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Soak up the sun and sand at Bali

What happens in Bali stays with the traveller forever, says Phorum Dalal, who takes off on a bird walk amid paddy fields in Ubud, lounges on the beaches of Kuta and Seminyak and soaks up the sun in Nusa Dua

The first 24 hours in a vacation are spent in switching from work to holiday mode. Bali, for that matter, is different. The air spontaneously unwinds the schedule-driven mind, and helps the body slip into a relaxed stupor.

The Club Med, Bali faces the Nusa Dua beachfront and has lazy chairs and couches for tourists to enjoy the view. Pics/Phorum Dalal
The Club Med, Bali faces the Nusa Dua beachfront and has lazy chairs and couches for tourists to enjoy the view. Pics/Phorum Dalal

The drive from the province capital, Denpasar, to Club Méditerranee, Nusa Dua in south-eastern Bali, passes through the year-old Bali Mandara Toll Road, which was built to control the growing traffic. By the time the car drives into Club Med, as the property is popularly called, the driver and I have exchanged road congestion and traffic woes of our respective cities.

The sunrise in Nusa Dua is a picturesque sightThe sunrise in Nusa Dua is a picturesque sight

As the car comes to a halt, a melodious tune begins to play near the entrance. A young, energetic Genteel Organiser (GO), as the staff is nicknamed, directs me to the seating area, where five others are singing the ‘Welcome to my Paradise’ song, handing me an iced-tea and a cold towel to wipe my exhausted face.

Paddy field farmers cut the crop before the onset of rains in Ubud
Paddy field farmers cut the crop before the onset of rains in Ubud

The warm greetings put me at ease, and in spite of being a solo traveller, I have already made friends to hang out with. One of them, Sally, who is a finance professional from South Africa, offers to join me for the buffet lunch, and over the meal, I hear stories about her quitting her steady job to work on a resort, taking a break from the corporate humdrum in her excitement to meet new people.

A yellow beetle lays pink eggs
A yellow beetle lays pink eggs

A community concept here encourages guests to meet new people and learn about new cultures. Tourists and staffers flash smiles and wish you a good day when they pass by. And some even pull you to the bar to share a drink. The tiredness of the 10-hour travel has evaporated into the celebratory atmosphere.

A komodo dragon
A komodo dragon

As we walk to my cottage, there are green ponds on either side of the path. To my surprise, the head of a komodo rises out of the water. On a branch, sits an azure kingfisher. As if in a bid to show off, it flutters, takes a full circle, opening its emerald wings, before disappearing into the foliage.

A blue dragon fly
A blue dragon fly

This is just a trailer of what I am to stumble upon the next day. Travelling in Bali can get expensive with meter taxis, so it is better to hail a half-day or a full-day cab. The next day, at 6 am, I meet Yoman Wayan, a 24-year-old driver, who is to drive me to Ubud. His banter includes snatches about Julia Roberts, whom he claims to have met during the shooting of Eat Pray Love.

The traditional Nasi Goreng made of red rice
The traditional Nasi Goreng made of red rice

The bird walk
Wayan drops me off at Warung Murnis, an eatery overlooking a thicket. I am greeted by the guide, Sumadi. “No waste time. Others join. We begin,” she tells me, as I follow her. Within minutes, I have caught her enthusiastic fever as she points to a Green Olive Sunbird, a tiny, yellow-bellied bird.

As I focus my binoculars, I hear a soft, but clear whisper, “The third branch to your left, just a bit above your eye level.” I follow Sumadi’s voice, and lo! I spot another pair romancing away. By then, a sexagenarian Australian couple and a French tourist join us.

Now, four anticipating binoculars move about the area. We notice spotted doves flying to and fro as they build a nest and White-bellied Swiftlets, fluttering in a continuous, restless pattern. We walk into a bylane, where we pluck passion fruit pods and spot spiders and snails.

We chance upon a line of red ants sewing leaves into a fold to create a camouflage. I am reminded of a line from a poem by WH Davies: “What is this life, if full of care/ We have no time to stand and stare.” Ubud is a lazy village, where tourism and farming have found common ground.

We walk into the rice paddies and easily spot Javan and Scaly-breasted munias, along with butterflies exercising their wafer-thin wings. We spot the Common and Striped Blue Palmflies, the Peacock pansy, Blue Glassy and blue dragon flies, too.

Sumadi’s sharp eyes spot a yellow beetle who has just laid pink-coloured eggs. The Javan Kingfisher, which is endemic to the region, is nowhere in sight. But Sumadi has made a promise. We walk in silence, Sumadi strains her ears to identify the cries of birds.

“Bird-watching depends on the ears. The gaze only follows the sounds one hears,” she says. We hear a cry, and she says, “The kingfisher is resting. It is the sitting cry. There it is, at a distance, on a water pipe.” We forget to blink. Within a few seconds, it decides to fly across the empty skies, our hearts gallop and lust for more sightings.

In the next two hours, we spot Pond Herons, Cattle Egrets, Swifts, Striated Swallows and even the Golden-headed Cisticola. As we near the end of our tour, I look back to memorise the scene before taking the narrow lane that will reconnect us to the main market.

I want to capture the gentle farmer who treated us to wholesome coconut water, the branches that sheltered us from the sudden shower of rain, and all the life that crawls, flies and resides in these greens. I run a naked eye across the vast fields hoping to spot a blue dot.

At that moment, Sumadi’s voice directs me to point my lens at the scarecrow on my right. “Another one on the same plane, on the bamboo stick!” says Sumadi. I spot two Javan Kingfishers, settling for their siesta, with no plan to soar.

We gawk, happy as happy can be. We end our rendezvous with lunch, discussing the sightings of the day and digging into mouth-watering Nasi Goreng, an Indonesian version of the fried rice.

Walk of another kind
Even after the five-hour hike under the scorching sun, my feet want to explore more. The streets of Kuta and Semiyak have beach strips that brim with surfing and water sports. It is a unique experience to watch the balancing act of supple bodies as they dodge large waves.

Step out of the beach and the bylanes are peppered with pubs and bars and shops; a replica of Goa, which can be a cheaper option for night-life travellers. My party continues at the resort, where the GOs have put up entertainment musical and dance programmes. It is 2 am by the time I hit the bed.

Next morning, I plonk myself on an easy chair on the beach front. I sip on a pinacolada and watch the world go by. The warm breeze lulls me into deep slumber. Refreshed, I decide to try my hand at archery from the list of activities available on the resort, such as golf, snorkelling, kayaking and tennis. The guide chooses a light bow for me, and after strapping a wrist band, he shows me how to position myself, load the arrow and aim.

I have the beginner’s luck as my first two arrows hit the outermost periphery on the board. But the next one hour, is spent shooting arrows everywhere but the board. When I am about to give up, the guide helps me take an aim and says, “Focus, as if your life depends on it. And believe.”

My fingers leave the taut strings. It’s a bull’s-eye. Carrying this newfound lesson, I make my way to the reception where the sight of my packed bags reminds me that my mini-vacation is over. My mental baggage, which has unloaded its clutter, has enough room for the spirit of Bali I want bring back home.

The writer was a guest of Club Med at Bali

Bali

Best time to visit: All year round
You need: A week

Plan now

How to reach: While there is no direct flight to Bali, one can fly to Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur and then take a connecting flight to Denpasar, Bali

Where to stay: For bookings at Club Med, 

Log on to: www.clubmed.co.in for an All-inclusive stay package

Travel: To book a half- or full-day taxi, call Noman Wayan on +6287762951867

Bird walk: To book a trail, mail su@balibirdwalk.com

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