Indonesia, a rich archipelago of islands, adrift in the Indian Ocean. To many the idea of a two week break on the island of Bali, might sound like the ideal luxury retreat. The sub-tropical climate and far-flung location prove just the ticket, for many year-round holiday-goers across the globe. However the island has even more to offer the off-beat backpacker, as I uncovered on a recent visit…
As I boarded my first international flight back in May 2016, I wasn’t destined for a luxury getaway, instead I was departing for a voluntary deployment in a distant land, very different from the one I ordinarily call home. Fourteen hours later I landed to find myself engulfed by a stifling heat, completely foreign to any weather I had experienced before. The terminal entrance was beguiling on approach, architecturally stylised in Balinese tradition. I struggled to comprehend that I had actual made it to the other side of the world. I was south of the equator for the first time and though weary from the journey, was utterly beguiled.
From here a taxi would take us to our base in the beating heart of the island; to the tropical foothills of the Ubud region, where I would stay in a residential homestead: a small bungalow housing volunteers such as myself, but was still kept by a local family in their own backyard.
Each morning I awoke early with the southern sun, my alarm clock replaced by both familiar and peculiar animal sounds. I would draw the curtains to find the garden enlightened by the morning sun, radiating through the palm leaves and abundant flora below. Here I would take the daily path to a communal canteen based in the centre of the village, also founded in the surroundings of resident homesteads. Breakfast consumed, I would begin the morning walk to a local community centre, which acted foremost as a teaching centre; run by local volunteers, it would come to act as a second home during my stay on the island.
The people I met here in the village and surroundings areas, were some of the kindest and contented people that I have had the pleasure to cross on my worldly travels. Locals would offer to share food or entertain us with their talents, or divulge information about the island’s history or religion; all of which was most grateful and intriguing to myself. Further afield the same can be said of the native people, sometimes misinterpreted, as they plead with tourists in attempt to sell their services or wares: often kindly, despite attempts to earn a living. It was most humbling on a human level.