Bali on the map seems such a small island. Indeed it covers a small area of just 5,620 square kilometres, and is one of the smallest islands in the Indonesian archipelago. However, it is a great mistake to think that you can see all of Bali in a couple of days. Apart from a stunning range of scenery that varies every view kilometres and amaze of criss-crossing roads to explore there are thousands of places of interest to discover, and a culture and lifestyle full of exciting events to witness.
"Hello ! Hello !" Hands wave and ready smiles flash as curious pedestrians leave it to the last exasperated beef of the horn to adroitly step off the main thoroughfare. Double and triple rows of immaculate school children riding abreast on bicycles, the odd regiment of ducks marching fieldwards in military precision, event religious processions that stretch for miles, all are common road hazards in Bali, not to mention those lazy, indolent dogs that seem to think the main street is for sunning.
Bali’s roads seem to have a surprise around every corner, and when touring you are bound to be entertained by a visual feast : picturesque vignettes of local life are interpersed with stunning views of natural scenery the change with a rapidity astounding for such a small island.
The side of the road is sportsground, marching arena, local market, meeting place and in general the hub of communal activity. Routes generally pass though the main street of villages and towns. Rice and sweet potatoes are spread out on the verge to dry in the sun. Rows of the cooks in baskets are lovingly set our for a daily sunning. Towering offerings are borne gracefully templewards, balanced on the heads of brigthly dressed women.
Your destination may be vulcano, temple, palace, dance performance of craft centre. Or a number of these combined to make up an exciting half-day or full-day tour. Bali is crisscrossed by amaze of inter-connecting routes that range from modern highways to narrow roller-coaster routes and unsealed back-country paths passable only by motorbike or jeep.
A good map is an invaluable tool, whether on tour or venturing out unescorted. The best and busiest roads connect Denpasar with the main towns and tourist resorts. Tour buses and taxis generally limit themselves to these routes, and travel agents can arrange hire of motorbikes bike or jeeps for those who wish to explore further off the beaten track. Bicycles are also available for hire for the more adventurous explores.
Public transport is definitely recommended only for those who have mastered a little of the language and are prepared to put up with local conditions. Public vehicles are generally loaded to full capacity, and follow unpredictable schedules making a journey of any length a test of patience and endurance for the uninitiated.
The two main public bus stations in Denpasar, Kreneng, serving the eats and central parts of the island, and Ubung, serving wets Bali, offer a choice of local and inter-island buses, speeding horn-harping minibuses called “colts" and smaller "bemo" trucks that carry up to 12 persons plus innumerable shopping baskets livestock and various market-bound goods squezeed into every possible space. For shorter distance, novelty rides there is always the dokar pony-cart that will take you at a sedate pace along local roads and thorouhfares.
Even getting lost in Bali can be fun ! The island is too small to be lost for long, and every turn in the road promises the unexpected.
Hiking is another experience altogether. Paths should be worked out well in advance and an experienced tour guide is needed, as the best routes follow the natural terrain, passing cross-country through terraced rice-field, traversing gorges to isolated villages where the local people can be seen at their daily work.
For those who love the sea Bali has an off-shore playground comparable to none. Scuba diving and snorkeling tours are available with a number of tour agencies to the many and varied dive sites which have been carefully selected for their special attributes. Sailling tours on local outrigger sailboats can be arranged departing from Sanur, Benoa Harbour and Nusa Dua, as well as on the north coast, and keen fishermen can arrange the hire of equipment.
Besides lounging under the palm trees and sipping delectable tropical cocktails at your hotel bar, recovering from pre-holiday pressures and jet-lag, there is a whole new world discover in Bali. So much to see in fact that advance planning is well advised.
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