Bali, sometimes referred to as the Island of the Gods, is a relatively small island in the middle of Indonesia, an archipelago of about 13,000 islands south of the Philippines and north of Australia. For anyone who hasn’t been there they may wonder, why do so many people like it as a travel destination and what makes it so special? To be honest I usually prefer to travel to places that aren’t as heavily visited as Bali – 2011 may see a record 2.5 million tourists there. But to me Bali is one of those exceptions to my general rule of avoiding ‘popular’ travel destinations. It’s such a unique place in the world that I still really love it despite the fact that it is famous and fashionable, attributes that typically turn me off. Here are the Top 5 things that keep me coming back for more.
1. Gorgeous Outdoors
Beautiful beaches are a must for any tropical island destination, and Bali delivers with many of them. Even crazy Kuta beach, by far the most visited beach on the island, is a sight to behold with its long, curved stretch of sand and surf that swimmers and surfers alike can enjoy. And the sunsets there are phenomenal. On the interior of the island there are rice field views that are simply breathtaking, and the volcanoes likewise easily make for National Geographic-like photos. The colorful fish in the ocean and the colorful birds in the air help round out the natural eye candy of the island.
2. Delicious Food
Kind of like Thailand, Bali has great soil and plenty of rain to grow lots of quality food, and its culinary history, again like Thailand, has been significantly influenced by outside, seafaring cultures. Because of this you’ll find South Indian, Malaysian and Chinese flavors mixed in with the more traditional Indonesian foods you find in the rest of the country. And because of the growing influence of tourism over the last several decades you can also easily find high quality Indian, Moroccan, Thai, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, French and fusion cuisines.
3. Unique Culture
Although all of Indonesia is rich in culture, Bali’s is quite unique. At one time the entire country was mostly Hindu and Buddhist, but now only Bali is predominantly Hindu, albeit with animist influences which makes it quite different from Hinduism in India. And pretty much every day you will observe small but artistically designed offerings of items such as rice, flowers, fruits and incense being made to the gods, ancestors, spirits and demons that live on the island. The Balinese are also extremely ritualistic as they have ceremonies for just about every stage in a person’s life, including an extremely elaborate cremation ceremony that is usually the biggest and most spectacular event of all.
4. Wonderful Spas
Massages and body scrubs are a big part of Balinese culture for both men and women, and the Balinese seem to have the perfect disposition to help make your spa experience one of the best you’ve ever had. I’ve never been to a place that has so many spas of all shapes and sizes, and for what you get the prices can be pretty remarkable. Getting a two hour or even a full day set of treatments in a beautiful tropical setting is a must do for just about anyone who visits this Island of the Gods.
5. Extremely Kind People
This last thing may be the most important part of what makes Bali so special. In most places in the world that receive such high numbers of tourists you often meet locals who are quite jaded by the mass influx of outsiders. Oftentimes they are just plain rude to their guests, even though those guests bring in a lot of money to the local economy. Paris anyone? But the Balinese more often than not are some of the most pleasant and cheery people you will meet on the planet. They like to have fun, and you can sense their overall joy even as they perform the more mundane tasks in life. Perhaps it’s their overall ability to live well in the moment that rubs off on their visitors and keeps them coming back by the millions year after year.