The moment you step out of your aircraft at the old airport at Denpasar, you are struck, if you are from India, by a sense of deja vu on seeing the chaos all around. Even so, this does not detract from what the beautiful island of Bali has to offer.
As you drive out of the airport towards your hotel or resort, you cannot miss the strong Indian connection - from the statues and idols of Hindu gods to the roads and commercial areas that you drive through. That Bali's 4.22 million population is 80 percent Hindu makes that connection stronger. People on the island freely discuss gods - from Vishnu and goddess Saraswati to others - and even Bollywood stars, be it Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan or Kareena Kapoor.
Bali has a lot to offer compared to other tourist destinations in Southeast Asia.
Be it the beautiful Nusa Dua, Kuta, Jimbaran or Seminyak beaches with a lot of water-sport activities, the active nightlife of the Kuta area, the serene temples or the active volcanoes - there is not a moment of boredom on the island.
There are hotels, apartments, resorts and private villas available aplenty at most of these popular destinations. These can suit every kind of traveller and budget as they range from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 50,000 ($47-$792) per night. Of course, hotels and resorts on the beach front command a higher price.
The top-end hotels are mostly in the Nusa Dua, Kuta and Seminyak areas.
The warmth of the Balinese is quite evident from people on the roads to hotel front desks to room service.
"Visitors are welcome in Bali. We try to make their stay and experience here as comfortable as we can," Viduri, a front desk executive at a leading hotel, told IANS.
The moment you change the currency from dollars or any other, the feeling of becoming a millionaire comes instantly. For instance, $100 will get you 1.1 million Indonesian Rupiah.
"At times, while making payments, one gets a little confused on what is the exact dollar value of the object or service. But you can have benchmarks like Rp 100,000 works out to less than $10," Mariah, a tourist from Spain, pointed out.
In Bali, a visit to the active Mount Batur volcano is a different kind of experience. The most active volcano on the island, it is located about 90 km from Nusa Dua and a car ride can take over two hours. The experience of standing in front of an active volcano is quite thrilling.
The drive to and from the volcano will take you through Ubud, a town famous for its paintings, woodcraft, silver jewellery and other traditional Balinese crafts. There is a lot to buy and bargain for it. Be it galleries or the homes of the artists and craftsmen, every place has a lot to offer.
"Many tourists pick up paintings, woodcraft (especially masks) and silver jewellery from Ubud," Vinata, a Hindu who drives a Toyota Innova for a travel agency, told IANS.
Hiring a multi-utility seven-seater vehicle like a Toyota Innova can cost Rp 500,000 (Rs. 3,000/$47) for 10 hours in Bali - and this is perhaps the best way to travel.
The cliff temple in Ulluwatu is a must-visit place, especially to see the sun setting in the Indian Ocean. Here, one can watch the Hindu epic Ramayana being enacted by Balinese actors.
The Kuta beach area is full of life with scores of bars, night clubs, eating joints, shopping areas and much more. Hundreds of tourists, especially from Australia and the European countries come here. The Bali bombing of 2002, which left over 220 people dead, has failed to kill the spirit of the revellers here.
Bali, definitely, has a lot to offer for a price which is also manageable.
How to reach:
From India, travel through Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia), Singapore (Singapore Airlines and others) or Bangkok (Thai Airlines). Thence, fly by carriers like Air Asia, Lion and others to Denpasar.
Flight time from New Delhi to Kuala Lumpur/Singapore: 5 hours 30 minutes.
Flight time from Kuala Lumpur/Singapore to Denpasar - less than 3 hours.
Accomodation: Ranges from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 50,000 ($47-$792) per night.
For the really high end traveller, there is the Bulgari hotel, one of only two in the world, where a room costs Rs. 150,000 ($2,380) a night.
A meal for four in a mid-range restaurant will cost Rs. 2,000 ($31) without alcohol.