Sunday, March 2, 2008

THE MANY BALMS OF BALI

THE Island Of A Thousand Temples is a captivating paradise with its lush scenery, abundant spas and a unique and fascinating culture, as JANE SHERWOOD quickly discovers.

Eyes bulging and fingers contorted, bodies swaying in time to the Gamelan music, Balinese dancers are a sight not to be missed. My partner Barry and I sat transfixed watching a Barong dance.

The Barong is a cute, shaggy dog-like puppet operated by two dancers – think pantomime horse – challenging the Rangda, a wicked witch. Similarities with panto are obvious. The theme is the conquest of good over evil and the lead male character is played by a woman with fabulous costumes and more than a hint of slapstick.

Bali is often called the Island Of A Thousand Temples but it could easily be the island of a thousand holidays. Whether you want sun, sea and relaxation, a cultural experience or a gastronomic break, Bali will not disappoint.

The perfect place to recover from your flight is the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa on the Benoa peninsula. Built in the Nineties, it looks and feels like an ancient Balinese palace.

We were greeted in the open-air reception with cool tropical fruit juice and an ice‑cold face towel. After a dip in the calm sea and complimentary evening cocktails, we were ready for the temples.

We drove across the island, along winding roads fringed by lush green rice terraces, stopping at numerous temples.

Pura Tanah Lot in Tabanan Regency, South Bali, rises out of the Indian Ocean and looks particularly fabulous at sunrise and sunset.

The Elephant Cave temple in Bedulu village in central Bali has a huge representation of the elephant god Ganesh carved into the rock above the entrance (no real elephants, though). The Ulun Danu Beratan temple on the edge of Lake Beratan used to be surrounded by water and I found some clever camera angles that still make it look submerged.

If you have time for one only temple it has to be Pura Besakih – or the “Mother Temple” in the Tabanan Regency.

Built in the 5th century high on the slopes of Mount Agung, it sprawls across more than a mile. Carved from black volcanic rock, the building is a startling contrast to the overgrown green foliage.

Full article

Bali Tourist Board: www.bali-tourism-board.com.

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