Old Indonesian folklore refers to a giant turtle-esque monster that roamed the primordial oceans, perhaps at a time when all the land was bound together in a single rugged mass.
The tellers of this story spoke of the day when the turtle died and described how its body became embedded in the silt and rock deep beneath the water and from its shell mountains grew and forests that sprawled across their slopes, leading down to beaches where sand had collected, nudged into subtle ridges by the lapping of gentle waves. This fecund new island, mounted on the shell of the dead leviathan, is what we know today as Bali, a tourist destination of increasing popularity, especially amongst the nearby Aussi youth, namely those bedraggled bogans who hit the beaches and spend weeks in the surf or the sand.
If you’re looking for night life then Kuta is the place to go. There’s cheap accommodation dotted around the town and plenty of bouncing, neon-lit night spots to keep you up – take Sky Garden for example, which boasts six floors of bars and dance squares, crowded with a multi-cultural menagerie of friendly, fun-loving folk. But, if you’re not in the mood for getting lost in a foam pit, there’s also plenty to do by day, most of which revolves around the main beaches where plenty of surfing, volleyball and relaxation unfolds. If you’re looking for something a little more authentic then you might want to head inland, through walls of jungle, to Ubud, where there are lots of secluded monkey temples, lagoons, monasteries, spice markets and rice paddies. Here you’re more likely to meet the locals and discover the peaceful, verdant respite of their everyday.
If you continue up north, to the coast, you can find several sleepy ports before heading on to the beautiful Gili Islands, where you can while away the days lying supine on warm beaches, enjoying wide vistas, replete with the volcanoes, rugged hills and jungles of a prehistoric paradise. If you’re not interested in the islands, you can always take a taxi or bus back down the eastern coast of the island, where you’ll find plenty of rickety maritime villages, offering launch points for dive or snorkel excursions. One of our top recommendations for diving would be Manta Point. There you can jump off the boat with a backdrop of tall white bluffs wearing crowns of emerald foliage. Dive down under the surface and soon you’ll find yourself gliding alongside manta rays, turtles (not the huge mythological kind, mind you) and fish of every shape and colour you could imagine. It’s truly an awe-inspiring experience. Another good place to dive is Tulamben, which offers you a chance to walk out from a volcanic, black-pebbled beach and wade into the water. After swimming a short distance you’ll find the Liberty Wreck as it looms through the bubbling shroud. It’s a sunken cargo ship from WWII and you can actually swim inside its disintegrating rooms and follow the rounded sides of its rusted hull, until you reach the prow.
One of the great things we haven’t yet mentioned about Bali is that it’s also a melting pot of different religions, with Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities all gathered together in peaceful coexistence. It really is a fascinating experience to see many varying manifestations of life crowded into such a small space. So, if you’re looking for somewhere a little different but well-developed and accustomed to receiving tourists, Bali could be the place for you. It’s far-flung paradise that’s relatively small and easy to travel around (it takes roughly a day to circle the island). Yet the best thing about Bali is it’s abundance of wildlife, particularly it’s high biodiversity of marine animals and unspoiled reefs, which have earned it a place in the Coral Triangle. If you still need convincing, then consider all the unique, Indonesian jewellery sold in markets around the island. Here you’ll find the work of some of the world’s most skilled silversmiths – artisans who’ve perfected the complicated filigree technique and acquired a distinctive granulation method in order to shape intricately detailed and exceptionally rare designs.