Bali Dawn

Bali Sunrise
Bali Sunrise

The sun begins to light up the sky over south-east Bali.

In the distance the island’s holy mountain, Gunung Agung, emerges from the morning mist.

As the light increases, a  fisherman casts his net around the moored traditional fishing boats – Jungkung in Balinese and Prahu in Bahasa Indonesian – while a couple of boatmen already have their boats moving in readiness to brave the often turbulent tidal streams and waves offshore.

The boats look like aquatic praying mantises in the morning light. With their canoe-like hulls and bamboo outriggers, they have a reassuring seaworthiness for their fishermen skippers, as well as for visitors who travel in them for snorkelling and diving pursuits, or as transport to the beautiful Gili Islands off Lombok’s coast.

A family of five comes to the beach for their morning ritual, saluting the mountain and the rising sun. They wade chest deep into the water, releasing and watching their floral offerings drift out to sea.

Others, alone or in groups, are sometimes silent, or murmuring, or conversing. They imbibe the dawn while the sea at this coral reef protected beach quietly and soothingly adds sounds to the hypnotic scene.

On a clear morning, across the Lombok Straight, another volcanic shape can be seen, 3726 metre high Mount Rinjani, as well as the white cliffs of Nusa Penida, another island about 15 kilometres across the sea.

The dawn described above is a world away from the gross features of mass tourism that afflict a small part of Bali, yet it takes place at a major tourist destination. Here, traditional rituals, culture and ceremonies flourish at least as strongly as a generation ago.

Perhaps the wealth generated by tourism has had some positive effects. Historians often suggest that the European Renaissance, the flowering of the arts, literature and intellectual pursuits, required a degree of wealth, patronage and leisure to promote those cultural activities. As in Bali?

As a regular visitor to Bali and quite a few other islands in Indonesia’s 17,000 plus archipelago over many decades, Bali remains a beguiling place to visit for the warmth, humour, respect and culture of the people, the great food, and the extraordinary diversity and beauty of its landscapes, beaches and undersea. Traditional life and culture have survived better than some imagine.

This post forms part of Fiona’s  A-Z guidebook, a monthly travel journal.


A is for Aleppuzha

Kerala state in India’s tropical south promotes itself as God’s Own Country. Although the claim to be India’s Venice may be a little fanciful for Kerala’s Aleppuzha (or Alleppy), its annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race and attendant festivities are truly spectacular, and spending time on the adjoining backwaters is a sublime experience.

For visitors, the backwaters are best explored by houseboat, formerly a traditional riceboat (or ketuvellum), now a comfortable, relaxed and gentle glide through the vast Kerala waterways.

The waters are fringed by coconut palms, almost painfully green rice fields, and brilliantly painted houses. The locals go about their daily activities: immaculately dressed children travel to and from school by boat, women (yes, invariably women) wash clothes the old way, rinsing and squeezing and audibly bashing them against hard surfaces, small passenger ferries course up and down collecting and discharging passengers, a man in a small dugout canoe drifts by using his net to catch fish, raising an umbrella to ward off rain, farmers walk to their small holdings to work, and innumerable kingfishers perch high, diving frequently in a blue flash into the water.

This post contributes to Tiffin’s monthly A-Z guidebook Travel link up.