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Destination Highlight: Bali

Many have called their time in Bali transformative- returning feeling rejuvenated and untroubled. The novel turned film ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ evokes a serene nearly divine place on earth, occupied by gentle, smiling locals who spend their days meditating on the rice terraces. One of our associates, Caroline Fraser, spent three weeks exploring the Island of Bali and describes the reality of this dreamy bucket-list destination.

“My hopes were high for Bali; as the pilot advised that we were minutes from landing in Kuta, Bali I tried to lower my expectations in fear of disappointment.

Our first few days were spent in southern part of the island surrounding Seminyak. The almost urban area is filled with luxurious resorts, picturesque boutique hotels, and Michelin-Star restaurants. Jaw dropping views of majestic cliffs, magnificent sunrise and sunsets seemed to be at every turn. Anyone would be lucky to be pampered in these surroundings.

Yet, something was lacking for me. Nearly all my travels have been inspired by striking and memorable cultures and I felt that amongst the luxuriousness, I still hadn’t experienced what I had dreamt of being the essence of Balinese culture.

The following day we jumped in a car and headed north to Ubud, Bali – what our driver had referred to as the heart of the island. As we drove north, all signs were pointing in the right direction – paved roads turned to dirt roads and luxury cars were replaced with scooters. Our driver dropped us off at our inn, a local homestay, and we were greeted by the entire host family- very quickly I started to realize that the cliché of the smiling Balinese wasn’t far from the reality at all.

We spent the following days immersing ourselves in the rich culture that the island offer- it was easy and unavoidable as colorful flower-petal offerings were found on every doorstep and processions and ceremonies celebrating different gods took over main roads almost every day. Nearly everything seems to have spiritual meaning, which creates a joyous and grateful way of life for the Balinese. Every Balinese that I met was gracious and helpful, hoping that we would enjoy the island just as much as they do. We explored the island via scooter, allowing us to stop at the local business’ selling beautiful hand-woven baskets or woodcarvings, as we ventured from the hillside temples to the central mountains to see the dramatic volcanoes.

My three weeks in Bali ended far too soon yet – there were countless more temples to discover, ceremonies to observe, and a culture to further explore and appreciate. There is no doubt that I will return to this diverse island. It offers something special for every traveler, leaving you with memories and experiences that undoubtedly will last a lifetime.”