In recent times more South Africans are travelling to Bali, Indonesia.
I blame Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, for the continued wave of tourism that bolstered up Bali as a tourist destination.
It also helps that South Africans get more bang for their buck when converting to the Indonesian rupee.
Surprisingly, most people don’t realise the strong historical ties we have with Indonesia.
Upon landing in the country on my first visit, I often quipped how the locals looked just like a relative or acquaintance back home. It seems that observation was accurate.
During early colonial times many Indonesians, especially from Java, were brought to our fair shores as indentured slaves. You’ll find that especially in the Cape Malay culture many words that are prevalent in Bahasa Indonesian and Bahasa Malaysian are present in some of our communities too.
Bali has become the backdrop for many an overseas venture because of its strong associations with spiritual connection, relaxation and recharging your batteries.
I loved Bali on my first visit. I especially liked Ubud, with its lush green rice terraces and warm people.
I chuckled at the vast number of middle-aged women skulking around, a yoga mat propped under the arm, modern versions of Eat, Pray, Love disciples looking to make their own magical love story.
The beach town Kuta reminded me of the matric Rage Festival for young travellers so it didn’t appeal to me much. Much to my surprise, I discovered on a recent visit that Indonesia is so much more than Bali. A short drive and ferry away are the islands of Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air.
Tiny little islands that wouldn’t normally register on a geographical map but absolute must-sees. This is ultimate brochure-style relaxation. It really makes the idea of paradise a reality.
Clear blue water, tropical weather, palm trees and long lingering sunsets all add to the beauty of these islands. Want to live in a bungalow on the beach but still have all the creature comforts like WiFi, Western food, a hot shower and TV? Well, you can on these islands.
Want to throw on some snorkels and swim less than 10 metres to see turtles and creatures of the sea that you would only see on Discovery or National Geographic?
Again, you can see it here.
Add to this perfect weather, no cars, charming little horsedrawn buggies for taxis and going everywhere by bicycle or walking and you have all the ingredients for the ultimate getaway.
This was not the end of the journey for me.
The more I ventured into the country, the more I discovered. A terrifying plane ride away, more due to the weather than the plane, is Flores.
A part of the predominantly Muslim Indonesia that was for a while colonised by Portuguese. So, instead of a Muslim majority here there are Catholics.
More about it next week.