As we drove away from the port of Benoa, it was obvious that Bali has modernised quickly and is well and truly on the tourist trail – motorbikes everywhere, fast food joints, and so many souvenir shops. But, it was equally obvious that many elements of traditional Balinese culture are still alive and well – you could scarcely move 100 metres without seeing a Hindu shrine, statue or temple, while the roads were lined with craft shops churning out the woodwork and stone carvings that the island's famous for.
We travelled to see the remains of the old palace at Semarapura, whose beautiful pavilions had their ceilings decorated with vivid depictions of demons torturing wrongdoers – seeing as this was the court of justice, these pictorial punishments would probably have scared the living daylights out of anyone up before the court.
From here, we ventured to the atmospheric Batuan Temple, where we got a chance to see the deep spirituality that permeates through every aspect of Bali life. Balinese temples are very different to Indian Hindu temples, there's no florid statues of the gods, just beautifully carved stonework and doorways.
Next, we headed to Ubud – the place where Julia Roberts came to "love" in the film of the book, "Eat, Pray, Love". Seeing as we'd covered off the "pray" part at the previous temple, and the "love" was unlikely to happen on an 8 hour tour, we settled on the "eat" part of the deal, by going for a delicious meal at the excellent Dirty Duck Restaurant, overlooking a green rice paddy field. The food was delicious and very spicy, while the cold beers were much appreciated on an incredibly hot and sweaty day.
Next we went to the Neka Art Gallery just outside of Ubud, where we saw how western influences crept into Balinese art from the 18th century onwards, before we moved onto to a traditional Balinese homestead, where again, the religious beliefs of the people appear to permeate through every aspect of daily life.
This brief glimpse of Bali brought back so many happy memories of the time Tracy and I spent here when we had our year off – we must come back soon.