Bali and Gili (Paradise Lost, Paradise Found)

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The famed “Island of the Gods”

because of its varied landscape of mountains and sandy beaches, Bali is a province in the country of Indonesia. The name alone evokes an image of an exotic paradise. Visiting Bali was a last minute decision so Jason Buzi had no guidebook, no reservations, and no idea where he was going to stay. He started wondering if it was a mistake to be so unprepared, especially given the late hour and Imagehow tired he was. When he went out of the airport terminal, while trying to assess his options, he made the mistake of talking to two different taxi drivers, almost resulting into a fistfight, with several people wanting to join in the commotion. There was a lot of shouting going on. Finally, his bags, which had been loaded into the first taxi, were unloaded. He went to another taxi driver instead.

Jason Buzi picked up a brochure at the airport and looked for a hotel that looked decent and deemed to be affordable. The taxi driver drove off and dropped him at the hotel. He went to check in but was told that the hotel was fully booked. He almost cried because he was really tired. He asked again the hotel worker if there was any other place available. He said all the hotels in Kuta Beach were full since it was peak season. As a result, he was really getting concerned.

Luckily, the hotel staff called their sister hotel which was located 10 minutes away and asked if there were any rooms available. Good thing the sister hotel had available rooms so he immediately went there.

 The room was really nice. It was like a small apartment with a balcony. It had a living room, a fridge, a satellite television and a Wi-Fi internet. The next day, after much needed sleep, he was off to explore Kuta Beach. It reminded him of Phuket in Thailand or Cancun on spring break or any thousands of resort towns around the world. Everything seemed to cater to foreigners and there was little to indicate whether you were in Indonesia, Bahamas, Mexico, Thailand or Australia for that matter. The place was filled up with strip malls, souvenir shops, bars, massage parlors, nightclubs, fast-food restaurants and many others. There were also many Australians that shopkeepers yelled out “Hello mate!” when they pass by their stores. The vendors were very aggressive.

Although it wasn’t in his mind when he came to Bali but he had an opportunity to eat some non-indigenous foods like Turkish Kebab and Sushi. Furthermore, Indonesian food was pretty good though.

 The second day, he barely left the hotel room and spent the day watching reality TV series “Survivor”, surfing the internet, ordering room service and swimming in the pool. It was clear that if he wanted to see the real Bali, he needed to get the hell out of Kuta. As a result, that night he booked a trip to Ubud, a cultural center in the interior of the island.

It was in the Ubud area in central Bali, that a small number of European artists and intellectuals came in the 1920’s and 30’s and helped establish the reputation of Bali as a mystical paradise. It was in and around Ubud that he saw two Balinese dance and Gamelan (traditional Indonesian music) performances, art galleries, unique temples, wood carvings, royal palace where the royal family still lives, paintings by hand of batik, Balinese architectures and so much more.

 There were still many aggressive vendors, and it was still very touristy, but in a much more traditional way. Art and culture were everywhere; there were more cultural tourists and fewer drunken ones.

 He heard the name Bali so many times, but he never really knew what to expect. Spending some time in the center of the island, he discovered what made Bali unique. It was not the natural beauty of the island. It was nice, but not very different from thousands of other tropical islands. Its nature was actually quite similar to another island he just came from – Sri Lanka. In both cases, the beaches were OK, but not great (not of the clear water and white sand variety found elsewhere).

Jason Buzi wanted to rediscover paradise, and a couple people told him about the Gili Islands. Plus, there were brochures for the boats en route to it all over Bali. Closer to the island of Lombok than Bali, they were small islands, each so small that you could walk around it in a couple hours. He was told that they have nice beaches, great snorkeling, and are very laid back. So he got on a speedboat from Bali, and arrived about an hour later.
There were three Gili Islands, and he decided to come to the middle one, Gili Meno. There were many bungalows along the beach, dive centers, a grocery store, cafes and restaurants, and even an internet cafe. But somehow, it was still very quiet and laid back. It never felt crowded, and he often had long stretches of beach to himself. And this was the height of the high season, right around Christmas (He arrived on Christmas day, in fact). No hassles, no aggressive vendors. A pleasant change after Bali…

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