
There are also some garden villas (precisely ten), which form the top notch of accommodation in the property. All villas are in secluded compound which includes a walled tropical garden, a private plunge pool, outdoor dining area, a sunken bathtub as well as outdoor shower. Every villa has a true Balinese architecture with high class service. It gives a totally different perspective of paradise.
In order to showcase the traditional Balinese Hindu culture, there are many villas named on Hindu gods and there is even a temple in the complex.
Melia Bali also has a traditional Bali Hindu temple in its complex. Temple is known as Segara Amrta.
As with all beach resorts, private beach is one of the biggest attractions and Melia Bali is no exception. Whole day, you will found guests relaxing here, enjoying water sports and other activities. Beach and pool area are the most beautiful. There are a few restaurants on the beach itself.
Same can be said about the pool area. Since there are host of pools in the whole property, you will never find any pool crowded, Hence you can have your own private moments here.
Hotel has a beautiful landscape. Contemporary tropical architecture, bold decor and spacious gardens express the essence of Bali. There is a Sorrento Mediterranean Restaurant, Lotus Asian Garden Restaurant, Sateria Beachside restaurant, Sakura Japanese Restaurant and 24 hour El Patio coffee shop as well as Melia Bali Bars.
Resort enjoys an excellent location just 15 kms from Ngurah Rai International airport. It is walking distance to Bali collections, which is a shopping centre, food and entertainment mall and a museum. It is 850 metres from Bali international convention centre and 750 metres from Nusa Dua Convention centre.
Nusa Dua-ITDC area is recognised for its safety due to the international level of safety standard and security systems practiced by all hotels in the region. But if you need to venture out in the city and be the part of the hustle & bustle, then you need a transport, as the city is bit far, although there is a shopping mall nearby. Our stay in hotel was not quite long, but was quite impressive as far as we were able to experience. Tourists long remember their stay here and leave some wonderful memories like this one below, which even hotel likes to preserve.
Yogyakarta on the Indonesian island of Java is often called locally as Jogja or Jogjakarta. It is known for its traditional arts and cultural heritage. Hence it was quite apt for us to have stayed in a hotel known for its heritage itself. The Phoenix was such a hotel.
The original building was built in 1918 as a private residence of a trading company owner. At a time of recession in 1930s this building was auctioned. The new owner rented it out to a Dutchman who converted it into a pensioner’s hotel by the name of “Splendid”. From their the journey of almost a century has brought the hotel to its present day avatar.
This hotel has got a very distinct charm. It is certainly not of those big hotel types, but it has got a unique appeal that takes slightly back into history. It is historical in its appearance but modern in its comfort, hence it combines modernity with tradition. Though I stayed two nights at this hotel on our whirlwind tour to Indonesia but in the end, I felt that I got less time to enjoy the hotel. On to our both nights in the hotel, we had long days- first one being a day-long train journey from Bandung to Yogyakarta and next day, tiring trips to Borobudur and Prambanan temples. The Phoenix provided perfect relaxation to our exhausted souls and bodies.
Despite its colonial appearance, hotel didn’t disappoint in its Indonesian hospitality- from traditional welcome to traditional Indonesian drinks with the buffet breakfast. For us, a mix traditional Indonesian with continental was always a preferred choice and we were delighted to get that. Being a heritage property, this hotel also gives some very unique experiences, whether through its signature cocktails or through its vintage car drives around the city to give you some fantastic experience of the city often called as Indonesia’s soul.
Indonesian drinks at the buffet breakfast were simply amazing. This hotel has also been famous for one if its signature drink- “The Gin Sling”. It is a delicious recipe with gin, sweet and sour mix, grenadine syrup and soda on top. It was said to be the only drink available when this hotel was run for pensioners. Originally, the Gin Sling was meant as a woman’s drink, hence the attractive colour. But today, it is definitely enjoyed by all and regulars usually say that without this drink, any visit to The Phoenix Hotel in Yogyakarta is incomplete.
Its fun to be on window seat of a plane, provided you are interested in capturing images. And if images are from a beautiful beach resort like Bali, then you just can’t stop clicking. How different it is to see a place from the top, then being there! A lot perhaps. Lot changes with the change of the angle and perspective. Eye angle is more wide than ever. The view and the perspective, both become more holistic. Hence the idea of beauty also changes!
So here starts the fun-
Plane looks like walking right into the sea!
… or along it! Is it quite close for comfort or just thrilling!!
It looks more normal now-
Quite different to see a beach resort from up in the sky!
… but it still looks amazing with all those boats and yachts lined up!
The three shots of the sea link from Denpasar towards Nusa Dua. The view is equally fascinating as was to actually travel on that bridge-
….its big. We don’t have anything like this in India, I presume (not undermining Worli sea link in Mumbai).
…. right on the top. Want to get airdropped here!
You can also see the difference in the colours of the sea in different patches..
On to the other side of island…
Now getting farther and higher… seeing more of the land-sea divide.
Leaving behind the land but with lots of memories stacked up in baggage!
These are days of Ramlila around the country and perfect time to see Ramayana as performed in different parts of world. Prominent among them is Indonesia. The islands of Java, Bali and Sumatra still have the historical hindu influence and they still follow the hindu culture and traditions. Java is also famous for its theatrical rendering of Hindu epic Ramayana. Although the story is more or less the same, but the presentation in traditional Java style is very fascinating. It is one of the high points for tourists visiting Java, specially Yogyakarta.
Ramayana Ballet is performed at Purawisata, located just one kilometre from Jalan Malioboro at Yogyakarta in Indonesia. Purawisata is a place where legendary Ramayana Ballets are performed. This particular Purawisata is very close to Yogyakarta (Jogjakarta) Palace.
Purawisata is one of the top tourist attractions in Java. It is said that this place holds the record for a show performed every night without even a day off for more than 40 years now. Whatever the weather be and whatever the number of visitors be, the show has always gone uninterrupted. It has marvellous performance of traditional dance and culture. Its the same story that has been carved out on reliefs of Prambanan temple (You read my post on Prambanan Temple here).
The story taken from the epic written by Valmiki has been recreated into an enchanting performance with mixed variety of elements from the art, dance, music, drama, lyrics, song, make-up, special costumes, stage and lighting.
In the performance, whole narrative of the Valmiki’s epic has been summarised into an hour-long performance divided into several acts. Interestingly, entire story is presented through body movements and dances. There are no dialogues. There is background music of Java gending to sync with the dance poses. Singers also hum Javanese songs in the background. There is slight difference in the names of the characters, as we pronounce here in India.
The three main characters-
See some beautiful scenes from the performance-
Rahwana and the Kalamaricha
Rama, Sinta & Laksmana in the forest
Searching for Sinta
Sinta in Arga-coka garden
Sinta in Arga-coka garden
Mandodari, wife of Rahwana
Hanoman meets Sinta in Alengka
Waking up the Kumbakarna
The war begins
Rama fighting the Rahwana
There is also a Gazebo Garden Restaurant in the premises of the Purawisata. Just before the start of the show, one can enjoy an exotic authentic Indonesian dinner here. The restaurant has a marvellous atmosphere. It also has a outdoor terrace. Often tickets for the ballet are available in package with the dinner at the Gazebo. It makes a perfect evening for the tourists coming to Yogyakarta. Amphi theatre is located right next to the restaurant.
Want to watch the full show of Ramayana Ballet as performed at Purawisata at Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia! See the film on my YouTube channel-
Bali is know for its culture and beaches. But it is also a hot spot for adventure. A classic two hour visually spectacular rafting trip on the Ayung river in Ubud region of Bali is a mix of excitement, fun & breathtaking views. Carving through some of Bali’s most fantastic landscape, Class II & III rapids wind through deep valleys, cascading waterfalls, dense tropical rainforest and towering cliffs. An adventure worth an experience while in Bali.
There are a few rafting operators in and around Ubud and Sobek is one of them which was our operator for the trip. Rafting is a thrill and it helps when the instructors are lively and engaging. The base is just a few kilometres from Ubud town in the forest area. Rafters get into gear at the base and then trek downhill amidst deep forest to the river.
Rapid might not be high grade but was fairly long and thrilling. Two hour rafting trip has many surprises, including passing under waterfalls and through dense forests.
Approaching a waterfall
…and under it, super fun!
Some photo fun!
Through the canyon
Midway halt for some cool drinks
What was the most intriguing part was the reliefs and carving n the rock faces! With towering cliffs on both sides and deep river in between, how come anybody did this!! Big surprise…
As I said that though the rapid was grade II and grade III but it has some of its adventurous moments. See for yourself…
The rafting route exposes to beauty of the countryside in Ubud. Ubud is one of the most beautiful and hence tourist active region of Bali. Angung mountain is close to Ubud. Ayung river flows from the hill. Locally it is believed that the river water has medicinal properties. It might be true as there are many herbs in the forest and river flowing through these medicinal herbs might be carrying their properties. It is believed that the water has a cure for skin diseases and joint pains. You will often find people taking bath in the river to get treatment. People often get out of all there clothes and keep their body immersed in water for hours. We found many during our rafting trip.
Free flowing Ayung river
Resorts on the banks of the river
amidst the wild!
People taking bath…
…bathing in the river is a ritual here
A perfectly enjoyable experience to have, while in Bali. It was another departure for us from the standard image of Bali. Worth to have experience.
You can also watch a video of this rafting experience on my YouTube channel-
There were many revelations for us in Bali – an island of Hindu culture in Islamic Indonesia. And many of them came to us in the Bali Art Centre. I will be talking about the Bali Art Centre in a later post, but this is about something we witnessed there. Pre-wedding photo-shoots are not uncommon world over. Even Bali is famous globally as a wedding and honeymoon destination. But here I am talking about pre-wedding photo-shoots of local Hindu Balinese couples. Its grown into a tradition now and is extremely popular.
Its quite unlike hindu traditions in India where to be bride and groom are not supposed to meet openly before the marriage and a planned, open and detailed photo-shoot is out of question. But here, to be couples get the photo-shoot at all type of exotic, traditional, historical or natural locations and in all types of costumes from modern to casual and traditional. Actually, even muslims in other parts of Indonesia follow this tradition.
So, we got to see a few such pre-wedding photo-shoots at Bali Art Centre. And, the place being one of the most important place in Bali for traditional culture, has many artistic backdrops which are popular among the wedding planners for such photo-shoots. So goes the costume to match the backdrops. Hence, all the couples you will see here are in traditional Balinese dresses. The first couple that we encountered at the stage of the open-air theatre of the centre was perhaps the most beautiful of all of them. You can see for yourself (click on a image to see it in bigger size and enjoy its beauty)-
Instructions fro the crew
Holding the ‘queen’s’ gown!
Thoughts of new beginning
The ‘royal’ groom!
One for the cameras…
…and for the cameras in this side
The ‘full’ size
Holding the make-up
Look gorgeous. Don’t they! Most interesting part was that, these couples had absolutely no objection on likes of us clicking their photographs. It is said that Balinese weddings have a romance, mysticism and a unique culture. Though it has its roots in the hindu traditions, but Bali has developed a culture altogether different from what is practiced in hindu cultures of India. Its traditional, but it is no more rigid. Like hinduism in India, Bali too followed a caste system, but with changing times, it it growing weaker.
Here is another bride-to be waiting for her partner to get ready.
These photos from the pre-wedding shoot are also used in wedding invitations of the couple, besides going to their wedding albums.
Prince and princess charming!
We don’t have such elaborate pre-wedding shoots in our part of world, atleast I can’t recall anything like this
While the groom gets ready!
Lost in thoughts!
It was indeed, one of the highlights of the trip for us. One of our best chances to understand the Balinese culture.