Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bali - a land of temples

“Which country are you from?” was the most common question that we heard over the next 4 days. On hearing “India”, I was amused at the reactions – dialogues from Hindi films to introductions to the local Shah Rukh Khans and Amitabh Bachchans. All in all, being an Indian is a good thing in Bali.

The people are wonderful – soft spoken, polite, courteous, hospitable and friendly. Most of them are Hindu but their brand of Hinduism, in my opinion, is a cross of Buddhism and Hinduism. I have never seen so many statues especially of the monkey god all over the place and wrapped in skirts. The people are obsessed with praying. They have an idol in front of their home, shop or place of work and are constantly offering incense and little trays of sweets, flowers and everyday items like cigarettes!

Be careful when walking, lest you stamp one of the offerings!

Bali is a huge island and has plenty to offer the visitor. It is famous for its traditional and modern dance, sculpture, painting, metalwork, leather and music. It has been influenced by Indian, Chinese, Malay, Dutch and Portuguese cultures. This makes it truly unique.

It is famous for its traditional dances.

...................and its woodwork.

One must not miss the following sites:

Tanah Lot – one of the most beautiful temple complexes in Bali. It is situated in the sea and approach is during low tide. Best to visit to view the sunset but we visited during the first half of the day and it was still picturesque.

Uluwatu Temple – This is an 11th century temple complex situated on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. Don’t miss the sunset views as it is spectacular.

Mother Temple of Besakih – It is the largest and the most important Hindu temple on the island of Bali. It dates to the 14th century and is built on the southern slopes of Mount Agung, the principal volcano of Bali. This Mother Temple is actually a complex made up of twenty-two temples that sit on parallel ridges. It has stepped terraces and flights of stairs which ascend to a number of courtyards and brick gateways that in turn lead up to the main spire or Meru structure, which is called Pura Penataran Agung. All this is aligned along a single axis and designed to lead the spiritual person upward and closer to the mountain which is considered sacred.

Kintamani and Mount Batur – Kintamani is where everyone heads to see the active volcano of Mount Batur. A common event on the itinerary is to have a buffet lunch at one of the restaurants at Kintamani with the lake and mountain views.

Mum and I having lunch at Kintamani overlooking the volcano.

The rice terraces at Tegallalang in North Ubud are fascinating.

The Sacred Monkey Forest at Ubud – This is a sacred Balinese Hindu sanctuary for monkeys.

The water sports. Much cheaper to do it in Bali than even Goa. Wide variety to choose from – snorkelling, scuba diving, banana boat, jet skis, jet rides, parasailing, etc.

Nusa Dua Turtle Island is a special sanctuary for turtles. Not only can you see and touch the turtles but there are other birds and animals like eagles, vultures, snakes, porcupines, bats, snakes, iguanas, etc which you can touch and hold and have a photo opportunity with.

This turtle was 75 years old.


Turtle Island

Balinese puppets

Flower offerings

And last but not least, do not forget to have dinner on Jimbaran beach.

Each restaurant has seating on the beach itself .........

......with live entertainment.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Singapore - always refreshing

Everytime you go to Singapore, there is something new to do. I love the way they reinvent themselves and keep the experience fresh and interesting.

Ofcourse most of my time was spent with the family especially my cute little niece Chloe. But I did find the time to visit the Orchid garden in the Botanical gardens and practice my photography as well as visit Sentosa Island with Tiana, Giles and mum.

The Singapore Botanical gardens are a true gem. Given the size of Singapore and the number of inhabitants, I love the fact that there is still so much greenery everywhere. The gardens are free and open from 5 am to midnight. It is very huge, 74 hectares, and you really have to pick what you wish to explore so that you make the most of out it. I chose to visit the orchid garden and was able to spend a meaningful 2 hours there admiring the orchids.

The orchid – Vanda Miss Joaquim – is Singapore’s national flower. There is also an orchid named after Lady Diana and the former President of India’s wife Mrs Usha Narayan.

The orchid named after the former First Lady of India.

If you plan to visit Sentosa, do buy the “Day Play” pass which gives you access to 16 attractions for only 66 SGD. I thought it was value for money because it included the cable car return ride as well as unlimited skyrides. Don’t miss the laser battle at Fort Siloso and the 3D shows which are also covered under this package. Even though it rained heavily, we could enjoy our day out as there were walkways connecting the attractions, thus protecting us from the rain. We had a thoroughly enjoyable day.