Popular with yoga buffs and luxury travel enthusiasts alike, the island of the Gods is a spiritual place well-known for its vibrant arts scene. These days, we want and expect more from travel. Beyond the realm of private pools and guided tours, we expect every last one of our senses to be awoken. Fortunately, Bali can supply.
For those of you with a hankering for a culturally authentic experience, there's no better place to indulge the senses than at Uluwatu, Bali's iconic 10th century temple. Perched high upon a cliff overlooking the island's pristine western shores, it seems fitting that the traditional Balinese Kecak dance has a permanent home here, with performances taking place daily at 6 PM. Around fifty performers take part in the dance, chanting in unison as the Ramayana story is told. The excitement all takes place at sunset, making it a favourite amongst tourists who are looking to combine a cultural experience with epic views as the sun sets behind the temple and ocean beyond.
Whether it's the story behind the ancient art of wood carving or the myths surrounding the majestic Mount Agung, there are plenty of tales to be told by the Balinese people. If you're a lover of the arts, sign up to the Art and Taste package at The Legian Bali to enjoy Balinese cuisine accompanied by a side of conversation with designers and artisans from the John Hardy Ubud Workshop & Showroom. Their knowledgeable team will take you on a journey through the fascinating world of Balinese jewellery-making. This exclusive experience also comes with three night's accommodation in what just so happens to be one of the best hotels in Bali.
Whether it's the streets of Ubud, a bustling market in Kuta or a local warung in Seminyak, no matter where you go, the smell of Balinese offerings and incense will fill the air. If you're not a fan of incense, it's probably best you stay away from Bali, as it's a slap in the face and an assault on the senses to those who aren't. A delightful attention to the wafts of spice and home cooking weaving through the streets, religious offerings are a huge part of the Balinese way of life. You'll find them brightening up roads, pavements and doorsteps everywhere, spreading that familiar smell.
A story left untold by the pages of brochures thick with gloss, Bali's black sand beaches make up a handful of secluded retreats worth heading east for. When Mount Agung spitefully erupted in 1963, lava and rocks trickled towards the coast, leaving behind a trail of destruction. Uninhabitable for the years that followed, the land remains sparsely populated and tourists here are a few and between compared to southern Bali. Spend a day or two on Amed or Jasri beach to simply kick back, relax and enjoy the sand between your toes.
From banana leaf-wrapped catch of the day to Balinese specialities, the flavours and textures to be explored in Balinese cuisine are plenty. The good thing is, there's plenty of good food to try for Vegetarians like me. Sign up to one of Bali's legendary cooking classes to soak up insights from local chefs and families. Just one day spent in a Balinese kitchen cooking the classics is enough to leave you hungry for more. You'll not only go home with a pocket full of memories, but you'll no doubt leave with a suitcase full of recipes and ingredients to wow back home. Simultaneoulsy known as both 'cat poo coffee' and the 'world's most expensive coffee', luwak coffee could be on your list of must tries when on the Island of the Gods. Please choose carefully where you enjoy your coffee and check if the cats are allowed to run free or if it is only about the money. If you find the animals are treated badly, choose against it. Made in the most unique of circumstances, the Balinese offering tends to split the opinion of those tourist who take the plunge.
Have you been to Bali? What did you enjoy most?