“Bali is not a real island, it’s imaginary.”
Whether that’s a myth or mindset, I couldn’t help but think about this intriguing description by travel writer Linda Weaver Clarke describing a piece of paradise in the Indonesian archipelago.
Those words lingered on my mind while aboard Cebu Pacific flight 5J 279 when it was about to touchdown at Bali’s world-class gateway, the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar.
Our group, which was composed of media practitioners from Visayas and Mindanao, were invited by Cebu Pacific Air and JG Summit Holdings, Inc. for a three-day familiarization trip on October 4 to 7 in one of the world’s most sought-after tourist destinations. We knew we’re in for a treat and we’re all ready for the limitless adventures that we’re about to experience.
This island paradise that we’re about to explore is located at the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda islands and its capital is Denpasar. It’s home to 4.2 million people which is dominated by Indonesian Hindu. It is popularly called Island of Gods, Island of Thousand Temples and Escape Haven.
It’s blessed with forested volcanic mountains, iconic terraced rice paddies, perfect beaches, coral reefs and friendly locals. Surfers call it their playground because of its monstrous and barrel waves while art lovers would feel like kids in a candy store for its massive collection of traditional artworks in different mediums and forms.
By the way, who doesn’t know that Bali is considered as the most popular island destination in Indonesia? Those who have been there would give millions of very good reasons why. Declared by many as the ultimate traveler’s dream, this island is truly the goldmine of the country’s tourism industry.
A first-time visitor whom we met at the airport told us, “if you think you’ve seen and experienced the best places in the world, wait til you explore this island.”
After arriving from a 3 hours and 55 minutes via Manila-Denpasar, Bali flight, our first stop was at Visesa Ubud Resort where we were served Balinese lunch including the super spicy but delicious babi guling, Bali’s version of “lechon baboy.” This luxury resort is inspired by Balinese culture and designs where guests can experience sustainable farming and permaculture. Five-minute drive from the resort is Ubud Village. We explored the must-visit spots here such as Puri Saren Royal Palace, Pura Taman Saraswati Temple and Ubud traditional art market. There are two outdoor markets in this area, which are considered as the society economic centers of Ubud, where most of us didn’t let a chance to slip to buy souvenirs such as beaded wallets, printed shirts, handcrafted jewelries and figurines. This area is where one’s bargaining skills will be tested.
After a two-hour Ubud Village experience, we headed and checked-in at Mason Elephant Park and Lodge in Taro, Ubud. It’s a five-star boutique lodge which features 27 distinctive rooms. Here, guests are provided with opportunity to take part in the ultimate elephant experience by living among the herd of 31 gentle giants.
We heard Mason Elephant Park and Lodge was voted as Bali’s No. 1 “must see” attraction. It is just right that for the entirety of our stay we grabbed the chance to experience the park’s attractions and facilities such as elephant ride, bathing the elephants, swimming with the elephants and a soothing and relaxing massage and spa.
Next stop was Koko Bambu and Mason Gourmet Chocolate Factory. It is a distinctive restaurant located in the hinterlands of northern Ubud. The restaurant features a lounge pool that overlooks rice paddies and the jungle’s edge. A wide array of cuisine, which is a mix of Western and Indonesian meets chocolate inspiration, are served here. Attached to the restaurant is the Mason Gourmet Chocolate factory. This place is also the operational area of Mason Jungle Buggies. Those speed demons and all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts in our group got a chance to test their driving skills in dusty and narrow jungle roads.
Last stop for the day was in Tegallalang, Ubud. It is where the Tegallalang rice terraces, famous for the scenic rice paddies which involve the subak (traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system), is located. Tegallalang forms the three most splendid terraced landscapes in Ubud’s shared region, with the others being in the villages of Pejeng and Campuhan.
Then we headed to Nusa Dua, known as the upscale district of Bali and where most visitors come for a relaxing beach holiday. We stayed for the night at Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Spa where we experienced a sumptuous dinner under the bright and clear skies of Bali before having a good night sleep.
We spent our last day in Bali exploring Tanah Lot in Tabanan. This is where the iconic Pura Tanah Lot and Pura Batu Bolong Temples are located. The temples sit on large offshore rocks which have been shaped continuously over the years by the ocean tide. Tanah Lot is not only about its temples; it is also popular destination among surfers as it features great waves that is ideal for surfing adventures. Another attraction in this area is its outdoor markets where visitors can choose from a wide collection of ready-to-wear merchandise. We then checked-in at The Anvaya Beach Resort in Kuta where we were treated with a dinner by the beach after some of us got traditional Balinese tattoos as a reminder of our once in a lifetime and unforgettable Bali experience.
Cebu Pacific flies from Manila to Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia daily. Special thanks to Cebu Pacific’s Charo Logarta Lagamon and Michelle Lim, Len Belmonte of JG Summit Holdings, Inc., Charles Lim and Apollo Santos of SELRAHCO, Vernon Prieto, Adjie Wahjono and Aneka Kartika team.