The brand new toll road rose over the middle of Benoa Bay, passing mangrove swamps, a lonely spirit house in the tidal flats, and the airport runway at Ngurah Rai. It deposited our guide Bli Komang, Bama and I onto the top end of the Bukit Peninsula, where a traffic-snarled road lined with billboards would ultimately lead to the temple of Uluwatu. Read more
As we trundled down a busy artery towards Sanur, a mellow beach town in southern Bali, I grasped at the scant words I knew flowing back and forth between Bama and Bli Komang.
“Before becoming a driver, he used to be a sculptor,” Bama relayed. We soon learned that Bli Komang hailed from a village of stone carvers, and that the Balinese love of art – such an integral part of their culture – was instilled in him from an early age. According to Bli Komang, all Balinese students had to choose from four kinds of traditional arts: dance, painting, decorative sculpture, and carving statues. Read more
Bama was convinced. After five visits to Bali, he had just found his favourite place on the island. At a quarter to eight we were among a small handful of visitors in the grounds of Taman Sukasada Ujung, a water palace and pleasure garden once built for the local king. Read more
From the dawn of recorded history, one of humankind’s most enduring narratives has been the eternal battle between good and evil. In Balinese tradition this is expressed in Barong dance, named after the mythical king of the spirits who leads his followers in the fight against demon queen Rangda. Read more
We left Ubud at six in the morning, stomachs empty and eyes still heavy with sleep. Bli Komang had the habit of showing up half an hour early, which Bama and I saw as a chance to gain extra time before the afternoon rains. Both of us admired Bli Komang’s work ethic. “I’d rather be the one waiting than the guest,” he said. Read more
Bli Komang turns to me and laughs. I am sitting beside him, sweat trickling down my face, inside a dimly lit warung on a main road in Sanur. Outside there is little to distinguish the restaurant from others save a baby blue sign proclaiming “HANDAYANI”, its bolded letters above a photo cutout of babi guling, Balinese suckling pig.
Off in the distance, a lone farmer waded foot-deep in the paddy fields, scattering nutrients over the rows of young shoots. The bucolic scene was but a short distance from Goa Gajah, the ‘Elephant Cave’, down a series of narrow roads lined by red brick walls, past an airy pavilion where local women in kebaya sat preparing food for a ceremony. Read more
The rock-cut gateway stood at the end of a dramatic approach, where the footpath descended through soaring coconut palms and rice terraces now ripe for harvest, before being hemmed in by natural walls of solid rock. Two posts framed the entrance, one with words clearly inscribed in Balinese and Indonesian, and the other in English. Read more
Beneath the crystal clear surface, black clouds sprang from the depths, continuously spreading in small plumes over a sandy bed. The spring bubbled into a rectangular pool enclosed in walls of black volcanic stone, its perimeter fringed with tufts of aquatic moss. Read more
In Bali, magic can unfold on a busy street corner. Raised above the din of passing motorcycles and night traffic, the pavilion stood proudly opposite Ubud Palace, beside a stone wall marking the edge of the main village temple. Read more