August 6, 2014

The Tourist...!!


This frame from Ubud in Bali brings up the age old debate- Are you a traveller or a tourist? Is there a third breed- a blend of both?

July 30, 2014

Ubud- Cultural Capital of Bali...!!


Less than an hour's drive from the bustling Kuta lies the contrasting Ubud to its north. This little Indonesian town in Bali is an art lover's paradise with innumerable art galleries, art streets, paintings, woodwork, silver work and a host of other art related works. Also popular are the paddy fields of Ubud making it one of the most sought after destinations in Bali. Ubud has gained a considerable amount of importance on the tourist map in the recent years (partly due to 'Eat, Pray and Love'). 

It is not without a reason, that Ubud is referred to as the cultural capital of Bali. The significance of its culture in its art is immense. There are numerous art galleries on every road selling magnificent paintings. The art street is quite a popular one with a wide display of creations. Ideally this is the best place to buy a souvenir to take back home. There are many art museums within the town which displays the exceptional works of renowned Balinese artists. As seen across Bali, temples are ubiquitous in Ubud too.

A art gallery
An alley in Ubud
The road that leads to Ubud has many art shops selling wood works and stone arts. Most of these creations are of characters from Ramayana. There are also workshops of Balinese and Batuan paintings, woodwork (in Mas) and silver ware (in Celuk) in Ubud where visitors are taken on guided tours and briefed about making of the creations.  





An artisan working on silverware
Silverware


Woodwork by an artisan in Mas
Ubud palace with magnificent sculptures stands right in the middle of the town and is another major attraction. Visitors do not have access to the insides of the palace. A short walk away from the palace is the monkey forest which is also quite popular with tourists. 
 
Ubud Palace

Ubud has always been known for its terraced paddy fields which are not far from the town. As you move away from the main streets, it becomes less crowded, more serene and the roads snake past the lovely paddy fields. The stepped terracing makes the landscape breathtakingly beautiful and the best place to see this is Tegal Lalang, a short drive away from Ubud town. The ideal way to soak in the life of Ubud would be to cycle through its alleyways and paddy fields.

Paddy fields at Tegal Lalang

I was dropped of at the main street in Ubud and all I did was to roam roam and roam through the alleyways and art streets, gaze at the gorgeous paintings hanging outside the art galleries, watch artisans make wonderful creations  and haggle with the street vendors. Post the stroll, treated myself to a cup of Balinese coffee in one of those quaint coffee shops by the road and stared in oblivion as the world went by. 

Signing Note- An art lover's paradise...!!

Distance- 35 Kms (from Kuta)

July 23, 2014

Kintamani- The Little Hill Town...!!


The balmy weather turned surprisingly chilly and windy in a matter of few minutes. The narrow roads with intermittent shops gave way to winding ones with orange orchards. The drive ended at the expansive open vistas that lay before me at this tiny hill station, if I may call it one. I was in Kintamani in northern Bali, a small hill town people escape to from the hot and humid Kuta and Ubud. Kintamani can be quite a pleasant surprise as Bali is always associated with only beaches and paddy fields.

Before me stood the imposing Mount Batur, with the overflown black lava that had tarnished most of its greenness.Though still active, it last erupted in 1968 and the remnants from that nature's cry is still very visible. Black lava covers most of Mt. Batur but still makes for a beautiful landscape with the years old lava marks and patches of greenery. There are treks organized early in the morning all the way to the top of the mountain. I would have definitely taken up that challenge had I not reached at mid noon. Adjacent to the mountain lay the beautiful azure Lake Batur as calm as ever. The lake which was once a crater seemed surreal as mist floated over it. There were a few yachts docked in the distance along with some houses by the bank way below. The active volcano and the charming crater definitely made a mesmerising frame. The best way to enjoy Kinatamani is to languorously stroll around, haggle with hawkers, delve into some Balinese delicacies, enjoy the views and soak in the lovely climate.






The breathtaking panoramic view of these two natural beauties from the view point at Kintamani brings in hordes of visitors, both domestic and international. The weather remains pleasant through out the year. There are numerous restaurants facing the wonderful landscape. Having lunch while enjoying the gorgeous vistas is quite popular amongst tourists here. Though there isn't much to do other than walk around and enjoy the views (unless you want to trek), it definitely is a lovely break from the sunny beaches of Bali.

Signing Note- The surprise of Bali...!!

Distance- Kuta to Kintamani- 70 Kms

July 12, 2014

5 Years of Travel Blogging...!!

I started writing this blog five years back to woo a girl who is a blogger herself. Though she is not a travel blogger, the only subject that I could relate to was travel. That wooing turned into an inspiration to write and then a passion to travel and write. Five years down, I find myself one of the popular travel bloggers in the country (as quoted by many websites), have had the chance to see my name on prints and portals, been fortunate to appear on television, been lucky to be a part of travel invites and FAM trips and above all, has made me passionate and serious about travel and writing. It has been an exciting five years as Tales of a Nomad got me introduced to many other travel bloggers, writers and photographers, made me study interesting itineraries, gave goose bumps every time I read about those un-trodden lands, made me learn new cultures, gave a chance to taste global cuisines at local eateries, made me love milestones, deserted roads and signboards, bumped me into friendly strangers, made atlas my favourite book and has given a great insight into the world of travel blogging.

I have not always been a travel enthusiast; it was a slow fascination that turned into an addiction over many travels. Similar has been the case with writing. It started one fine day and am still trying to find my feet in the world of travel writing. The transition period has been a great experience for both the traveller and writer in me. Though I have grown both as a traveller and writer over the years, there is a lot more work to be done to become an inspirational travel writer. The confused soul in me is still not sure whether I travel to write or write to travel.

I do not intend to set goals on travelling or writing in the coming years but would rather travel whenever I get an opportunity (either it comes to me or I create one) and write as soon as I get time to jot down my experiences. However, would love to travel as much possible and write to inspire people to travel to all those lovely places around the world. Thank you readers, followers, inspirations, fellow travellers/ bloggers and all those people out there who have made these five years of travel writing an amazing journey.

Happy Birthday, Tales of a Nomad...!!


June 24, 2014

Kuta- The Heart of Bali...!!


Kuta is the heart of tourism in Bali and understandably garners the biggest crowd on this beautiful Indonesian island. Despite the emergence of Ubud and other destinations like Kintamani, Seminyak and Nusa Dua, Kuta still continues to lure every traveller. Kuta is a lazy traveller's paradise. It does not have much to offer with regards to attractions, but the beach and Legian street lures hordes of travellers especially from Australia and Europe.

The vibrant Legian street is the most popular street in Kuta and has everything to keep the tourists, travellers and locals on a high. Many pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants, hotels, art galleries, massage parlours and a numerous shops selling a plethora of things make a bee line all along. With numerous options to choose from, people are spoilt for choice and the best way to explore this bustling street would be to go pub/ cafe hopping. The numerous restaurants offer a wide range of cuisines. The lovely music and the electric night life makes Legian street one of the most sought after avenues in Kuta. If not keen on drinking, it is also recommended to stroll along the lit up street in the night and enjoy the views and window shop.


Legian street

There are numerous narrow alleyways that connect Legian street to Kuta beach. It is a nice little 10 minute walk from the crowded Legian street to the beach. The alleys are lined with restaurants, massage parlours and shops renting surf boards and a wide range of merchandise.

Kuta beach is a long one and extends to Legian beach and further ahead to Seminyak. There aren't any beach shacks but the very popular Bintang beer is easily available on this beach. However, the street across has many restaurants and hotels, most of which are upscale ones. Surfing is quite popular and many foreign travellers are seen running into the waters in the evening with their surf boards to catch a wave. Children fly kites and men play volleyball as the sun mellows. Sunsets are spectacular as the sky turns into an artist's palette with myriad colours. Its an ideal place to enjoy the breeze, sea and watch people as the sun goes down the horizon leaving the waters and the sands gleam in the golden hue. The beach is clean, safe and has a wonderful mix of foreign tourists, Balinese locals, surfers and sunbathers . Weekends are usually overcrowded.



Surfing is quite popular




Kuta might sound cliched, crowded, bustling and noisy. However, this is where the life of Bali is and how much ever you want to keep away from it, Kuta reaches out to you like the waves that stroke your feet on its beach.

Location- Southern Bali
15 Kms from Denpasar

June 5, 2014

Skyscrapers...!!


An evening frame of the skyscrapers of Dubai from a moving vehicle. June 2014.

May 15, 2014

Bali- Blissfully Beautiful...!!


Azure waters of the Indian ocean welcomed me as the flight landed at Ngurah Rai airport, Bali. The airstrip is so close to the ocean that for a second I had doubts if I was on a sea plane. Immigration and visa on arrival was a breeze and was least time consuming. The procedure required me to show them my passport, return tickets and hotel vouchers. No forms to be filled and no photographs required. The only question that I asked was,' purpose of visit'. The charges are $ 25. There is also an airport tax while leaving the island which is $ 22 or Rp 200,000 and Rp 40,000 if you are taking a domestic flight.

As we drove from the airport to the hotel on the narrow but well laid roads, I was amused to note that every third structure was a temple or a shrine. I was told that every house has a shrine of its own and the number of temples (including shrines) in Bali, both small and big was a staggering 200,000. It is not without a reason that Bali is sometimes referred to as 'Island of Gods'. Despite Indonesia being a Muslim nation, Hinduism is the prominent religion in Bali. Stories and characters from Ramayana and Mahabharata are widely seen either in the form of statues, writings or dances. There are some magnificently carved structures which you see as you drive along the roads of Bali. In addition to their captivating architecture and carvings, temples like Uluwatu and Tanah Lot also offers spectacular vistas. These temples are a big draw as the sun sets, and I was one amongst the numerous other awed visitors who stared in oblivion at the stunning hues over the horizon. The other famous ones are Besakih temple (the most important Balinese temple), Gua Gejah (cave temple), Ulun Dhanu, Taman Ayun and Thritha Empul.

A magnificent creation by the road
Tanah Lot temple
View from Uluwatu temple
Gua Gejah
Thirtha Empul
Bali reminded me of Kerala with its coconut trees, greenery, beaches, paddy fields and hills. Kuta with its swarming foreign crowd, wonderful beach, numerous restaurants and a lively nightlife definitely garners the biggest attraction. It is also a great place to shop, stroll, people watch and laze around. Half an hour away from Kuta is Ubud, which undoubtedly is the cultural capital of Bali. The streets of Ubud are a treat for art lovers. Paintings and wood works galore the streets and I was quite mesmerised by the beautiful works. There are many art galleries, wood work and silverware shops, and dance performances in and around Ubud which lures every culture vulture. The paddy fields of Ubud where stepped terracing is specialized gives a rustic charm to this cultural centre. From the sultry southern Bali it is a nice little drive past the paddy fields and greenery to Kintamani. There was a sudden dip in the temperature as the imposing Mt. Batur stood before me intimidating everything in its vicinity. This active volcano looked spellbinding with the gorgeous lake Batur by its side. The blue waters, green hills and black mud (due to the lava) made for a captivating landscape. It was an enchanting experience to have lunch at one of the many restaurants gazing at the beautiful landscape. As I traversed the roads of Bali, I found many statues in both wood and stone works of Buddha, Ganesha and other mythical figures waiting to be sold. I was told they have a huge export market.

Main street in Kuta
Kuta beach
Paddy fields in Ubud
An art shop in Ubud
Mount Batur and Lake Batur

Bali boasts of a wonderful coast line with Bali sea to its north, Java sea to its west and Indian ocean to its south. The turquoise blue and emerald green waters greets you as you walk on those white sands. Visitors and tourists prefer Kuta and Legion beach due to its crowd and surf. Surfing is big in this region and many head with their board into the blue waters of Kuta in the evening. Undoubtedly the sunsets are a sight to behold. However there are no beach shacks here, but beer is easily available. The beach at Sanur is more beautiful and serene than the one in Kuta. Situated on the eastern coast, Sanur does have numerous open air restaurants on the beach, is devoid of the crowd, has water sport facilities and offers great vistas of the azure sea and the distant hills. The beach at Jimbaran is another beautiful beach in southern Bali. As I had been there during the day, it was less crowded and seemed like I had the whole beach to myself. I did chase a few crabs on the beach without much success. Being very close to the airport, a major attraction was viewing the numerous flights that landed as I sipped my beer in the scorching heat. For water sport adventures, Nusa Dua beach offers great options.

Kuta beach
Sanur beach
Jimbaran beach
Oriental and Continental cuisines are easily available at most restaurants. Nasi Goreng was my personal favourite, quite filling and not expensive. Capcay Goreng is another delicious dish that I loved. Bintang is the most popular beer in Bali followed by Bali Hai. For the coffee connoisseurs, Kopi Luwak, supposedly the world's most expensive coffee is available at certain cafes in Bali. However, the coffee powder (a blend of luwak and arabica, not the original variety) can be bought from any grocery store(For the curious minds, Kopi Luwak is made from the droppings of wild civet cat). The local Balinese coffee with a strong flavour is easily available at most cafes.

Balinese people are quite religious and make offerings to various gods every day. It might be just a few flowers or might be an elaborate one with flowers, fruits, biscuits, rice, chicken, chocolates and money. People are quite helpful and friendly. They love Indians and almost every Balinese I spoke to expressed their desire to visit India. Hinduism has great influence in their life and most of their dance forms like Kecak and Barong depict stories either directly or indirectly of Hindu gods and goddesses. A visit to any of the authentic spas for the ever popular Balinese massage would be the ideal way to end a wonderful holiday.

A Balinese lady with her offerings
Barong dance
Kecak dance
Bali survives on tourism and most citizens either directly or indirectly makes a living off it. Denpasar is the largest city which houses all the government offices, while Kuta, Ubud and Seminyak stands out as the major tourist hubs. I did not find a single tall tower in Bali and when enquired, was told by my driver that government rules does not allow buildings more than three floors high. Public transportation is quite limited with very few buses. However, taxis are easily available and there are shuttle services to and from various tourist destinations at regular intervals. If you have an international licence, bikes are available on rental and is a hassle free mode on transport.

Dollars are widely accepted, but if you would like to pay in Indonesian rupiah ATMs are widely present and you can withdraw using an international card. Rupiah is available in denominations as high as one lakh due to its conversion rate. 1 Indian rupee  is approximately 190 Indonesian rupiah. Europeans and Australians are the most visited tourists in Bali and most shops price their products accordingly. Make sure to haggle hard at most places.

Signing Note- Bali lures, captivates and then leaves you spellbound...!! 
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