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Image Credit: Shutterstock

When we read about reconnecting with nature, each of us may have a certain definition or description to go with it.

Mine is, simply put, listening to the sounds of leaves crackling, the wind through the trees, the sounds of busy brooks, and birds and insects chirping. Cliché, you may say. Therapeutic, I will add.

And this is what you will find in abundance in Bali: the possibility to merge and connect with nature in a manner that you will remain in your memory forever.

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Indonesia boasts plenty of temples and architectural wonders

I knew I would love Bali. It was meant to be. I’d heard stories about this tropical island paradise. And I was not disappointed when I finally travelled to the island destination- solo- early this year.

For a solo traveller, Bali offers everything you may seek – great food, safety, a certain serenity, peace of mind, time to unwind and reflect, as well as the chance to explore a culture that is as exotic as it is exquisite.

Bali is perhaps most popular amongst honeymooning couples. However, from what I have observed this island destination has something for everyone – couples, families, babymooners, honeymooners, elderly, surfers, hikers, yogis, artists, business folk, and solo travellers – so long as they enjoy nature in its raw form.

The landscapes cater to multiple tastes as well – mountains, rice terrace fields, beaches, forests, hills, valleys, waterfalls, party spots, retail havens and also cultural and heritage districts.

I split my stay into two – one in Ubud, which lies in the heart of Bali, and the second in Semminyak – a coastal beach side district.

My calling, however, was at Ubud – the cultural, albeit touristic destination which has a tropical atmosphere, reminiscent of my hometown Kerala, and its nearby cousin, Goa.

Quite like the pictures on social media, Ubud is a stunner. The rice fields and terraced paddies are beautiful, but clearly, no photograph would do justice to the sights you get to see and savour in person.

Bali has no dearth of stunning hotels and resort, including some of the most exquisite properties in the world. That said, to experience true Bali is to experience Balinese hospitality in its vulnerability.

My AirBnB booking proved satisfactory to this claim. Reasonable, clean, convenient, and cosy, the options available are mindboggling. I chose one that offered a view of a fully grown fruit tree, and I wasn’t complaining.

As is typical in many Balinese hotel rooms, there was a four-poster bed, a semi-open bathroom, sliding glass doors, and wooden flooring. The best thing about the place however was the sense of safety. I was welcomed warmly by my host, and throughout my stay in Ubud, he and his family ensured that I was comfortable and happy. The breakfast spread, thrown in as a free service, was one indication!

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Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant in Bali

Moving around Ubud is easy. You can rent a bike (which I did, from my host who was kind enough to lend it to me for a discounted rate), or walk (which I did as well, through beautiful paddy fields as recommended by my considerate host), or taxi – which is not recommended at all as you will really miss out on the essence of the district then.

My host, Nyoman (a pretty common name in Ubud) is also a taxi driver, and as well as picking me from the airport, he also took me on a day’s trip around the island.

On my tour, I visited the Taman Sari waterfalls, the ancient 11th century temple Candi Tebung Gunung Kawi. The path to the temple had a stairway that cut through a paddy field, all the way down to heavy vegetation and mountain springs. Three large rocky structures were the backdrop to a calm and soothing temple premise.

My next stop was Mount Batur, where I sat at a busy restaurant overlooking the grand volcanic mountain. When the weather is better, volcanic trails and hikes are organised.

Balancing all the wonderment with something not too pleasant was my trip to visit a luwak farm where the infamous luwak coffee is made. Luwak coffee “consists of partially digested coffee cherries, which have been eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet”, according to a pamphlet I read at the farm. Personally, I did not enjoy this experience as it was heart-breaking to see civets caged for the process of extracting the coffee beans.

On the way back to Ubud, we also passed by orange orchards and plenty of colourful stalls selling exotic fruits that Bali is so famous for, like durian, mangosteen, rambutan, snake fruit, duku, oranges, mangos, coconuts, and more.

Just before reaching the homestay, we stopped to experience the beautiful Tegelalang rice terraces – where we got to walk through the terraced fields and soak up the sun and smells of the soil, both.

In a word, the experience was mind-opening.

On my third and last day in Ubud, I rented a bike and puttered along the winding roads letting the breeze sift through my hair. Apart from enjoying the countryside, I also hoped, like quite a few people who visit Bali, to find myself.

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The Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, a nature reserve and Hindu temple complex in Ubud, Bali

I experienced some interesting cultural sights as well, such as the Ramayana and barong dance performances at the Pura Dalem – the temple of death, which was all too mystical and colourful.

I didn’t stray too far from Ubud, and decided to restrain my sight seeing to the Monkey Forest which was, quite like the name, full of monkeys in their thick, green jungle; the Pura Saraswati (temple of Saraswati) and the Ubud Art Fair where you can bargain your way into purchasing a room full of souvenirs and knick-knacks that you may have little to no use for. That said, if you are an art lover, you may find some hidden gems to bring back home.

The city tour, I did on my own, walking through the fields, enjoying the breeze and heat in the air both at once, and making short stops at anything that looked touristy.

Another activity is to explore the many walking trails on the ridges across Ubud – with birds, insects, brooks, leaves and paddy for company. Again, you cannot get more steeped in nature than a walk like this.

I left Ubud for Kuta-Semminyak, which lies in the south of Bali, close to the international airport. Kuta is a party zone, clubs and cafes and discotheques lining the roads like a beaded necklace. Situated on the shores of the sea, this also brings in the beach-side party goers and surfers. Next to Kuta is Semminyak, which is another party hub, and also a shopping haven for those looking for colourful beach and party wear.

While here, I embarked on a day’s trip to Uluwatu Temple which is perched on a cliff, looking out into a beautiful blue sea with white frothy waves lashing at the shores.

The temple has a long walkway with the sea on one side and a mildly dense forest on the other side, with plenty of monkeys for company. At sunset, this walk and the sea breeze is, in a word, therapeutic.

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One of the best ways to see Bali is on a two-wheeler

Can Bali be experienced in 5 days? You can, but you shouldn’t. There is a lot more of Bali than I experienced. The north, east and west; the hiking trails; the many temples; the cultural richness; the mountains; paddy fields; the architecture, the caves, the waterfalls...

All boxes ticked off. Enjoyed experiences, food had, smiled hard, pleased heart and returned home vowing to go back because beautiful Bali still has a piece of my heart.

So, at the end of it all, did I find myself?

Guess, I need to make another trip.