By Georgina Cruz
For AL DIA TODAY
The island of Bali, or as it is often known, “the island of the gods,” “the island of love,” or “the island of 1,000 temples,” is located to the east of Java, and is one of the most beautiful and popular ports of call in Indonesia. It offers cruise passengers many opportunities for a day of bliss: beaches, picturesque villages, volcano scenery, rice terraces, artistic crafts, and Hindu temples (more than 80 percent of the population is Hindu, and some say there are as many as 20,000 temples and shrines on the island).
Here are five blissful activities to enjoy during a port visit to Benoa/Denpasar, Bali or during a longer vacation there – our latest visit to the island occurred in March, during Holland America’s 2019 Grand World Voyage aboard the Amsterdam.
(1) Enjoy the beach – Some people say Bali is not a place, but a mood, a state of mind. For me, that mood is relaxation. And a great way to get into that mood is spending a day at a beach resort, perhaps at the Westin or Sofitel resorts in Nusa Dua (about eight miles from the port of Benoa) or at the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay, about seven miles from Benoa). Jimbaran Bay, with its three miles of sandy beach, by the way, is a very popular place to sample some fresh seafood at a café or restaurant by the sea, with views of sacred Mount Agung in the background. There is also a Fish Market to check out in Jimbaran Bay. Watersports’ enthusiasts will also find that many opportunities abound including parasailing near the cruise pier in Benoa.
(2) Start relaxing the minute you arrive by enjoying the lovely port welcome, typically with dancers and a band playing traditional Balinese instruments. In our case, six lavishly-clad dancers performed several dances while the band played, and they also posed for photos with visitors.
(3) Delve into Bali’s spirituality – As your ship approaches Benoa, keep your binoculars handy to see the huge copper and brass statue of the Hindu deity Garuda Wisnu, visible from the sea. At nearly 400 feet high including its pedestal, it is said to be the tallest statue of Garuda Wisnu in Asia. It is located in Ungadan, Badung, across from the airport in Bali. A statue of Garuda, a Hindu mythological character that has bird and human characteristics, also greets visitors in the cruise terminal in Benoa. Visiting a temple is a highlight – most visitors don’t leave Bali without doing so. Among many highly regarded ones are Pura Luhur Lempuyan, a most impressive temple within the highlands of Mount Lempuyan in east Bali and one of the island’s oldest; Tanah Lot, famous for its offshore setting and stunning sunsets; and Uluwatu Temple (Ulu means “lands’ end” and watu means “rock”). This seaside temple, often featured on shipboard shore excursions, is dedicated to honor sea gods. It is perched on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean, on the southwestern end of the Bukit Peninsula with panoramic ocean views. It boasts a population of macaque monkeys from the nearby Monkey Jungle that are adorable but cunning and if you give them a chance (or even if you don’t) can abscond with your phone, hat or sunglasses. Shipboard tours offer an excursion to the Monkey Jungle and you may also encounter the mischievous macaques lurking about near roadside stands as well. Our port guide, Ian Page, joked that the minute the visitors leave, the monkeys “open an iPhone store.” The Balinese Kecak Fire Dance or “Monkey Dance” is featured during regular evening performances at the Uluwatu temple. When visiting Tanah Lot, Lempuyan, Uluwatu or other places of worship, it is important to observe temple etiquette by wearing a sarong and sash (these can be rented at nominal charge at the entrance to the temples).
(4) Enjoy Balinese crafts including batiks and colorful fabrics and excellent carvings – perhaps during an excursion to the art village of Ubud or at countless crafts centers. and stores around the island including some shops conveniently located at the cruise terminal.
(5) Bali is famous for its sunsets – Jimbaran Bay is one of the popular spots on the island to catch one over the Indian Ocean, perhaps while sipping something tall and cool and drinking in the tropical scenery and the orange glow of the sun on the beach in big gulps. If your ship is on an overnight call or extended visit, or if you are on a longer vacation, you can reserve a table for dinner at one of the seaside restaurants – perhaps at the open-air Talan Wantilan restaurant for views of the sunset while enjoying Asian and Western dishes from live-action show kitchens in the center of the restaurant.
IF YOU GO: For information, visit https://balitourismboard.or.id/.