Bali did strike a nerve in me. Or else, why would I still find myself thinking about the blue blue beaches of Kuta or the lush green rice terraces near Ubud or the mighty volcano - Mt Agung which we climbed or the Balinese people, even after a month since I am back? I find it very frustrating, my inability to shake of my thoughts about Bali.
Talking about the Balinese, they are one of my most peculiar people I have ever interacted with. Usually, the natural beauty or the potential activities I can undertake in a place are the main things I look for, in my ideal travel destination. Bali (Indonesia in general) is one exception. I am as fond of the Balinese people as I am fond of the place itself. They are a bunch of very polite and spiritual (may or may not be religious) people. I was amazed to see the dedication and discipline they have towards their conventional way of life. 9 out of 10 people you meet in Bali will be named either Wayan, Ketut, Madhe or Koman.
In the modern world, I usually don’t get the 'feel of spirituality' in day to day life. But while exploring Bali, the temple or a shrine within every 500 sq m, the way the Balinese think in terms of ‘karma’ etc, constantly reminded me of the presence of God all around us. Contrary to the Indian way of ‘investing in God’, Bali temples do not have the slightest touch of extravagance in them. It showed me how simple, things can be. Religion and God for Balinese is part of their lifestyle and not something they practice simply out of commitment or for attracting tourists.
No matter where I traveled in Bali, I couldn’t stop myself from feeling that this place really has something spiritual about it. The cultural capital of Bali - Ubud - with the abundance of its old, moss covered temples, made me feel that I was being watched by the Gods. In the village of Tulamben - where I was diving - I could see at least 2 temples and a dozen shrines from where our resort was. I visited a waterfall and right next to it was a small, beautiful shrine; I summit-ed a volcano, (starting from a temple) only to find a bunch of Balinese at the summit, involved in their early morning prayers.
May be this deep influence of spirituality in their life is the reason why Balinese are extremely polite and service minded. Our dive master took care of us like little kids jumping into water for the first time. When I was down with fever, the landlord shared his meal with me and when we were climbing, our guide literally helped Manju during every difficult step, which was most of the climb. Even a total stranger offered to take me to the doctor when I was coughing too much, and when I refused, he insisted that I take his medication. The experiences go on and on.
Sometimes, I was a bit startled by their attitude towards money, may be a byproduct of excessive commercialisation. Some of them can be extremely annoying with their excessive touting or while negotiating prices, be it for an item or for a service. I wonder why they ask exorbitant rates and the moment we raise doubts, they tend to reduce the rates. But this doesn't even remotely affect the way they interact with you. As Manju correctly pointed out, once the negotiations are over, the Balinese people are as friendly and caring as a close friend of yours.
Bali reminded me a lot about home and I think that is one reason I got so emotionally attached to the place. When we were boarding our flight back to Singapore, I found myself telling Manju, “There is definitely a God and that God is Balinese”. I am sure there is something magical about the place and the people or why else would I keep thinking about a way to go back to Bali?