Sailing around the world in the Barque PICTON CASTLE, its no secret that on top of sailing around 30,000 ocean miles, we put in at some pretty cool places along the way. In fact, my husband (the Captain) likes to say that we only stop at super cool places, and he’s right. Quite often I’m asked if I have a favorite island or country where we stop. Now, bearing in mind the above mentioned “we only stop at cool places” I have to admit that there are two or three places on our voyage which are especially special to me, which I couldn’t imagine sailing near to and not stopping even for a short visit (and often it never seems long enough). For me, one such place is Bali, Indonesia.
“What’s so special about Bali” you might ask? Well, first we must sail there (in a square-rigger like PICTON CASTLE, no less!). By the time we get to Bali we have sailed halfway around the world, about 15000nm. The last passage, 3,000 miles long, will have been from Vanuatu, over the Coral Sea, through the Torres Straights separating Australia and New Guinea, then through the Arafura Sea and into the Far East. After many days at sea we find ourselves off the small Indonesian island of Bali, often with the mountains of Lombok in the mist of the horizon. Some times we can even smell the cloves. As we approach the harbor entrance my husband (usually) has me take the wheel as he pilots us in. We work as a team – I trust him and he trusts me at the wheel in tight spots. And so, in we go, to Sarangan Bay.
The channel into this sheltered bay is well enough marked and before long we see all kinds of pretty, colorful local fishing boats and ferry boats that sail to nearby islands coming in and out of the harbor. With lots of “hard lefts” and “hard rights” he looks for a good spot to get the anchor down. After clearing in with customs and immigration (aided by the help of our Bali friends and agents ashore) the free-watches are then let go and given leave to head ashore to begin their Balinese adventures. It doesn’t take long for them to get off the ship and as soon as I’m able I, usually with my husband and son in tow, follow suit.
The small village of Sarangan is our start. With pagoda like roofs here and there, its streets are dotted with lots of family run little eateries called ‘warungs’ where Indonesian fare is cheap and yummy. From here we might each head off into our own directions for our time ashore in of our Bali stay. There is so much to do and see in Bali.
Bali has something for everyone. I could tell you all about the beautiful soft, white sand beaches bordering warm, turquoise waters, pounding surf and great places to catch a wave or two if surfing is your thing, or I could tell you about the dramatic and stunning views of the terraced rice fields, some right in the heart of the cultural center of the city of Ubud, others further out of town along the mountainsides, all equally mesmerizing in shades of chartreuse, pear, emerald and forest green. We could talk about amazing hotels ranging from ultra luxurious, complete with your own plunge pool, and floating breakfast (yes, it’s a thing) worthy of Instagram, down to humble but clean and comfortable homestays situated in traditional Balinese family compounds in little pagoda like cottages tucked in amongst the rice paddies in the heart of town and super cheap and nice. On top of that there are eco retreats, yoga retreats, surfing retreats, and just about any kind of lodgings and accommodations one could ask for to make your stay everything you dreamed it would be. Then again, sleeping in a barque out in the habour isn’t that bad either. Jus’ saying…
There is a reason Bali is called the island of 10,00 temples – although it actually numbers more than 20,000 – most showcasing some of the best examples of local architecture. Some are located high up on the side of a cliff, like Pura Luhur Uluwatu, others on the side of a mountain, like Besakih Temple, with many more found in each city, town or village. Just watch out for the resident monkeys who love to steal your sunglasses! Organized little criminals they are! But, toss them a banana and they will usually throw your sunglasses back to you. Its really quite comical. I love walking through town and stopping to see the various different temples and places of Hindu worship tucked down long alley ways or situated right on the corner of the street. And it’s even more special if there is a festival or a parade traveling down the street. The Balinese have many, many different festivals that happen throughout the year which is always fun to see!And then there are the markets. They are so much fun to wander through! There is literally something for everyone – just crowded and piled high with mesmerizing array of goods and from a kaleidoscope of carved kites to sandals and shoes of all sizes and styles, from paintings and pictures of differing motifs to adorn your walls, to knives of all sizes made from surprisingly good steel. There are colorful, painted “rice boxes”, dresses, scarves and sarongs made of the softest silks, popular rattan purses, tote bags and baskets, and beautiful quilts, pillowcases and duffel bags made from colorful batik fabrics. All kinds of beautiful fabrics. And the smell of spice and incense is most everywhere. The list goes on and on. And the Night Markets which seem to be everywhere have delicious assortments of food in addition to the various wares sold there. All with Balinese music playing. Hard to spend more than $3 on a good plate of food!
One thing Indonesia is particularly known for is the tremendously talented and gifted wood and stone carvers (and silver and gold workers, and batik makers). It is practically impossible to be in Bali and not be exposed to some of the most intricate and detailed examples of this beautiful craft. Giant traditional dragons (my son loved these), Komodo dragons and the various Hindu deities are most common, along with eagle, elephants and Balinese dancers, and it is quite something just to watch these artists at work. Its even better if you can manage to bring one home with you! There are days that I am thankful we travel in a barque with a good-sized hold!
One of my “must do’s” during my off time is to visit one of the many, many spas that cover the island, where one can get various treatments, like a simple reflexology foot massage, to different types of body massages, scrubs and wraps to help you relax after a day at the market. And a whole day of treatment is surprisingly cheap. After a long passage at sea there is nothing better than to feel a bit pampered!
There is a wonderful zoo and waterpark to see, snorkeling trips to take, colorful boats to see and ride in, volcanos to hike and a forest in the country city of Ubud dedicated to its resident monkeys which has walking trails, stone carvings and small temples to explore. Performances of ancient dances with large dance troups and the intriguing brass cymbal music of Gamelan orchestras must not be missed. I can’t forget the food. Whether you eat from a small, local warung to a fancy, upscale restaurant (and many others in between) there is no end to the choices to tempt and please the palate – my favorite is Mei Goreng (fried noodles) with a nice, cool beverage to soothe my mouth if it’s particularly spicy. Yummy
But the absolute best part of this wonderful place, is without a doubt the people we meet in Bali. Warm, friendly, gracious, exceedingly polite and welcoming, the people of Bali only serve in making the experience an amazing one and I absolutely cannot wait to get back to Bali!