“I didn’t choose Bali, Bali chose me. I vacationed here three years ago, and when I returned to New York (where I’m originally from, by way of Jamaica), Bali never left me. I thought about it every day. Eight months after moving here to become a high school English teacher, I am still in awe of Bali’s energy. Bali is a mood, a frame of mind rather than a destination. Balinese culture plays out in every aspect of life—from delicately decorated flower petal offerings, to shutting down roads for a colorful religious temple procession, to the trance-like music and traditional dances. The Balinese’s ancient cultural practices are not interrupted by the massive land development and push towards modernization. Offerings are made to the deities multiple times a day, and hundred-year-old temples sit beside shiny, new architectural marvels.
“As a Black woman, I am a bit of a novelty here. I get stared at a lot. Once, on a bus, a lady rubbed my skin then looked at her finger as if she was expecting my color to rub off on her hands. I shook a taxi driver’s hand and he pulled my hand to his nose and inhaled deeply. I can still feel his nose hairs on the back of my hand. On two separate occasions, while getting massaged, the masseuses pulled at my hair. Indonesian curiosity knows no bounds, so I get asked many personal questions on a daily basis. Among them are, ‘Where are you going? Where are you from? Do have husband? Do you have baby? Where do you live?’ I get asked to pose for photos often too.
“I love the diversity of landscapes that Bali provides. If I crave a beach getaway, I live minutes from pristine beaches. And if I want to see mountains, volcanoes and rice paddies, I can get up to the island’s interior in Ubud in a little over an hour. The landscape is varied, so even though I work here, I can plan mini-retreats for myself just minutes away from the busy southern coast. Bali is very affordable and has a range of activities to suit every budget and travel style. Luxuries are affordable here. Here are a few of my favorite things about Bali.
1. Full Moon Beach Parties
“A good beach party is the perfect mix of good music, good food and dancing with wild abandon. A full moon is special to the Balinese, and it’s marked by parties all over the island. Padang Padang in Uluwatu and Disko Africa are my two favorite beach parties. At Padang Padang, smoke from fresh barbequed seafood wafts along the beach. I like taking a sarong to sit on the soft sand and sway to soothing reggae covers. Disko Africa plays live sets of Afro-pop, Afrobeat, zouk and music from the African diaspora. There is something magical in dancing to pulsating beats under a sky full of stars and bright moon.
“What’s not to like about a spa day? Relaxation is a natural way of life, and those seeking it out are sure to find their way to bliss. In general, spa costs are significantly lower than other parts of the world. It is common to have a four-hour spa day for $60. I think the Balinese have a great disposition and cultural background for peace and serenity. I like stepping into the Moorish palatial fantasy that is Prana Spa in Seminyak. Orange and deep maroon red walls tinged with colorful stained glass easily make this the best-decorated spa in Bali.
3. Beach Life
“In my opinion, the best beaches on the island are in the Bukit peninsula. There are many choices, from the powder white sands of Nusa Dua in the east to the soaring limestone cliffs on Uluwatu and Jimbaran in the west. Karma is my favorite beach club. Paddleboards, surfboards and small rowboats are available to play in the water. Out of the water, cabanas, plush beach towels, a good book and a beach-inspired playlist are all part of a long, lazy beach day. The sunsets on the Bukit are spectacular and are a perfect end to any day.”—Diana O’Gilvie