Who would have thought Bali would become such a “trendy” island! I mean, sure, it was always popular because of its beauty, wonderfully lush nature and tradition, its dear smiling people, but this is way above what I might have expected few years ago when I visited for the first time. While I was thinking about this Bali series for the blog, I often stumbled across posts and photos from Bali, “things to do”, “ultimate places to visit” etc. and it seems like – everybody is in Bali at the moment or they have just come back from the place! You can’t even say that you like to travel if you haven’t been to Bali yet, right! It’s fascinating how the place can “explode” in a relatively short period of time!
Don’t get me wrong, I am more than happy that the island’s economy might get boosted by more and more visits throughout the years, but I am slightly concerned because of the impact mass tourism usually has to places. What if it just gets too crowded?
(Given the topic, let me just add that Vietnam and Cambodia are still on my bucket list, but even though I used to be so impatient to go, I am not sure any more if I am to visit these countries soon. Why? Well, it seems the two destinations are so overwhelmed thus far that I don’t really wish to be jostled by flock of people who wiggle their way out to the all popular places to take another photo of one and the same spot. This world of ours is so vast and I can go and visit other places I always wanted to see, giving Vietnam and Cambodia a chance to breath a bit. Our paths will cross at some point in the future, I am sure, but not yet, it seems.)
Anyway, for all of you who have never been to the island (if there are any of you left), let me just tell you: Bali was one of my favorite destinations! This was my first trip to the country so foreign in terms of language and alphabet, that I immediately felt lost! Also, it’s so remote when coming from Europe, that I got the impression that people there don’t really know or care about the specific country you’re from. It’s Europe, right, that was enough!
Coming from Serbia, I got used to explaining to people I encounter overseas that “it’s a small Central European country”, that my city was once “the capital of former Yugoslavia” etc. And when I came here, I didn’t expect anything less. I mean, why would Serbia be interesting to Indonesia and Bali politically or in any other way, more than to the US and the West? (And most people from the Americas I have met during my journeys did struggle to locate it.) It’s halfway around the world from Belgrade after all! And you know what happened? Just listen!
I was chatting with the guy who was carrying my bags and showing me the room at the hotel in Nusa Dua when I have checked in. Nice, polite conversation – about my flight, if I was on holidays, how long I was planning to stay on the island etc. And of course, I said where I was from. The guy was silent, thinking for a while, obviously couldn’t really place Serbia on the map of Europe in his head. But suddenly, he smiled widely.
“I know Serbia!”, he said: “Novak Djokovic, right?”
Oh, it made me so proud. Well, Novak, I sincerely thank you!
Whenever I talked to locals afterwards and when they seemed to frown in confusion after asking about my homeland, I was just mentioning Novak’s name. And got patting on my shoulder almost every time!
Can’t really tell you what my first impression was of the island, because I landed at night. The capital Denpasar’s airport seemed small but nice, and I was greeted there by the local guide I have booked in advance. He held a sign with my name on it – my first name was spelled correctly while I couldn’t even recognize letters in the last name.
It was so helpful that the guide has picked me up, since I was coming from Singapore to Bali, truly tired. The flight was pleasant, short, but I have spent few days in Singapore back then, rushing around like crazy. So much so that my feet and legs seriously ached.
(In case you’re wondering, the issue was resolved by one of the lovely Balinese massages. It’s probably too early in the series to talk about massages, since this is the first post, but let me just tell you – it felt like hitting the reset button. There is a range of treatments to choose from on the island and I just had to book me a long one. It began with the foot massage, after soaking your feet in warm water with essential oils and flowers’ petals. Then they took me to one pleasant room to get undressed and take a quick shower. Followed by the crystal scrub, the actual massage and the quick bath to enjoy a cup of warm tea in, the treatment was more than I have expected. You can treat yourself with a short half an hour massage by the swimming pool or take your time at the spa center. There are a lot of those in Bali, that’s for sure.)
My bags were put in the car, we were chatting on the way to the hotel, making arrangements to having tea together the next day. And I felt kind of relieved. Didn’t know why at that moment, but soon I realized that I was still under Singapore pressure. In comparison to the city-state that is all so disciplined and supervised, it seemed that I have come to the laid-back place that welcomed me with open arms.
It turned out to be so true!
Next: PERFECT WEATHER (2)
The full Bali SERIES