Destination Island: Bali

The sole Hindu island in majority-muslim Indonesia has become one of the most renowned tourist destinations anywhere in the world.

The tiny island of Bali sports a rich tapestry of history and heritage, amazing temple architecture and even world-famous surfing spots. This trifecta of tourism magnets drew almost five million foreign visitors to its shores this year.

The Balinese are very proud of their traditions and ancestry – iconic temples unlike anything anywhere in the world dot the island. Some of these consistently make the must-see lists of the world’s most respected travel publications.

First among these has to be the ‘Mother Temple’, Besakih. For a millennium, Besakih Temple has gazed down upon its devotes spread across miles of rice paddies, villages, hills and streams from its perch 1,000 meters above, on the slope of Mount Agung. Both the oldest and the largest religious complex on Bali, it consists of at least 86 individual temples.

There are two more definitely worth a visit, both for their history and for the stunning visuals – Tanah Lot Temple and Uluwatu Temple. Coincidentally, both these temples also have a connection to the water.

Tanah Lot is the calm over the fury – the ancient shrine sits perched serenely atop a rocky outcrop as waves crash loudly and constantly against its base. The natural rock bridge that links it to the mainland can be submerged at times.

Uluwatu Temple is especially important as one of Bali’s six temples which are its spiritual essence. Balanced almost precariously 70 meters above the rushing sea on the side of a steep cliff, it is replete with stunning ancient sculpture and architecture.

Bali is modernizing as quickly as the rest of the world, and this has brought in a rush of activities found in major international tourist spots. However, Bali may be one of the cheapest places to indulge.

A good example is flyboarding. You must have seen those videos of people flying in the air atop boards spewing water downwards. Now, you can do the same at Tanjung Benoa Beach in Nusa Dua.

Tanjung Benoa is also the place to go undersea walking – simply don the customized helmets at Seawalker Underwater Tandem Scooter Ride and walk about under 2 to 4 meters of water, exploring marine life at your leisure.

If your taste run too the more obscure and less conventional, perhaps you might consider a trip to the Island of the Dead. This is not a name dreamed up as tourist bait but the actual essence of Trunyan Island where natives neither bury nor cremate the deceased. Instead, bodies are placed respectfully in designated areas under Taru Menyan trees. These trees emit a perfume that masks the scent of decay. The visuals, however, are there for the brave to explore. Shiver!

It is best to avoid the October to March period because the monsoons bring in some rain. The months of April to September are drier but also more crowded, so you might have to strike a balance between the two.