By Nishiraj A. Baruah
There are no take offs and landings as the airport remains shut. You wouldn’t see a soul on road and, of course, no traffic. All shops and markets and offices are closed. And the entire island becomes eerily quiet. And oh, you are not supposed to light up fires, not even cigarette lighters, and by night, lights are to be dimmed. Never mind you are a tourist, just keep quiet while outdoors (difficult if you are a chattering Indian). Better still, don’t venture out at all; don’t make any outdoor plans on that day.
Now what’s this place, you ask. Can I keep you guessing? Let me throw in a few hints: It’s one foreign destination where Indians visit the most. It is also a place known for temples and Hindu culture. It also has volcanoes, romantic beaches and crazy nightlife, too.
Getting it? No? Okay, one last hint. This is the island Julia Roberts goes to in the movie Eat, Pray, Love.
If you have got it, congrats. You are an aware traveller. If you haven’t, well, lets just say, you need to travel a bit more. Begin with Bali – yes, that’s the place we are talking about here.
And Sanjay Sondhi, Country Manager (India), Indonesia Tourism, tells why you should be there this season.
No need to change aircraft
Now that connectivity to this Indonesian island has got better, it makes sense for you to go. There’s still no direct flight from India to Bali, but as Sondhi says, “Now you can reach Bali from any part of India without changing your aircraft,” referring to airlines such as Air Asia, Garuda Indonesia, Singapore Airlines, Malindo Air and Thai Airways. “Pricing has also improved with a good mix of full service and low cost carriers,” he adds.
They are honest, god-fearing and respect Indians
How much you enjoy a place depends on how good the locals are. People make a place, we at Ocider like to believe. And Bali residents are extremely honest. Mostly Hindus, the land is punctuated with temples. This is one aspect of Bali that attracts Indians there – you can relate to them. On their part, they look up to Indians, and are very curious about our ways of worship. “Everyone I speak to wants to come to India, and visit the Haridwar and Rishikesh for a dip in the Ganges which they also consider sacred,” says Sondhi. They are also very service oriented and you will rarely see them without a smile. So you are at home instantly as they welcome you from their heart, hospitality coming naturally to them.
Precisely why Sondhi advises Indian tourists to deal with the locals honestly. While shopping, haggle if you must. “By now with so many of us going there, Bali residents are familiar with the Indian temperament and adapted themselves well. They know that Indians love bargaining. They have also gotten used to Indian stretchable time. They have taken these behavioural habits of Indians on their stride,” says Sondhi.
You’re gonna have a ball
The beaches are gorgeous, landscape is romantic, the nightlife is throbbing and shopping is exciting. And yes, you have the wellness sector to pamper you silly. Bali is also a place that caters to the masses and classes with both budget hotels and luxury resorts. And if you are hosting a corporate event, Bali is a great value for money destination. Play golf? You should know, the green fee here is very less.
Sexy Bipasha and the Bollywood connect
Except for a few song sequences, Bollywood hasn’t shot any films in Bali despite its immensely scenic locales. “Filmmakers expect certain incentives, and support structure and we don’t have a structured policy for film shootings yet. But we are planning to take a few Bollywood production houses to Bali soon,” says Sondhi, acknowledging the role of Hindi films in promoting a place.
But that hasn’t stopped the likes of actor Bipasha Basu from honeymooning in Bali, or Salman Khan who was there with his family. Even Shahrukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan couldn’t resist its charms.
There is room for more Indians
More than a million Indians visit Bali. India stands 6th (Singapore, Australia China are the top three) in terms of visitors. “But we are not satisfied. The destination can take more; we need to double that in next three years,” he says, even as he eyes the destination wedding market. With weather varying from 28 to 32 degrees, Indonesia is an all weather destination.
Talking about his own personal experience, Sondhi had once visited the destination with family and friends. “What was great about that holiday was there was something for all age groups. Kids went to see the Komodo dragons in Komodo island; women went shopping or for spa treatments, young adults went to enjoy nightlife in the various nightclubs. And on one occasion, we were all on a boat cruise where steaming hot meals were served in the sun deck. It was divine,” he recalls.
No talking, please
Coming back to where we began, the unique ‘silent day’ known as Nyepi takes place in March as per the Balinese lunar calendar. It’s almost surreal, Sondhi says, how bustling Bali comes to a complete standstill, with everyone choosing to remain indoors. A public holiday, residents also fast and meditate. Observed from 6 am until 6 am the next morning, Nyepi is a day reserved for self-reflection, and as such, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. There’s no working; no entertainment or pleasure; and no travelling. There is little or no noise from TVs and radios. The only people to be seen outdoors are the Pecalang, traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed. Even tourists are not exempt from the restrictions. Although they are free to do as they wish inside their hotels, no one is allowed onto the beaches or streets.
Now that’s some experience I, personally, would like to experience.